Collins Funeral Home Norwalk CT

Top 10 Funeral Service Questions

(courtesy NFDA)

1. How many funeral homes are in the United States? Approximately 22,000. The state of New York has the highest concentration of funeral homes in the U.S. with 1,880 while Alaska has the fewest with 19. In the state of Texas there are approximately 1,205 funeral homes. Approximately 70% of these funeral homes are independently owned and 30% are corporately owned.

2. How many deaths occur each year? The nationwide annual death rate varies statistically between 8 and 9 people per 1,000 population. The U.S. population is approximately 290,810,000. Each year there are approximately 2,457,000 deaths in the U.S. The average annual number of death calls per U.S. funeral home is 112. Individual state annual death rates can vary between 4.5 and 11.5 per 1,000 population. In the state of Texas there are approximately 22,118,509 residents. Each year approximately 155,000 deaths occur in Texas. Based on these statistics, the average annual number of death calls per Texas funeral home is 129.

3. What is the cost of a funeral and how is it determined? The cost of a funeral is determined by combining costs associated with two categories. The first category is funeral home costs which include the professional services of the funeral director and staff, temporary medical preservation of the body for viewing (embalming), the use of the funeral home facilities for visitation and ceremony, and transportation (hearse and motor vehicle equipment costs). The second category is the merchandise costs which can include the casket, the outer burial container (the receptacle which is placed into the cemetery grave and the casket is then placed inside of it), remembrance stationery and keepsakes, video tributes, miscellaneous gifts, etc. According to the industry 's largest statistical reference source, the average U.S. funeral cost range for the first two categories is between $6,000-$8,500. A third category associated with a funeral are third party or non-funeral home costs which include the purchase of a cemetery plot, the opening and closing of the grave, the associated religious or non-religious services, newspaper notifications, post funeral events, etc.

4. What is embalming, how is it done, and what does it do? Embalming is a surgical procedure which is performed on the deceased 's body. The procedure involves opening the arterial network to facilitate the removal of blood and fluids from the body and replacing them with a natural combination of preservative compounds which assist the body in temporarily slowing down the biological decomposition process. Medical preservation is performed in order to present the body in the most dignified and natural manner. Dating back to ancient Egypt, medical preservation (embalming) was a service provided by priests to select families based on social position.

5. Why do people wear black at funerals? The color black and its relationship to funerals dates back to England. The color black in English history represented dignity, respect, and spiritual reflection. During the Middle Ages, in the Christian religious tradition, the color black symbolized the earth through the biblical interpretation of the phrase “ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”

6. How did the hearse become a traditional part of a funeral ceremony? Prior to the invention of the car, funeral ceremonies were conducted with horse and carriage. This tradition still continues in the United States with state funerals such as Presidents and other prominent dignitaries. With the invention of the automobile came the concept of the motorized “funeral coach.” For decades, Cadillac was the brand name that held the market for funeral coaches, also known as “the hearse.” In recent decades, BMW, Buick, Lincoln, and Mercedes have all entered the funeral coach marketplace.

7. What are caskets made out of and what do they cost? Caskets are made primarily from two types of materials: metal and wood. Metal caskets vary in cost depending on the type of metal used. Bronze is the most costly metal used in casket manufacturing because it takes significantly longer to process from a raw material and manufacturing standpoint. Bronze has a molecular structure which remains strong and non-rusting over long intervals of time. Ancient Bronze statues throughout the world are reminders of the enduring characteristics of Bronze. Copper is a naturally occurring ore which is extracted from the earth and considered to be the most beautiful of all metals used in casket manufacturing. It is lower in cost than Bronze but shares the same non-rusting characteristic as Bronze. Stainless Steel is considered to be the best value in metal caskets because it has great strength and rust-resistant characteristics. Metal caskets made from medium and light weight carbon steel represent the lower cost ranges. The most costly wood caskets are made from Mahogany and Walnut, two species of wood which are in scarce supply. Cherry, Maple, Oak, and Pecan wood species are more readily available and reflect the moderate cost ranges while Pine and Poplar are exceptionally plentiful and therefore, are the least costly type of wood caskets.

8. What is the purpose of the funeral? The purpose of the funeral varies among cultures but most funerals, regardless of culture, share similar values. The funeral process has undergone a philosophical transformation in recent years in the United States. It is no longer thought of as strictly a time of mourning but rather a treasured family and community event to celebrate the majesty of the life lived. The funeral has thus become the forum to create a personal reflection of the deceased 's life. Psychologically, the funeral also serves as an accepted event to openly express feelings and emotions, which is a critical process in terms of the future well-being of all those touched by the loss. Designer funerals are gaining momentum throughout the United States. These type of funerals consist of a carefully thought out and planned series of events reflecting various aspects of the deceased 's life. Specifically, some of the elements might include sharing the deceased's life through multi-media, music, non-religious or religious ceremonies, special catered events, sports celebration outings, etc.

9. Who would want to be a funeral director? Traditionally, many individuals who entered the funeral profession were the sons and daughters of families who had been in the funeral profession for generations. Successful funeral directors share certain characteristics which are somewhat universal: a sincere desire to help others, a public servant willing to be understanding of all cultures, religions, and customs. A person who enjoys people, formal settings, arranging, organizing and coordinating details, and someone who is willing to give with an open heart whenever called upon regardless of the personal inconvenience. Also, someone interested in owning and operating their own business.

10. What are the educational requirements to become a funeral director? It is advisable to earn a four year college degree. Then enroll in a mortuary science school and complete a two year mortuary science program which consists of 1 year of required classes and 1 year of apprenticeship working in a funeral home. National and State board exams must be completed as a final condition to obtain a funeral director license and commence practicing. In many states (including Connecticut), continuing education requirements are an ongoing professional requirement