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Weekly Tips From MSBC

Welcome to our blog. We will update weekly with tips and advice.

A Lovely Quotation About Grief

October 31, 2018

A dear friend of ours from Singapore sent me this quotation via Facebook today and it sure rings true for me. We thought it might serve some of our members and potential members to have a look at it;

“Grief never ends…

But it changes.

It is a passage not a place to stay.

Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith…

It is the price of Love.”

Author Unknown.

The Staff Team at MSBC

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Do Your Research!

October 24, 2018

When it comes to making your end of life arrangements there is one important and over riding principle to remember… “Do Your Research!”

There is nothing more challenging than setting out to make funeral arrangements for a loved one when your emotions are running wild and you have no plan and no idea what to do or what to ask for. One way around this uncomfortable and often needlessly expensive experience is to do your research and planning well in advance. Here are several tips that might help you do so.

Go to two or three funeral homes, a family owned and operated one, and one or two owned and operated by multination organizations such as SCI or Arbor Memorial. Interview them and ask some questions you would like answered in order that you can create arrangements that suit your family’s needs and budget. I know, I know, what questions should we ask? Here is a short list:

  • Is viewing necessary and important?
  • Does cremating my loved one mean there is no funeral?
  • What is the difference between a niche and a cemetery plot? Financially?
  • Is embalming necessary?
  • What is the least expensive cremation container I can purchase?
  • Can I rent a casket for the viewing and use a less expensive container for the burial or cremation?
  • If I choose to use your funeral services what can I expect from you?
  • I am a member of the Memorial Society of BC. Do I get a discounted price?
  • Which is more environmentally friendly burial or cremation and what is a green burial?
  • What will it cost me for a burial or for a cremation? And please give me a range from least expensive to most expensive so I can choose what works for our budget.

There are likely more questions you could ask and they will likely surface when you are having your informational meeting with the funeral homes. The important thing is you are doing some important research, gathering information and getting some ideas that might fit for you and your family. It is not at all necessary to make a decision immediately and you can let the funeral director know that you will get back to them once you have made a decision.

Also do some research regarding payment: payment plans, prepaying or simply making arrangements without payment until services are required. The financial side of the planning and arrangements process is important too. So do make certain if you do choose to prepay who holds your money until it is earned; also make sure that your family knows the arrangements have been prepaid. Prepayment is not necessary. Have a look at this article to get more information and ideas on prepaying for your funeral arrangements;


Feel free to call our office staff if you feel the need to discuss the whole idea of doing your research first.

The Staff Team


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It Death Really the Grim Reaper?

October 23, 2018

Our North American view of death – The Grim Reaper – has many of us pushing death away to long-term care homes, hospitals, and hospices. We also outsource after death care to funeral homes almost exclusively. This is not to say that these services are not required by some of us some of the time but to be honest we North Americans seem to want to banish death from life entirely washing our hands of it so to speak. This attitude has more than 83% of we British Columbians woefully unprepared for the end of our lives.

How have we gotten here?

Well, over the past one hundred and fifty years we have moved from a rural life style to an urban one. Stats Canada and the US Census Bureau provide the details of this huge migration. In 1850 94% of the population lived in a rural setting. Now fully 85% of us live in an urban setting an almost total reversal of how we once lived.

In 1850 only 11% of our elders lived alone meaning 89% lived in some sort of family structure a clear 70% lived with the children and less than 1% of our seniors lived in a care home. In 1940’s 25% of us lived with our family and now in the 21st century only 12% do, though this trend is beginning to rise again.

What does this mean?

Well, very simply we have lost touch with nature and the natural cycle of life and also with ageing. Back in the day we used to farm, fish, hunt, and garden for our very survival. We were keenly connected to the cycle of the seasons; we had to be for our very existence and the well-being of our families. We planted seeds in the spring, nurtured them through the summer and harvested them in the fall. We raised animals from birth until we slaughtered them for food. We paid attention to the seasons; we needed to so we could be successful at fishing and hunting. Our relationship with nature, the cycles of life and death, was an interdependent one.

We also used to live with our entire family, great grandparents right on down to the youngest of us. We saw firsthand our family members getting older and dying.  We used to take great care of our loved ones after death, bathing them, dressing them, laying them in the casket, and burying them in a casket the family likely built in a grave site we likely dug.

We were fully involved in both life and death and to our benefit!

What has this change cost us?

Well financially about $10,500.00 per funeral on average! It has cost us much more than that though emotionally, physically, and spiritually however. It has also cost us all the loss of a considerable amount of life wisdom!

