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What Does Military Funeral Honors Include?

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Planning a funeral is an emotional experience. You want to provide the most honorable way to remember your loved one, yet there are so many things to consider. If your loved one was a member of the United States Armed Forces then they may be eligible for Military Funeral Honors. Learn what this entails, who’s eligible, and how you can request it.

What’s involved in Military Funeral Honors

Eligible veterans can receive Military Funeral Honors free of charge. In fact, it’s mandated by law. Your veteran will receive an honor guard detail for their funeral. It will consist of no fewer than two members of the Armed Forces. One of these members will be a representative of whichever branch of the service your loved one was involved in.

While honor details can vary, at a minimum they will perform a ceremony which includes folding and presenting the American flag to their next of kin. This may be their spouse, child, parent, or other family member. During the folding and presenting process Taps will be played. When possible, it’ll be played by a bugler. However, if no bugler is available then an electronic recording of Taps will be played. The representative of the branch of the Armed Forces your loved one was involved in will present the flag.

Who’s eligible for Military Funeral Honors

Not everyone who’s served in the Armed Forces is eligible for this process. Generally speaking, those who were dishonorably discharged are not eligible. Those who are eligible include:

  • Active duty military members.
  • Active Selected Reserve members.
  • Previous military personnel who served active duty and left under non-dishonorable discharge.
  • Previous military personnel who finished at a minimum one term of enlistment or period of initial obligation in the Selected Reserve and who departed under non-dishonorable discharge conditions.
  • Previous military personnel who were discharged from the Selected Reserve as a result of a disability that occurred during the line of duty or was aggravated in the line of duty.

Proving your loved one is eligible

The easiest way to verify eligibility, and the preferred method, is to complete the DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. If said DD Form 214 isn’t accessible, then you can use any form or document that shows anything other than dishonorable discharge. However, you can also obtain a copy of the DD Form 214 online from the National Archives.

How to request Military Funeral Honors

If your loved one is eligible all you need to do is speak to your funeral director and provide the required documentation. The funeral director will then contact the correct branch of service to request honors. Remember that your funeral director is there to handle issues like these. While you can request it on your own, it’s best to go through the channels of an experienced director.

June 4, 2015 |

Funerals Around the World

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With life comes death, and every culture has a unique way of honoring and saying goodbye to their loved ones. Here are some of the most interesting funeral customs from around the world.

The Malagasy of Madagascar. The Malagasy culture remember and honor their ancestors with a funeral tradition called Famadihana, also called the turning of the bones. Family members remove the bodies from the crypt, rewrap them in fresh clothes, carry them around the village and even dance with them to live music before returning the bodies to the crypt.

South Korea. While some customs are ancient others are born as answers to contemporary problems. In 2000 South Korea (a small country) passed a law that loved ones had to be removed from their graves after 60 years, making burial a less popular option to cremation. Rather than housing the cremains in urns South Korean families are having their loved one’s ashes pressed into “death beads”. These beads can be pink, turquoise or black and are beautiful when displayed in glass containers.

Mongolia and Tibet. The Vajrayana Buddhists of Mongolia and Tibet believe that after death the soul leaves the body and the body becomes an empty shell that should be returned to the earth. They aid this process by performing what is called a Sky Burial. The body is chopped into pieces and placed on a high mountaintop to expose it to the elements, including vultures, to insure it’s quick return to nature.

Bali. Balinese tradition dictates that bodies are cremated to release the soul and allow it to inhabit a new body. This cremation process is considered a sacred duty, but is not supposed to be at all sad. Instead, a huge party is thrown, often complete with huge wooden structures of bulls or dragons which are carried through the streets of the city. Even more interestingly, sometimes the dead are buried temporarily until many dead, or even in some cases royalty, can all be cremated together in one huge celebration. When the head of the royal family, Agung Suyasa, died in 2008 he was cremated along with 68 commoners in an incredibly lavish ceremony.

