Heroin is everyone’s problem

Dried Rose on wooden background, broken heart concept

I’ve been invited to talk on several news programs recently about the state’s heroin epidemic. Last year, there were 321 drug-related deaths in the state; 97 were related to heroin. That number will likely rise: According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, in Manchester alone, there have been 65 heroin deaths this year.

Here at Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium, we have been involved in some 50 of those deaths. Some years ago, death by heroin overdose was so infrequent that one would take an exceptional emotional toll on the staff; today, such deaths have become so prevalent that staff takes them as a matter of course: no more –or less – shocking than any other death. And it’s not just heroin; other opioids, such a fentanyl have contributed to shocking overdose numbers.

Many of the people who arrive at the funeral home after overdosing on drugs are indigent, homeless or have no family members to make arrangements. Some funeral homes don’t want to take these cases because there’s no financial gain in them. In fact, while some parts of the arrangements may be covered by social service agencies, many of these people end up being cremated – at a cost to the funeral home.

We will take those people and give them a dignified cremation. Those cremains remain here, at the funeral home, until they are claimed by a family member (if any exist); others remain for a period of time, after which we know they will never be claimed. At that time we include them in a mass scattering of ashes, with the belief that everyone deserves a dignified exit from this world.

In other cases, because of financial circumstances, in addition to their loss, families struggle to pay for their loved one’s funeral or cremation. When that happens, we will help them find assistance, and provide a suitable low-cost option that allows them to make manageable payments, but it’s often still a financial burden.

Heroin doesn’t discriminate. White and black, rich and poor, men and women… there is a human toll, a social toll and a financial toll. Heroin affects everyone.

People need to be made aware of this epidemic and it has to be stopped. We encourage families to use social media to spread awareness and to use obituaries as a way to spotlight the problem. Brave people like Molly Parks father Tom told the Washington Post that the family decided to use Molly’s obituary as a way to raise awareness and help others who may be headed for the same fate as his daughter.

The obituary began: “Molly Alice Parks, age 24, who most currently resided in Manchester, NH, passed away in Manchester on April 16, 2015 as the result of a heroin overdose.”

While the obituary memorialized Molly as a “fearless personality,” with a love of the “Harry Potter series and “trademark red lipstick,” it also was brutally honest about her struggles with addiction:

“Along Molly’s journey through life, she made a lot of bad decisions including experimenting with drugs. She fought her addiction to heroin for at least five years and had experienced a near fatal overdose before.”

Other families have also used an obituary to help make more people aware of the opioid problem. The parents of Adam Moser, who died of a likely fentanyl overdose, posted a similarly blunt obituary that said: “There was so much more greatness to come from this brilliant young man – he had so much to give. He left us too soon by making a bad decision. Please, please stop before you or a loved one thinks that no drug is too powerful – there is no turning back, no ‘do overs’.”

In the past, many people have not wanted to “air their dirty laundry,” in public. Today, we respond to one or two heroin deaths a week and people’s thinking has changed. Addiction is now viewed as a public health crisis, rather than a moral failing. Writing about it has become much more acceptable and people want to get the word out.

People like Tom Parks, who told the Washington Post, “Even if one person reads that and says, ‘Oh my God, that can be me,’ and stops — if we could save one life — we could be happy,” Tom Parks said. “That would mean that Molly didn’t die in vain.”

Report: Funeral Directors Need To Be More Transparent About Pricing

Coffins at a Funerl Home

You may have seen news articles this week about a new report from the Funeral Consumers Alliance and Consumer Federation of America about funeral prices. According to the report, a survey of 150 funeral homes in 10 regions across the U.S. found that there are significant price differences from one funeral home to another.

Three types of service were priced – direct cremation without ceremony, immediate burial without ceremony or the cost of a casket, and full-service funeral, including the following items: basic services of the funeral director and staff, transport of the body from place of death to the funeral home, embalming, other preparation of the body, viewing or calling hours, funeral ceremony with casket present, hearse to the cemetery, sedan or limousine for the family, and a graveside ceremony.

