Guest Author - Rev. Jaclin Meade Scott
A member of our Bereavement Community posed the question. While people are losing savings, homes, and some don’t know how they’re going to feed their kids, what happens when someone dies? What can a family do if there is no money for a funeral and burial?
People don’t like talking about death. Get over it. Left to their own devices, your family will go overboard, into debt, trying to “honor” you. This is partially out of social pressure, partly out of guilt, partly a sales technique used by SOME in the funeral industry. 99.9% of the people in the after-death care business are wonderful, ethical folks. But they ARE in business, and trying to keep themselves above water like the rest of us.
There are several options. You need to be open minded, practical, and willing to do some homework ahead of time. This is absolutely crucial. You won’t have time to do the necessary foot- and paper-work once death has occurred. Even if there is no death pending in your family, having all the info you need won’t hurt. And, as is our Community’s practice, sharing the info with others can save someone a lot of pain. So look into these options, and prepare to be a blessing.
Options discussed in the article “Final Expenses” included Traditional American funeral/burial practices; Home Funerals; Body Donation; Cremation.; and Laws and Consumer Rights.
One of the most selfless and helpful acts you can perform is to donate your body to medical research. This can be done regardless of where you die. If your body has been on machines for organ and tissue transplant, bless you. You have saved lives and helped many more. And you can still let researchers study you afterward. You could help educate a doctor who will find a cure, or a better procedure. Most of our modern medical advancements are due to the generous individuals who volunteer for these studies.
A year or so after your death, your cremains are returned to your family if so desired, or buried by the medical institution very honorably.
Most world religions have no problem with this.
The major issues with full body donation are
Not being prepared ahead of time.
To be perfectly blunt, the major problem lies with people. Most of the population lives in larger, metropolitan areas. We are far removed from the process of how food makes it to our tables, and we intend to keep it that way. We don’t want eyes or scales on the fish on our plates. We don’t think of cows as future steaks, or pigs as future bacon. We were traumatized while watching “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” when Uncle Taki carried in ‘the meat’ with four legs still attached to the little body, and later seeing it on the spit.
Yet when we need someone to properly set the many tiny, intricate bones in our broken wrist, we want a specialist. To save an injured eye, we want a specialist. We all wanted Christopher Reeve’s spine to heal, and he had specialists.
Now, my beloved, squeamish brothers and sisters, let’s ask the big question. How did these medical people get to be specialists? Books and pictures only go so far. Thankfully, they were able to dissect, study, and learn to rebuild the area of their specialty. And thank God.
During the Civil War, someone with a crushed ankle was given a drink of whiskey for pain. The rest of the whiskey was then poured on the wound for sterilization. The lower leg was then summarily chopped off, with enough skin left to sew together. If the patient survived, it was considered a success. It would be quite a few years before the practice of hand washing before surgery was even considered necessary.
Today’s medical practices are very, very different. A crushed ankle can be fixed. Hips and knees can be totally replaced. Brains can be healed. Organs can be replaced. This is nothing short of miraculous! The progress is largely thanks to selfless souls who offered to teach, after their time in their bodies was done.
The most curious thing is that some of the most squeamish about this will sit at a computer and blow apart simulated bodies, going for a better score! Go figure.
A lot of people are repulsed by dirty diapers. Then they meet a tiny human for whom they would jump in front of a bus, and suddenly diapers are of little consequence.
You are asked to think this through. Yes, the thought of someone working on your leg in a lab is weird, especially if the leg is no longer attached to your torso. But think of the child born with a deformity, or injured, who can lead a normal life thanks to what your leg taught some doctors. (Children and land mines come to mind) Think of the person able to take their first deep breath thanks to what doctors learned from your lungs. We could go on for pages. Put aside the heebie jeebies, and know that you can help heal the planet – literally!
There are organizations who specialize in this. Get on the net and find out which ones are in your part of the world. Expenses are usually totally covered by these good folks. Start with ScienceCare.com and go from there.
There are some things that will keep you from eligibility for full body donation. Communicable diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis, hepatitis B and C, MRSA, and some others render you ineligible. But you may want to contact organizations for these diseases to see if you can help them. Kidney failure may also keep you out, so have a plan B ready.
The biggest surprise in researching this article was that people over 50 pounds overweight are usually not accepted! So far, a reason for this has not been found. Since most of the American population falls into this category, the medical studies must be truly hurting for donors. But notice that it says USUALLY not accepted. There are places that will take the obese, but you’ll make many a phone call to find them. It’s worth it, though, so get busy.
Conversely, a person under 100 pounds may also be rejected.
If you want to donate to a particular medical school, you will have a different experience. It may cost you a few thousand dollars to do so, and only if you live within a certain distance from the school. But it does get you buried at the alma mater, and that may be important to you.
If you are preregistered with a bio-gifting agency, but die far away, arrangements can be made with a local agency. Even internationally!
But please, please pay attention to that one, so very important word – PREREGISTERED. None of this can be done last minute. NONE of it. Bless your family in these hard economic times, and have this all ready as soon as possible. We may remember that we do not know in advance when death will occur.
This is all part of life. All part of the journey to