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The American Way of Bilk
"Must we 'nickel and dime' death same as life?"
by John Worster

Hello Brian,

I haven't checked in for awhile but things
have been complicated here. My father
passed away a few weeks ago and I have
been out of the loop. I did not alert many people except those who knew him because he was giving his body for study and there would be no wake or funeral. It didn't turn out that way because he did not meet certain criteria for body for study. This also leads to my rant.

First of all, anytime you lose a loved one there really is no silver lining. When someone goes suddenly, it is a shock to everyone and a terrible loss and a part of you is empty. When someone has been struggling with illness for a long time and then passes, it is not a shock, but you have epicentered your life around visitation and care for that person, which makes it a terrible loss. Then you all of a sudden aren't sure how to right the ship and you still feel empty. Death is not a nice entity...

...unless it is used to execute people who have nothing positive to offer society ever: See the recent story of the burglar who killed a cat in a washing machine.

I am attaching a copy of a bill for services for my father. Like I had said, we did not plan for any of this, thinking he would be a science donation. I would like everyone to know: THIS IS NOT A SLAM ON THE FUNERAL-HOME INDUSTRY. The services are high priced but do you want to do this job? I would rather clean up Diaper Hill from Homer Simpson's front yard bare handed then have to deal with upset and inconsolable people every day and have to ask them for money.

Direct Cremation
Prayer Cards
Casket-Deluxe Transporter
Certified Death Certificates (8)
Crematory Fee
Cremation Approval Fee
Oakland Press
Detroit and Free Press
Register Book
Michigan Sales Tax

If it was up to us we would have put him in the car and driven him to the crematorium ourselves but is illegal to transport without a license. As you can see on the bill, there is a direct cremation fee for $1795 but there is a crematory fee for $240. I can't figure out the difference. I guess it is for use of the crematory but isn't $240 for an hour pretty steep for rent?

I see those hotels when I drive downtown for Lions’ games that say $30 an hour. The crematory should just move the oven to a room and give us a discount for the savings. The Deluxe Transporter cost $160. What's with the deluxe anyway? Isn't that from Star Trek? We would have settled for the standard transporter or the AMC Pacer. How much gas does the truck they use burn? I could have got him there with a quarter tank of gas and two mountain dews.

Now here is where it gets crazy and I get annoyed:

I was told that funeral homes can not have a crematorium attached to them so they have to use a crematorium service. I am not sure if they have to use one in a different county but this was the case here. I was told the cremation approval fee for 20.00 is for a tax for Oakland county. Although they are not taking part in any of it, we give them 20.00 just to allow us to do so. Now isn't that noble.

There is a sales tax for $16.50 also. Shouldn't this be exempt just like the church or schools? So we pay sales tax on services that shouldn't be taxed that we didn't want in the first place but had to because we don't meet the criteria to have the option of being taxed. I will now take an aspirin break… How much do you think the state charges to get a transport license? I bet the bill looks like the one I have attached.

I know it is only a combined $36.50 on a $2581.73 bill but do we have to nickel and dime everyone in every aspect of life. Can't we leave death alone? Just make us pay 7 cents sales tax instead of 6 cents and let people in their time of grieving not have to take time to decipher a bill. I know society collapsed somewhere around 1993 but when did it get this bad? Have we been battered by a down economy and a 24 hour input of bad news that we just walk with our heads down and don't give a rat's ass? Depressing to say the least.

The last thing I want to bitch about is the obituary fee. This is how naive I am. I thought it might be a free services or just 30 bucks or so because it is not something a person does to make money. I thought it was in the paper for just being helpful to society for those who don't have the drive to contact everyone when they are feeling shitty. I then saw the bill for 185.23 from the Oakland Press. My father was a pressman for the Detroit News so they did it for free, which is a nice gesture of loyalty no matter how many union problems they had in the past.

We ran the obituary one day on a Thursday and it cost that much. At that price we should have made it worthwhile and put a fucking coupon on the bottom of the obituary. I can see it now: "After a funeral, no one wants to cook… Enjoy 50% off a large pizza with this coupon and a death certificate." Or better yet… "If more than 10 people cry, enjoy a free order of cheese sticks."

For those who knew my father, he would actually like this idea. He was addicted to grocery shopping and would not buy anything without a coupon—Damn you, Ramen noodles! How many people are not able to attend services for friends because the family doesn't have the money to put the news of someone’s death in the paper or other outlets? How greedy and sad.

If the country is able to tax death then I say lets play on their level. We were raised Catholic and had to go to church every Sunday. I haven't gone very much in my older years. I am considered a C&E (Christmas and Easter) Catholic. I do know though that when my father was in the hospital he enjoyed talking to the chaplain or whatever person of whatever religion was on staff that night.

I believe he was a good and kind man. Being Catholic, he should be accepted into heaven and be able to receive eternal life. Since eternal life comes into to play he should continue to receive his Social Security benefits until the program runs out, and the family should still be able to apply for any aid that is associated with his life. Hey, I didn't make the rules but I will exploit them. Eye for an eye.

Thank you Brian for giving me a forum to vent. You are a good guy and a friend. This piece didn't have as much of my twisted humor as usual but sometimes things just aren't that funny. I will talk to you soon. We have to set up another beer and chat session.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.



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