My Name is Fern, and I Work at a Cemetery

by J. Money - Published September 27, 2019

angel cemetery statue

So a friend of mine recently told me she WORKS AT A CEMETERY full-time now (!!!), and after spitting out my coffee and then asking her a million questions, she was kind enough to write up a little ditty for us today which I’m beyond excited to share ;)

I’m very familiar with hanging out and visiting cemeteries as it’s one of the most serene places in the world!, but I’ve never known anyone to actually *have a job there*, so hopefully you find this as interesting as I did…

And then when you’re done, be sure to check out our post on what it’s like to be a MORTICIAN so you’re all set for Halloween this year! Haha…

Take it away, Fern!

******

I started working with a cemetery and funeral chapel last year in the great state of Minnesota.

My job there is multi-purpose. First, I am a Family Service Counselor who helps with families who are ‘At-need’ suffering a loss at that time. It’s my job to help them out with purchasing a cemetery space if they don’t have one already, picking out a marker (formerly known as a headstone), and arranging the cemetery costs, dates, times, and everything else that goes into planning a funeral.

I also often act as a grief counselor, social worker, and occasionally mind-reader! Some of the emotions that accompany death are as unsettling as they are bizarre at times.

Second, I work as a Preneed Specialist and sell people funeral plans for the future. Sometimes the plan is for Mom or Dad who are in a nursing home and need to spend down their assets so that they can be taken care of by Medical Assistance or some other public program. Sometimes it is for the person themselves because Mom or Dad or Grandma just passed and they got a front row seat to how ridiculously expensive passing can be!

Prices can vary from around $2,000 for a simple cremation, to $20,000 or more for a nice traditional casket burial service.

The first choice to make is whether you want to have a full traditional funeral (with body) or a simple cremation or somewhere in between. As well as the kind of casket or urn you want, and if you prefer to have a memorial service or not.

If you do a traditional service, then you need to be sure that you have a space in a cemetery, the casket, a vault for the casket to go inside (which keeps the ground integrity… We once had a tractor fall into a grave before – not fun!), as well as the marker and funds for opening and closing the grave.

Funeral plans are indeed expensive, but there are many ways to work it out to your benefit. First off, by setting it all up now – while you’re alive – you’re guaranteed to get exactly what you want and save the trouble/emotions of loved ones having to deal with it later.

You will also be locked in at the current prices for almost everything*, and with funeral costs rising on average 200% every 10 years it’s something everyone needs to be paying attention to.

Unlike classic life insurance, a funeral plan is a set amount, similar to a car loan. When you make your decided number of months’ payments, it is yours and complete. You’re given a credit-card sized card to carry in your wallet for whoever finds you, and then all you have to do is show up! :-)

And because this funeral policy gets made out irrevocably, and directly, to “any funeral home with interest”, it can never be taken away from the person who purchased it.

This definitely falls into the “spaving” category, however in the long run it’ll save you a ton of money and worry. I highly encourage you to look into it, and happy to answer any questions you might have.

– Fern

*Labor is usually not locked in since you can’t pay people the same rates today as you did 20 years ago.

******

I threw her a question right away on *how* it is someone gets into this line of work?!, and here was her response that sheds some more light on it… In case anyone’s looking to make a career move ;)

I have done many things to lead up to this job. Started out as a receptionist for a funeral home in 2004. Then worked 13 years as a teller, receptionist and customer service person at different banks. Got a job as an insurance salesperson last year (FROZEN calling and AWFUL!!!) which I got my insurance license for – and turns out the license was necessary for this job too since the funeral plan is insurance!

I have also been a personal care attendant for a few years which has helped prepare me well for the emotional side of things. I’ve always had a heart to help people which is the biggest pre-requisite in my mind for this role.

******

What other questions can we ask her?? Have any of you already booked your final resting place??! :) Or did it for any loved ones?

Any tips/advice you can give us noobs?

While I HAVE already picked the location I want to be buried at, I have yet to actually sit down and run the numbers or even go through the millions of variables there are… Other than knowing I want a traditional burial and hopefully one in a *family* plot too so my loved ones can join me – provided I haven’t embarrassed them too much by then ;)

Fern – in your high-end $20,000 cost up there, does that include family plots or just solo rides? Can you just buy the lots for now and then deal w/ the rest later?

[UPDATE: From Fern: $20,000 is for a solo ride. Cemetery spaces are totally variable based on location.]

I have a friend who’s not only secured his own grave for him and his wife already, but also went ahead and placed TOMBSTONES on it with birth dates and messages and all! Even though they’re both still very much alive and kicking! The only thing missing is their death dates, and every time I pass by it I’m reminded to pick up the phone and call him, haha… (Which may or may not be his freakish plan?! ;))

At any rate, thanks for taking the time to intrigue us Fern, and everyone please have a fun – and safe! – non burial weekend out there!! Remember that none of us are dead yet, so soak it up while you can! :)

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Victoria B. September 27, 2019 at 7:02 am

I would like to present a budget friendly option for your body after death. You can donate your body to science, which includes a cremation afterwards and your family will receive your cremated remains at no cost.

In my mind, this is the best option; your body is studied for science and/or helping train the next generation of doctors and your cremation is free.

Any teaching hospital/medical school will allow you to do this and will treat your body with dignity and respect. They also invite your family to a very moving service afterwards where medical students personally thank them for the opportunity to learn and further their education in a hands-on and tangible way.

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2 J. Money September 27, 2019 at 7:34 am

An excellent alternative – yes!!

