“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die…” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a
When one of your loved ones dies—whether that death is totally unexpected or a long time in the making—it is always difficult to wade through the whirlpool of emotions in order to keeping moving forward and make the necessary preparations.
This policy is intended to help you make thoughtful decisions as you plan your loved one’s funeral, even as you are experiencing your own grief. None of these suggestions should be considered to be hard-and-fast rules. Any variation that bring you comfort or helps to create a meaningful service should be used. That’s because the purpose of a funeral service is to bring mourners comfort, strength and insight—and there are many valid ways to do that.
Calling the funeral director
There are two funeral homes in Galena:
Furlong Funeral Home
100 Caroldon Court
Galena, IL 61036
Miller-Steinke Funeral Home
235 S. Bench Street
Galena, IL 61036
If your loved one died in a hospital, the staff will usually ask which funeral home you prefer and will make the contact with your chosen funeral director for you. If either hospice or the police are involved after the death of your loved one, they are usually willing to make that contact for you as well.
Contacting the Pastor
Call me, Rev. Jim McCrea, regardless of the time of day or night. I will be happy to meet you at the hospital or at your home, as you choose.
I would rather hear about the death when it happens, than later at what may seem to be a convenient time.
Church number: (815) 777-0229
Planning when the service will be held
In most cases, the funeral is held three or four days after the death. The date and time for the service is always worked out with the funeral director and the pastor. The family usually goes to the funeral home the day after the death to select a casket or a container for the cremains, as well as to work out various details. I am happy to be there with you as you go through this process if you would like me to do so. In any case, if I am leading the service, I need to check my schedule before I can commit to a specific date and time for the service. I will, of course, do everything possible to arrange to be available when you wish.
Selecting the casket or urn
At some point, you will be asked to select a casket or urn for your loved one’s remains. You will also be asked to select a vault, since vaults are required by state law. Typically, the funeral director will leave you alone to make your selection in private, so there shouldn’t be any pressure to purchase any specific item. When you are making your decision, please remember there is nothing you can do to ultimately preserve the body. Sooner, or later, it will return to dust. Only God can restore it. So please remember that, whatever you choose, it will only be a temporary resting place for your loved one’s mortal remains. Since their spirit is with God, purchasing an expensive casket or urn is not important.
Where will the service be held
In most communities, holding a funeral in church is far preferable to holding it in a funeral home. But the fact of the matter is that our church building was constructed at a time when caskets were far smaller than they tend to be today. Getting caskets into and out of the church building involves dismantling a handrail and removing a door to the sanctuary. Similar issues are faced by each of the six other historic churches in Galena. That’s why the vast majority of funerals for those congregations are held in the funeral home. That said, we are happy to have your funeral in either the church or the funeral home as you wish. Please make that decision solely on the basis of where you and the other mourners will feel most comfortable or at peace.
Writing the obituary
Use other obituaries as a guide for organizing the dates, places and events that should be recorded. Please note that most newspapers now charge for elaborate obituaries. Your funeral director will have information on the current practices on the local news outlets.
If money isn’t a consideration, you may want to consider adding the following to the traditional obituary information:
Telling what apparently caused the death. Today many obituaries only refer to a long or short illness. Friends want to know if it was cancer, heart attack, or another cause, especially if it was an uncommon illness.
Expressing your faith or the faith of a loved one. Simply stating they were church members is good, but you may want to do more. Make it the way you want it.
Adding a statement about memorials in the obituary is very appropriate. Many funerals feature hundreds of dollars worth of flowers that end up lasting only a few days. Memorials, on the hand can be used in a number of more lasting ways. They can be given to the church, help pay funeral expenses, used for school scholarships, or any number of other possibilities. The obituary might include a sentence that states: “In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund has been established at the First Presbyterian Church [or wherever].”
What should the service include
There are many possible options for a funeral service. If you want suggestions, simply ask me. Or, if you prefer, I can simply plan the entire service on your behalf.
Some of the parts of the service might include:
Traditional hymn(s) sung by friends who attend.
A favorite poem, or scripture, or thought.
