Home Affairs Issues

Section 22A (5) of the Births and Deaths Act stipulates that NO funeral undertaker who has not been designated shall engage in the activities relating to the registration of deaths.

More than one person from a funeral parlour can receive a designation number. It is recommended that each person at a branch or staff members who do registrations be designated. When a staff member leaves your service, write a letter to the DG to inform them to remove the person.

Requirements for designation:

– An application form to be completed

– Certified copy of ID

– Certified CoC

– Business licence (where applicable)

– Recent valid tax registration certificate issued by SARS

– Proof of registration with an association

– SA citizen 18 years or older

– Not employed by DHA

– Have knowledge of the Act by completing written assessment conducted by DHA .

IMPORTANT: Please contact Elsabe Basilio at hatfeild@mweb.co.za or 082 894 4487 within the next week if you have been experiencing any problems to obtain burial orders or re a shortage of the DHA 1663 forms.

ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT FUNERAL DIRECTORS

1.We’re all creepy, gothic, soulless people who love death.

No one in the funeral profession likes death. It’s just the career path that we’ve chosen to follow… and most of the time it’s because we felt a calling to help make funerals a better, more healing experience for families. In addition to tending to people who have passed away, a large part of what we do is tending to families, helping them put on a beautiful service for someone that meant a lot of them, and helping them navigate such a difficult time. You simply can’t be a successful funeral director without a lot of passion and care for the people that walk through our doors.

 

2. We only care about money and benefiting ourselves.

Let me tell you… if funeral professionals wanted a job where we hoped to become filthy rich, have loads of time off, and only focus on our own needs… we wouldn’t have become funeral professionals.

The truth of the matter is, funeral directors work long, hard (and often thankless) hours making sure that everything is absolutely perfect for the families that we serve. We bend over backwards to make sure that everything goes perfectly… even if that sometimes means losing money or working extra hours over a holiday weekend. (Families might be surprised to find out just how normal of a situation those are.) And, as I mentioned above, we do it because we genuinely want to make a difference to the people walking through our funeral home’s door.

 

3. We’re focused on selling clients the most expensive options

Funerals are a business, just like any other service that you seek out in a time of need. But, unfortunately, most people do not see the value behind the services that funeral professionals offer, like they do with, say… a wedding (another common life celebration event).

Instead, people are shocked to find out that a funeral costs money… and they’re usually not cheap. But do you really want your loved one to be sent off in a bare bones or “cheap” service, where you’ve only spent the bottom dollar possible? If so, that’s your prerogative. But we take pride in helping families create a service that celebrates the life lived. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive option, but whatever option feels right to our families. In fact, maybe the best option just happens to be the least expensive option – we’re more than happy to build a service around what our families want.

 

4. We just use the same “one-size-fits-all” funeral service for every family, because it’s easiest for us

Sure, it would be easier if funeral professionals were able to just use the same service over and over again, never having to come up with any new ideas. But how would that help our families celebrate the unique and personal life of their loved one?! Every person lived a different story, and we believe that story deserves to be told. Which is why we work so hard creating a beautiful, personalized service that truly honors and memorializes the life that was lived… even when that means finding a unique song, scripture, quote or story for every single service we hold.

Source: connectingdirectors.com

NFDA & Genlife agreement

The NFDA and Genlife Financial Services have signed an agreement whereby all members of the NFDA joining Genlife as from 1 July 2015 will in fact be contributing to the strengthening of their Association. Genlife has a sincere appreciation for the educating role (amongst others) the NFDA is playing within the funeral industry and would like to see the message of the NFDA advocated more rigorously. As a funeral group scheme administrator Genlife has invested heavily in processes that assist funeral directors in managing and growing their business. Funeral directors can now grow their business outside of their traditional operating area by making use of the Online Policy Application Facility that can be downloaded onto the website of all participating members. This is a complete online policy application function from quote stage to application stage. The development has been done in such a way that the online application is promoted as a facility offered by funeral directors to their clients and is not introduced as a Genlife function. The Genlife call centre is responsible to call all clients on behalf of the participating funeral director and the required voice logging process is completed by the call centre. Genlife is currently underwriting with Sanlam, Safrican, KGA and Metropolitan. Genlife is also assisting the NFDA in various other areas such as arranging golf days.