Aboriginals. When someone dies in the native Aboriginal culture of Australia there are several traditions to observe. First there is a smoking ceremony held in the deceased’s home to drive away their spirit. Then a celebratory feast is held complete with food, dance and body painting of the mourners. Finally the body is placed on a platform, covered with leaves and left to decompose.

New Orleans. While many American funerals are somber affairs New Orleans has found a way to turn them into celebrations. Borrowing from their well known jazz traditions mourners are often led to funerals by marching bands. The bands begin by playing mourning music but then transition to jazz dancing music. Onlookers are invited to join the mourners in their march as they follow the band to the funeral.

The Bo. The Bo of Southwest China were wiped out by the Ming Dynasty over 500 years ago; while we know what they did we don’t know why. The Bo interned their dead in coffins secured to the side of a rock face almost 300 feet above water. The coffins and rock face are decorated with bright red murals that can still be seen. Locals call the area “Sons of the Cliffs”.

ApayoThe Filipino group the Apayo have a unique way of insuring the dead are honored as they would want. Their dead are interned in hollowed out tree trunks that they themselves picked when they were still alive.

April 16, 2015 |

A Concise History of the Funeral

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As long as there have been people, there have been funerals. The truth is there is no right or wrong way to walk through the process of funeral rites. The time honored traditions of your own family are likely based on ancient practices, today we are going to list some of the most important points in the evolution of modern funeral services.

  • 60,000 BC: Neanderthals are known to have decorated their dead with flowers, antlers and stones.
  • 22,000 BC: Likely interment of William Buckley’s “Red Lady of Paviland”. The Red Lady was dyed with ochre, covered in seashell necklaces and surrounded by common ritual artifacts of the area made from bone, ivory and antlers.
  • 5000 BC: Dolmens, or portal graves, begin to appear
  • 4000 BC: Embalming begins in ancient Egypt and burial mounds, or Tumuli, appear in various areas around the globe
  • 3400 BC: Mummification becomes standard procedure for the dead in Egypt
  • 3300 BC: Mummies are prepared with varying sophistication based on the class of the decedent
  • 3100 BC: “Beaker” burials occur, where people are buried in a crouched position and accompanied by a variety of burial goods ranging from food and drinking vessels to body ornaments and fine jewelry. Richer people were interred with more sophisticated grave goods, ranging from swords to gold sheet work that adorned their clothing
  • 1500 BC: Ancestor Worship begins during China’s Shang Dynasty
  • 1000 BC: Funerary urns become more common, made from a wide variety of materials in any given local area
  • 800 BC: Ancient Greece starts using funeral pyres as the preferred method for disposal of human remains
  • 410 BC: Catacombs become a popular option for burial
  • 353 BC: The tomb of Carian ruler Mausolus was constructed, giving us the first true mausoleum, the site is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
  • 230 BC: The oldest known burial chamber in Japan, the Hokenoyama tomb, was constructed
  • 210 BC: The terracotta warriors are interred with Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang
  • 100: The Romans construct columbariums to house funerary urns
  • 300: Japan begins to construct keyhole burial mounds for important leaders
  • 400: The practice of Hindu widows burning themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre, or Suttee, is first documented
  • 600: The crypt of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome is constructed
  • 900: Elaborate Viking funerals are detailed in historic records from this period
  • 1500: Legendary Aztec celebrations of “Day of the Dead” begin around this time, as does documentation of the Hawaiian ritual of lighting a fire over a fresh grave that must be maintained for 10 days
  • 1632: the Taj Mahal was constructed – it remains one of the world’s most famous mausoleums
  • 1800: the practice of draping the coffin of a fallen warrior with the national colors begins during he Napoleonic wars
  • 1830s: Chinese dead are interred into the sides of mountains
  • 1860s: Embalming begins in the USA
  • 1864: Arlington is consecrated as a US national cemetery
  • 1884: Cremation becomes legal in Great Britain
  • 1909: The first motorized hearse is built by Crane & Breed
  • 1963: Cremation is accepted by the Catholic church
  • 1993: Green burials begin in the UK
  • 1997: Cremains are first launched into space

One of the only real certainties in life is that you will one day die. The rich history of burial rite around the world can be both intimidating and inspiring to those looking to get their affairs in order before it is too late. One thing that remains consistent across all world cultures throughout time, is that the handling of a deceased person’s earthly remains is both an honor and a sacred duty.

