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January 21, 2014
Funeral Fund Blog
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Riding on the highway to heaven? Pope auctions his Harley Davidson chopper for charity.

The Pope thanks the Harley Davidson people.

The Harley Davidson Motor Company presented two of its motorcycles and a custom biker jacket to Pope Francis last June, when Rome hosted the 110th anniversary celebration of the iconic American motorcycle. The Pope blessed about 800 bikers and their rides in St. Peter’s Square.

Did you know the Pope had a Harley?

It’s a safe bet that no matter what religion you practice or even if you don’t, Pope Francis has found a way into your heart through his humility and good works. Pope Francis has quickly gained a reputation as the cool pontiff, but who knew he had a Harley? Two, actually and a custom biker jacket.

The pope plans to sell off his 1,585cc Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide, embellished with a signature on the tank that reads “Francesco”.

In June, the pontiff was given two of the iconic motorcycles by the Milwaukee-based manufacturer “Harley Davidson” in celebration of the 110th anniversary of the motorcycle brand. The pope is known for refusing to ride bullet proof Popemobiles so that he can interact with the faithful and turning to more low-key modes of transportation.

“I suspect that it will (have) a very limited mileage,” said Ben Walker, head of motorcycles at Bonhams, the auction house handling this sale.

The Pope is presented with a custom, leather “biker” jacket.

The proceeds will go to help the homeless.The sale of the motorcycle will fund the renovation of Caritas’ Don Luigi di Liegro Hostel and Soup Kitchen at Rome’s Termini station. The two projects have operated since 1987 to help relieve the suffering of about 1,000 people every day, Caritas Rome reports”We hope to be able to do both Pope Francis and Harley-Davidson proud by raising a significant amount of money for a very worthy cause,” Walker said.

Bonhams estimated the holy hog could raise between 12,000 and 15,000 euros, about $16,000 to $20,000.

After the Harley is auctioned at the Grand Palais in Paris on Feb. 6, a custom leather biker jacket also given to the pope and later signed by His Holiness will be sold separately.

“It is a precious gift that has once again made us happy in feeling the closeness of our bishop to the poor of the Church of Rome. We are deeply grateful to Pope Francis for this,” Monsignor Enrico Feroci, the director of Caritas Rome, said at a press conference.

The Pope practices humility when it comes to transportation.

Pope Francis has always encouraged clergy to show humility in their choice of transportation.

In July, he told a group of seminarians and religious novices that he felt hurt when he sees a priest or a sister with a brand new car. “And, if you like that beautiful car, think about how many children are dying of hunger,” he said, urging them to choose simpler transportation options.

As a cardinal in Argentina, Pope Francis was well known for taking public transportation.

In September, the Pope accepted an Italian priest’s gift of a used Renault 4 with 186,000 miles on its odometer instead of the “Pope mobile”.

Pope Francis embodies the spirit of giving and once again looks out for the less fortunate.

You rock, Pontiff!!!

The Pope’s “Holy Hog”, with his name on the side.

Nancy Burban 2014

October 11, 2013
Funeral Fund Blog
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Connecticut slave who died in 1798 called ‘Child of God’.

Mr. Fortune abused in life and death was denied a proper funeral and burial due to his status as a slave.

Last month in Waterbury, CT hundreds gathered to honor a man they never knew whose life was marked by contradiction. Mr. Fortune owned a house and had a wife and four children, yet had no control over the disposition of his body when he died – because he was a slave. He was never given a dignified burial despite being baptized as an Episcopalian.

More than 200 years later, the enslaved man known as Mr. Fortune was given an extraordinary funeral that included lying in state at the Capitol. He was buried in a cemetery filled with prominent citizens after a service at the Waterbury church where he had been baptized over 200 years ago.

Mr. Fortune declared a “Child of God”.

“Our brother Mr. Fortune has been remembered, and it is with restored dignity that his bones shall be buried,” declared the Rev. Amy D. Welin of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Waterbury at his service. “We bury Mr. Fortune not as a slave, but as a child of God who is blessed.”

Fortune “teaches us today about the long and convoluted path to justice and reconciliation,” Welin said, adding later that “this story from Waterbury’s past calls us to remember and to continue our commitment to justice.”

The church was packed for Mr. Fortune’s service with singing that shook the walls of the old church, followed by clapping, applause and cries of “Amen” as the casket containing Fortune’s bones was placed in front of the altar, amid scripture readings that included a declaration that stated “there is no longer slave or free.”

Fortune’s bones were boiled to further his owner’s research.

Fortune was a slave, owned by Dr. Preserved Porter who resided on a farm in Waterbury, CT When Fortune died in 1798, Porter, a bone surgeon, preserved his skeleton by having the bones boiled to study anatomy at a time when cadavers used for medical study were often slaves, servants and prisoners.

One of Porter’s descendants gave the skeleton to Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury in 1933 where it was displayed from the 1940s until 1970.

Fortune’s life was not so fortunate.

A local historical account from 1896 claimed Mr. Fortune slipped on a rock and drowned in the river. Tests over the years, including a recent exam at Quinnipiac University, found evidence of a neck fracture around the time of death not associated with hanging.

