Shopping Online For Caskets

     While shopping online recently for items I could have easily purchased at a local discount store—if the store had offered to deliver them to my front door for free—I stumbled upon an online sale item that stupefied me. I stared at the screen for a full minute, horrified and fascinated at the same time. I am the mother of three teenagers, so I don’t shock easily. I can weather fender-benders, throw-up viruses, and gruesome sports injuries without panicking, but when I saw caskets for sale online at Cosco, I admit it temporarily scrambled my brain.

     Tell the truth: Did you know you could buy discount caskets online? When I discovered that, questions immediately began pushing and shoving their way to my frontal lobe and demanding answers. First of all, I wondered, who in the world buys caskets online? Isn’t that an item one usually purchases from a funeral home in a package deal—like senior portraits and wedding invitations? Now that I know there are more buying options for caskets than I ever imagined, I’m sure there is someone out there trying to sell me—and you—more casket than we really need. It’s a business like any other, I suppose, an honest way to make a buck.  All God’s children have to make a living.

     The second thing I wondered is: If I order a casket online, how will it be shipped? Will I get a knock on the door from the UPS man?

     “Sign here, Ma’am, I’ve got a casket for you.”

     What would that be like? I don’t mind telling you that the whole idea gives me the creeps.

     I can’t imagine that many people buy caskets in anticipation of their own demise. I guess maybe if you know the end is near (or you’re thinking of taking someone out in the near future), it could be helpful. It’s a practical purchase, I suppose, although not a gift I’d be comfortable giving, regardless of need.

     I am always on a budget, so maybe this is a topic I need to research more. I’m open-minded—even when I’m a little horrified. Are there coupons for caskets? Sale days? Is there a particular color that I could get a good deal on? I once attended a funeral for an LSU fan who chose a purple-and-gold casket. It had a tiger on the lid. I’m not making this up. I bet that was a custom job.

     I know responsible people pre-plan their funerals. It’s thoughtful. It helps the loved ones we leave behind. We should all go ahead and make some decisions. For instance, I want to be cremated, I think, although I’m still struggling with the whole burn-to-ashes aspect. I have several lovely antique vases that could hold my ashes. If I choose cremation, I avoid the whole casket selection issue altogether. Since I will have gone on to a better place, what difference can these minor earthly decisions possibly make?

     As a naturally bossy Southern woman, I like the idea of picking out my own hymns, readings, and music. I’m picky. There is no telling what my kids might choose if left to their own devices. They have a wicked sense of humor. “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead” comes to mind. Nothing would irritate me more than a tacky tombstone. I swear right now that I will return to haunt someone if my final resting place is marked with anything pink or heart-shaped.

     I will also be highly embarrassed if I look down from the pearly gates and see there isn’t enough food to feed my mourners, so I might go ahead and book the caterer now, although the head count is hard to pin down for a future event. I like to think my family and friends will actually be sad, so they probably won’t dive into the buffet. Then again, some distant relatives might turn out just for the spread. We know how to feed people at a funeral where I live in the South.

     There are a lot of variables when you plan a funeral down here. Funeral food has its own section in our cookbooks. It’s worth going to a funeral just to eat the consoling casseroles afterwards. I promise.  If I live to a ripe old age, my friends may be too old and frail to attend my service. Bummer. If I die during a big football week in the South, my kids better plan my memorial service after checking the kick-off times, or the turnout will be slim-pickings. That’s just the way things are in the Southeastern Conference. I’ve planned a few parties in my life. I know what I’m talking about.

     When contemplating my own funeral, I never before thought about buying the casket ahead of time—from the same store that sells tires, wrapping paper, and sunglasses. I had planned to buy my casket on an as-needed basis. However, I am always open to a bargain. I suspect caskets are a racket. Who cares if the lining is real silk or not? I think thousands of dollars are wasted on nonsense like that every day. Somehow, the purchase of a top-of-the-line casket feels like a testament to how much we loved the deceased family member. Ridiculous. My kids know I’m okay with a pine box or a Café du Monde coffee can. I’d rather they used that money for something that matters to the living—like a college fund deposit or making sure no one runs short on cheese straws, fried chicken, or pound cake at the luncheon in the church parish hall after my service.

     A final question: If I go ahead and buy the Cosco casket now—because it is a great deal and will be needed at some point in the (distant, I hope) future, what in the world will I do with it in the meantime? Where does one store a just-in-case coffin–in the basement with the extra toilet paper and bottled water? I’m feeling just fine today, thank you very much.

     A wonderful Southern storyteller, Kathryn Tucker Windham, kept a simple pine box for just such an occasion. She asked to be wrapped in her grandmother’s quilt, tucked in the pine box, and laid to rest to “I’ll Fly Away”—short and sweet. That’s exactly what happened when she died.  While she was alive and well, she stored her mother’s fine china in that box. Handy. I do like a woman who is prepared for emergencies. I have Band-Aids and Tylenol in my purse and batteries and canned food for hurricanes, so a small part of me says buying a casket ahead of time isn’t really that different. After all, I know where this parade is headed. I’m at peace with that. In the meantime, I’m having one heck of a good time.





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44 responses to “Shopping Online For Caskets

  1. Linda

    I have certainly never contemplated the idea of buying my own casket but I must admit I have given a lot of thought to what is and is not appropriate!! Quiet, reserved colored casket please.


  2. ellzey

    Your post makes me smile!
    My brother actually bought my mother’s casket online. While I’m not sure how he knew she would die within a week of it’s arrival…..