March 11, 2015 |

Flower Arrangements at Funerals

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A common thing many people have to think about when preparing for a funeral for a loved one and that is what to do about flowers. Many people wonder why flowers are such a staple of funerals and what significance they have for the deceased, the family, and those gathered. Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider the option of including flowers in your funeral arrangement plans:

Belief
Many people use flowers as a way to mourn and grieve and also see them as part of their expression of their beliefs. Whether an after life,a new life, or some other ending, flowers are often seen as a way to express the life of the person who is being remembered.

The Tradition
Americans for the most part traditionally have used gifts of flowers as a way to expressed their sympathy for the family, pay respect to the departed friend, and to remember good times. This long-standing tradition helps many people heal and accept the loss and also can serve as a focus for family and friends during the service.

Sentiment
There is mutually understood expression that is shown in the act of sending flowers- it is sentiment. Sentiment is the accumulation of feelings, emotions, memories, and remembrance one has for a dearly departed friend. Sentiment serves an integral part of human nature and it has become an expression that is critical in the development of many common funeral traditions and practices.

Freedom of Expression
Families who are dealing with the loss of a love one and friends who are grieving the loss of a good companion deserve the right to express themselves however they want at time of a funeral and dealing with death and loss. People are different and each person mourns and deals with grief in their own way so people see flowers in different lights when it comes to funerals. Therefore, everyone should be should be free to express themselves however they want and in a way that makes sense for them.

Atmosphere
Flowers help to instill a feeling of warmth and beauty to an otherwise dreary and depressing funeral service. Following the service, the family that is left behind has a lasting impression of the funeral service and flowers will often go a long way in painting a peaceful, beautiful, and healing memory of that funeral event.

Significance of Flowers
Flowers have become such a strong and integral part of many funerals because of a growing trend in recent years. Many families are opting to have funeral memorials or life celebrations where the atmosphere and mood is more of a memorial and celebration of the life of the dearly departed. Flowers help create the cheerful and upbeat atmosphere that these life celebrations aim for. In addition, flowers can be sent to the home of the family or be gifted to the church as a memorial to the deceased. This is why flowers have become so significant to modern funerals.

Spiritual Significance
There is also a number of symbolic importance for flowers- not only love and sympathy, but also peace and renewal. Yes flowers wilt an die but that is life and that is what faces everyone. Flowers at a funeral can help minister to those gathered by reminding them of the cycle of life and that there is always a reason and purpose and that one ending is simply a beginning for something else. There is deep religious symbolization in that flowers themselves do not last forever.

February 12, 2015 |

Funeral Photography and Death Masks

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Funerals are a chance to reflect on a loved one that we’ve recently lost. It’s a chance for friends and family to come together and reminiscence on a loved one’s life, acknowledge contributions that person made, and extend condolences to the surviving kin.

Basics of Funeral Photography 

Photographing a funeral in a sensitive, discrete way can offer families a chance to stay in touch with a loved one who’s recently left us.

Photos taken on the day of the funeral can be assembled and put into a photo album to send to family and friends who couldn’t make it to the funeral itself. Copies of the photo album can also be sent to close family to keep the loved one’s memory alive.

A camera without a flash is a tactful way for a funeral photographer to capture family members consoling one another as well as the ceremony of the funeral itself.

A professional funeral photographer can take high-resolution pictures of the coffin and the pallbearers in order to cement the day in a hardcover photo album or password-protected digital archive.

The photos that make it onto the website’s online catalog can be vetted and approved by each family member. The process is kept respectful and inclusive of everyone’s wishes.

