Friday, July 13, 2012

Limits, where do we draw the line?

I wasn't sure what I was going to write about today but then I read something in our local newspaper that kind of set a fire in my gut (and not in a good way).  I'm struggling with how to write this without coming across as a complete douche with no feelings (of which I am not) and without it just being a bunch of ramblings while I try to get all my thoughts and feelings on the subject out before I lose them.

I'll recap what the article was about:
A man who has been living with an illness for the last 4 years died this past weekend.  Because of his  illness he was living on a disability pension.  His common law wife was listed as a dependant on his case file (which says to me that she, herself, does not work).  When he passed away it was assumed that the Regional Municipality would fund his funeral expenses and it was a surprise when he didn't qualify.  The reason he did not qualify is because he owns a home as was published in the article.  (Side note:  Now I have experience enough in this field to know that if the home was in BOTH of their names, they would not force the sale of the house to pay for funeral expenses and he would have been approved, so I trust the home is only in the deceased's name.)  The idea behind him being declined is that the common law wife, who is now considered single since she's not a widow as they weren't married, can sell the home, OR if the home has been left to her, she now has equity and can approach a bank about taking a loan out against the house.  This is a highly probable speculation on my part, because those facts were never reported in the article nor was an attempt made to understand more about why the deceased was declined.  All the media has done is basically allowed this woman a venue to attack a working system that is in place to assist those who truly need the financial help to have a dignified funeral.  The newspaper also approached the funeral home that the family selected to get their side of the story and, in my opinion, try to lay some onus here.  However, it is said in the article that the funeral director/owner has made numerous attempts to arrange a meeting with the common law spouse to finalize arrangements and discuss her options (yes, there are always options) but they have not been successful with getting her to commit to anything.  She has however, posted a sign on her front lawn that says "My husband is dead.  Please help me bury him."   The article does not suggest in any way that she, herself, has taken any responsibility or made any attempts to try to rectify this situation...well except to call the newspapers. 

At the time this article went to print the funeral home has made a goodwill gesture to set a visiting period for the family and friends and to proceed with the burial without a financial committment from anyone!   I call complete and utter BULLSHIT on this whole situation.  And now this is where I'm probably going to come off looking and sounding like a douche. 

Why is it up to the funeral home owner to foot the bill on this???  It is most definately not his responsibility.  He has a building to maintain and a staff to pay and expenses to look after.  Why should he take on the onus and be out of pocket?  Why does the responsibility lie with him to chase down avenues to be paid?  Funeral services is a business whether people like to acknowledge that or not.  Privately owned or corporately owned, it's a business.  It is not a 'Not for Profit' charity.   The agreement between the Region and the local funeral homes is in place to assist those that genuinely need it.  (I am the FIRST person to suggest to a low income family that this might be the option to take for them so they aren't putting themselves under more stress then they are already facing.)  I also understand that this man, in a sense, needs it, however when you have assets like a HOME it's really hard to for me to feel like you are destitute.  If your home has no equity in it, is that our fault?  Or more importantly, the funeral home's fault?  If you have poor credit or no credit and can't get the money from a bank to pay for the funeral is this the funeral home's fault?  If you didn't plan for this inevitable moment in your life by making sure you have life insurance or that your affairs (like the above house ownership situation) were in proper order or you pre-arranged and pre-funded your own funeral then why does the resposibility fall to the funeral home?  Your lifestyle and situation has nothing to do with the funeral directors.  Funeral homes already have an agreement in place with the Region where we take a large cut in our service charges to accomodate those who need it and to accomodate the tax payers wallets (including myself).  On another side note, I just want to mention that utility companies as well as many others businesses do NOT subsidize their charges for those people on special income.  Funeral homes (as a collective group) decided to subsidize their fees so that everyone would be able to have a dignified funeral if they chose to.  Yet it always feels like it's never enough. 

