Chuck pushed the baked beans around his plate, stalling.
“Are you feeling all right?” Chuck’s mother reached across the table to press her palm against his forehead.
“I’m fine. Really. I’m 55 years old. I can tell if I have a fever.”
“I know, dear. Of course. Is something wrong?”
Chuck dropped his fork. “Here’s the thing. What do you want for your funeral?” He cringed. This was blunt even for him. “I mean, we should talk about– Well, have you thought–” He stopped himself before the hole got deeper. “It’s just something we should talk about. Sometime.”
He began shoveling the baked beans into his mouth before any more words flew out. What did they think? He didn’t look up.
His father spoke first. “I suppose a regular funeral. With a casket. Nothing fancy, of course. A funeral at the church and a burial at a cemetery. It’d be nice to have lunch for the family. I don’t want anything to be hard on Mom.”
Chuck looked up. His mother had leaned into the discussion. “That’s what I would like, too. Nothing fancy.”
Chuck swallowed hard. “I’ve learned some things since Mary’s dad died. Do you know what a casket costs?”
His dad shook his head.
“From $1500 up to $8000. The funeral home costs were about $5000. A plot at the cemetery was about $1000. And then there’s the headstone. Maybe a couple of thousand. Those are the simple ones.”
“Well.” His dad shook his head. “Things have certainly gotten expensive.” He looked up to the ceiling and Chuck knew he was calculating numbers although he could have been praying for insight.
“So you’re saying a simple funeral might be around $8000?”
Chuck nodded. “Have you thought about how to pay for that?”
“I have a life insurance policy that I thought would pay for burying me. It’s worth $5000. That isn’t enough.”
“Nope.” Chuck finished dinner. Mom’s baked beans were superb, like usual. “Do you have anything for Mom?”
“My policy is about $3000,” she said. “We didn’t know.”
What Chuck knew was that they had no savings and barely got by with monthly Social Security checks.
“I wonder if the VA could help,” Dad said. He had regular medical check ups through the Veterans Administration, a perk from his military service.
After many phone calls , Chuck’s father learned that being a veteran helped. Both he and his wife could be buried in a military cemetery with the cost of burial and headstone paid.
“That cuts funeral costs in half,“ Chuck’s dad said.
It was a start. Chuck knew there would be discussion with siblings. But it was a start.