Although the techniques and technologies associated with funeral photography are relatively new, previous generations had similar ways of remembering lost loved ones.

For centuries, death masks, or plaster molds of a person’s face, were taken to remember loved ones by. The same underlying motive pervades today’s funeral photography.

Is Funeral Photography Difficult? 

From a photographer’s standpoint, it can be. If this is a professional photographer’s first stint at photographing a hearse and funeral proceeding, then capturing a funeral on camera can be emotionally challenging. This, though, might be the exception.

Many funeral photographers talk about how easy photographing a funeral is compared to photographing a wedding.

At a wedding, everyone has a camera, and they know how to use it! Professional wedding photographers have to jostle for position, and the sheer act of taking professional-quality pictures in that chaotic an environment can be both challenging and stressful.

Taking photographs at a funeral, by contrast, is more discrete, and funerals can often be more uplifting affairs than you might at first imagine. If someone has lived a long and rewarding life, a funeral is more often than not an opportunity to share stories about that person’s personal triumphs and joys.

When you think about it, of course a funeral would be easier to work with compared to a wedding. A funeral is dedicated to remembering all of the positive attributes about someone whereas a wedding is bogged down by concerns about what everyone is wearing and who spent the most on wedding gifts.

Purposes Served by Funeral Photography 

Oftentimes, grieving friends and family are unable to take photos of a funeral themselves, but would be open to the idea of a professional photographer discretely compiling a photo album for memory’s sake or for those who couldn’t attend the funeral in person.

Another impetus for close family hiring a funeral photographer is for posterity. Discretely taken funeral photographs are a way for those not yet born to experience past aspects of their own family’s history. The surviving family, moreover, usually frames their departed loved one in the light that he or she would have wanted.

Funerals are often a relaxed environment in which everyone is themselves and enjoying each other’s company. Photo albums documenting the day, therefore, showcase a whole section of the family tree for future generations to experience.

This post was brought to you by Greer Family Mortuary.

January 21, 2015 |

A Brief History of Mourning Jewelry

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People have always needed to somehow maintain the spirit of loved ones even after their physical absence, so throughout history various ingenious ways of accomplishing that have emerged. As long as humans have been around, they have found ways of remembering and honoring those who have gone before, first on cave walls and probably other less permanent ways as well. When man’s understanding of his environment and resources increased to the point where he could use materials to create lasting impressions of departed loved ones, he began to create mourning jewelry.

Earliest examples of mourning jewelry

Literally thousands of years ago, man began using a semi-precious mineraloid called jet, which is comprised of decayed wood under extreme pressure for eons, resulting in a very hard dark brown or black stone. The jet deposits around Whitby, England for instance were formed almost 200 million years ago. Jet was recognized for its shiny brilliance and suitability for carving, so it was first used in mourning jewelry thousands of years ago, although this was sporadic among European cultures. By about the third century, jet came into steadier usage, and was commonly used to make remembrances of loved ones in the form of rings, hair pins, and pendants.

Hair jewelry has also been a favorite means of remembering loved ones, partly due to the fact that it has historically represented life in many cultures, and also because it was an actual physical part of the deceased. Used in ancient Egypt to recall those who passed into the next world, hair jewelry found favor, especially among more affluent classes. Mexican Indians also made early use of rudimentary hair jewelry, preserving hair for the passage to the beyond as a means of finding their way in that new existence.

Recent historical uses of mourning jewelry

Beginning in about the fifteenth century, mourning rings were commonly given as gifts to family and friends who had experienced the loss of a loved one, many of these having simple skulls in their design. By the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, mourning rings had become so popular that they were sometimes planned for before death, one notable example being the English diarist Samuel Pepys, who directed that over one hundred mourning rings be given out upon his death.

In the later eighteenth century, enamel began to be used as a material for mourning rings, with white enamel designating a single person and black enamel a married one. Braided hair rings began to appear by the nineteenth century to commemorate the passing of a loved one, usually being made of gold with a ringlet of the loved one’s hair.