I'm getting fed up with people feeling that they are entitled to goods and services simply because they can't pay for them. And even when they get those freebies, they want and expect more.  They don't appreciate what they are getting.   I don't want to stereotype here but it seems to be a case where those who are on assistance feel they should be privy to what the rest of us work very hard to achieve.  An entitlement of sorts.  I once sat with a woman who was making arrangements to bury her mother with the help of the Region and felt if was well within her rights to demand money (for a submarine sandwich and a pack of smokes) from the funeral home and "we could just add it to our account with the Region".  After I picked my mouth up off the ground and was able to tell her no, I then had to deal with a barrage of insults.  I have also had people tell me they've buried everyone in their family at our funeral home through the Region and then jokingly suggest that they should get a discount.  Well since we already give a very large discount to the Region and this person has never had to pay a cent I wonder if she feels we should be cutting her a cheque for crying out loud! 

I apologize to those who are on the system because they have no other choice.  I wish for things to be better for you.  I truly do.  I also apologize to those who use the system to get a leg up and better their lives.  That's what it's there for and my venting is not directed at you.   However, those select, fine examples mentioned above have tainted my opinion over the years.   And you have no idea how sorry I am for that.   In more ways than you can imagine.  I liked believing the best in everyone.  I liked believing people were only on assistance because they had no other options.  This is simply not the case anymore. 

People talk about our kids and how we are creating an entitled generation.  They want, want, want and expect, expect, expect, but trust me, this group of people already exists.  I feel bad for the funeral home that was mentioned in this article.  They don't want to be the centre of a media lynching, but they are doing what all funeral director's are trained to do - Trying to deal with a lousy situation with compassion and grace.  They are trying to do the right thing, but at what cost?  Their cost, and that's simply just not right, or fair. 

I feel like people just don't appreciate what they have and what they are given.  Maybe if we got a mere thank you from time to time for what we are contributing it would be easier for me to swallow.  I don't expect accolades.  We all do what we need to do to help.  But this view of entitlement is really beginning to leave a sour taste in my mouth.


  1. They also had 4 years to arrange this..did they not?If you know your dying first thing wouldn't you plan ahead for your loved ones??

  2. Exactly. They should have researched the criteria required for approval and transfered the house ownership into her name. Once again, they just assumed he'd be approved. Because, well...he should be!

  3. Read this article the other day, and instantly thought hmmm, wonder what my dear funeral director friend/manager would have to say about this. Well, I guess there I have it.
    Smokes and sub? You've got to be kidding me!! My own chin dropped when I read this, never mind it being suggested to my face. Ohhh the things we all deal with in our professions eh?
    Good post! ;)

  4. I hear ya!! The other one that gets me is the folks who feel that my urns are too expensive... so they order them from online... but oh wait - we don't want this at home where our family member is currently dying - can we ship it to you to hold for us? and when it comes time to fill it... and there's usually an urn, a couple of keepsakes and some god forsaken jewellery.... well no one expects the bereaved to this themselves do they??? hmmm... so you buy it elsewhere I get to store it and spend my time filling it... and what if I accidentally damage it in the process?
    On the flip side of the coin - in regards to your blog, there's always the exception to the rule... I had a guy whose common law wife died and they were turned down for social services as they had been double dipping from 2 regions for several years and got caught... he paid my bill, with interest in increments of 300 - 500 dollars over the course of a year... I liked that guy despite his shady habits.

  5. Oh there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule. Without question. I guess I'm just getting tired of the poor me and I deserve everyone to cater to me mentality.

    Glad to hear we aren't the only funeral home that gets taken advantage of by cheap and unappreciative people. If you want to use your own urn then you can have the honour of placing the ashes into it. But nooooo, we're just far too nice. Damn that moral and ethics class they made us take! :)

  6. Oh ya... and I'm going in on my day off to do it for them too... honestly I think I should have gone into charity work!

  7. I'm with you so haters, hate. I can't stand it when people have expectations of entitlement. It's BS. It's really sad his wife didn't care more about him to be prepared to handle his death with dignity and respect.

    1. True. It's more sad that she just expected they would pick up the tab when it happened. I guess I'm just disheartened that this has become the norm these days. Bummer.

  8. I may have cried a tear of joy while reading this article. I vented a fair bit about this already, as have many other directors, I imagine! I one hundred percent back every word you said!