Genlife is a well-established Funeral Group Scheme Administrator and would appreciate an opportunity to provide members of the NFDA with a quotation for underwriting their business. Interested funeral directors can call the office at Pretoria 012 450 5581 or Lorraine at 082 338 3993.

Enquiries can be sent to admin@genlife.co.za – www.genlife.co.za. Their rates are extremely competitive and combined with their web based funeral administration software, excellent service and competent staff Genlife can offer you service beyond expectation.

NFDA CONSTITUTION – CONDITIONS OF MEMBERSHIP

PLEASE STUDY THE FOLLOWING CAREFULLY TO MAKE SURE YOU ADHERE TO THESE CONDITIONS:

Members and prospective members need to comply with the following requirements, as applicable to their category of membership:

  • They have all licences/permits required by law for the operation from their premises of funeral services; including any required by any Health Department or other government department or competent authority;
  • They provide the names, addresses and ID numbers of the owner, company directors, CC members, or partners (as the case may be); and if registered as a company or close corporation they shall provide a certified copy of the certificate of registration/incorporation. In the event of a change of ownership, they need to provide new information within sixty (60) days, to facilitate continuity of membership, failing which membership will lapse;
  • Should an existing Full or Limited Member open an additional office, (whether operational or non-operational) the members shall, within 60 days of the opening of that office, apply for membership of the NFDA for that office. Should a Full or Limited Member close an office, the member shall, within 60 days of closure, cancel in writing the membership of that office and shall return all NFDA property relating to that closed office;
  • They agree to be bound by the inter company tariffs set by the NFDA and the Funeral Federation of South Africa (‘FFSA’). Should a non-member of the NFDA or FFSA make use of a Member’s mortuary facilities, that non-member shall also be bound by all NFDA and FFSA agreements relating to inter-company charges: (a) The non-member may only charge NFDA/FFSA rates to other funeral directors (being NFDA/FFSA members) for removals and related services. (b) However, the non-member is not entitled to any benefits of NFDA or FFSA membership, such as preferential removal rates, whether or not the removal is done by the host NFDA Member (on behalf of the non-member);

Full Members (National) and Limited Members (i.e. membership categories for funeral directors), who fall within the boundaries of an established region of the NFDA, are expected to attend at least one general meeting (regional or national) of the NFDA per calendar year, to remain in good standing. The Regional or National Executive of the NFDA may, at their discretion, for good reason, absolve a Member of this obligation for a particular calendar year.

FSB communication forum to be established

The FSB invited all interested parties to a meeting on 10 June, where a Communication Forum was proposed as a networking platform to improve communication channels between the Board and funeral parlours.

Funeral parlours that do not belong to an association but have an influence on other funeral parlours in their area as well as associations, will nominate people who will form part of the communication champions. These communication champions will be the eyes, ears, hands and legs of the regulator to assist in identifying concerns from colleagues (other funeral parlours around their areas), assist and support new joiners and or organise training sessions with FAIS Training Facilitators.

It was agreed that the nominations will have to be regional instead of provincial due to the fact that some associations are not represented provincially or nationally. Each and every association attending was given a nomination form and Licence Application Guide for the Communication Champ they are going to nominate. The nominated must familiarise themselves with the guide before FAIS Trainers can conduct national training workshops.

Nominations are expected by the latest 10 July 2015.

Medupi power station delayed because the ancestors are upset

The reason the Medupi power station is suffering delays is because graves were disturbed during construction, upsetting the ancestors, the CRL Rights Commission said on Tuesday.

“How come this Medupi never comes together?” asked commission chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi in Johannesburg at the release of a report on the re-use of graves by local governments. “It’s the bones underneath and in the vicinity. Some of the graves were destroyed there,” she said of the power station near Lephalale, Limpopo.

“The belief systems of some people will tell you that this Medupi dream of yours will never happen. It will be another 10 years.”