Let’s have a look at these five categories of loss and look at what we are truly missing and then what we can to minimize the losses.


The cost of a funeral in Canada is approximately $10,500.00. If it is the family’s wish and they are financially able to afford this type of expensive sendoff it is not a problem. For many of us though are pockets aren’t so deep and it is a financial squeeze to cover the costs. Much of financial costs can be directly attributed to our fear of death.

We are, as a result of pulling away from death and all it involves, ill-informed and under educated when it comes to making these types of arrangements. We tend then to take at face value the recommendations of professionals in the funeral business and avoid being a well educate consumer. Many families so suffer buyers’ remorse once all is said and done.


We are human beings after all and by definition very physical.  Our physical-ness is very important and often times it is our initial link to our spirit and a kick-starter for our emotions. It a death denying culture such as ours we tend to pull away from the one dying, we tend not to touch, we tend to avoid touching our deceased loved one especially after death. In doing so we often shut down our emotional response to dying and death and we can miss altogether the spiritual aspects of dying and death.

We tend to become numb to it all thereby missing the many hidden benefits being present to dying and death afford.


Generally, we assume that our emotions are a burden both for the family member dying and for our family and friends who are there to support us. Men in our culture are particularly well trained to ‘keep a stiff upper lip.’  Many of us typically suppress our emotions so as not to burden those around us. Because we have backed away from ageing, dying and death over the past several centuries we have also forgotten how to grieve and what healthy grief looks and feels like.

We have become grief rigid.


As we have moved away from the natural cycle of life, from nature Herself, from the Awe of it all – the spiritual wonder of living, we have become spiritually illiterate and inexperienced. We tend to accept facsimiles of spirituality as opposed to knowing, seeing, feeling, and being in touch with our very spirit.

Our fear of death has crippled our personal and intimate knowledge of True Spirit.

Life Wisdom

Back in the day much of our wisdom was learnt or passed down in storytelling, stories often told by our grandparents or great grandparents. These stories were told at the dinner table, by the fireplace, by the bonfire, or while harvesting, fishing or tending to the livestock. Often times the grandparents and the children were together while the parents worked.

With our families now being fiercely independent and the farm chores and firesides much less available so are the story telling opportunities. Too, we send many of our elders off to care homes, senior’s complexes, and long term care homes in a way locking our stories behind closed doors.

So What to Do?

Get curious about death!

Go to a Death Café.  Plant a garden. Visit a cemetery. Watch a film such as Me Earl and A Dying Girl. Go to a funeral. Visit a long-term care home. Watch Tuesdays with Morie. Get your own end of life plans in order and create your own All Ready to Go Binder.

Join the Memorial Society of BC and get your funeral arrangements made and on file.









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Recycling in The Process of Cremation – CBC Report

October 23, 2018

Here is a link to a CBC article about how the funeral industry is recycling as well as cremating. Having been a cremationist myself I do know first hand that metal recycling was and is an important part of the cremation process.

Have a read through the article if you are curious.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/how-crematoriums-are-recovering-precious-metals-from-inside-the-dead-1.4623039

The Staff Team, MSBC

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Yes, We Want to Die at Home and We Can

October 16, 2018

Many of us Canadians want to die in the comfort of our own home, over 90% in fact.  Yet roughly 70% of us die in care homes or hospitals. Amongst the many reasons for the gap in the wish versus the actual reality is the fact we just don’t know how to handle a home death and tend to rely on healthcare systems and professionals to handle it for us.

There is an alternative and all we need to do is be prepared, well planned, and have the family on the same page.

I worked with a family recently, we’ll call them the Jones’, Grandma was elderly, 96 years old and was insistent on dying in her family home. Her care needs were not complex and a home death was manageable. So the family and I set out to make Grandma’s wish a reality. All we need to do was plan.

We involved a social worker from the hospital Grandma had often received care in, her doctor, the Red Cross, and community nursing. We created a family team to quarterback it all and name a family team leader. Importantly we created a care schedule for Grandma that was the basis for her care during the final months of her life.

Toilet assists and a hospital bed were organized with the Red Cross.

Home care nurses were organized through the local health authority.

Home safety needs especially carpets and stairs were attended to.

Medical visits were schedules to manage Grandma’s ever changing care needs.

The Letter of Expected Death in the Home was completed by the family doctor, a copy of which stayed in the home and a duplicate was delivered to the funeral home responsible for caring for Grandma after her death.

