(1) What should I wear to the funeral?

Although black has long been the traditional color for mourning it isn’t required any longer. Wearing a color other than black isn’t a sign of disrespect. Generally, play it safe with any dark or subdued color. Dark suits and ties for men and dresses or suits for women are always appropriate; just as you would any event, dress in something suitable for the occasion.

(2) Can family act as Pallbearers?

Traditionally, the pallbearers for a funeral were mainly the close friends and associates of the deceased. It is an honor for family members or friends to carry a loved one to their final resting place. However, when immediate family are deciding to be a pallbearer, some things to consider are; will someone from the family be available to assist the spouse of the deceased at the graveside, and are the people being considered physically able to carry the casket. The role of an honorary pallbearer is also important, and those not able to be an active pallbearer can certainly be considered for this honor.

(3) Should young children come to the funeral/viewing?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. We each know our own child best and know their level of understanding. Parents can use this opportunity to lead with confidence; children do not have any preconceived notions about death, so this first experience is monumental in shaping how they will approach death throughout their lives. It is important that during the service they have someone with them to answer questions and to comfort them if needed. If you decide that attending the funeral is not appropriate for your child, let them be involved by writing a letter or drawing a picture that can be placed with the deceased.

(4) Do I have to be embalmed?

Each funeral home has policy about embalming for the sake of protecting staff and the public. This procedure is done to allow adequate time between death and burial as we observe traditional customs of visitation and the funeral. Embalming is a procedure that restores your loved one to a more natural and peaceful appearance.

(5) Do I have to buy a casket? Can I make my own casket?

Funeral homes require the deceased to be placed in a rigid container for the transfer to the final resting place or cremation of your loved one. At the funeral home’s discretion, you may provide your own casket that meets the requirements of use. You may, however, have to sign a waiver releasing the funeral home from any liabilities, harm or damages if something should happen to the casket when it is being used.

*(6) What do I say to someone who has lost a loved one?

Although it may be difficult to talk to someone who has lost a loved one, do not let this prevent you from reaching out to the individual who is grieving. For it is at this time, more than any other, that your genuine support and empathy is needed. Many people are at loss for words during this interaction, but it is truly listening, rather than talking, that becomes a key task for the one supporting. You do not need to have answers or give advice. Neither should you minimize their loss or assume what your friend is feeling. Instead, let them tell you about the loss and how they are processing their feelings.

(7) What do I do for someone who has lost a loved one?

The most important thing you can do is just listen, and let the survivor talk. Sometimes people may need to talk about everything, and all at once. Just listen and try to understand what they are saying. Don’t try to halt their tears. If they laugh, laugh with them. If they cry, be empathetic and offer a shoulder. Say their loved ones name, let them hear it, they need it. It’s good for them to know you care and that you want to remember their loved one. Keep visiting. If you haven’t been by in a while, it’s okay because they will appreciate it when you do.

(8) What is the average cost of a funeral?

Funeral costs depend on many factors including the selection of a casket or cremation urn, related merchandise, and services. The average cost of a funeral is currently in the $10,000 range, and the bill from the funeral home is broken down into three parts; service fees, merchandise, and disbursements. Although it is common to consider cremation to be less expensive, there are economical burial options available.

(9) Should I preplan my funeral?

Yes you should. A person never knows how or when they are going to die, and it is difficult for families to make so many decisions in the short period of time between death and the funeral. When your family is dealing with their grief, it sometimes seems that thoughts become muddled and unclear, and even the most simple questions are hard to answer. For example: what is your mother’s maiden name? Or, how many grandchildren did she have? When people “forget” these details, they are embarrassed. Help your family by being prepared in advance. It is a great gift.

Prepare a will?

Yes. Even if a person feels that they cannot afford a lawyer a simple online will is better than nothing. A person can hand write and sign their own version of a will, so long as it is witnessed by two persons who are not family members or beneficiaries of the estate. This leaves something in their hand writing that gives direction to their family regarding an estate. That being said, a legal will is always the very best option.