Construction of the power station has been beset by delays and strikes by contractors. She said the commission would send a report to Eskom on how to deal with the “bones that were strewn around” in a way that was culturally and religiously sustainable.

The report by the CRL Commission, a Chapter 9 institution that protects cultural and religious practices and linguistic communities, was compiled following complaints that several municipalities around the country were “recycling” graves.

Mkhwanazi said the ANC-run eThekwini municipality, the main culprit in grave recycling, was disrespecting cultural values. “For this to happen 21 years into democracy, for the ANC not to value the dead people, it tells you we are in a crisis. It tells us our values are not valued by those in power,” she continued.

The commission had received “a ton” of complaints from residents in several municipalities around the country, mainly from eThekwini. People were upset to find strangers buried in their relatives’ graves, and tombstones being removed and replaced with those of unrelated people. She said it was hard to reverse the effects, in terms of spirituality and cultural beliefs, of having a “Smith buried on top of a Naidoo on top of a Mkhwanazi”. “If we allow the eThekwini municipality to continue, other municipalities are likely to gravitate towards doing this. The new struggle is to have access to our forefathers,” she said.

According to African beliefs, the ancestor is believed to be living with God and playing a prominent, intercessory role in the life of a particular family, she explained. “This is your Jesus, it takes you to God,” she said.

“Recycling” a grave was akin to bombing a mosque. When people spoke to their ancestors, “I call them from the grave, not from some black plastic bag where they have been recycled,” she said.
“A grave is a place of communicating with those who have gone before,” said the commission’s deputy chairperson, Luka Mosoma.

Mkhwanazi said the practice was affecting the poor the worst, as they could not afford headstones and municipalities were re-using these graves. “The bigger the tombstone, the less likely you are to be recycled. This makes the poor people poorer, because if you don’t have the ancestors backing you, you are more likely to be poor.”

She said the eThekwini municipality’s procedure was to advertise its intention in the classified section of newspapers, but questioned if people saw these adverts. Local government’s position on the matter was that suitable land for cemeteries was fast becoming depleted, she said. “They are making it a land struggle. What local government is saying is very dangerous.”

The first prize, she said, was “one body one grave”. A weak second option was for municipalities to discuss recycling graves with affected relatives and communities before doing it. Mkhwanazi said the commission had held talks with local government, Parliament, the SA Local Government Association (Salga), and others.

“We are going to be much more aggressive. We’ve tried being nice. We are going to let the Constitution speak.” She called for national legislation on the matter. If the practice continued, the commission would ask its lawyers to approach the courts for them to determine “what now?” We hope this thing can be solved over a cup of tea. We are willing to give it one more try within a couple of weeks,” she added.

Salga’s Mvuyisi April said municipalities were “seriously running out of space”, but that there was no room for municipalities to violate rights. Salga was looking at striking a balance between managing space and respecting people’s rights, he said.

A tale of two families—and why funeral directors matter

She was 63 years old; we’ll call her Sally. She was having surgery on a broken ankle that had not healed properly. Her two children had come to see her at the hospital the night before, hugged her and told her they would see her in the morning after she came out of surgery.

There was no danger; it was supposed to be a routine operation. And then she was dead. Heart attack or aneurysm—no one could be sure. All that was certain was that a mother, grandmother, sister and aunt was suddenly gone, and her 27-year-old daughter and 25-year-old son were left with decisions and plans that no one was ready make.

She was going to be cremated. The son and daughter, we’ll call them Mike and Jane, chose a cremation-only firm with the word “affordable” in the business name.

This company is run by very nice professionals, well-meaning people who believe they are providing a service that people are looking for. They advertise that they are serving the needs of those who wish a simple, dignified disposition for their loved ones without the added cost of involving a traditional funeral home. They are very clear in their message: We are here to take care of the body.

I’m not sure why Mike and Jane chose that company, but my assumption is they knew their mother wanted to be cremated and this was the first firm they found on the web. They had never planned a funeral; they had no idea what they were going to need.

I received a call from the daughter. She had called my church because her cousin attended it for a while and she didn’t know where else to turn. My minister referred her to me (see previous articles about my unofficial “parish funeral director” role). He no longer conducts funerals for non-members and sends all such inquiries to me.