Grandma’s care provider schedule was created and posted on the fridge door for all to see. And,

Family members were kept up-to-date with all the developments.

As Grandma’s health continued to decline a visiting schedule was set up so as not to over tax her life energy.

Now this may sound like a substantial amount of work and yes it was. The family said to me once all was said and done and Grandma was resting at peace in her burial plot, that it was SO WORTH IT!

Grandma died in the front room of her home looking out over the gardens she had always tended and in the arms of one of her grandchildren with others holding the space with their loving presence. The end was graceful, tender, and loving – it was all that Grandma wanted and the family was so joyful that they had made her final wish come true.

The moral of the story? Be prepared, and have your end of life arrangements ready well before you need them. Pre-planning is a generous gift we can give to our families that does enable graceful passing.

The Staff Team


Published by: Hickman, Susan (Times-Colonist) <shickman@timescolonist.com>

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All Ready To Go Binder – The Basics Video

October 10, 2018

We were up in Kelowna, BC last month at a wellness trade show; the Memorial Society was present as an exhibitor and a speaker. We of course focused on end of life preparations and planning, funeral arrangements specifically. In the context of planning funeral arrangements we also spoke about the importance of being All Ready to Go with important end of life documents collected in one easy to get at place – The All Ready to Go Binder.

Our executive director was filmed giving an informal talk to people gathered to hear about the importance of end of life planning. We have placed a link to the talk on our planning and resource page under the Helpful Links column on the right hand side. Please do have a look at the video and make sure you and your family are already to go. We are working diligently on creating the All Ready to Go Binder kit and will have it ready for your purchase later this year. Please do feel free to call our office about information on this affordable end of life planning tool.

The Staff Team, MSBC


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Getting Your End of Life Planned and Communicated to Your Family

October 9, 2018

It is most important that each of us prepare well for the end of our lives whenever that may come. We here at the Memorial Society of BC are creating an All Ready to Go Binder that will be available early in the New Year 2019 that will give our existing and new members a structure within which a great end of life plan can be created, stored, and communicated to family members one and all.

The binder will contain a table of contents, tabs for each section and several blank tabs you can use for your own personalized headings. There will be a section dedicated to the Memorial Society’s funeral arrangement form that will help you outline exactly what you do and do not want from your funeral services provider. The binder and in particular this section can be taken with you to the funeral home when you are making those important and final arrangements for your loved one’s disposition. There will also be a short how to manual that accompanies the Binder.

Having it all written down in this way will support you in staying on the plan when you are in the arrangement meeting and sometimes a little confused by all that is going on around you including your own emotions. Being planned and prepared in this way will help you avoid the remorse that can crop up when you purchase items on an emotional basis.

We are very much looking forward to making this binder available to you in early 2019!

The Staff Team



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What Happens When We Die Alone Without Family to Take Good Care?

September 13, 2018

That’s a darn good question!

I was working away at the midtown offices of the Memorial Society of BC when this lovely elderly woman arrived for a chat about her end of life preparations. She lives all alone, quite happily she said, and has been since her husband passed away many years ago. She has some friends she volunteers with but no family to speak of.

She dropped by to begin the planning of her death and was wondering about such things as what funeral home to choose, whether to prepay or not and what sort of arrangements she should make; all very important questions to ask, questions that form a great foundation for an excellent end of life plan.

She took one of our membership application forms and headed out to investigate several funeral homes in our area. She likes to do her research before making any decisions, she said and headed on her way. I encouraged her to return once she had decided to join as a member of the Memorial Society of BC.

It struck me a little later that a large percentage of elderly women live alone, in fact 63% of seniors over the age of seventy-five live alone and 69% of them are women. So what happens when they die at home, alone? A breath-taking question indeed. It brought up a lot of questions for me; who would know? How would the person who discovered them know what to do or who to call? If there were funeral arrangements where would they be? If there were no arrangements made who would make them?

The questions kept pouring through my mind.

It seems we could have a problem on our hands given the expected increase in the number of deaths, the wait lists for long term care, the overcrowded and over worked medical system, and a limited number of hospice beds available. Though local health authorities are exploring this issue and plans are in place for more hospice beds, the plans include funding for only 47 more hospice beds province-wide.

To ensure that our elders living alone are well taken care of at end of life we need to support them in making their funeral service arrangements well in advance and to have them on file with the Memorial Society for example in order that their wishes can be acted upon. Membership will ensure that plans are made and that a Memorial Society membership card is in their wallet and a fridge magnet with our contact number is clearly visible. This is one possible solution to what I see as a potential social and community challenge.