The research found that countrywide, prices ranged from $475 to $7,595 for direct cremation; from $640 to $6,800 for immediate burial; and from $2,580 to $13,800 for a full-service funeral.

Prices within individual areas also varied by at least 100 percent and often by more than 200 percent, according to the report. In Seattle, for instance, a cremation went from a low of $495 to a high of $3,390; in Minneapolis, direct burial ranged from $650 to $3,395; and in Washington, DC, a full funeral ranged from $3,770 to $13,800.

“I was stunned at the prices,” Stephen Brobeck, CFA executive director, said when announcing the report results. “This is not a competitive market, and that’s because it’s very difficult to comparison shop.” He also noted that the bereaved are already reluctant to comparison shop.

The report also noted the that most funeral homes fail to disclose their prices adequately:  Only 25% of the 150 funeral homes fully disclosed pricing on their websites; 29% provided the information after an email; 29% gave the information after an email and phone call; and 16% failed not only to fully disclose pricing on their website, but they also didn’t disclose them in response to an email and a phone call.

At Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium and the Cremation Society of Southern New Hampshire, we believe in full transparency for our pricing. Both the Phaneuf website and The CSNH website list prices for our services, packages, and merchandise – as well a full description of what you’re getting. We also offer a free brochure via mail or download that discloses all of our prices. Of course, you can always call us 24 hours a day at 603-625-5777 and speak with a staff member. We do this because we know funeral or cremation can be expensive. We work with you to provide what you need at a price you can afford – and we are always upfront about what you’re getting and what it costs.

We do this because we believe in it. The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule requires funeral homes only to provide price information over the phone upon a visit to the home.  It does not put funeral homes under the responsibility of providing prices via a website.

The FCA wants the FTC to change the Funeral Rule, which was passed before the Internet Age. “The FTC needs to require funeral homes to disclose prices clearly and completely on their websites,” said FCA’s Slocum.  “This disclosure will greatly increase consumer search for price information.  It will also allow journalists, consumer information services, and consumer groups to much more easily research, compare, and report on prices.”

According to a press release, FCA and CFA will submit the report to the FTC and are urging the agency to update the Funeral Rule.

What do you think? Should funeral homes fully disclose prices both online and offline?

Upcoming episodes of “Dying to Talk”

Dying to Talk staff and guest

We’re in the fifth week of our new “Dying to Talk” radio program on 107.7 The Pulse and things are going great. So far we’ve discussed cremation, and talked to John Heald, Director of Business Development for Tributes.com, along with funeral directors Mandy Desmarias and Madison Fortin, about how social media is changing the obituary. Then we talked with professional funeral celebrant Victoria Schneider about the rise of non-traditional funerals and the role celebrants have in creating meaningful and customized ceremonies. Last week we had a great discussion with Tikka Acharya, the executive director of the Bhutanese Community of NH, about Bhutanese funeral rites, customs, and ceremonies.

“Dying to Talk” airs every Saturday at 8:00 a.m. If you miss it, the show is rebroadcast on Sunday from 6:30 to 7 a.m. You can also listen to it via podcast – just go to http://www.wtplfm.com/. Part way down the page you’ll see the “Podcasts” section. Just click and listen!

Coming up:

  • This Saturday, Oct. 10, the topic will be careers in funeral service and the educational requirements. Our guest will be Sayr Hurley, a mortuary student at FINE Mortuary College in Norwood, Mass. This should be an enlightening discussion about what drives people to be funeral directors and what’s required to become one.
  • On Oct. 17, our guest will be Kim Fallon from the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. She’ll tell us about the Medical Examiner’s role in investigating sudden, unexpected or unnatural deaths
  • Michael Horne, Superintendent of the NH State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen will be our guest Oct. 24. Mr. Horne will discuss the veterans cemetery, benefits, and burial options. This is one veterans should be sure not to miss.

