What is a Memorial Society?
A memorial society is an association of like-minded people from all walks of life, who respect the need for a simple, dignified alternative to the elaborate and increasingly costly funeral services promoted by the conventional funeral industry.
Why Memorial Societies?
The North American “way of death” is the most elaborate and costly in the world. The competitive nature of the funeral business and the high cost of maintaining posh facilities places enormous pressure on funeral directors to maximize their income.
We have not had an in-depth probe of funeral practices in Canada. In the United States, however, the Federal Trade Commission conducted a nationwide survey, and found that “the emotional trauma of bereavement, the lack of information and time pressures place the consumer at an enormous disadvantage in making funeral arrangements.” The Commission proposed a standard of conduct to regulate the funeral industry.
Among the findings of the Commission:
- Many funeral directors refused to give price information over the telephone, making it extremely difficult for the consumer to compare prices upon the death of a loved one. And once the deceased is transferred to a funeral home, few next-of-kin are willing to move the deceased again if they find the price of the funeral is higher than they had expected.
- Funerals are usually sold as a package, rather than on an item-by-item basis which would permit the consumer to eliminate the cost for unwanted materials or services.
- Funeral directors frequently advance payments to florist, pallbearers and clergy, and arrange other third-party payments for which the consumer is billed at an elevated cost.
- Low-priced caskets are sometimes kept out of sight or in a out-of-theway places in a funeral home, or may be displayed in colours which discourage their selection. In other cases, funeral directors have disparaged the use of low-cost caskets, referring to them as “welfare caskets” and have referred to simple services as “disposals” inferring that the remains were to be treated as refuse.
Are memorial societies mainly for low-income families?
No, not at all. Naturally, some low-income people become members; however, there are many members with very substantial means. In fact, studies indicate the average member has an above-average income. The common denominator is a sincere desire to provide for simple, dignified final arrangements selected by the member personally.
Who runs a Memorial Society?
Memorial societies are democratic organizations, with unpaid directors elected from the membership. They are not connected in any way with memorial garden cemeteries or companies selling prepaid plans.
As a member do I have to attend meetings or take part in any other way?
Your involvement can be as great or as little as you choose. As a member you do have a vote in the conduct of your society’s affairs, and you are encouraged to attend the Annual General Meeting, at which time you can vote on the election of directors, review financial statements, and provide input on matters of society policy. If you wish to become active in MSED, please contact us, as interest and volunteer assistance are always welcome.
Are there certain rules I must follow as a society member in planning my funeral?
Absolutely not. However, bear in mind that most society members believe that money spent on elaborate funerals and expensive caskets could be better spent among the living. Most memorial society members prefer the following kinds of arrangements:
- No embalming. Many members feel that embalming commits an indignity upon the body. In fact, in Alberta, embalming is not required by law in normal cases. Various laws do apply if a body is being transported across provincial borders.
- No cosmetic “make-up” or open casket viewing. Most society members feel that there is no need for a body to be made to look “natural” and displayed in an open casket.
- A simple, low-cost casket.
- A simple, personalized service. Many society members prefer to have a memorial service without the body present, in a church or other suitable location. Some choose a graveside ceremony, while others prefer no ceremony at all. These arrangements will have been specified on your Designation
- Form and discussed with your family.