Planning a Long-Distance Funeral
Although it’s not an ideal situation, there are cases in which a loved one in another location dies, and there is no one living nearby to help with the funeral planning. Because the nature of body disposal requires that most funerals be planned within a week’s time, it can be difficult to make all the necessary arrangements from another city or even another state.
If you find yourself in a situation in which you must plan a funeral from another state, here are a few key options you can consider:
- Transport the body across state lines. Depending on where you want the funeral to be held and your personal situation, it might be easier to bring the deceased to you rather than to travel to the home of the deceased to make plans there. This will require you involving a funeral home both in the home city of the deceased and in your area (as well as paying fees associated with both), but most bodies can be shipped fairly quickly via train or airplane.
- Plan the funeral remotely. Most funeral homes are very understanding of the family dynamics that might make immediate travel difficult. That’s why more of their focus in recent years has been on developing funeral planning websites that can help you make decisions ahead of time. Most of them can also fax price lists and other materials so that decisions can be made via phone. Comprehensive services (like catering companies, florists, affiliated cemeteries, and other funeral providers) also mean that you can channel all your decisions and payments through the funeral home.
- Enlist the help of friends and clergy members. Although no one can make the decisions for you if you are the next of kin, you can ask for support in key areas. Ask a friend to take over the gathering after the memorial service. See if a clergy member is able or willing to locate funeral homes and cemeteries in the area. Allow the funeral home to get the wheels in motion. That way, when you do arrive, things will already be well on their way to being finished.
- Have a written directive or funeral pre-plan in place. Any funeral plans that are written, paid for, or otherwise formalized are going to save considerable time and money—especially when it comes to long-distance funeral planning. If you know of a loved one who lives far away, encourage them to make advance plans or put their wishes in writing where they are easily accessible. That way, you can direct the funeral home to these advance wishes without having to be physically present.
It’s also a good idea to call a few funeral homes to find one that is able and willing to work with you on the long-distance issue. As more and more families are spread out around the country, it’s becoming increasingly common for this type of situation to occur, but some of the smaller funeral homes might still lack the facilities to transport the body or to plan a comprehensive funeral from another state.