The casket room was down the hall; it was also the room that held Alyssa's body, so I only peeked through the doorway. It was time for the casket walk. All the caskets were named after biblical heroes. The Asher casket was more expensive than the Esther model. Asher was made of burled wood with a silk lining; Esther was just a simple maple. There was also the Abraham, the Joshua and the Daniel; biblical patriarchs and matriarchs graced life's end as retail objects with names like women's shoes or wigs. There was also a magazine-like rack of side panels in the corner that could be placed, for an additional fee, on the sides of the casket, like car accessories. If you were a military person you could have a casket sporting a flag; others might want one with a flower theme or a water-colored landscape of a sailboat on the sea. While I did not see any Major League Baseball caskets in this Jewish funeral home, I had seen pictures elsewhere. I knew that you could go down with your team, even if they were doing well that season. There were no prices for the caskets. You had to ask. I was astonished at the lineup and followed up later when I was home with an online price-check.
Costco, as it turns out, has a line of cheaper caskets, but none have the same Old Testament names. Instead, you can get the Edward, the Continental, or the Kentucky Rose. If I were Christian it would have been a toss-up between the In God's Care line and The Lady of Guadalupe casket. I like any interior that features a little pillow. It's more comforting somehow. Other attractive features of my Lady include:
The last feature is particularly important to me because I'm not a great sleeper. I wasn't sure I loved the ice-blue interior color. Personally, it's a little frosty, and although Costco does note that they "have selected the most popular styles and colors, with the highest quality linings," they currently do not offer color choices. It is a limiting factor.
I was also intrigued by a comment made to a journalist who did some research into casket sales. When he inquired about the difference between caskets for men and women, he was told by one funeral director that "ladies' caskets are more tapered with chamfered edges, therefore considered more 'slimming.'" I will certainly be pursuing that option: I am not going to be buried in a fat casket. No way.
It's hard enough to get to a discount warehouse on an ordinary day, but at times of emotional stress it's worse. They don't carry multiple styles in every store either. I recommend online ordering even with the unpredictability of shipping times. Costco does offer expedited shipping on caskets, and the Federal Trade Commission requires funeral homes to accept any casket purchased from an outside source although they recommend that the purchaser notify the funeral home of their purchase within one business day. I guess it must be like walking into a bookstore and then buying the book on Amazon instead. It's a real bummer for the funeral home.
What about the return policy? Costco will only accept the return of a casket due to freight or cosmetic damage from shipping. Basically, you're stuck with it. So if you're thinking of picking out your eternal, cushioned closet and you'd never go retail, make sure you pick a classic style that can weather fashion changes.
If you don't like anything at Costco, you can try BestPriceCasket .com. As they say on their home page: "We supply funeral homes and we also sell directly to you! Same Price. Buy Direct." It's a compelling pitch, and it's even more convincing when you see their online advice bold and underlined: "Do Not Tell The Funeral Home About Purchasing Our Casket Before You Get Their Itemized Funeral Price List. Call Us Before Talking to ANY Funeral Home, Because Everything You Tell the Funeral Home Affects Your Funeral Pricing. We Will Tell You What to Say."
Excerpted from Happier Endings by Erica Brown. Copyright © 2013 by Erica Brown. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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