The study by Quinnipiac concluded that Fortune was about 5 feet 5 inches tall and died when he was approximately 55 years old, said Richard Gonzalez, an assistant professor and forensic anthropologist at Quinnipiac’s school of medicine. He suffered a number of painful ailments, including a fracture in his left hand, a severe ankle sprain and chronic lower back pain. Mr. Fortune led an unfortunate life – studies indicated that his life was marked by pain and distress.

Maxine Watts, past president of the NAACP, stated “Now we feel even though he was used that way, he did prove underneath the skin we’re all the same,” Watts said of the earlier anatomical study of the skeleton.

After 200 years, Fortune receives an honorable send-off.

Fortune was finally given a dignified funeral and interred near people who never would have spoken to him or even viewed him as human, said Steven Mullins, president of the Southern Connecticut chapter of the Union of Black Episcopalians. He made mention of the fact that the use and display of his bones was done without his consent.

“He will be at a place of honor completely contrary to the life he and his family and his colleagues in slavery ever knew,” Mullins said.

“It’s a long overdue honor,” said Steven R. Mullins, “We’re not just remembering one man. His body is representing all of the slaves that came over here and worked in this country.”

The Source

October 10, 2013
Funeral Fund Blog
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America’s shame; no death benefits to fallen troops.

The shutdown of the federal government is now affecting families when they are most vulnerable, denying them a $100,000 benefit to help with funeral expenses of loved ones killed while serving their country.

They gave their lives in service, but are denied death benefits.

Last Saturday, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jeremiah M. Collins Jr., a 19-year-old from Milwaukee, died while supporting combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. On Sunday, four more troops were killed by an IED in Afghanistan.

Until the government shutdown ends, none of their families can expect to receive the $100,000 “death gratuity” promised to be wired to them within 24 to 36 hours. Grieving families also will not receive monies from the military to cover costs such as family travel to meet their loved ones returning home for burial in American flag-draped caskets through Dover Air Force Base.

The benefit is intended to help cover funeral costs and help with immediate living expenses until survivor benefits begin but these troops and others who served and died for their country have been denied this benefit. Who will pay for their funerals now?

“Washington may be shut down, but it’s still asking people to go to war,” said Gayle Tzemach Lemmon of the Council on Foreign Relations. “When people realize that they can serve and fight for their country, but that their families will get an I.O.U. until the shutdown is over, I think they’re just shocked.”

Survivor benefits to be cut in November.

To add insult to injury, if the government shutdown continues into November, monthly survivor benefits are in danger of being cut because the Department of Veterans Affairs has warned it will be out of cash to pay them.

The Pentagon readily acknowledges the benefits breach, but says its hands are tied.

“We’ve had a number of people die recently and we will be able to pay them, but not until the lapse of appropriation ends,” Pentagon Comptroller Bob Hale said in a phone briefing Friday to explain Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s interpretation of last week’s Pay Our Military Act. “We’re trying to be helpful through aid societies and others to the family members who are involved in these tragic circumstances. But unfortunately, we don’t have the legal authority to make those payments.”

What happens to active duty troops’ families?

The death gratuity’s shutdown-induced stoppage have left active duty troops, some of whom ship off to war this week, to wonder what will happen if they are killed in action, leaving their families behind? Who will pay for these funerals and death related travel expenses? How will their families cope?

“These benefits are in place to help support people who paid the ultimate price in service to their country, and for our families it is really important that these supports be there,” says Ami Neiberger-Miller of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which advocates on behalf of military families.  Neiberger-Miller’s brother was killed in Iraq six years ago and she remembers how important the death gratuity was to her family at the time. “These benefits were created by design to support people during the most tragic and terrible moments of their life.”

“They are benefits that are promised by our country, by all of us, to these families,” Neiberger-Miller says. “When the serviceman swears that oath that says ‘I will protect and defend,’ we make a promise back to that person that if they do die in service to this country that we will take care of their family.”

Washington doesn’t care, but Funeral Fund does.

The reality is that the casualties of war do not stop, just because Washington does.

Surviving families have been devastated twice now — this time at the hands of a government failing those who give their lives in its service.

Right now only Washington seems to be taking care of itself.

If you or someone you know needs assistance taking care of funeral costs, we invite you to set up a donation/memorial page on www.funeralfund.com

We’re here to help.

The Source

July 17, 2013
Funeral Fund Blog
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What is Yiskor? How is it related to death?

Yiskor is the hebrew word for ‘remembrance’. It is the memorial prayer in Judaism. The prayer is always recited on four occasions during the year: Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot. It is also recited on the anniversary of the death of a beloved family member. The anniversary date is calculated in accordance with the Jewish calendar, which may not necessarily coincide with the Gregorian calendar.

It seems that Yiskor used to be recited only on Yom Kippur. However, just as they did on Yom Kippur long ago, families used to travel to Israel to offer gifts of charity to the Jewish temple during the times of the other three mentioned occasions.

