Sometimes, although you don't know when it's going to be, and you hope it won't be for a long time, you know you are going to need the help of a Funeral Director. It's not fun to think about, but for most of us it is inevitable. In Orlando, the man to know is Sammy Goldstein. Sammy is the co-founder (along with Manny Adams) and Executive Director of Beth Shalom Memorial Chapel in Orlando. On his website it says, “We never lose sight of our role as an understanding companion to you during your time of mourning. You can turn to us for personal guidance. We will listen.” How amazingly true, and oh, how much more he can do.
I think, in a way, it is a blessing to know when the end of our time here is near. It is an opportunity to say the things you need to say, and do the things you need to do. Often, the most logical part of that process, planning for the future and removing that responsibility from our grieving loved ones, is neglected. It is both financially and emotionally responsible to pre-plan for the event of our passing, yet the majority of people don't do it. (I admit, although my family knows my wishes, I am guilty of not finding the time to do this. I promise, it's on my list.). I knew when my father began hospice last year that it was a mistake not having made arrangements sooner. I live in Orlando, but my parents were in Delray Beach, in South Florida. Things were going to happen quickly, and there were plans to be made, and I wasn't sure where to even start. I was about to get an education fast. I called Sammy. Here's what I learned:
We did not have to have the funeral or memorial service in Orlando for Sammy to be able to assist us. This was KEY! How many of you have family that live somewhere other than where you are? I thought I was going to have to call a stranger in my father's area to help with all of the arrangements. I called Sammy when everything started, thinking he was going to give me a referral to someone local to them. Imagine my relief when he told me he could take care of everything wherever we were. He did it all – start to finish – and I mean ALL.
Funeral planning is so much more than planning a funeral. Anyone who has had any experience with this knows that the first step is filling out paperwork, which can be daunting. When you are grieving, your mind is not clear. I have been with other friends and family as a supportive presence in the past, and I recall there being questions about family backgrounds, dates of births, deaths, anniversaries, siblings, etc. Many times, those who were overwhelmed were unable to remember many of the answers, the loved one who would know was now gone. Much better done beforehand when the mind is clear.
Sometimes, what you think someone wants is not what they hope for. When we started hospice with my father, he was offered a visit from a Rabbi. We had all grown up Conservative Jews, leaning more towards Orthodox than Reform, and we had attended services on a regular basis. I assumed he would find comfort in a visit. He was uninterested. This led to a conversation revealing that although he was ok with a Jewish funeral, he had been a volunteer fireman for over 50 years, and preferred to be buried in his uniform than in a shroud. We wouldn't necessarily have thought that without having an opportunity to discuss it. This is the kind of question Sammy can help field in advance.
The cost of a funeral is not what you expect. I have seen situations where it was much more and situations where it was much less, but in every situation, it was money that was not sitting in someone's checking account. Life insurance policies had to be found (get some if you don't have any); money needed to be moved; banking needed to be done. All easier if done and paid for in advance and it's actually a great investment, because you pay today's prices.
I am so lucky to have had Sammy's phone number programmed in my phone, because as soon as there was an inkling of my needing help, he was the first and best person to call. Put his number in your phone right now. 407-599-1180.