When I visited with the daughter, she was distraught. She wanted to have a service for her mother, to honor her life and to gather friends and family together, but had no idea where to turn. She was willing to spend the money. She just didn’t know how.

When family members choose a “cremation-only” firm, they are virtually set adrift to fend for themselves, to take care of all the details that a funeral director would routinely handle. Families do not know this when they make that choice. They find out after the fact exactly what they are missing.

Jane had many questions: Where can we have the service? Who takes care of the obituary? How do we get service folders? What about a video tribute? Who will play the music? Where do I start???

She asked about having the service at my church, but we both agreed that for smaller gatherings, the sanctuary is simply too large. So she embarked on a search and found a lovely little historic chapel in the art district of our city called the Old Trinity on Paseo. You can look it up online to read about how it was built in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1842 and then moved to Oklahoma City, of all places.

It is almost exclusively used as a wedding chapel, and the women who run the chapel are wedding planners and floral designers. Jane’s cousin had attended a wedding there and suggested calling to see if they would be willing to host a funeral. They were most gracious and agreed to a date and time.

I arrived the next day at Sally’s sister’s house for the family meeting and was met by a flustered family. The sister and brother-in-law, two nieces, Mike, Jane and Jane’s husband all sat there looking at me with the proverbial “deer in the headlights” stare.

They knew that there were many, many details to take care of and they had no idea how it was all going to get done. Before we could even begin the family meeting during which I could hear the stories about Sally, we had to spend almost an hour talking through all the elements they wanted incorporated into the service that they were going to have to handle on their own.

After our meeting, Jane was headed to Kinko’s to try to design a service folder and have a picture enlarged to display at the service. Mike was diligently working on the video tribute, and we had a conversation about how it would be played and what kind of sound system the chapel might have. We spent some time working on the obituary, and we discussed music selections.

In other words, I spent the first hour of my family meeting—the time we celebrants spend with family members to help them on their grief journey and to gather information for the service—dealing with all the issues and tasks that a funeral director would have expertly taken on, if there had been a funeral director involved.

Poor Jane was beside herself trying to get everything organized. Finally, I gently said to her, “Sweetie, if you had chosen a funeral home, the funeral directors would be doing all of this for you.”

She looked at me in amazement. “Really?” “Yes, really.”

She was at sea, and didn’t realize that she didn’t need to be—if only they had chosen a full-service funeral home, rather than a disposition firm. She kept saying, “I don’t know how to do this without your help.” Honestly, she should have been saying that to a funeral director, not a celebrant. (Though I am a licensed funeral director, these days I work as a celebrant and educator.)

The day of the service came and I arrived at the chapel an hour early. As anyone who has attended our celebrant training will tell you, we are pretty insistent about showing up early.

Jane, her husband and Mike were already there, trying to get things set up. Amy and Alisha, the chapel coordinators, had arranged to rent a projector and screen so they could show the video tribute, but had no way to hook the computer up to their sound system.

I had brought along my Jambox, a bluetooth wireless speaker (I am not receiving payment for mentioning it in this article) and tried to connect it to the computer. Mike’s computer was a Mac and it was being a snob and not wanting to affiliate with my speaker.

And so, at 12:40, 20 minutes before a 1 p.m. service, I was downloading the video tribute onto a flash drive and setting it up on my laptop, which I knew would connect with the speaker.

As I sat there on the floor in my “funeral suit,” plugging things in and making sure everything was working, my only thought was, “Why isn’t there a funeral director who could take care of this for us?”

The service itself couldn’t have been lovelier. The chapel only holds about 100 people, so it was standing room only as people snugged themselves in to pay tribute to a wonderful woman.

As people arrived, they were greeted with a table of goodies and a glass of wine if they wished. The entire ambiance was warm and felt like a giant hug for this bereaved family.

During the service, I shared her story and talked about her heart, her strength and her love for her family. One of the things she loved to do was buy little trinket jewelry for her 4-year-old granddaughter, so I had found necklaces with beads in the shape of hearts to be the memory take-away.