Moreover, it is believed that although a soul can no longer do good deeds after death, it can nevertheless gain merit through the charity and good deeds of the living. The pledge to charity is included because of the belief that an act of charity will contribute to redeeming a soul, and the prayer essentially asks God to take note of the charity and let it be a merit for the soul of the relative.The person who recites the Yiskor prayer asks God to remember the soul of the deceased. The person who prays pledges to give charity on behalf of the deceased. As a recognition of this charity, the person asks that the deceased’s soul be forever bound in the “Bond of Life” together with the souls of the forefathers and mothers and the other righteous people in the Garden of Eden.

The Source

July 12, 2013
Funeral Fund Blog
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An itemized break down of the average funeral home prices

Item Price Range Notes
Basic Services of Funeral Director and Staff $1000-$2500 This expense is non-declinable, but price may vary based on whether you’re having a burial or cremation versus a direct burial or direct cremation
Embalming $400-$700 Never legally required, though may be required with the purchase of other services
Other preparations of the body $200-$400 Includes makeup, hairdressing, putting the body in the casket, and is an add-on to embalming; cost may be higher if an autopsy has been performed

Facilities, equipment, and staff:

Item Price Range Notes
Use of funeral home facilities and staff for viewing at funeral home $250-$500 May implicitly include embalming and other preparations of the body
Use of funeral home staff for viewing at another location $250-$400 Embalming may not be required
Use of funeral home facilities and staff for funeral or memorial service at funeral home $350-$700 Cost is may be higher than holding the funeral elsewhere because you’re paying for the funeral home chapel
Use of funeral home staff for funeral or memorial service at another location $300-$500
Use of funeral home staff for graveside service at the cemetery $250-$400 May implicitly include fees for setting up the gravesite for the service

Transportation:

Item Price Range Notes
Transfer of the person who died from place of death to funeral home $200-$400 If you’ll be having a funeral with the body present, this is usually unavoidable
Transportation of the body to the cemetery or crematory from funeral service site $250-$350 If you’ll be having a burial after a funeral, this is usually unavoidable
Use of limousine for transportation of family $150-$350 This is entirely optional; you may drive your own car
Utility van/flower car/lead car $100-$200 This is entirely optional; you may drive your own car
Charge for forwarding remains to another funeral home $1400-$3000 Implicitly contains the receiving funeral home’s charge for receiving remains
Charge for receiving remains from another funeral home $1000-$2500 Implicitly contains the forwarding funeral home’s charge for forwarding remains

Additional services:

Item Price Range Notes
Tent and chair set-up at cemetery/gravesite $100-$150 The cemetery may offer this service as well
Charge for keeping the body at the funeral home (per day) $100-$300 Charges may begin immediately or after a certain number of days
Charge for refrigerating the body (per day) $50-$100 May be in addition to the daily charge for keeping the body at the funeral home
Charge for choosing cremation $300-$400 In addition to the cost of the cremation

The Source 

July 12, 2013
Funeral Fund Blog
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What happens on your day of death in Tibet?

In Tibet, a Mahayana country, the day of death is thought of as highly important. It is believed that as soon as the death of the body has taken place, the personality goes into a state of trance for four days. During this time the person does not know they are dead. This period is called the First Bardo and during it lamas (monks) saying special verses can reach the person to them.

It is believed that towards the end of this time the dead person will see a brilliant light. If the radiance of the Clear Light does not terrify them, and they can welcome it, then the person will not be reborn. But most flee from the Light, which then fades.

The person then becomes conscious that death has occurred. At this point the Second Bardo begins. The person sees all that they have ever done or thought passing in front of them. While they watch they feel they have a body but when they realize this is not so, they long to possess one again. Then comes the Third Bardo, which is the state of seeking another birth. All previous thoughts and actions direct the person to choose new parents, who will give them their next body.                                                                                   The Source

July 11, 2013
Funeral Fund Blog
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Theravadins Buddhist Funeral Rites

Theravadins Buddhist follow the Indian custom of burning the body at death. The Buddha’s body was cremated and this set the example for many Buddhists, even in the West. When someone is dying in a Burmese home, monks come to comfort them. They chant verses to them, such as:

“Even the gorgeous royal chariots wear out; and indeed this body too wears out. But the teaching of goodness does not age; and so Goodness makes that known to the good ones.”

After death, while the dead person is being prepared for the funeral fire, the monks continue to chant in order to help the dead one’s good energies to be released from their fading personality.

The monks come with the family to the funeral. The family and all their friends give food and candles to the monks. Goodwill is created by these gifts and it is believed that the goodwill helps the lingering spirit of the dead person.

July 10, 2013
Funeral Fund Blog
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What do Mormons believe happens to us after we die?

Death is not the end. Death is really a beginning—another step forward in Heavenly Father’s plan for His children. Someday, like everyone else, your physical body will die. But your spirit does not die, it goes to the spirit world, where you will continue to learn and progress and may be with loved ones who have passed on.

Death is a necessary step in your progression, just as your birth was. Sometime after your death, your spirit and your body will be reunited—never to be separated again. This is called resurrection, and it was made possible by the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

The Source