Local Newspaper Article Critical of Funeral Service

On July 13, 2006 Susan Ager authored an article critical of funeral service in the Detroit Free Press. She makes some false statements about funeral directors like: “for me the question is why pioneering Americans still follow rigid funeral industry traditions.” This statement implies that funeral directors created the funeral customs we practice today. Nothing could be further from the truth. My family has been in funeral service since 1893 starting in Detroit. We have for generations, changed and evolved with families, wishes and traditions. We have never dictated services to families. They tell us what they want and we do it. That’s the way it’s been for 113 years. Ms. Ager also states, “first, we rush death from the house into the hands of strangers.” First of all, death occurs in many places, not just somebody’s house.

The police, fire department, medical examiner, doctor, nurse, hospice worker or chaplain, all strangers, may be involved with this death scene, where ever it may occur. Upon calling a funeral director, the family is hardly calling a stranger. They are calling someone available 24 hours a day seven days a week (I know this because my wife and I answered the phones ourselves for 1 ½ years without a day off.) Funeral Director’s are some of the most committed people in the community, often involved in the community doing volunteer work and contributing to every cause they can. Hardly a stranger or someone you can’t trust. Ms. Ager quotes as a resource, The Funeral Consumer’s Information Society. On July 19, 2006 a weekly publication called the Metro Times published an article by Jack Lessenberry, again critical of funeral service, and again listing The Funeral Consumer’s Information Society as a source.

Mr. Lessenberry states, “what seriously offends me is that so many funeral directors and funeral homes capitalize on the grief of vulnerable people.” My great grandfather, and founder of McCabe Funeral Homes, Francis McCabe and his son Clifford operated the funeral home during the depression. They served families with no money. On a hand shake, they hoped they would get paid. To this day we still treat every family with respect and consideration. Mr. Lessenberry’s statement is callous and ignorant. It would be easier to make this statement about the news media.

Mr. Lessenberry quotes the Funeral Consumer’s Information Society: “the funeral profession is run by giant companies that own most funeral homes and cemeteries today.” This statement is nothing short of a lie. The facts are easy to find. 20% of funeral homes and cemeteries today are run by big companies. The rest are independently owned and operated by people who live, work, pay taxes and invest in your community.

So why is the public supposed to put it’s trust into a “consumer society” that lies? Why should the public call a society that recommends the cheapest funeral home? Can’t the general public simply open the phone book and find burials for $1995 and cremations for $625?

Then comes the really big lie. Mr. Lessenberry names a funeral home that had a complaint filed against it for selling cheap caskets on the internet. They are considered a “friendly funeral home” by the Funeral Consumer’s Information Society. He say’s the State Board of Mortuary Science is trying to stop this funeral home from selling caskets on-line. There are several problems with this statement. It is perfectly legal to sell caskets on-line or any other way you want in the state of Michigan. Is there anybody other than Mr. Lessenberry who doesn’t know Costco sells caskets? The complaint is still not public information so Mr. Lessenberry is printing hearsay as fact. I wonder if Mr. Lessenberry will print the truth about this complaint when it becomes public?

I’m sure its just a coincidence that two writers in the same week write articles using the Funeral Consumer’s Information Society as a source. They both made comments about funeral director’s that most people know are untrue. This is the reason I read very few newspapers. When I read about topics I am knowledgeable about, and see how far from the truth those articles are, I can only assume all the articles lack the same journalistic integrity.

I will be writing more about subjects involving funerals, bereavement, cemeteries, the State Board of Mortuary Science, the Michigan Funeral Director’s Association, the Michigan Cemetery Association, the Media, Why you can’t bury in your backyard, when a “Society” really isn’t a “Society” and anything else you would like me to comment on.

Please contact me at kevin@mccabefuneralhome.com.

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