At the end of the service, Amy and Alisha handed out glasses of champagne, while I handed out heart necklaces to everyone. Then her niece, who adored her like a mother, gave a beautiful toast and everyone stood, wearing their heart necklaces, and toasted Sally.

The service folders were beautiful; the music went off without a hitch, played from Jane’s iPod by one of the chapel assistants; the video tribute worked. It was a very good day.

After the service, as everyone stood around and visited and shared stories, I saw Mike and his father, Sally’s former husband, hauling plants and flowers to their cars, making multiple trips to try to fit all the floral tributes into vehicles not made for such cargo. Again I thought, “Where is the funeral director to help the family?”

I hugged the family and they were overcome with thanks for taking their hands and walking them through the most difficult days of their lives. They said they had no idea that the service would be so wonderful and so perfect. They loved the heart necklaces and the weaving of all the stories of their mother, sister and aunt.

They thanked me for helping with the video tribute and for just being there. I was truly glad that I was there. I was truly sad that a funeral director was not.

Another sudden death, another cremation

He was 70 years old. We’ll call him Bill. He had had some health issues over the past two years, and the last bout of pneumonia had put him in the hospital on a vent. His loving and attentive wife of 50 years and his four children and their spouses sat vigil with him every day.

On Wednesday, the doctors told the family that he was much improved and they were going to take him off the vent and put in a trach so his lungs could continue to heal. They all hugged and kissed him and went home. And then he was dead.

Heart attack or aneurysm, no one could be sure. But what was certain was that this husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather was suddenly gone, and his wife and children were left in shock, trying to plan a service.

He was going to be cremated. They called a funeral home that uses Certified Celebrants quite often, and as soon as they said they had no church affiliation, no one they wanted to lead the service, the funeral director said, “you need a celebrant.”

When I arrived the next day for the family meeting, I had 16 people in the room—a large group of people, all still having a hard time grasping what had happened. However, we were able to spend our entire family meeting time sharing stories and talking about Bill, because the family knew that all of the details were being taken care of by the funeral home.

Family members had already brought pictures for the video tribute to the funeral home, had told the funeral director what music they wanted played and had dropped off memorabilia to be displayed. They could relax, because their funeral professional, who had given them options and guided them in the planning, was handling everything.

When I got to the service an hour early the next day, the video tribute was playing, the flowers were set up, the display and pictures were ready, the register book and service folders were beautiful and waiting.

The family arrived about 10 minutes before the service, knowing that they didn’t have to be there early to set anything up. I watched as the funeral director gently guided and escorted them into the service, making sure that everyone was taken care of and comfortable.

I watched again as, after the service, the funeral director took the hand of the bereft widow and led her to the foyer, where she could receive hugs, tears and support from the 100 friends who had come to honor her husband.

During the service, we talked about how much Bill had loved his family, and how he enjoyed putting together bags of goodies to give to his kids or to leave as a surprise on their doorsteps.

I had little gift bags to give everyone so they could remember how much he reveled in giving things to others. I asked two of his young granddaughters to help me hand them out to everyone there.

The daughter-in-law who had been in charge of most of the arrangements said to me, “That was so very much more than I could have even imagined. The gift bags just blew us away; that was so perfect. Thank you for telling his story.” I was truly glad I was there. I was also truly glad that a funeral director was there.

What we can learn from these stories

There are several lessons to be learned from these two families’ stories.

1. Busy families are not grieving families. When family members are left adrift, forced to take care of all the service details by themselves, they literally have no time to process, to reflect, to think.

Even for people using a funeral home, the days leading up to a funeral are pretty hectic. Family members are coming into town. Pictures need to be located. Calls and condolences are flooding in. But when you are sitting at a Kinko’s at 10 p.m. the night before your mother’s service, you have absolutely no time to allow yourself to feel, much less begin the grieving experience. You are focused, exhausted and overwhelmed.

Family members should not be messing with a computer 20 minutes before the service; they should be hugging and crying and soaking in the love and support of the people who came to join them in their sorrow. The ex-husband should not have to haul flowers for his former spouse, no matter how understanding his current wife might be.

