Decades ago, while still living in Honolulu, I paid a nominal fee for a life-time membership in something called the Funeral and Memorial Society of Hawaii. This was a small, very low-budget co-op, for handling memorials, burials or cremations at comparatively modest costs.
Now, that path not for everyone. But those who value solid caskets in hardwood or precious metal are very well-served already. What about those who dislike waste? Or those with little extra money to sink in the ground?
If I remember correctly, back when I joined the Hawaii society they even offered a wicker casket that would rot quite nicely. Or basic caskets. Or modest urns, for cremation. All in relatively-inexpensive price ranges.
As it happens, I come from frugal stock. I’d be fine with a hole in the back yard – the same way I’ve sent off family pets. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. (My friends the worms will make my remains new again.) But that’s not usually allowed, so something more is needed.
Of course, when we moved to Ottawa I would not easily be able to use those Honolulu-based services. I decided to die later, basically. It’s easy to procrastinate in your 40’s.
How nice, then, to read that something similar has just opened in Ottawa. A service that promises to not “up-sell”.
I can’t vouch for any or every particular example of this movement. But the movement itself is a fine extension of co-op principles into a service many will encounter, sooner or later.
According to coverage in the Ottawa Citizen, it’s an idea with strong appeal, or so says new Ottawa co-op volunteer president Mark Goldblatt:
…Goldblatt, a 61-year-old lifelong devotee of the co-op movement, thinks his organization will be able to use its built-in advantage to undercut the competitors, and in the process give grieving relatives a break from profit-seeking salespeople.
“We don’t have to worry about maximizing returns to shareholders,” he said. “At the time of distress, where you’re making decisions within a 40-minute period, I think people would find it advantageous to go to a provider that operates on a not-for-profit basis.”
The strongest proof of the venture’s potential is the Coopérative Funéraire de l’Outaouais. Founded in 1979, it now handles more than 70 per cent of all funerals on the other side of the Ottawa River.
Geographic availability is definitely an issue. Co-op funeral societies are still few and far between. There’s one in Calgary that has quite a lot of useful information, including a “history of” page and a list of other such societies or co-ops in Canada. I spent a little while searching for a list of similar societies in the U.S. and I am still looking. (If you find one, please add that as a comment.)
Is this sort of service an option in your neck of the woods? Should it be?
Choice is good, so I hope this becomes more widely available.
Because – somewhere, sometime – death does come to us all.