Frequently Asked Questions
We have heard thousands of questions over the years. Here we offer answers to some of the more common questions relating to a funeral, a funeral service, and funeral homes. If you have further questions, please contact us and we will do our best to give you the most reliable information possible.
• Why use a licensed Funeral Director?
In Indiana, a licensed Funeral Director must be present when making funeral arrangements and at any ceremony where the body or ashes are present (for example, visitations, funerals, memorial services, graveside services at the cemetery).
Funeral Directors must adhere to the ethics and standards established by our profession, including having a degree in Mortuary Science, serving an internship, and obtaining continuing education annually. Our Funeral Directors at Erlewein Mortuary are continually attending seminars, workshops, and conventions to learn how to create a meaningful funeral for your loved one and how to help grieving family members. This means that laws will be followed, your family will be treated professionally and respectfully, and both you and your loved one will receive the very best care.
• What does a Funeral Director do?
As Funeral Directors, we are care givers and administrators. We make the arrangements for transportation of the deceased, complete the necessary paperwork and authorizations, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and disposition of a body. We are available to help or answer questions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We're always just a phone call away.
On a more personal note, we are also listeners, advisors, and supporters. Erlewein Mortuary’s Funeral Directors have more than 70 years of combined experience in helping families in grief cope with death. After the funeral, we are here to support your personal needs, answer questions about grief, recognize when there appears to be difficulty coping, and recommend sources of additional assistance.
• What do I do when my loved one dies?
There are many things that must be done when a loved one dies...so many things that it can seem overwhelming. That's why we're here. The staff at Erlewein Mortuary is available every hour of every day to help you. When you need us, we're just a phone call away... no matter when or where.
Call us immediately - no matter what time of the day or night - to alert us of the death. You can reach us at (317)467-4918 or (317)485-5138. View our When Death Occurs page for more information.
Common Questions about Funerals, Memorial Services, & Visitations
• Why have a funeral or memorial service?
A funeral or memorial service is an important way to celebrate a life well-lived with those who share in the loss and want to express their love, respect, and grief. It also helps us recognize a family's sorrow and acknowledge a significant change in our lives. A funeral is not a day in a lifetime, but a lifetime in a day.
Funeral and memorial services allow the living a final opportunity to honor the dead and to help surviving family members begin the grieving process. A funeral or memorial service is also a respectful way to say goodbye to a loved one and show others how much he or she meant to you. It serves as a time of gathering for family and friends to reunite, reconnect, and remember.
• Why have a visitation (viewing)?
Visitations – sometimes called viewings – are part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Research shows that having a visitation, where you and your family are surrounded by caring and supportive people, will help you with the grief process. It allows you a chance to tell the story of your loved one and the impact he or she had on your life to people who knew and loved him or her, as well. The emotional benefits of viewing the deceased are enormous, particularly to those having difficulty dealing with the death.
Attending visitation is also encouraged for children, as long as the process is explained and the activity voluntary. Children really can benefit from viewing the deceased person, as their imaginations can often make the appearance of the body worse than it really is.
Since this is the last time family and friends will see this person, a visitation can leave positive memories, with your loved one closely appearing as they did in life. Erlewein Mortuary can coordinate public and private family visitations that meet your family's specific needs.
• Can a funeral or memorial service be customized?
Of course – we believe there’s no other way to have a funeral or memorial service than to customize it precisely to your individual taste. There are many ways to make a service unique and celebrate a life well-lived, including:
- sharing fond memories of your loved one via personal eulogies, poems/readings, and storytelling
- playing special music at the visitation and service
- displaying personal items and pictures on our Memory Boards and Memory Tables
- playing DVD video tributes
- having a candle lighting or sand ceremony
- burning candles of your favorite scent during the visitation, funeral, or memorial service
- releasing balloons, doves, or butterflies
- serving your favorite food and drink to guests during the visitation or after the funeral
- having the procession drive by the family home or another favorite location on the way to the cemetery
- working with the florist to create floral tributes unique to your personality
We'll work with you to ensure the service is as personalized as your family wants it to be. Let us know what you want, then leave the details to us.
• Why are funerals so expensive?
Not all funerals are expensive. The cost of a funeral depends on your preferences and values.
- Costs reflect the type of service and merchandise you would like. Just like buying a home or even a car, you can choose to purchase an expensive one or a less expensive one. It all depends on what is important to you and your family.
- Many times, included in the "cost" of a funeral are items that are not related to the mortuary, but that are taken care of for you by the mortuary. These items can be costly and make the funeral bill more than you expected. They include things like: cemetery spaces, grave opening and closing charges, flowers, musicians, clergy/officiant honoraria, headstone foundation or engravings, newspaper obituary charges, and death certificate charges.