2. Families want the option of food and drink. I say this to my all of my colleagues— those who can offer food and beverages and those in states that prohibit it: People want to offer hospitality and find a moment of normal in this very unfamiliar situation.

When guests come to your home, your first instinct is to offer sustenance. When guests come at your invitation to honor your loved one, your first instinct is to welcome and thank them with food. People want food and drink!

Some firms have figured this out and are making a wonderful impression and a wonderful profit from these additional services. Some firms choose to offer snacks or even full catered meals, but refuse to allow wine or beer for a variety of reasons.

Some firms in the few states that do not allow food in funeral homes are very happy that they are prohibited from this option. One funeral director I was talking to about this snorted and said, “I didn’t go to mortuary school to be an event planner.”

Really? And what exactly do you think a funeral service is, if not an event—that you are planning?

That sweet family I helped in the absence of a funeral director just wanted to be able to offer guests a small glass of wine when they arrived, and wanted a way to toast their loved one at the end.

This was not a kegger; no one was going to drink to excess, and nothing was spilled. Everyone was comfortable and it was wonderful that the chapel was more than willing to accommodate the request.

3. People don’t know what they don’t know. I know this is a cliché used in training all the time, but just because you’ve heard it before doesn’t mean it isn’t the truth.

A large majority of people who choose stand-alone, cremation-only businesses have no idea that they will be receiving no support, no guidance, no assistance in creating a service. They do not understand what they are facing and that they will be facing it alone.

Would it be helpful if those businesses explained options and offered referrals to another funeral home that would be willing to help families who want services, not just efficient disposition? Would it be helpful if these firms had a list of celebrants who could accompany and assist the family?

Yes, that would be great, but I don’t see that kind of collaboration or cooperation happening anytime soon.

Would it be great if people experienced meaningful, personalized services and realized that they were worth choosing to go to a funeral home that would provide those services for them?

Yes, that is my eternal hope, and it is why we continue to carry the celebrant banner.

We believe in the value of funeral service, and in our assertion that your potential future customers are the people sitting in your chapel today, deciding whether or not what you’re offering is something they want when the time comes for them to deal with a loved one’s death, or to preplan their own service.

Would it be a wonderful day if funeral homes could use their time and advertising dollars to explain how important a funeral is to the grieving family instead of, or in addition to, showing off their chapels or selling preneed?

Yes, that would be a huge step in the right direction, if we could convince funeral directors that families need to know what they have to offer and why they need to have a professional take care of them. Tell families how you can serve them, not what you can sell them.

4. Vacuums are quickly filled. The other interesting result of the service for Sally was very predictable. Amy and Alisha, the wedding coordinators at the chapel the family used, grabbed me after the service. They are very smart businesswomen. They can see an opportunity when it presents itself.

“I think we should put a funeral tab on our website,” Amy said. “This is the third funeral we’ve been asked to do in the past few months. Our chapel is not booked during the week or during the day on weekends, and this would be perfect.”

We chatted for a while, and I mentioned some of the details that they would need to consider, all of which they are more than capable of handling, given their experience with weddings.

And so, for those lonely people at sea after choosing what turns out to be a body disposal firm, this chapel, and thousands of other event and wedding chapels just like it across the country, would be thrilled to step in and fill the void.

They are more than happy to fulfill any request that a family has, they understand the concept of catering and serving drinks and they are proud to be considered event planners. They can learn how to produce video tributes, if they aren’t already offering those for weddings. They certainly can design and print service folders; they know how to greet guests and arrange flowers.

They would be thrilled to have a list of Certified Celebrants for referrals to conduct services, rather than telling families, “We always use the Rev. Rolodex.”

When we first began training celebrants, one of the concerns voiced by a few funeral directors was that we would take services away from funeral homes. I can assure you that 99 percent of the services I am privileged to conduct are in funeral homes.

But I can also assure you that if funeral homes do not find ways to offer the services that today’s families are looking for, others will be more than happy to make use of our skills.