I actually got a press release from a place that does this the other month and remember giving it some thought…

Here’s the company, along w/ how it works for anyone interested – it really does make sense depending on your wishes :)

https://www.sciencecare.com/how-does-the-body-donation-process-work/

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3 Jessy September 27, 2019 at 8:26 am

J$, I loved this post! Poster Victoria B is right that medical schools treat cadavers with dignity and respect, a good reason to donate to a specific medical school and not just to “science,” which can mean seeing how explosives affect human flesh: https://www.newsweek.com/donated-body-sold-army-brc-arizona-1451846
I plan to be cremated and be literal “Dust in the Wind”–you may be too young to know this poignant song about the fleeting nature of life by Kansas, but a young musician learned it and sang/played it beautifully at my husband’s funeral, and I hope someone plays it at mine. (Check it out–it even mentions money).
Also, very belated congrats on the sale of your blog and your elevation to millionaire status. I wish you all the best in your future ventures and thank you for the entertainment and advice you have provided over the years.
To Fern, who sells funeral services to those who are not dead yet, a real selling point for buying headstones and having them engraved is that you can put flowers on your own grave! If the kids forget or move elsewhere, no worries, you have had the respect you deserve and lived to see it!

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4 J. Money September 27, 2019 at 2:45 pm

Haha – I’m totally doing that with my own grave one day ;)

And good call on making sure your body goes somewhere legit!! About to click on that story now – sounds terrible!!

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5 MK September 27, 2019 at 8:44 am

I have opted for cremation. I do not want my kids to spend big $$ sending me off. I do not want to be at a funeral home or have a memorial service. Right now, an ambulance can pick up my body & take it directly to the crematorium which cuts out a lot of costs (which could change by the time I die). I have had people question me about the lack of closure for my family but my kids understand. I’d rather they take the money which would have gone into a traditional funeral and do something fun I never got the opportunity to do – like visit Ireland, take a cruise or rent a place on the ocean for a month. I have asked for a good old-fashioned wake with lots of funny stories about our times together – much more joy in remembering I had a good life.

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6 J. Money September 27, 2019 at 2:47 pm

That’s a beautiful idea too :) It’s very true it costs a lot of money to die the old fashioned way… I’m hoping I leave mine with plenty of $$$$ to inherit later, but if money does become tight then I’ll probably change my tune too… Or maybe get cremated and then buried? I think I’ll still want a tombstone at least for people to come find me and say hi :)

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7 Financially Fit Mom September 27, 2019 at 9:30 am

Daaaaang. I spent less than $100 on my wedding. Sounds like dying is going to be more expensive just to cover the requirements. I do like Victoria’s science idea! Though, I’ve come to realize while I may express my “wishes” or even “permissions,” I’m going to be dead so it will likely be my daughter doing whatever she is most comfortable with and I’ll just be sure there is enough money for whatever that may be.

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8 J. Money September 27, 2019 at 2:48 pm

Unless you put it in your will!! :) Then she’ll have to do as you please! Haha… But if you don’t really care either way, then yeah – money and freedom it is…

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9 Working Mom September 27, 2019 at 9:43 am

My parent’s marker is in the same cemetery as their parents and many other ancestors…except my parents are 66 and very much alive! When they retired they got all their affairs in order–estate plan if they don’t spend it all before they die (sell all the land and divide it equally among the siblings so there is zero fighting we can do over selling/renting/buying each other’s land), funeral directives, plot bought, marker made and placed on the spot of their eventual graves. It was disconcerting seeing it a few yards away as we stood at my grandma’s grave, but what a relief to know so much as been taken care of. My mom also explained which of her jewelry was real/valuable. Before they go on international trips, they remind us where their important documents are stored. I think their preparedness is part reaction to one of their parent’s dying young (42) so they know life is short and part from dealing with the funerals/estates of their parents. I know I will be thankful someday for all the work they did now to prepare.

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10 J. Money September 27, 2019 at 2:50 pm

Oh 100%!! That’s awesome!! And totally makes sense about setting all the cemetery stuff up if you already have a family plot like that… I love multi-generational burial grounds… You don’t see them too often in modern times but back in the 19th and 18th century you did! So beautiful.

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11 Andy September 28, 2019 at 12:31 am

We haven’t booked our stays at the cemetery yet. I guess I could visit the one closest to us to ask for referrals, but I hear the regulars are real stiffs. OHHHHH… bet you haven’t heard that one before ;-) I’m thinking that I just want to be buried in our woods. Put me in a pine box, or just lay me in the ground… no fancy metal canisters for me. How many hundreds of years do those things take to break down anyway? Cremation might be a good option too, because my wife and kids (hopefully they outlive me) can take me to a really cool place one last time and celebrate my trip ‘back to the earth.’

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12 J. Money September 30, 2019 at 6:32 am

I love the idea of being buried in your own back yard – if you have an estate or something that’ll be passed down through generations… Would be pretty freaky if the house got turned over though for the new owners, haha… (and wonder if they’d still let family members come visit still?! “My dad is in your back yard – I need to see him!!”)

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13 Fern October 6, 2019 at 12:17 pm

Hi guys, one point regarding getting buried in your back yard… that detail would need to be disclosed at the time of resale and could certainly freak people out! Unless you want to keep your property in the family forever, it’s something to think about.

The vaults, even though not biodegrable, keep serious boo boos from happening to the ground and surrounding area.

Thank you much,
Fern

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14 Fern October 6, 2019 at 12:54 pm

To Jessy,

You are right! I have had some customers go WILD making their own headstone! It is amazing to see!!

The same often holds true with funeral plans. Some go over the top and others are incredibly frugal and simple. Either way they get what they really want.

Thanks for the response!
Fern

Ps. J$, sorry it took me so long to respond. Just today it occurred to me that I needed to go to your website instead of just checking emails! Call me techy challenged!! Fern

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