While “Dying to Talk” is a lighter look at topics related to death, funerals, cremation and other issues people don’t normally like to talk about, our goal is also to provide the information people want and need to know. So we want to hear from you: What issues would YOU like us to include in future episodes? Just let us know in the comments, on the Phaneuf Funeral Homes and/or Cremation Society of New Hampshire Facebook pages, or give us a tweet on @PhaneufFHC  and/or @CremationNH!

Space can be the final frontier for your ashes

Night sky

We’ve written before about some of the things you can make with cremated remains – also known as cremains – such as jewelry, sculptures, fireworks and even ammunition. But some people want their remains scattered, either at a special place that had meaning for them when they were alive or somewhere unusual – like space. That’s right. Ever dreamed of space travel? Well now you can do it post-mortem. Companies such as Elysium Space will shoot your cremains into space. “Instead of looking down upon the earth in reminiscence, we can raise our eyes to the eternal wonders within the night sky, knowing that our loved ones are always with us,” the company says on its website. Elysium currently offers two packages – a Shooting Star Memorial and a Lunar Memorial.

The first Shooting Star Memorial launch is expected to take place late this year and is already full (a second launch is now available and has openings for Elysium Space module for cremains$1,990). The memorial “delivers a symbolic portion of your loved one’s remains to Earth’s orbit, only to end this celestial journey as a shooting star.” The Lunar Memorial “delivers a symbolic portion of remains to the surface of the Moon, helping to create the quintessential commemoration.” A Lunar Memorial hasn’t launched yet, but has openings for its first launch. Early reservations are $9,950 for the first 50 participants; the regular rate will be $11,950.  A Milky Way Memorial is coming soon.

How does it work? You put a scoop of your loved one’s ashes into a capsule that you receive by mail from Elysium Space. Then you mail it in a pre-paid shipping box back to the company.  When the company receives the capsule, it’s placed in a spacecraft module that has individual niches, each with a capsule. There is a webcast of the launch and then the journey of your loved one’s cremains can be followed using the company’s mobile app.

Another company, MesoLoft, launches and disperses your loved one’s ashes above the earth. After cremation, the ashes are taken to a designated local Mesoloft balloon for cremainsfuneral home, which then sends the ashes to MesoLoft. With the standard package ($2,800), the company launches a balloon from Southern New Mexico, Eastern Indiana or Eastern Colorado and the cremains are taken 75,000 feet into space. When the balloon reaches the pre-determined altitude, a door opens and the ashes are released. The ashes ride the wind currents until they land on various points around the globe. A “destination package” allows you to have the ashes launched from a location of your choosing (packages start at $7,500). There is also a pet launch available for $499.

Writes the company: “You’ll discover the comfort of knowing your love one is literally everywhere around you. No matter where you go and what wonderful sights you see; you’ll be warmed by the knowledge they too are there.”

Perhaps you’d like your cremains to go in a different direction – such as the ocean. Eternal Reefs creates “eternal reefs” that are a combination urn, eternal-reefs-viewing-11scattering and burial at sea – the difference is that the eternal reefs are made of environmentally-safe cement mixture that create artificial reef formations with a pH content that’s close to neutral. They eventually create new habitats for fish and other sea life.

Eternal reefs are available for one to four sets of cremains, ranging in price from $3,995 to $6,995. The reefs can be personalized and there are a number of location options. A direct service (for when family can’t be present) is available in Sarasota, Fla. for $2,495.

Of course, there are plenty of unique earthbound locations. In that case, you may just want the Loved One Launcher, a hand-held ash-scattering cannon that will shoot cremains up to 70 feet. For extra visual effect, you can add confetti or streamers. At $375, it’s certainly a budget-friendly alternative for those who can’t afford the trip to the skies or seas.

How about you? Do you have a special place where you want to have your cremains scattered? Let us know in the comments!