(10) Can I scatter my ashes anywhere?

In Alberta, as with most of Canada, the scattering of cremated remains is permitted. However, there are some guidelines that should be followed. Permission is not required by law, but it is considerate if you will be scattering on private property or on Crown Land. You may also scatter cremated remains in most municipal parks and cemeteries with permission from the municipality. In any case, when scattering cremated remains, it is important to carefully consider the finality of the act and whether or not you, or future generations will have access to the place of scattering. It is important to consider a place of memorialization where you can visit to remember your loved one. This can be as simple as planting a tree, dedicating a bench, or placing your loved one’s name on a memorial wall, where they will forever have their name.

(11) Do I have to have a funeral?

A funeral is simply defined as “a ceremony for celebrating, sanctifying, or remembering the life of a person who has died.” A life lived is a life worth remembering. Funerals have taken on new characteristics and have become as individualized as those they are meant to memorialize. Memoralization of a loved one is important to both those that belong to a faith community and those that don’t; however how they choose to celebrate a life can vary. We have a funeral not because someone has died, but because they have lived. Funerals are a stepping stone in the grieving process. Grief is a completely individual experience, no one person grieves the same, and as such plan a funeral to value that. Perhaps that means a backyard BBQ or a time of fellowship in your local parish; however you define a funeral ensure that it means the most to you.

(12) I don’t belong to a church, so where do I have my funeral?

It is not necessary to belong to a church to have a funeral. Martin Brothers Riverview Chapel is large enough to accommodate up to 400 people for large funerals; we also have smaller facilities to hold services for 20 to 30 people. There are other options as well, so consider what best reflects the personality and taste of your loved one and your family. Hotel ballrooms, community halls, parks, and back yards are just some of the options for funeral gatherings. Martin Brothers also has a Certified Funeral Celebrant on staff and has connections with many clergy members who may be suitable to officiate at a funeral service either at our chapel, or elsewhere.

(13) Can funeral processions go through red lights?

The most important thing to remember when following in a funeral procession is to stay close, but safe distance to the car in front of you to maintain the integrity of the procession. If you come upon a funeral procession that is proceeding through a red light, please stop and allow them to continue so that you do not disrupt the flow. Pedestrians should also wait until the procession has passed before stepping out into the crosswalk.

(14) What do I do when a funeral procession goes by?

Out of respect for the deceased, the family of the deceased, and all those following in procession, the respectful and courteous approach would be to pull over, yield to the procession, and proceed once the procession goes by. Pedestrians too should wait, and not step into the crosswalk until the entire procession has passed. It is considered most courteous to remove your hat, stand respectfully, and acknowledge the solemnity of the procession. This will allow the grieving family the courtesy of reaching the final resting place or destination of their loved one.

(15) Do I have to have a funeral director?

No, but wouldn’t you want the best advice given to your family? Without the help and gentle guidance of a professional some very important elements of a funeral may be missed, this may cause discourse in a family. Laws may be broken if a professional is not consulted.

Can I arrange everything on my own?

You can, but is it the best idea? By all means preplan your funeral or memorial with a licensed funeral professional or write down your wishes on your own, making sure that a family member is aware of your thoughts and plans. When the time comes for the actual memorial event you will be thankful that you are not “calling all the shots”. Let a professional guide you through all the steps that will be needed at the time of a loved one’s passing. Their training will make your life much easier. Remember, families are in shock or are exhausted from the dying process even the brightest individuals are surprised at how their thinking is impaired by this life event.

(16) What do I need to know about different religions’ funeral customs?

We Canadians are very diverse as far as our religious customs and background. What is most important to the grieving family is your presence at the service. No one expects you to do things with which you are not familiar. When you enter a church of any denomination, just remember that you are in their “home” and being respectful of that will never steer you wrong.

