Decision Fatigue

A member of my study group recently came up with a theory, one I feel has a lot of merit. His hypothesis is that we, as funeral service professionals, are attempting to offer families we serve TOO MANY options.  At first, this sounds ridiculous. Shouldn’t we pride ourselves in giving consumers the highest number of alternatives in which they can memorialize their loved ones? Isn’t this a classic case of “the more, the better”?

Well, my former Rotary Club had an informal motto we used whenever a speaker would ask us the length of their speech: “Less is More.”

And I now think this too could be used to describe the length of a family’s arrangement conference, which I have seen go from an average of 50 minutes to more than twice that.  Let’s face it: families do NOT want to be in a funeral home planning the details of a funeral or memorial service for someone they loved. They would rather be at home, answering the phone, greeting visitors who are bringing food to the house, or simply resting up from a serious lack of sleep over the past few days. But they are forced to enter a strange building and answer a myriad of questions about death certificate information, the obituary, and details about what type of event should be planned to honor their recently departed relative. We at Oakey’s know their duties will NOT be over when they finish with us, as most families still have to go sign papers at the cemetery, make floral selections at a flower shop, and then meet with a member of the clergy to go over service content.

Already suffering from a lack of sleep and the trauma of losing their loved one, they are then presented with so many options that their eyeballs are practically rolling around in their sockets. Want a bagpipe to be playing at the cemetery? How about a dove release? Maybe a balloon release? Perhaps a butterfly release? What kind of music is desired? Organ? Piano? Want some secular music to be downloaded and played? How about a YouTube video the decedent enjoyed? Maybe some jewelry the cremated remains can be placed in? Should we take a fingerprint of your loved one that can be turned into a locket? Metal casket or wooden casket? Do you know how big the niche is in the columbarium where the urn will be placed? Anyone going to give a eulogy? What should we do with the flowers after the memorial service? As you can see from this small sampling of inquiries, Oakey’s attempts to help a grieving member of our community can easily numb the sharpest of minds.

When my friend Richard Tetrick, who I truly believe is the greatest living funeral director in the country, said he thought we were bombarding families with too many questions, it took me a few days to realize he was exactly right. But how can we make sure those same families are given all available choices at their disposal to craft a ceremony for their loved one? This is where a good funeral director comes in. I thank God our firm is blessed with true professionals who can meet with a family and decide what options to offer them, based on what they are able to extract from the relative he or she meets with. Eliminating questions our director does not feel would be appreciated can keep arrangement conferences from ballooning into three hour marathons. Of course, the best scenario is when the decedent has pre-planned their own funeral details. Assuming their family members agree to honor these requests, it can make a difficult time enormously easier. And allow a family to return to the comfort of their own home in a reasonable amount of time. It may be the last gift that one can give to their loved ones, and also one of the best.