A written or oral expression from the family.
A verbal expression of faith from the family.
A responsive reading selection.
However, none of those things is necessary. They are all a matter of choice. I typically include several prayers and two or three Old Testament passages, along with two or three New Testament passages, as well as a funeral meditation that speaks about the life of the deceased and offers comfort to those who mourn their loss.
The complete service normally lasts 20-30 minutes, but is never longer than 45 minutes. The funeral service is then usually followed by a trip to the cemetery for a brief (three to five minute) committal service. If you wish to do so, that may be followed by a luncheon or dinner at the church or some area restaurant or service club.
Planning a meal after the funeral?
Many families find comfort by offering a meal to the gathered mourners after the funeral and committal services are over. At one time, these were almost inevitably held in the church building and were hosted by the women’s groups of the church. In these days when most women work out of the home, we no longer have any women’s (or men’s) groups. Therefore, in order to hold a funeral meal at the church, we need enough lead time to find volunteers to serve the meal and clean up afterward. For that reason, many families choose instead to have their meals at a local restaurant or at one of the local service clubs like the Eagles or Elks. However, we will be happy to host a meal for you in the church if that is your wish.
In that case, we will contact the church members as soon as we hear of your wish for a meal—both to recruit volunteers and to get donated food items. Our members normally bring salads and desserts to be shared. The names of the donors are then written down and that list is provided to you after the meal so you may thank them. Any items that are purchased—such as ham and buns or whatever simple main course you may wish—is charged at Tammy’s Piggly Wiggly and that bill is given to you to pay. Or you may ask the funeral director to pay it for you. Then he will include that amount in his total bill to you.
The major expenses for a funeral are difficult to estimate in advance since they are closely related to personal decisions you will have made at the funeral home, such as cremation or embalming, the selection of a specific urn or casket, and so on. But it is important to note that there is never any charge for the use of the church building if you wish to have the service and/or a post-funeral meal there.
A typical funeral requires about 12-15 hours of the pastor’s time. There isn’t any set fee to compensate him, although the usual donation for non-church members is $100-150. The pastor doesn’t expect a donation from members, although many of them choose to offer a donation as well. That’s a matter of personal choice.
When there is a death, a couple of very important decisions need to be made almost immediately. So if you have an idea that your loved one is or may be terminal, you might consider broaching these subjects with them while they are still alive — assuming you and they feel comfortable talking about these things. Equally important, you might consider making these decisions for your own future funeral and making sure your family knows your wishes now, when there is no difficult emotional overtones to the discussion.
Here are those considerations:
Organ donations? If your loved one dies in a hospital or nursing home, you will usually be asked, “Do you want to donate any useful organs for others?” In many states, hospital staff are required by law to ask this question and because of the time factor for keeping the organs alive, this decision must be made very shortly after death. Kidney, heart and eye transplants for other seriously ill patients are made possible because of this precious gift. Would you — or your loved one — be willing to be one of the donors? You should not feel guilty if this is not your desire. The decision is a personal one.
Cremation or burial? This is entirely a matter of personal preference — the preference of the family or of the deceased, if they expressed their opinion on the issue. The God who created us out of nothing can readily re-create us no matter what may happen to the body, so either method is entirely appropriate.
After the funeral is over and the mourners have returned home: Grief is a long-lasting and difficult process to go through. Please remember that I am always available to help you get through it. But also remember that I won’t know you need help unless you tell me. Feel free to contact me at any time, if I can help you in any way.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with humans, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4
Rev. Jim McCrea
(815) 777-0229 (church)
(815) 777-3328 (home)
Funeral Planning Checklist:
Call the Funeral Director
Contact the Pastor
Contact family members and friends
Decide whether you prefer interment or cremation for the body
Plan where will the service be held
Plan when the service will be held
Decide how long the wake should be
Select the casket or urn
Write the obituary
Meet with the pastor to discuss what the service should include
Decide whether to have a meal after the funeral and, if so, where to have it
Be sure to contact the pastor whenever you need pastoral care in the days and months after the funeral.