(17) Why do some people choose have an open casket?

In some cases an open casket is a result of a longstanding family tradition where from generation to generation it has become a part of their family custom at death. Some religious cultures have incorporated an open casket into the funeral ritual itself. An open casket can bring a final sense of closure to those that haven’t seen the deceased in a number of years or can offer a sense of peace for someone who struggles with the finality of a death. An open casket allows the family and friends to pay final respects to a person with whom they have spent a lifetime.

(18) What does Probate mean?

After a person dies, their estate often goes through Probate, the process in which an executor consolidates decedent’s assets and uses them to pay debts, taxes, and probate expenses. Survivors then receive remaining assets according to the terms of the will.

(19) How do I minimize estate costs?

Probate fees and estate costs can be greatly reduced if the parties have or put everything they own into a joint arrangement.  This is very important with Bank accounts and the ownership of their home and other assets, as they just pass on to the joint partner without the probate issue.

(20) What do people with no money do for funeral costs?

In the province of Alberta, and in Canada as a whole, no one is denied a dignified funeral because of a lack of personal resources. There is assistance available through several provincial programs. The most important thing a family can do in this regard is to let your funeral professional know that funds are tight and we will help you access any assistance that is available for your specific needs.

(21) What happens if I die away from home?

Bringing a loved one back to your hometown can be a complicated and expensive process. In this unfortunate circumstance, we can definitely help. No matter where you are, we are on call 24 hours a day and can be reached anytime. We can look after bringing your loved one into our care whether it be by ground or air. In order to avoid the expense and worry of this process, we have travel plans that can be purchased prior to death that cover travel anywhere in the world if death occurs 100 kilometers or more away from your legal primary residence. Once the travel plan is in place, one toll-free phone call either made by you or the funeral home is all it takes to begin the process of bringing you home. For more information call one of our caring professionals at the funeral home, 403-328-2361.

(22) What do I do when someone dies?

Upon the notice of death it is important to immediately get in contact with Martin Brothers professional staff. We are able to assist you with information regarding your loved one and give you further direction as to the many steps that will be involved following a death. In a time of complete shock and confusion take comfort in knowing we are only a phone call away 24 hours a day.

(23) I don’t want to have a funeral- how will this affect my family and friends?

Friends and family may not be given the appropriate channels of closure to properly complete their personal grieving process, leaving unanswered questions and concerns. Even something as simple as a small gathering of close family and friends would allow them the opportunity to express their grief and reminisce together over a life well lived. The finality of a funeral allows those left behind to find a sense of closure.

(24) Who is immediately in charge of my funeral?

It is important to know that Power of Attorney ends at death, and the person immediately in charge of funeral decisions is the personal representative designated in the will (executor). If there is no Will, there is an order of responsible persons that must be followed, starting with the spouse or interdependent partner at the time of death, followed by an adult child of the deceased, a parent of the deceased. If none of these exist, there is a further list of responsibility.

(25) What happens when someone dies at home? Do the police have to be involved?

When your loved is under a physician’s care and a home death is expected, you may immediately contact Martin Brothers and we will bring your loved one into our care. When a death is unexpected and happens in the home, please call your local emergency services (911) and they will notify the Medical Examiner’s office; who may wish to investigate the cause of death. Please also contact Martin Brothers and we will begin to assist you.

(26) What benefits are available through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) in regards to death and survivorship?

Benefits through CPP are available to people who have worked throughout their lifetime and have paid into the CPP program. The biggest misconception is that everyone receives $2500 at death. This is the MAXIMUM benefit; in reality the benefit is 6 times a person’s monthly CPP benefits, up to a maximum of $2500. The survivor’s benefit is for a surviving spouse and dependent children only, and would be a portion of the deceased’s monthly CPP. We have a comprehensive aftercare program that is included with all our services to assist you in applying for these benefits.