Night sky and module courtesy of Elysium Space

Ballon courtesy of MesoLoft

Reef Ball courtesy of Eternal Reefs

Chances are your funeral will be handled by a woman

female funeral directors

The care of the sick has historically fallen to women, but care of the dead up until recently has largely been the domain of men. Not anymore.

Funeral-related businesses employ more than 440,000 people and bring in $16 billion a year in the U.S. While in the 1970s, 95 percent of funeral-related jobs were held by men, now the split is closer to 50/50 and 57 percent of U.S. mortuary science students are women. Chances are your funeral will probably be run by a woman.

In modern history the field has been dominated by men, so it may seem surprising that so many women are entering the trade, but what’s really surprising is that it’s only happening now: Looking further back into history women played a major role in funerals. In ancient Greece women washed and anointed the bodies; Christian and Hebrew women were largely responsible for preparing and dressing the dead.

In the 1800s, nurses and midwives prepared the dead and newspaper ads referred to both males and female tradesmen. Sometime after the Civil War, trade journals began to run editorials that argued that women were unfit for the industry because they couldn’t deal with the emotional aspects of death and didn’t have the physical strength necessary. So the absence of women in the funeral profession is a relatively modern phenomenon.

Here at Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium, four of our 10 licensed funeral directors and apprentices are women. Our intern, soon to be an apprentice, is a woman. Over the last year, one of our directors retired and another moved to Arizona, both of them women.

We welcome women in the funeral industry. The bottom line is, however, that male or female, the most important thing about a funeral director is that he or she is competent and capable of meeting the needs, whether physical, psychological or sociological, of their clients and that he or she treats the dead with the dignity they deserve and the family with the compassion they should expect.

* * *

Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has been serving the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.


New radio show, “Dying to Talk” airs Sept. 12

Buddy Phaneuf radio show, "Dying to Talk"

I’m really excited to announce that we’re going to be doing a new radio show starting Sept. 12. Called “Dying to Talk,” it will be a lighthearted look at topics related to death, funerals, cremation and other issues people don’t normally like to talk about. By airing this radio show, we hope to get people really talking about death-related topics.

Starting Sept. 12, “Dying to Talk” will air for 30 minutes every Saturday starting at 8:00 a.m. on 107.7, The Pulse. If you miss it, the show will be rebroadcast on Sunday from 6:30 to 7 a.m.

I’ll host the show, but we’ll have plenty of guests, too. We’ll talk about issues including cremation, veterans’ funerals and burial benefits, the role of medical examiners, the growth of non-traditional funerals, religious customs and traditions of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and other religions, and more!

Our first show will focus on Cremation. If you have a question concerning cremation, send me an email at buddy@phaneuf.net and we may be able to read it on the air and answer it.

What else would YOU like to know about? What issues would YOU like us to include in future episodes? Just let us know in the comments, on the Phaneuf Funeral Homes and/or Cremation Society of New Hampshire Facebook pages, or give us a tweet on @PhaneufFHC  and/or @CremationNH. We hope you’ll join us on Saturday mornings!

Happy listening,


10 Ways to Live Life to its Fullest

Life tips

No question about it; we are in the business of death. We’re here to help people with their final arrangements, both before and after they die. Our job is to do that with care, compassion and dignity. The fact it’s a business, however, doesn’t mean we want to see you or your loved ones here any sooner than necessary. We wish everyone a long and happy life. So, with that in mind, this week we’re going to look at 10 tips to live your life to its fullest. After all, everyone dies; it’s how you live your life that matters:

  1. Decide what’s important to you – Think about how you want to live life, not how others want you to live it. Decide what you want and then go for it!
  2. Tell people you love that you love them – It’s hard enough to lose someone; it’s even harder if you’ve never told them how you feel about them. A few words will last a long time.
  3. Forget about the past, plan for the future, and live in the present – The past is gone; the future’s in the future; and the only thing that’s important right now is… right now.
  4. Stay healthy – Eat right, avoid substance abuse and do things that are good for your body. A healthy body helps maintain a healthy mind.
  5. Don’t worry about the little things – They’re little. Take them in stride.
  6. Spend time with your children – You know how people are always saying “They grow up fast”? They do. You get one chance, so make the most of it.
  7. Don’t complain – On a bad day that can be a tough one. Try to make things better instead of complaining how bad they are.
  8. Create a bucket list – Is there something you really want to do before you die? Think about how you might be able to accomplish it.
  9. Find people who like/love you for you – Try building positive, enriching relationships and surround yourself with people who pick you up, not bring you down. Do the same for others.
  10. Do one good deed a day – Just one? It could be as simple as holding a door open for someone. You’ll be amazed at how good it makes you feel!

* * *

Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.

Final arrangements can take many forms

There are many ways to plan final arrangements

When former professional football player and sportscaster Frank Gifford died recently, his widow, television personality Kathie Lee Gifford, did something unusual: She bypassed a funeral altogether.

“Frank hated funerals,” Kathie Lee explained on the “Today” show. “He hated boxes. He hated to be put in boxes. He hated to get in an elevator, so we played Frank Sinatra all day long and we partied. The only criteria was, if you were there you had to be somebody that he adored, so it kept it nice and small.”

Some of us would find the idea of not having a funeral shocking and the idea of having a party even more so. As a society, we have a long-held funeral tradition that involves mourning, sadness and above all, seriousness, not music, gaiety and celebration.

There are many people who, for one reason or another, don’t want a funeral when they pass. Sometimes that can be difficult for mourners who want the outlet for their grief that a funeral provides. Some believe, as John Green writes in “The Fault in Our Stars,” that “Funerals are for the living.” And a funeral as defined by the bloggers at whatsyourgrief.com is “(often, not always) a place to start the process of mourning with friends and family as our grief is first unfolding.” So, being deprived of a funeral service may deeply upset some family members.

However, funerals are also for the dead: They are held to honor and remember a loved one. If a loved one asks that there not be a funeral when he or she dies, what better way to honor them then by following their wishes for their final commitment?

While Kathie Lee doesn’t say whether her husband explicitly requested that there be no funeral in the event of his death, she clearly made her decision on what she thought he would have wanted. But in the aftermath of Frank Gifford’s death, the outpouring of sympathy made her realize that having some sort of event so that fans can pay their respects for her late husband might be a good idea – perhaps a celebration of his life. It won’t be a “service” she told the press, because “he’ll boomerang [that].”

The bottom line is that there’s no one-size-fits-all way to say goodbye to a loved one. An event can be large, small, public, private, somber, joyous, traditional or not. If a loved one doesn’t want a funeral service, but you do, consider a celebration of life instead.

The “right” way to lay your loved one rest will often involve balancing several considerations. The important thing is to honor his or her wishes the best you can, while giving friends and family an opportunity to start the grieving process. These days there are many alternatives available; your local funeral director can help you find the one that best meets your needs and honors your loved one in life and death.

* * *

Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. Contact us and we can assist you in planning final arrangements, whatever they might be. 


Yield to funeral processions

Funeral procession

After seeing some confused motorists who aren’t clear on what to do when a line of cars headed to the cemetery passes by, it seemed time to revisit the rules of the road when it comes to funeral processions.

These rules aren’t just recommended etiquette – they’re state law. Operators of vehicles in a funeral procession have the right-of-way.

Under NH RSA 265:157, motorists:

  • Can’t drive between the vehicles in a funeral procession while in motion if the motorist isn’t in the procession. Emergency vehicles are the exception.
  • Can’t join the funeral procession in order to avoid being stopped in traffic.
  • Can’t pass a funeral procession on a 2-lane highway or roadway.
  • Can’t enter an intersection when the light is green if the procession is still passing through – even if they have a red light.

If you’re in a hurry, you might be frustrated at being slowed down by a funeral procession, but be sure yield and don’t try to cut in or honk your horn. This is a solemn event for friends and family, so it’s important  to show respect.