- Our mortuary offers a wide variety of options to accommodate many different budgets. If you are concerned about the cost of a funeral, we're happy to discuss your wishes and the cost.
- Some families request donations to help with paying for the funeral expenses, using crowdfunding websites and social media. Instead of a funeral being a financial hardship on family members, they may be an opportunity for friends, family, and the community to show their support through a financial donation.
• When should funeral or memorial services be scheduled?
As a general rule, you should allow enough time for out-of-town guests to make travel arrangements and arrive in time for the service. Area guests will normally be able to accommodate a shorter time frame. However, some religions and customs require a body be buried within 24 hours, which may be the determining factor in scheduling a funeral. Erlewein Mortuary will coordinate your planning and work with your family to ensure that everyone is included with ample time for traveling.
• Where can a funeral, memorial service, or visitation be held?
A funeral, memorial service, or visitation can be held at one of Erlewein Mortuary two locations or in a church. Some of the many other options include holding a graveside service at the cemetery or a service at a family residence. If cremation is used, keep in mind that EPA regulations restrict where cremated remains can be scattered. No matter where you decide to have the funeral, we will assist you in planning the entire service from beginning to end.
• Does a minister have to conduct a funeral or memorial service?
No, a member of the clergy is not required to conduct a funeral or memorial service. However, if a clergy member is desired, we can arrange for one if you do not already have a minister, as well as ensure the clergy understands your wishes.
If you decide not to have a member of the clergy conduct the service, you will need someone to act as master of ceremonies. Sometimes, a family friend can assume this responsibility. Our staff can also act in this capacity, as we have Certified Celebrants on staff.
Common Questions about Embalming
• What is the purpose of embalming?
Embalming sanitizes and preserves a body, slowing down the natural process of decomposition. It can enhance the appearance of a body if disfigured by traumatic death or illness. Embalming can make it possible to extend the time of a funeral service to allow travel time for out-of-town family and friends.
• Is embalming required by law?
With public visitations, embalming is often required by the mortuary. Only in special cases (for example, when death is caused by a contagious disease) is embalming required by law. It may be required if the deceased person will be transported by air to another country. The staff at Erlewein Mortuary will explain if the need for embalming exists with respect to each family's personal wishes.
Common Questions about the Cemetery
• What questions should I ask when purchasing a grave/burial plot?
A burial plot is the location where the deceased person will be laid to rest. Typically this is in a cemetery. There are many considerations when evaluating a plot. Here are just a few of the questions you might consider when selecting the best plot for your personal needs:
- How much is the grave/burial plot?
- Does the price include perpetual care and maintenance? "Perpetual Care" usually refers to fees that are collected with the sale of each interment space to maintain the
grounds, roads, and buildings of the cemetery.
- Are other plots available in the same location to provide for burial of my entire family?
- Do I want ground burial or mausoleum burial, and are both available?
- Does the plot meet the requirements of my religion?
- What restrictions are placed on burial vaults?
- Are the type of monuments and memorials at the cemetery restricted?
Many cemeteries have restrictions on monuments and memorials. They can also restrict the placement of flowers and remembrance items. At Erlewein Mortuary, we can help you understand these restrictions and help you choose the cemetery that best meets your personal needs.
• What is an outer burial container (vault) and is it required?
An outer burial container (vault) is a reinforced concrete wall that the casket is placed inside. It is used to prevent the grave from sinking or collapsing. Most cemeteries require a grave liner (a very basic outer burial container) as a minimum for burial. A burial vault is a more substantial option and usually costs more than a grave liner. A burial vault is normally sold with a warranty, whereas a grave liner is not warranted.
• How do I select a headstone, marker, or crypt?
You can be assured the staff at Erlewein Mortuaries will make designing and purchasing a memorial easier. We will ensure cemetery regulations are considered, foundations are properly installed, and a memorial reflecting your desires is delivered. For details on selecting a monument, marker, or crypt, visit our “What We Do” tab and click on “Headstones – A Permanent Memorialization”.
• Why is having a place to visit so important?
Having a place to visit is a time-honored tradition that provides a focal point for remembering the deceased person and a record for future generations. To remember, and be remembered, are natural human needs. Throughout human history, memorialization of the dead has been a key component of almost every culture.
The Washington Monument, Tomb of the Unknowns and Vietnam “Wall” in Washington, D.C are examples of memorialization, which demonstrate that, throughout our history, we have always honored our dead.
Psychologists say that remembrance practices, from the funeral or memorial service to permanent memorialization at a cemetery, serve an important emotional function for survivors by helping to bring closure and allowing the healing process to begin.
Common Questions about Cremation
• Does Erlewein Mortuary have its own crematory?
Yes. It is located at our Greenfield mortuary. In fact, it is the only crematory in Hancock County. Having our own crematory allows us to maintain strict standards on how a person's body is cared for, since they never leave our care.