How to Write an Obituary

Writing an obituary can be a painful ordeal if you know the deceased. It can also be an important thing to do if announcing a person’s death is relevant to a small community.

There are five parts of an obituary: announcement, biographical information, survivor information, scheduled ceremonies, and contributions.

Begin with the announcement. It should include who the person is, the date they died, and how they died. Be short and concise. All this can be typically included in one sentence.

Write a short biographical piece about the person’s life. This should include where and when the person was born, where they lived throughout their life, notable awards and times in their life, important hobbies, where they went to school.

Include who the person is survived by. Include, in this order, immediate family members (spouse and children or parents and siblings step-children) and secondary family members (aunts, uncles, grandchildren, close cousins).You can include spouse names such as Mary (John), John (Anna), etc.

Use baptism names for Relatives. Nicknames should be added in quotes such as “bud”.

Deceased relatives should be listed last with the phrase the late…

Note where and when important ceremonies will take place, such as memorial services, grave-side burials, etc.

Tell people where they can make donations in remembrance of the person who has died.

Click Here to download a PDF version of our Obituary Template.

How to Write a Eulogy

A eulogy is a speech given at a memorial service in memory of the deceased. One need not be a great writer or orator to write and deliver a great eulogy. The best eulogies are brief, heart-felt depictions of the loved one, full of stories and, yes, humor.

Decide on the tone. How serious or lighthearted do you want the eulogy to be? A good eulogy need not be uniformly somber, just appropriate. Some eulogy-writers take a serious approach, others are bold enough to add humor. Used cautiously, humor can help convey the personality of the deceased and illustrate some of his/her endearing qualities.

Consider the audience. Write the eulogy with the deceased’s family and loved ones in mind. Dwell on the positive, but be honest. If the person was difficult or inordinately negative, avoid talking about that or allude to it gently, as in “He had his demons, which were a constant battle.”

Be Specific. Avoid reciting a list of qualities. Instead, mention a quality and then illustrate it with a story. It is the stories that bring the person–and that quality–to life.

Be concise and well-organized. Outline the eulogy before you start writing. Brainstorm all the possible areas (personality traits, interests, biographical info) to talk about and write them down. When you’re ready to write, cover each area in a logical order. Give the eulogy a beginning, middle, and end. Avoid rambling or, conversely, speaking down to people.

Rehearse. Read the draft of your eulogy aloud. If you have time and the inclination, read it to someone as practice. Words sound differently when read aloud than on paper. If you have inserted humor, get feedback from someone about its appropriateness and effectiveness. Remember, writing is 90% rewriting, so expect to revise your work several times before it shines.

Relax. Before you speak, calm yourself by realizing everyone in attendance is there to support you. It may help to have a glass of water with you on the podium to help you maintain your composure. Just know that everyone will appreciate your efforts and admire you for having written and given a eulogy. You can’t fail.

Use a conversational tone. Talk or read your eulogy to the audience as if you are talking to friends. Make eye contact. Pause. Go slowly if you want. Connect with your audience and share the moment with them; after all, you’re not an entertainer, you’re one of them.

Click here to download a PDF version of a Eulogy Template.

Monument questions from Noreen…

1.  A monument is for the person who has passed away and also for those left behind.  It honors those who have died and holds important information about their very important life; names, dates and designs that symbolize what was important to them.   It also creates a place of remembrance where a family or friends can visit; in the hope of providing comfort, memories and reassurance of the valuable life that was lived.

2. Many people misunderstand that they need to wait a year for the ground to settle before placing a memorial.  Although it is true that a few cemeteries have 8 foot plots which means most of the grave has been disturbed for a traditional burial;  most graves are 10 foot plots with means 2 feet at the head of the grave is undisturbed.  This undisturbed area is where the memorial is placed.  Therefore if the family would like to have a monument placed they can at any time.  No need to wait.

As an essential part of our way of life, A monument should speak out as a voice From yesterday and today to ages yet unborn.


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