If you’ve ever wondered why you need a funeral home to plan and arrange a funeral, it’s a job more significant than you think. There is much planning involved in arranging a funeral. Let’s look at the perspective of a 4th generation funeral director and see, “What does a funeral home do?” on a day-to-day basis.   

Every family has a plan that is different and the number of days we spend working with family and loved ones to take care of everything can vary. There is no correct number of days, but sometimes it plays out in this way…

Day 1 

9:00 PM: Notification of a Death

The process of arranging always starts the same. A call comes in. It could be any time of the day or night. Or a family member walks in telling us they just had a death of a loved one. 

During the overnight hours, the funeral director on duty receives the call and determines if it is a hospital, nursing facility, or home call. If the call is from a nursing facility, the staff will call the funeral home. When the call is from a hospital, we bring the deceased into our care. When it’s a home death without hospice care, the funeral director must speak with the next of kin.

If Hospice is involved, there may be a short waiting period (1 hour) until a hospice nurse can go to the home and pronounce the death. If Hospice is not involved, the family will call 911 first.  

Pronouncement of Death

We must determine if the decedent was officially pronounced by a medical professional. Commonly, the deceased was under a doctor’s care and the doctor may determine the cause of death. 

If the decedent was not under a doctor’s care or if the death seems unknown in any way, the Medical Examiner’s Office may decide they want to investigate further. In this case, the body will go to the medical examiner lab for an autopsy. 

Day 2

8:00 AM: Determining Next of Kin

First, we must determine if the person that is reporting the event is next of kin. Next of kin is determined by a legal process called “Hierarchy of Next of Kin.” According to the law, the strictly authorized next of kin’s responsibility for funeral arrangements is in the following specific order:

  1. Spouse
  2. Child
  3. Parent
  4. Sibling
  5. Grandparent
  6. Grandchild
  7. Nieces, Nephews, Cousins
  8. Guardian
  9. Executor of the will

If there is no spousal authority, then the arrangements fall to an adult child of the deceased. We go down the list and contact the proper person until someone agrees to take on the responsibility for the deceased’s funeral arrangements. Anyone can plan the funeral as long as the official next of kin is in agreement for this. Sometimes they’re not emotionally sound and a child or another family member steps up to help with their approval.

1:30 PM: Phone Discussion with Family

At this point, the family must select a form of final disposition – burial or cremation. If they choose burial, there are more questions:

  • Is there a prearranged file?
  • Which cemetery has the family chosen?
  • What is the contact information of the cemetery?
  • Does a new plot need to be purchased?
  • Does the cemetery require a vault or grave-liner?
  • Is a headstone needed?

Everything flows more smoothly if the family has a burial plot before they make final arrangements. The death certificate requires this information. Cremation is more simplified under most circumstances. However, an urn can be buried in the same way as a casket.

3:00 PM: Filling Out the Death Certificate

We file the death certificate before final disposition with the local County of death. Specific data must be listed, such as: 

  • Full name and Aliases
  • Maiden Name
  • Address 
  • Mother’s name and maiden name, if known.
  • Father’s name
  • Place of birth
  • Birthday
  • Date and time of death
  • Place of death
  • Next of kin name
  • Relationship to the decedent (some jurisdictions require an address)
  • Place of Death
  • Occupation
  • Social Security Number
  • Cause of death
  • Place of Final disposition
  • Must be signed by a Dr.

Day 3

10:30 AM: Arranging The Funeral

At this point, the process of arranging the funeral begins. We hold a meeting with the next of kin and look at many decisions that we must make together. 

  • Visitation

If visitation is desired by the next of kin, we select a date, time, and schedule. There are many choices to be made here. 

  • Time and Place of Funeral and Graveside Service if Desired

The family will give us a time and date for the actual memorial or funeral service. It’s important to check with the officiant, cemetery, and funeral home for availability before making a firm plan. We will also work with the family to plan the graveside service if they desire to have one.

  • Embalming

This chemical preservation process is usually necessary for visitation. On rare occasions when the visitation will be held promptly after death, it is not required. Decomposition occurs at a different rate in different people. We most often plan the visitation according to family schedules and travel constraints.

  • Appearance of the Deceased

The family must provide clothing and a recent picture for cosmetic purposes and hairdressing. We also need to know what jewelry the deceased will wear during visitation and what they wish removed before burial.

  • Flowers

We make choices with the family about flower types. We also discuss whether the family will ask for donations to charity in lieu of flowers. The family will also decide which flower arrangements will go to the cemetery.

  • Live Streaming 

We must know if the family would like to live-stream the funeral. We then set that up and publish the link.

  • Prayer(Memorial) Cards, Memorial Folders, Slideshow

Often, a family will print a folder with pictures of the deceased along with poetry or other memories or meaningful texts or prayers or we will play a video slideshow featuring photos or videos of the deceased.

  • Transportation

We most often use a hearse to transport the deceased. Families sometimes select a limousine or bus as transportation for the entire family for the day of the funeral.

Noon: Getting the Arrangements In Order

At this point, we work on arranging the plans that we have worked out with the family. The afternoon might include duties such as:

  • Ordering the Vault 

If a vault or grave liner is required, we place an order for delivery to the cemetery at a specific time. Vault suppliers offer tents and chairs for the family in attendance.

  • Cremation Arrangements

If cremation is the form of final disposition, a Cremation Authorization is required. We discuss this seven-page document with the family. There is a 24-hour mandatory waiting period before cremation can take place in NC. Once the Cremation Authorization is filled out and signed and the death certificate has been signed by the doctor or medical examiner, then the cremation can take place. 

Day 4

10 AM: Planning with a Venue

If desired, we plan for a funeral service, memorial service or some other religious service in the funeral home chapel or a religious venue. 

Religious cultures such as Buddhist or Hindu, typically hold services in the Funeral Home chapel before cremation (sometimes burial).

If Catholic, there is occasionally a Vigil Service the evening before the Mass of Christian Burial. We work with families to ensure the availability of the parish and priest. A Mass of Christian Burial is not available on Sunday and Saturdays are very limited. The Parish advises us which Mass times are available. 

Protestant congregations generally make use of their church and church cemetery (if available). Other times, our funeral home chapel is used. We can tailor a service based on the needs of the family.

If a family is non-religious or doesn’t have a strong religious affiliation, we make use of our funeral home chapel. We can often recommend a funeral celebrant or officiant for the service. We tailor music so that it is personalized for the deceased. Sharing of stories and memories by family and friends can often make up most of the service. This type of service tends to have the most options and variety.

In other instances, we will not have a funeral or memorial service at a venue, and instead meet the family at the cemetery for a graveside service.

Day 5

6:30 PM: Visitation 

We work with vendors and family to make sure the visitation goes smoothly, and family members have a chance to spend time with and comfort each other. We are available to assist and guide you and your loved ones through the process.

Day 6 

12:00 Noon: Funeral Service & Graveside

All the plans developed come together on the day of the final disposition. 

We Can Help

At Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory, if you need to plan a funeral for yourself or a loved one, we are here for you. From the first call until the final disposition, we walk with you through every step to make sure your loved one is honored in the way that best helps your family celebrate and grieve. Contact us today and find out how we can help you and your loved ones.