Ashes Lost In The Mail

Ashes Lost In The Mail

A New York woman is suing the Walter B. Cooke Funeral Home in Manhattan because they returned her mother’s cremated remains to her via postal mail, and they were lost. What most people probably don’t realize is that sending cremated remains via postal mail is surprisingly common. A great many funeral homes receive cremated remains back from the crematory in this way, and use the postal service to get them back to the family in cases where the family can’t or doesn’t want to pick them up. In fact, the practice is  so common the USPS has guidelines about it: they must be shipped Priority Mail Express. And it’s one more reason to do plenty of research about what you want and think you need, before a crisis arises. After all, who would think to ask how cremated remains will be returned to a family?      ...
A heartbreaking search

A heartbreaking search

The BBC shared a beautiful and heartbreaking story about two Japanese men who took up deep sea diving, with the sole intention of finding the bodies of one’s wife and the other’s daughter, who disappeared following the Tsunami over four years ago. “I want to search for my daughter as long as my body allows me to. If I just give up, there’s zero chance. If I keep searching, I might have a chance at least.” Takamatsu feels the same way. “I want to continue my search as long as my strength lasts, even though the chances of finding her are slim. I know that she has already passed away, but I don’t want her to be left alone under the sea. “Honestly, I still want to find her and bring her home.” The presence of a body at a funeral, or the ability to bury or cremate a loved ones means different things to different families, often influenced by the manner in which a death occurred. While there certainly has been a trend in recent years which has seen more “direct” cremations- where a cremation takes place without any services- it’s not as universally true as many people believe. Another striking example was those who lost loved ones in the September 11 Terrorist Attacks. Many families felt they would not have closure until their loved one was returned to them. Some families wanted to be notified each time a personal item or body part was identified. Other families felt the regular notifications were too painful and didn’t want to be contacted until identification efforts were completed. Of course,...

Funeral Ettiquette and The Mistress

In a recent column of The Ethicist in the New York Times, a reader posed a difficult question: A dying friend asked a man to ensure his mistress was able to attend his funeral, against the wishes of the man’s wife. What to do?  And what should you do when the people who are arguably closer to the person dying, and who know him or her better, are not the ones entitled to make final arrangements? Thanks to a little-known NY State Law,  anyone can appoint an agent to control the disposition of their remains.  This form doesn’t need to be witnessed or even filed with a clerk, and can be revised as often as desired. When first made law, it was intended to help protect gay couples who were being kept from making such decisions or even attending the funerals of their loved ones.  However, in practice, it has had much larger implications: a man can appoint his mistress over his wife, a mother can appoint one child and not the others.  The only area that it gives that person control is in the final disposition- so it doesn’t make you executor of a the will or the controller of the bank accounts. But it can help people ensure their final wishes are carried out in the manner they desire As for the Ethicist- I agree with the writer. If the mistress’ presence will upset the family, she should keep her distance. The funeral is for the family, and they deserve to mourn without distraction....