For their part, under NH RSA 265:156 funeral escort vehicles must

  • Comply with stop signs and traffic signals. However, when the lead vehicle goes through an intersection with a green light or after stopping at a stop sign, all the cars in in the funeral procession can continue through, even when the light turns red.
  • Be equipped with a purple flashing or emergency light.

Motorists in the funeral procession must:

  • Follow the vehicle ahead of them in the funeral procession as closely as possible as long as it’s “practical and safe.”
  • Have funeral flags or windshield signage, and headlights, taillights, and hazards on.

Despite the fact the procession has the right of way, it’s important that vehicles in the procession exercise caution because not everyone is aware of the law. Be on the lookout for cars trying to dart through an opening or who hit the gas when the light turns green.

If you go to a funeral and are in the funeral procession, the funeral attendants from the funeral home will direct you to your place in line. Once underway, expect to travel fairly slowly – 30 mph on roads in town and 55 mph or slower on the highway. When the service is over, return to your vehicle and be ready to follow in the procession.

* * *

Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.

Coffin or Casket – What’s the Difference?

A coffin with a flower arrangement

Did you know? While coffin and casket are often used interchangeably, they are some differences between the two. A coffin usually has six sides (or eight), while a casket has four. The six-sided coffin resembles the human shape – wider at the shoulders and narrower at the feet.

The word coffin comes from Old French cofin, from Latin cophinus, or “basket.” According to Oxford English Dictionary, the origin of “casket is unclear; one theory is that it came from  the French cassette, a  ‘small casket, chest, cabinet’. In early America, a casket was a box for jewels. Another theory is that it became a euphemism or a burial box by early undertakers. The word “casket” is used primarily in North America.

Coffins go all the way back to ancient Egypt when bodies were mummified, placed in sarcophagi and buried in pyramids.

The “economy coffin” was introduced by Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II in 1785. In an effort to conserve wood, Joseph II decreed that coffins with trap doors be used for burials. The coffins were made of wood and the bottom had a flap that could be opened to allow the body to be dropped into the grave. The idea proved unpopular and was quickly repealed.

In the early 1800s, the funeral director was known as the “undertaker” and wasEarly undertaker ad often a furniture maker and a casket builder. During the Civil War, so many caskets were required that the casket industry came into existence.

Today, there are many places to buy caskets. Batesville Casket Company is the world’s largest manufacturer of caskets. Funeral homes provide caskets, but retailers and wholesalers like Wal-Mart and Costco also now sell them.

Were you aware that you do not have to buy a casket from the funeral home? Federal law requires the funeral provider to accept one you provide from another source. So shop around; it may be that the funeral home has the best price. But if you’re looking for something they don’t carry, you can look  elsewhere.

Whatever the case, if you decide to provide your own coffin (or casket), there are many types to choose from – at all price points. According to the Federal Trade Commission, an average casket costs slightly more than $2,000; some sell for as much as $10,000. Much depends on what the casket is made of. Here are some of the options available:

Metal: Caskets can be made from stainless steel, bronze or copper. The price depends on the type of metal used.

Wood: Choices include maple, ash, poplar, elm, mahogany, walnut, cherry and cottonwood. These aren’t plain, pine boxes; they’re usually polished and feature handcrafted designs.

Fiberglass: Fiberglass is light and strong. They can be manufactured to size, so are often used for infant funerals. Many finishes are available.

Cloth covered: A less-expensive alternative, the caskets are made corrugated fiberboard or pressed wood.  The exterior part is then covered with a layer of cloth.

Eco-friendly: Made of natural materials such as willow, seagrass, cardboard and bamboo – these caskets are biodegradable and non-toxic. These are usually less expensive.

Handmade: You can make your own casket or have one made by a skilled craftsman.

Part of pre-planning involves discussing what type of casket you want for your funeral with your funeral provider based on your desires and budget. If you’d like to request free pre-planning information, click here.

* * *

Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate three full-service funeral homes, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society. To request a free brochure and planning guide, click here.