Wedding chapel professionals come to this opportunity focused on serving the customer. They don’t understand the words “We’ve never done it that way before” or “My families don’t want that” or “We don’t allow that at my firm.”

The time is now. When cremation is the overwhelming choice, a funeral home is an optional choice. We need to have a conversation about the message we are giving our buying public.

Either we believe in the sacred time of gathering, how healing it is for families, and the importance of having a funeral professional present to assist the family, or we all decide to become stand-alone cremationonly firms. There is very little leeway in between.

Can we begin to examine how we talk to our families about the value of funeral service?

Can we end the debate about receptions and serving alcohol?

Can we possibly consider that we need to create liaisons between cremation-only firms and full-service funeral homes that could help the family with a service? Can we at least hope that stand-alone cremation-only firms need to rethink their message to the public that disposing of the body is the only important thing that needs to be done when a loved one dies?

Can we embrace the concept that celebrant-led services are among the best advertisements you could possibly place in front of your community?

Can we honor and appreciate tradition while embracing and accepting the challenge of a changing world?

It’s very lonely out at sea, alone. We shouldn’t leave our families there to try to navigate the waters by themselves. If funeral directors don’t step up to help them find their way, someone else will respond.

‘Death simulator’ attraction to open in China

Tired of the same old roller coaster experience at your local theme park? This ride in China will really burn you up.

Samadhi: 4D Experience of Death at The Window of the World theme park is meant to simulate death, cremation and being reborn, according to a UPI.com post.

The ride begins in a “morgue” before riders are placed in a casket and carried on a conveyor belt to be “cremated,” which is simulated by a blast of hot air that reaches temperatures of up to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. The experience is meant to be “an authentic experience of burning.”

Finally, riders crawl up to an image of a womb and emerge in a white, padded room.

The Window of the World’s attractions are based on world tourism destinations, with replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and even South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore.

Organ Donation Conference

On 14 and 15 May Unisa and CTE hosted a conference called RECYCLE YOUR BODY, with interesting and enlightening presentations on tissue, bone, kidney, cornea and skin transplantations.

Here are a few hightlights:

  • While 90% of donors are white, 90% of recipients are black. Because the donor bank is growing older and some of their organs are not acceptable any longer, and the white population in South Africa is gradually decreasing and organ donations are based on supply and demand, there are long waiting lists for all organs and tissue.
  • In South Africa there are thousands of people on waiting lists for kidney donations, only about 200 transplants done per year, and most of these kidneys are imported. In Singapore recipients of kidneys remunerate the donor, and this is controlled by a hospital ethics committee. In Iran the buying and selling of kidneys is legal, there are no waiting lists, and this is overseen by non-profit NGOs. Israel follows a point system to motivate people to donate, and the transplant centre bears the cost of burial and transportation. This ethical debate is still ongoing in South Africa while critically sick patients pray for donors, and the public remains untouched by, unaware of and ignorant about organ donations.
  • Xenotransplantation is currently being researched, with pigs, whose organs are basically the same size as that of humans and very similar, as the most popular ‘donors’. The ethical question: will the recipient, if necessary, appeal for human or animal rights, and should innocent animals be killed to save human lives?
  • The wishes of organ donors who commit their organs or tissue for donation can be vetoed by family members after death.

BURIED IN DEBT – MAIL & GUARDIAN, 2013

On an average Saturday, there are 80 to 90 funerals held at Avalon Cemetery in Soweto. More during the winter, reckons the guard at the gate.

As one funeral group enters, another leaves in a convoy that includes cars and two Putco buses filled with people just released from memorial services. From any one funeral, the marquee, buses and crowd of at least two others are plainly visible. And at every funeral the insignia of a different undertaker is painted on to the door of the hearse parked at the gravesite.

“There is lots of competition among undertaker companies. They are trying to outdo each other with speakers and cars,” said Pule Molabatsi, a mourner who came to pay his last respects to a neighbour.

“These are not like white funerals where people are invited,” said Molabatsi. “People from the community are expected to come to the cemetery. Where people can’t afford it, the community clubs together and burial societies step in to help with the costs.”