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Bringing Death Back to Life – How We Could Talk to our Children

September 12, 2018

I remember when I was young living and playing with ‘reckless abandon’ whether it be on the ice hockey rink, in the back yard, or the family playroom. It was this full on life energy in action. It, well actual I, didn’t fit well in a box, I was a handful to try and contain, and I didn’t ‘behave’ myself at least according to others. I was so full of life.

Well that changed a little for me when my grandpa Joe died way back in the late 1950’s perhaps early sixties. I think I was ten or eleven. Us kids didn’t know about funerals, caskets, viewings and all that sort of taboo death stuff. We did know grandpa was dead but not much more that than.

At the funeral home I was full of questions. Questions that the adults present, including my parents, seemed most unwilling to confront.

“Why was grandpa in a box?”

“Why was he wearing a suit and tie?”

“What was he doing with makeup on his face?”

“Why was his skin cold?”

“Can I hug him good-bye, and where is he going?”

The answers to my curious, and numerous questions were “shhh!” Or “not now” or “don’t ask so many questions.” I ultimately found myself outside with a few other children so the adults could say a proper good-bye without any childish interruptions. What disturbed me most was not the grandpa Joe was dead but that no one was helping me make sense of it or helping me to understand what death meant and what at the funeral stuff was about.

I felt like there was something wrong, something that kids shouldn’t know about what had just happened. I got scared. I started to have a recurring dream of me crossing a six-lane highway and stumbling and getting up. As the cars came closer I would stumble more and get up more quickly and stumble more quickly and the cars would get closer and wham! I would wake up in a cold sweat, scared out of my wits. Frightened to death.

Now I can’t say for sure and absolutely it is all conjecture but what could have happened if my parents and adults around me at grandpa’s funeral had of handled my questions this way, in a way that honored death as a fundamental and important aspect of a full life;

“Why was grandpa in a box?”

Well honey it is called a casket and we have put grandpa so we can say good-bye and bury him in the cemetery.

“Why was he wearing a suit and tie?”

We dressed him in a suit and tie as a form respect for him and his life. It is sort of like getting dressed up for an important occasion.

“What was he doing with makeup on his face?”

When we die honey the skin looses its color and grandpa was very pal. The makeup is to make grandpa Joe look like he did when he was alive.

“Why was his skin cold?”

When our body dies our heart stops and our blood does flow anymore. Remember last winter when our furnace broke down and the house got cold. It is a little like that son.

“Can I hug him good-bye, and where is he going?”

You sure can. Let me lift you up so you can.

These answers would have been natural, honest, spoken in the way a child can understand and they didn’t shy away from the topic of death, they faced calmly and humanly. I still would have been sad of course but I wouldn’t have been scared. The adults’ answers were letting me know I was capable of dealing with grandpa’s death.

So indeed let us bring death back to life an enable our young ones to handle the challenges of life by facing death, loss, and grief head on, gently and in terms they can understand.


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Lack of Planning Can Result in Chaos

September 4, 2018


There was a family upset I witnessed several years ago that could have easily been avoided by timely planning – it was a nasty public upset indeed. Two family members were fighting in the chapel over whom would get their parent’s cremated remains. Yep a public, hurtful, and unnecessary upset. It affected everyone who was in attendance at the ceremony and really hurt the surviving spouse and the children. It left tarnished what was supposed to be a ceremony of loving good-byes.

Now you might say that this was an extreme example and perhaps it is, yet I have witnessed other family upsets that may not be as public but were as hurtful at a time when we could be saying our loving good-byes as opposed to fighting.

A family member of ours who did their end of life planning well in advance and who involved all the family members in the preparations told us of how graceful and loving their ceremonies for their mom were. They also mentioned that one of the primary reasons for the loving sendoff was that they worked out all their differences during the planning phase. Getting everyone on the same page well in advanced resulted in a chaos free end of life celebration.

So please do choose to have what may seem to be challenging conversations about your end of life wishes well in advance. Record them on your arrangement form, send a copy to the staff here at the Memorial Society of BC, and keep a copy for family use somewhere in the home.

You will be so glad you did!


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A Lovely Quotation About Grief

A dear friend of ours from Singapore sent me this...


Do Your Research!

When it comes to making your end of life arrangements...


It Death Really the Grim Reaper?

Our North American view of death – The Grim Reaper...


Recycling in The Process of Cremation – CBC Report

Here is a link to a CBC article about how...


Yes, We Want to Die at Home and We Can

Many of us Canadians want to die in the comfort...