What is the first thing I should do if a loved one dies?
Upon death, the proper medical authorities, such a a physician, medical examiner or hospice nurse must be notified so that the death can be verified. If someone dies unexpectedly, call 911 and the proper authorities will be notified. Sometimes when this occurs, the deceased will be taken to the medical examiner's office in Baltimore for further investigation.
The next step will be to call a funeral home of your choice. If the death occurs in a hospital, you will have time to contact more than one funeral home to compare facilities, service fees as well meet the people who will care for your loved one. Most hospitals will hold someone for up to 72 hours, allowing the family to make an informed decision on the services they would like as well as the funeral home to assist them. If you are planning on having a viewing with an open casket, we recommend that you make a decision sooner, so that embalming may occur as soon as possible for better results. Once you make your decision, the Kalas Funeral Home staff will be ready to assist you 24 hours a day.
What information do I need to bring to the arrangement conference?
You should bring in any paperwork that you have such as pre-arrangement paperwork, a will, veteranís forms and cemetery deeds. If the deceased was a veteran you should bring in their discharge paperwork (Form DD-214), this allows us to apply for military honors, burial flag or burial benefits. For more information about veteran benefits go to http://www.va.gov/ . You may also want to bring in a recent photograph, the clothing and jewelry that your loved one will wear as well as any mementos or photos to decorate the viewing room.
The following information will be used by our funeral directors to fill out a Maryland death certificate:
- Full Legal Name
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Marital Status
- Veteran Information
- Parents Names (First, Last and Mother's maiden name)
- Place of Birth (City and State)
- Highest Grade Completed in School
Once the certificate is filled out and signed by a physician, we will file the certificate with the Maryland State Division of Vital Records, and obtain the number of certified copies of the death certificate that the family requests.
During the arrangement conference the funeral director will assist you in planning the funeral or memorial service that you desire. The director will also work with you to arrange for newspaper notices to be placed in local or out of state newspapers, contact clergy members as well as make arrangements with local cemeteries or out of state funeral homes if the deceased is to be buried in another state. The funeral director will also complete all the necessary authorization forms, a funeral contract itemizing all of your choices and determine how the funeral expenses will be paid.
When the arrangement conference ends, the funeral director will review the choices that you have made, confirming dates and times for viewings and funeral or memorial services.
Is Embalming required by Law?
No, embalming is not required by law except under certain circumstances. Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements such as a funeral with a public viewing. If you do not want embalming, you usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to pay for it, such as direct cremation or immediate burial.
What is Embalming?
Modern embalming got its start during the American Civil War in the 1860's. Families of soldiers killed in battle wanted to have their bodies returned home. Dr. Thomas Holmes found a way. His system was the forerunner of today's arterial embalming.
Mortuary science students now undergo specialized college training. They must demonstrate an advanced level of embalming skills, a biological science background, and a knowledge of human anatomy.
Funeral homes today include an area called the preparation room which resembles a hospital operating room. It's equipped with an operating table, surgical instruments, special lighting, and ventilation.
The disinfection and temporary body preservation achieved by embalming permits the delay of services until a time convenient for family members, including those who must travel considerable distances.
The process of embalming is begun by spraying the body with a topical disinfectant. Then the body is cleansed with a germicidal soap and then, out of respect, covered up to the shoulders with a sheet.
Now begins the arterial injection, which is somewhat like an IV procedure in a hospital. A small incision is made to allow access to a major artery and vein. A small tube is then inserted in the artery, and another in the vein. The arterial tube is connected by rubber tubing to the reservoir of a motorized injector. This machine holds the arterial chemical. From the circulatory system, this chemical permeates out through all the cells of the body. To avoid swelling, some of the blood in the system is displaced and removed via the tube connected to the vein. The incision is sutured closed when the injection is complete.
Next the deceased is dressed, placed in a casket, and cosmetized. Cosmetics are used sparingly and in accordance with family wishes. This procedure is not an attempt to disguise reality, but to create a pleasant image for the bereaved individual.
Every licensed embalmer has one thought uppermost in mind when entering the preparation room: every deceased body will be treated with the utmost respect at all times. You can also research more about embalming at http://www.icfa.org/embalming.htm
Why have a viewing?
An open casket viewing can allow friends and family a chance to say a final farewell. Sometimes seeing a loved one can be very difficult, but it can also be a very therapeutic experience. Viewing is part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. Viewing is encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity is voluntary.