There are currently more than 100 000 burial societies in South Africa, according to Zulu Ratswana, general secretary of the Burial Society of South Africa, citing research conducted by the insurance sector education and training authority. A funeral can cost about R15 000, Ratswana said.

“The most expensive items are the coffin and the cow that must be slaughtered. A coffin costs R5 000, on average, and the cow about R6 000. Then there is the cost of feeding the people who come for the funeral.”

Funeral insurance policies go a long way towards covering the high cost. Although individuals can hold insurance policies, burial societies have specially designed insurance products so that members who make regular contributions can benefit from the cover.

Lavish expenses
When all is added up, a large amount of money changes hands on a regular basis. In the most recent calculation, funeral insurance contributed R4.9-billion to – and made up 1.7% of – the income of the long-term insurance industry, said Tembisa Marele, communications specialist at the Financial Services Board. This is in addition to a multitude of unlicensed insurance providers, many of which combine undertaker services and contribute to the lower end of the market.

With insurance cover, paupers are turned into princes in death. Research has shown that funeral costs weigh heavily on household funds.

Anxiety and depression
“A large amount is spent on ­animals to sacrifice, other food and on coffins. A quarter of the households borrow money, mostly from moneylenders at extremely high interest rates, in order to pay for the funeral costs.

“Households have fewer assets and report higher levels of poverty for many years after a death and this can be linked to the cost of the funeral, particularly when money was ­borrowed. We have found that children in households that experienced a death and had to pay for the funeral are less likely to be enrolled in school, and that adults in the household are more likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression, and to report money problems.”

Efforts are under way to break the stranglehold of funeral costs. The Burial Society of South Africa was formed in 2010 as an umbrella body for burial societies across South Africa. “We are trying to say to people not to focus so much on death. It sometimes comes in 40 or 50 years, and who is going to look after the families in the meantime?” said Ratswana.

He said it was a history of deprivation that made rites of death so important. “Over time, black people focused more on burials also because of the history and lack of education because it didn’t give us things to improve our lives.”

Erik Bähre, assistant professor at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology at the University of Leiden says, “The large expenditure on funerals is not traditional. Among the Xhosa, funerals usually were modest. Only recently did funerals become so expensive, probably since the 1980s. By then, some funerals became important public events in the struggle against apartheid. Comrades used – and some people that I interviewed said abused – funerals as an occasion to struggle against the atrocities of the apartheid regime. This made funerals much more than the burial of a bereaved relative, neighbour, or friend. At these funerals, public performance became more important.

“Although many feel that it is a problem to spend so much money on funerals, they also say that they cannot do anything about it. The main reason is that they are worried about their reputation. They are worried that neighbours might say that they neglected the deceased. The bereaved family is concerned about malicious gossip and that people will say that they are stingy, that they are irresponsible by not putting money aside for the funeral, or some might even say that they never really cared for the deceased.”

Finding space
The trend shows no signs of abating, leaving cemetery land at a premium. There is limited land for cemeteries; municipalities, which are responsible for maintaining them, are hard-pressed to find space.

A source from the City of Johannesburg, who asked not to be named, said there was plenty of “political pressure” on the city to make land available for burial. “In Alexandra township, for example, an election can be won or lost on the basis of burial space,” she said.

Although there is no crisis of space yet, it is suggested that overcrowding is more pronounced in black townships, where the concentration of people and the death rate are highest.

Funerals are, apparently, also going green. Wiesenhof Legacy Parks is a burial site based in Stellenbosch. Its chief executive, Werner Fouche, said that preserving nature is an imperative and their grave markers are as subtle as possible; with a plaque that barely protrudes from the ground as the most conspicuous. Another option is to use a tree as a grave marker.

“Instead of a tombstone, we can plant a tree on the grave and it becomes a living memorial. It is still a new concept,” said Fouche. Although an emphasis is placed on reducing the sinisterness, it is hardly a cheap burial option. Burials cost upwards of R28 000, and scattering ashes over the soil costs R6 000.

Clearly, when it comes to funerals, no effort is spared to comfort the living. But perhaps this is just the way it is. As the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said: “He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man.”