  3. John Wettermark

    My parents broke with tradition (but within what is allowed by their faith) and were cremated. For Daddy’s ashes we used a handsome oak box my brother provided and buried it all underneath a handsome iron cross, supported by a granite base inscribed with family name. Mamma’s ash container was a gold leaf box my sister brought up from Central America. My parents always broke the rules with such style. Always proud of them.

  4. ashleyinnc

    So funny! I am cracking up! I feel like I am bogged down with where to keep the Christmas decorations, so a coffin would throw me straight over the edge! 😉

  5. Like you, I was horrified to find “Funerals” on the Costco website. I was worried my parents would spot it and pre-order theirs and store them in the garage. Then again, it might not have been a bad idea at all!

  6. “I will also be highly embarrassed if I look down from the pearly gates and see there isn’t enough food to feed my mourners”

    In the south? Are you kidding? In my family, those who are left behind can easily eat for a year provided they have a deep freeze for leftovers, casseroles, pies, etc.

  7. I love the story about Kathryn Tucker Windham. I would like my funeral/burial/memorial to be as simple as possible. My grandma’s was a simple grave-side service. A couple family members said something. There was a prayer. That was about it. Then we got together for food and game — kind of a reunion. That was probably my favorite funeral.

    Buying a casket online and having it show up would probably freak out some of the people in your life. Maybe it’s worth it just for that.

    • I think you have to make a pact with a friend. I have a chapter in my first book called “Red Lipstick.” I talk about just such a deal in there where we attempt to make sure we don’t get funeral home make-up . . . guess it depends on who goes first. . . . No open casket for me!

  8. Funny you should mention this. My father passed away recently, and a friend actually mentioned this casket-shopping option — after the fact. Truthfully, I wish we would have had the presence of mind to check it out. My father had two requests. The first one was connected to his religious convictions. He wanted folks to know where he stood with the Lord and why. The second was a simple request to be frugal. He hated the idea of spending money on a funeral and the various accoutrements. Okay, so he didn’t use the word “accoutrement.” I think it was more like, “I don’t want to be buried in a filing cabinet, but don’t make me look like Elvis either.” So, we felt the burden of being good stewards. We wanted to honor him by letting him rest in something respectable, but he would probably haunt us forever if we purchased lavish casket. Thus, I don’t think online shopping would have made him flinch. He probably would have loved the idea that we “got him a deal.”

  9. My grandpa bought his own casket ahead of time. He was a widower and always very sad after my grandma died and the whole thing was even sadder–he was trying so hard to make things easier for my mom and dad. Don’t know if I’d want my parents to follow in those foot-steps……but they do have a Cosco membership so we should talk.

  10. Happy SITS day! We just went to Vermont for my grandmother-in-law’s memorial service. The food was good, but nary a casserole in the lot. Sigh.

  11. Happy SITS Day! I may just go out and buy a casket and store 150ish pounds worth of stuff in it just to see the looks on the movers faces the next time the Navy moves us!

  12. We’re also from the South! South Africa, that is. And my Mother has written out what she wants on her tombstone in her bible – which is now mine, because once I was poor, and couldn’t afford to purchase an NAS like the one she’d neatly written in. At least I have the wording… and the tombstone design!

  13. I don’t know if I could buy my own casket. The storage part would definitely be weird, especially since I live in an old house and the basement isn’t exactly the best place to store things. Plus, I’m pretty sure my boys would turn it into a race car or something. Creepy!

    Happy SITS Day!

  14. Selling Caskets at Costco? “Get your Casket at Costco!” It’s almost an alliteration. I figure the storage cost is going to far outweigh the savings of buying at Costco. I’ll pass…

  15. Ha ha! Never thought about this! I can’t imagine storing it in the house, just “waiting” there. Yikes! Happy SITS Day!

  16. Classic NYer

    It is kind of a package deal if you think about it. You’ll need a lot of food to feed all those hungry Southern mourners… wouldn’t you want to buy it in bulk? Like, at Costco, maybe? And while you’re already there…

    I mean, they sell flowers, too, don’t they? And possibly also black clothing? I’m just saying.

  17. My mother in law purchased a joint tomb for her parents. Her dad (last to pass) died 4 years ago and has never bothered to put the date of death on the stone. I think she has forgotten. Visiting from SITS.

  18. I had to go check them out. that was really weird. I would probably use it as a coffee table until that time but thats just me. I pink or purple(or Hello Kitty if getting a custom) casket to go please.

  19. LOL! You know how we SEC Football Fans are. It would be a shame to have your funeral on any game day, but especially the Iron Bowl, lol! Funny post – you brightened my day 🙂

  20. LOL – Guess you can buy just about anything online now a days.
    My favorite was that you said it was through Costco???

    Happy SITS day!

    • Yes! Can you believe that business??? I have another chapter in a previous book, The SWAG Life, called “Mailing Mama,” about standing in line at the post office behind a woman who was mailing her mother’s ashes–like they were the electric bill payment or something ordinary like that–to her sister who lived 45 minutes away!!!! I also have a humorous chapter about cemetery etiquette in my first book, Southern Women Aging Gracefully. Honestly, I’m not death-obsessed or anything. . . . this stuff just keeps coming up! I write about regular life–as fast as I can!

  21. Haha. I’m not sure who would buy a casket online. Seems a little impersonable.

  22. *snort* “I guess maybe if you know the end is near (or you’re thinking of taking someone out in the near future), it could be helpful.” Lol!! I loved this! I can tell you what you can do with the casket once you get it… My FAVORITE holiday is Halloween…you could use it for a haunted house prop each year. Just make sure its draped well so the inside and outside doesn’t get damaged (not that anyone will care…when you’re in it you’re dead. Worms have no sense of style….) if you are worried about that kind of thing and VOILA! Multiple uses for an otherwise once in a lifetime item! =)

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