Jet mourning jewelry continued to be popular in European countries and North America because it could be mined easily in those areas, and became so popular that Queen Victoria commanded that only jet jewelry be used to memorialize her departed husband King Albert for the first three years after his death.

Hair jewelry also gained popularity in the nineteenth century, and in Scandinavia and Sweden, it became a huge commercial concern, with many craftsmen learning the art of creating hair jewelry for mourning, then taking it with them to nearby towns and cities. During the American Civil War the practice of making hair jewelry became common as soldiers leaving home for the war left samples of hair which could be woven into remembrances upon their deaths.

This post was brought to you by the team at Greer Family Mortuary in Alameda, CA

October 14, 2014 |

Below Ground vs. Above Ground Burial

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More and more people are having difficulty in deciding whether or not to be buried below ground, or if they should opt for an above ground burial instead. Most people don’t even want to think about death, but the debate rages on – should you be buried below or above ground?

There are typically three ways you can choose to be buried:

• Mausoleum
• Grave
• Tomb

Mausoleums are above ground structures that house the body of the deceased, in full form or cremation, with a shrine being built to memorialize the body. A grave is a dug out hole in the ground where the body is placed, usually in a coffin, and a tomb is and above ground grave, such as a vault.

Many people have strong spiritual beliefs that make them feel closer to nature and the elements of life. These believe that an above ground mausoleum would put them closer to those elements while they rest eternally.

Others can’t stand the thought of being put in a box for the rest of eternity while worms and other bugs eat away at their flesh. These people might be more comfortable knowing that they are in an above ground tomb where friends and loved ones can still visit them to pay their respects.

Then there are those that just go with the old fashioned way of thinking and say that a pine box in the earth will suit them just fine. These folks are perfectly comfortable being buried six feet under the ground during their eternal resting period.

Which Type Of Burial Is Better?

There really is no definitive answer as to which option is better. Different people have different feelings and opinions on the matter. In certain parts of the country, and world for that matter, it is widely considered normal practice to be buried in mausoleums above ground. Certain regions are swampy and experience large amounts of rain year round, whether from hurricanes or other natural phenomena. People in these parts would rather have their loved ones remains above ground so that flood waters don’t ravage the land below, shifting bodies about, or even causing them to come above ground.

Other reasons could be based upon religious or spiritual beliefs of a person or culture. There are some that believe a mausoleum or a tomb is a better way to enshrine their loved ones, so that they will feel closer to them. There are plenty of reasons why above ground burials are preferred. Money, however, is usually a great deterrent to the above ground option.

It is very expensive to be buried above ground and the costs can be astronomical for family members left behind if they need to keep paying fees for upkeep and such. Family plots are very common; reducing costs overall, but there is still a large financial aspect to consider when choosing a tomb or mausoleum to be buried in.
Other cultures believe that burying loved ones in the earth holds more spiritual meaning because it puts them back into the earth that they once came from. Indian tribes are a good example of this as they believed we are all born from earth, so it only makes sense that we be reunited with it once we are gone.

Whether you choose to be buried above or below ground, you will have a place where people can come to be with you. Choosing the right option for you is based upon your beliefs and values.

This post is brought to you by regularlink.com member Greer Family Mortuary.

September 10, 2014 |

8 Steps to Writing an Obituary

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The death of a loved one is never easy. Emotions, grief and fear can cloud your judgment and make it difficult to get the necessary tasks done. One way to work through your grief in a constructive manner is to write an obituary. We’ve collected eight easy steps to writing an obituary, to make the process just a little bit easier while you grieve the loss of your loved one.

1.       Call the Paper

The first step to writing a proper obituary starts by calling the paper you plan on having the obituary run in. Many papers have different guidelines, pricing and word limits, so finding out that information before you begin writing can help you really formulate a writing plan. Most papers work on a “column” system, so ask how many words typically fit into a column and how much it will cost. You’ll also want to ask about deadlines.

