The Beginner’s Guide to Buying Your Own Tombstone
Welcome to The Beginner’s Guide to [Blank], our recurring series where our experts provide everything you need to know about your new endeavor, regardless of what it is. Life is full of exciting opportunities, and while it’s fine to tackle a new adventure on your own, we here at Bunny Ears know that it’s better to have an experienced guide to help on your journey.
This week we’ll be taking you through:
The Beginner’s Guide To Buying Your Own Tombstone
We’re often told that responsible people buy life insurance. Because if you die, you’d better get paid pretty good! Well, there’s a problem: the money’s still alive, but you are not. So what happens to all that money? Is it all supposed to go to your ungrateful family or your insufferable kids?
Why waste it all on those jerks when you can invest some or most of it into buying your own tombstone! Don’t leave that decision in the hands of the same people who once called you “negligent at best.” Takethe money you were going to spend on your life insurance and invest it in a tombstone. You’ll make sure it’s the correct one, and if you want it to say “FU family! I went first LOL!”, it can and you can safeguard it against any changes. But how do you go about buying one yourself? We’re here to help, with a number of proactive steps toward preemptively acknowledging your deceasement to be.
1. Pick Your Terms.
The first and most important thing to remember is that they’re not generally called tombstones anymore. This could be because, like everything in the death industry (such as referring to corpses as “loved ones”), euphemisms are preferred. Or, more likely, it’s the fact that a frozen pizza company and a Val Kilmer western have hijacked the word to a point where Google is completely gamed. Well, and metalwork tooling.
A tombstone is also the name of a type of financial document, appropriately named because you may get so frustrated trying to figure out what it actually is and does that you could just die.
So when you begin your search try “headstone.” Or “grave marker.” eBay has numerous options, often with custom engraving, and in at least one case, a custom QR code.
2. Secondhand Stones: Good for Your Wallet, Bad for Your Eternal Damnation?
Your options get more interesting if you really want to leave as small a carbon footprint as possible. If you have no fear of ancient Chinese curses–and if you’ve correctly cleansed your chi with our recommended kumquat-juice-and-thyme-soul-enema, why would you?–you have the option of previously owned tombstones from east Asia. It’s a known fact that ghosts from the Orient can’t cross water, so unless their souls are caught in a cursed videotape, you should be okay.
3. The Brighter Side of Dying in a War.
If you’re a veteran and going to be buried in a government cemetery, the U.S. government will give you a tombstone, free…but you can’t know that before you’re dead, and the government’s not especially amenable to your saying that you know you’re going to die on your next tour of duty and they might as well just give it to you now. Also, your tombstone has to fit in with the existing style of the cemetery, because the government hates your nonconformity even after you’ve literally given them everything else. If you’re determined to give your family survivor benefits, just make really really sure it doesn’t look pre-planned. Taking on a dangerous mission, or jumping on a grenade to save your brothers in arms: good. Standing up in the middle of Gaza yelling “Mohammed sucks, come at me brah”? Bad.
4. Pre-Paying Is Complicated, for Your Own Good.
Live in California? In order to prevent clever post-death foul play by any resentful relatives you leave behind, you can pre-pay at a funeral home…but they’re not allowed to receive the money then and there. Shawn O’Connor, Managing Funeral Director for Wiefels funeral home in Yucca Valley, explains: “We have licensed insurance agents that write third-party insurance policies. They are pre-made policies for funeral expense. So the money’s held, once it’s paid in full, and then paid back to the funeral home at the time that it’s needed.” The state, he says, “doesn’t want funeral homes to hold it, in case we go out of business or something happens.”
O’Connor also says upright tombstones just aren’t as popular as they used to be, and flat grave markers are more the norm; the latter cost under $1,000, usually, while the former at the high end can get into tens of thousands. You can go to a cemetery, buy a plot, and even place a marker there before you die, though they generally won’t put a death date on there, because as much as you and I know that with the right amount of mental cleansing and Cybariatrics, you are excellent at predicting future events to the day…graveyards just aren’t going to necessarily trust you and I on that.
Things get tricky if you want to buy just the tombstone in advance, without deciding where the grave is that it’ll go on. At Wiefels, O’Connor told us, “we rarely ever have them shipped to the funeral home. So the family would have to have the cemetery receive them, so they would have to have already purchased a burial plot–cemetery property. So when the cemetery does receive it, they’ll go ahead and place it out there. Some cemeteries will hold them for a period of time. But it’s really up to the cemetery.”
Now, many of the eBay sellers will indeed just ship to you. But tombstones are most often made of bronze or granite, so you could be dealing with some hefty shipping charges unless they offer a pick-up option, in which case you’ll just have to bribe a muscular friend.
5. Fuck the Other Dead Guy. You’re Lying on Top of Him and Erasing His History.
If space is at a premium and you want to be a real dick, you can buy graves in England that already have 75 year-old human remains in them–you just scrub off the name of the previous deceased on the marker and replace it with your own. Somehow this is entirely legal, and even reasonably priced at 3,000 UK pounds (around $5,000). It’s more common, though, for secondhand tombstones to be used to make other things, like building supplies.
6. Costco or Cost-NO?
A popular misconception is that Costco sells tombstones. They don’t. And there’s absolutely no reason you should think the popular retailer of wholesale goods to private members would. Uh, except maybe for the fact that they do indeed sell caskets and urns. So if Costco’s your endgame, the only way to one-stop shop your death accessories there is cremation. And you can buy urns any time with no problem. Store loose change in them until you need them, too. Let them URN that privilege!
7. The Serious, Official Final Word (Besides God’s).
Don’t just take our word for anything, though (generally good advice on most topics). You can always consult the International Southern Cemetery Gravestones Association, which sounds like the worst political action committee of all time, but offers useful tips like “Though cemeteries can accept gravestones from outside dealers still, they tend to dissuade the customers by telling them that their headstones do not conform to their quality standards and the cemetery would not be liable for damage to the stone. By raising such doubts, they try to get more customers which, thereby increasing their profit in business. If the cemetery authorities insist that you need to buy from them, then you must ask them to show you their by-laws, in writing.”
Look, nobody ever said they were the International Southern Grammar Association. But with them on your side, a good guy with a tombstone can always beat a bad guy with a tombstone.
Featured Image: Flickr/Revertebrate
Images: Stories in Stone, Fujian Huang Xinhong Stone Co., Wiefels Funeral Home, Magner Funeral Home, Paramount Pictures, Costco