If I want to be cremated, can I still have visitation and a funeral?
Cremation does not exclude either visitation or a funeral service. Often families choose to have cremation after visitation and a funeral service. When cremation takes place before the service, the ashes may be present for a memorial service. Ashes may be buried, entombed, scattered or kept by the family.
What Happens During a Cremation?
The casket or container is placed in the cremation chamber, where the temperature is raised to 1700 degrees to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. (Maryland Law) After approximately, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, all organic matter is consumed by heat or evaporation. The residue which is left is bone fragments, known as cremated remains. The cremated remains are then carefully removed from the cremation chamber. Any metal is removed with a magnet and later disposed of in an approved manner. The cremated remains are then processed into fine particles and are placed in the container or urn purchased by the family. The entire process takes approximately three hours. Throughout the cremation process, a carefully controlled labeling system ensures correct identification. At the Kalas Funeral Home we use a metal disc identification system as well as a labeled ID bracelet which is required by Maryland law.
Are there any restrictions on a cremation?
Maryland Law specifies that a cremation cannot take place before 12 hours has elapsed after death, a physician must sign a death certificate and the person must be identified by someone who knew the deceased. If the death occurs in another state there may be other regulations that apply, such as in Virginia and the District of Columbia, the Medical Examinerís Office must approve the cremation and there are fees that apply.
Is it possible to witness the cremation? Why would people do this?
Yes, because we have an on-site crematory, it is possible for a family to witness the cremation. Once we receive the proper authority (death certificate, and cremation authorization signed by legal next of kin) we will arrange a time for family members to gather in our crematory viewing area. Some people wish to view the cremation for peace of mind that their loved one was truly cremated and that the correct person was cremated. In some religions, such as a Hindu service, the witnessing of the cremation is part of the religious service.
Am I eligible for any financial assistance to help with funeral expenses?
Yes, you may be eligible to receive assistance from any number of government sources such as:
Social Security: If the deceased has paid in sufficient wages during their working career, the surviving spouse or a dependant child may be entitled to a one time lump-sum death benefit of $255.00. Survivors may also receive all or a portion of the benefits that the deceased would have earned. To contact the Social Security Administration you can call 1.800.772.1213 or online at www.ssa.gov
Veterans Benefits: In some instances, the VA may be able to help pay funeral and or burial expenses for qualified US veterans. The veteran is also entitled to a U.S. Flag for burial, a grave marker or if they choose, burial in a state owned veteran cemetery like Crownsville or Cheltenham or a national cemetery like Arlington National Cemetery. For more information you can contact the Veterans Administration at 1.800.827.1000 or online at www.va.gov . If you would like information on Maryland Veteran Cemeteries you can call 1.800.446.4926 or online at www.mdva.state.md.us. For information on Arlington National Cemetery you can go online at www.arlingtoncemetery.org.
Can I pay for my funeral before I die?
Yes, you may make all of your funeral plans in advance as well as prepay them so that your loved ones will know exactly what your wishes were. When you plan ahead, you will be able to compare the many options available. You will be able to compare the services, the products and the prices among different companies. You will have the opportunity to make an informed decision about your funeral and cemetery arrangements, and the form of memorial you prefer. You will be able to make choices that are meaningful to both you and your family, and you will gain peace of mind knowing your family and friends will be relieved of the emotional and financial burden often associated with making arrangements when a death occurs. In addition, by pre-funding your funeral and cemetery services, a guaranteed price contract will allow you to purchase at today's prices, free from inflationary pressures in the future. There are some items called cash advances (newspaper notices, death certificates and clergy honorariums) that are not price-guaranteed, so survivors will have to cover the increase in these costs.
If I prepay my funeral, what happens to the interest my money earns?
If you have a prearranged funeral agreement that is comprised of items that are guaranteed to be performed by the funeral home or cemetery at no additional cost to you, the interest (or growth if a life insurance policy) is retained by the funeral home/cemetery to offset the rising costs of those specified goods and services over time. That's the value of prearranging and pre-funding at today's costs!
How do I make pre-arrangements?
We suggest that you call ahead and make an appointment so that we can have one of our funeral directors available to assist you. If you wish to make arrangements at our Edgewater location call 410.956.4488 or at our Oxon Hill location at 301.567.9424