2.       Read other Obituaries

Before you begin formulating your thoughts, it is always a good idea to read other obituaries. You’ll get a sense of the type of information that should be included, and what can be omitted from the paper obituary. Read a few and take note of what you do and do not like about each. It is a good starting point for your own writing.

3.       Get The Info Down on Paper

Before you write the actual obituary jot down the information you’d like to include. This will first serve as a rough draft and, later, will serve as a type of checklist. It will help ensure you have all the details you want to include in your final draft and can really help the writing process.

4.       Write the Obituary

Once you have all the information gathered, you should begin writing. Remember to keep the information about the loved one front and center, but don’t be afraid to add a bit of personality into the writing, too. For example, if your Grandma Edna was the reigning bridge champion of her retirement home, add that in.

5.       Proofread Your Work

Once you’ve written the obituary, you’ll want to proof your work. Often times it is best to walk away from the writing for an hour and return to read it then. You can’t always catch your mistakes right after writing, but you’ll catch them with a fresh set of eyes, so to speak.

6.       Fact Check Your Work and Ask Someone Else to Read It

During your proofing of the obituary, it is a good idea to fact check. You want to make sure you have all of the dates correct, as well as the service information. After you’ve done that, ask a trusted family member to proof read the work as well. This is a good way to ensure there are no glaring grammatical mistakes, or spelling errors. Another set of eyes can catch mistakes more easily than you can.

7.       Submit the Obituary

Make sure you submit the obituary by the deadline. You should have gotten this information when you called. To ensure the obituary runs on the day you intend, it’s best to submit it at least an hour prior to the deadline to ensure someone gets it in time. You can also ask for a proof of the obituary when submitting it, in most cases.

8.       Check the Paper

Once you’ve submitted your work, the only thing you can do now is wait for it to run in the paper. Check the paper the next day to ensure everything is correct. If something is wrong, contact the paper immediately for a retraction.

Got more questions? Seek the advice of a funeral service like regularlink.com members Greer Family Mortuary in Alameda, CA.

August 13, 2014 |

Cremation vs Burial: Deciding Which is Right for You

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Deciding between cremation and a burial is never an easy task.  The decision that is made is going to dictate the way in which you spend the rest of eternity, in essence.  The majority of people out there simply do not want to even think about this.  The reality, though, is that pre-planning the way in which you want your funeral service to be held can make it that much easier on everyone around you.

What many individuals end up doing is just leaving funeral service planning in the hands of those who love them most.  Planning ahead can help eliminate some pivotal decisions that have to be made though.  One of these is deciding between cremation and burial and which is right for you.  Let’s explore the comparisons between each.

Differences in the Cost

There are costs that are associated with a funeral service and there are differences between what it costs for a cremation vs burial.  With the way in which the economy is today, money does matter and this can have an impact on your overall decision.

Cremation services are generally cheaper than burial services.  The average cost of cremation is typically around the area of $3,000.  This compares to burial services, which can run anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 or more.  The burial services cost more due to the fact that you have to purchase more things, including the casket, the liner, the plot in the cemetery, grave stone, and so on.  The other factor is that with burial services, embalming is needed, which further increases the price tag.

Deciding Beforehand to Help Your Loved Ones

The more that you plan ahead, the better off you are going to leave your loved ones.  If they know and understand that you would prefer a cremation, then they won’t make the decision to go ahead with a burial and spend a lot of unneeded money.  You may want to also have your ashes kept so that you can be honored and remembered in a different way than resting in a cemetery.

The traditional burial service is not always the way to go when you are thinking about a funeral.  There are many different options out there and leaving it on your loved ones to do things such as pick out your casket is not a task that they are likely going to enjoy.  When your loved ones are grieving, having a set plan already in place will assist them in following through on your wishes, while taking the burden if important decisions off of them.  Think about cremation versus burial services and determine ahead of time which is right for you.  These difficult conversations are better had while you are still around rather than after it is too late.

Need help planning a cremation or burial? Regularlink.com member Greer Family Mortuary can help.

July 30, 2014 |
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