Anatomical Gifts and the Impact on Funeral Tributes

Anatomical Gifts and the Impact on Funeral Tributes

By Rick Allen

We have all heard the saying, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Giving with a generous heart often warms the soul of the grantor far beyond the recipient. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult the thought process is for family members who have lost a loved one, and within minutes, are asked to make a quick decision on organ/tissue donation. “Giving the gift of life” sounds like an easy decision until it involves one of your own. I have not been in the situation of deciding on donation, but my brother was the recipient of a transplanted lung and I can speak firsthand of the joy felt by a family whose loved one gets that second chance at life. Although we were so happy his long wait was over, our hearts ached for the family who had lost someone close to them. Their sadness was just beginning and it is important to realize they need a great deal of care and attention.

In no way would I try to encourage someone to be a donor, nor would I discourage someone who is considering it. It is very important to realize, however, what is being agreed upon and how those decisions will impact other wishes you may have. Typically, donating corneas and certain tissue will have minimal impact, if any, on the ability to have viewing of a person’s body. Larger organ donation, such as heart, lungs and kidneys also do little to impact one’s ability to view the body, although this does create a more difficult embalming process. You may encounter extra cost related to such from the funeral home.

Occasionally, a person chooses to donate their whole body to a school or research facility. While the receiving institution will file the required paperwork with the state on behalf of the family, they do nothing to help a family create a meaningful and appropriate tribute, nor do they help a family find ways to say “good-bye.” This is where family members can get stuck in the middle. There are numerous details that must be addressed, decisions made, and items tended to of which a funeral director is uniquely qualified to help. Families have come to realize this, oftentimes in the 11th hour, when they want register books, service folders, a flag, an honor guard, flowers, and a reception following their memorial service at their church. Unfortunately, no plan to accomplish these things is thought of until the day before the service.

Funeral directors bring “life” to events that are necessary as a result of a death. While this may sound strange, funeral directors have the knowledge and experience to not only help a family arrange for things they want, but also suggest things a family might never think of doing that will add much to a memorial service. Funeral directors arrange for, carry out, and coordinate a number of details the general public never knows about. These behind-the-scene duties mostly go unnoticed because things are present where expected, previously arranged to be carried out, and available when needed. On the other hand, a memorial service without proper attention to detail will be lacking organization, direction, and a unique and personal tone.

Funeral homes today must prepare for changing needs from our client families. The traditional, cookie-cutter funeral does not meet the needs of the majority of the people any longer. While religious rites may change slightly, if at all, numerous other aspects surrounding death and the many options people demand are constantly changing. The successful funeral home of today listens to the needs of the consumer. The truly exceptional funeral homes of today anticipate those needs ahead of the consumer and have choices and solutions readily available to help families in a variety of different situations.

When you talk about your final wishes, if those plans include donation, involve a funeral director in those discussions. If your funeral director does not include service offerings for families who choose donation, find one who does.

Rick Allen is the owner of Allen Family Funeral Options. Visit their informative website at or give them a call at 972-596-8200.