• Does cremation take the place of a funeral?
Cremation is not a substitute for a funeral; it is an alternative to burial of the body and often follows a funeral service. In most cases where a person selects cremation as their final disposition, a visitation and funeral service still take place. Their body is cremated after the services. See “What can be done with cremated remains (ashes)?” for a list of various options.
If a direct cremation is selected, there is not a preceding funeral service or ceremony of any kind at the church, funeral home, or graveside.
Alternatively, a memorial service - in which the body is not present, but cremated remains (ashes) may be - can also serve the same purpose as a funeral. A memorial service can be a personalized, meaningful way to remember and honor your loved one. See “Common Questions about Funerals, Memorial Services, & Visitations” for more details.
• What exactly happens during cremation?
Erlewein Mortuary owns and operates the only crematory in Hancock County at our Greenfield location. This allows us to maintain control over every step of the process and ensure your loved one is cared for with dignity.
There are several things that happen during the cremation process.
- The body is placed in a casket or container.
- The casket or container is placed in the cremation chamber, where the temperature is raised to approximately 1400 degrees to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.
- After approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours, all organic matter is consumed by heat or evaporation. The remaining bone fragments are known as cremated remains.
- The cremated remains are then carefully removed from the cremation chamber. Any metal is removed with a magnet and disposed of in an approved manner.
- The cremated remains are then processed into fine particles, which are placed in a temporary container or a permanent urn. These fine particles are what most people refer to as the “ashes”.
- The entire process typically takes a minimum of three hours.
- Throughout the cremation process, a carefully controlled labeling system ensures correct identification.
• When, after death, can a cremation take place?
Because cremation is an irreversible process and because the process itself will eliminate any ability to determine exact cause of death, many states require that each cremation be authorized by the coroner or medical examiner.
In Indiana, 48 hours must elapse before cremation may take place and a signed death certificate, showing the cause of death, must be obtained before cremation can occur. Occasionally, the coroner will authorize cremation without the signed death certificate.
• Is embalming necessary for cremation?
No. In most cases, it is your choice. It may depend on such factors as whether the family opts to have a public viewing of the body, whether there is to be a funeral service, or whether there is refrigeration available. Embalming may also be necessary if the body is going to be transported by air or rail, or because of the length of time between the death and the cremation.
• Is a casket required with cremation?
No. For sanitary reasons, ease of placement and dignity, many crematories require that the deceased be cremated in a combustible, leak proof, rigid, covered container. This does not have to be a casket.
What is required is an enclosed, rigid, container made of wood or other combustible material to allow for the dignified handling of human remains.
The type of casket or container selected is really a personal decision. Caskets and containers are available in a wide variety of materials ranging from simple cardboard containers to beautifully handcrafted oak, maple or mahogany caskets.
At Erlewein Mortuary, you have a choice of very affordable cremation caskets that are completely combustible, including options from a simple pine or cloth-covered casket to a hardwood casket.
We also have beautiful cherry, oak, and pine rental caskets. After the visitation and funeral, the interior of these rental caskets is removed, along with the decedent's body, and becomes the combustible, leak proof, rigid, covered container required by the crematory. This is an affordable way to have a high-quality casket during the visitation and the funeral - without sending an expensive casket to the crematory.
Our staff will show you your options, so you can choose the casket or container that best suits your wishes and needs.
• What can be done with cremated remains (ashes)?
Your options are many and include being:
- interred in a cemetery plot (earth burial),
- placed inside a headstone at the cemetery,
- kept in an urn or multiple keepsake urns by family members,
- made into a lab-created, heirloom LifeGem® diamond,
- placed in jewelry to be worn by family members,
- scattered on private property – land or water – with the owner's permission,
- scattered at a place that was significant to the deceased.
Tip: Be sure to check for local regulations regarding scattering in a public place.
Some people choose more than one option. For example, you may choose to bury some of the cremated remains and keep some with you at home.
• What is a columbarium?
A columbarium, often located within a mausoleum, is constructed with numerous small compartments (niches) designed to hold urns containing cremated remains (ashes). They provide an alternative for those people who would like their ashes to be at a cemetery, but not buried.
• What are the disadvantages of scattering cremated remains (ashes)?
Some people choose to have their cremated remains scattered in a place that is meaningful to them. Be certain to think this through, as it can present difficulties for your survivors.
- Some people may find it hard to simply pour the mortal remains of a loved one out onto the ground or into water. If you wish to be scattered somewhere, it is therefore important to discuss your wishes ahead of time with the person or persons who will actually have to do the scattering.
- Another difficulty with scattering can occur when the remains are disposed of in an anonymous, unmarked or public place. Access to the area may be restricted for some reason in the future, undeveloped land may be developed, or any of a host of other conditions may arise that could make it difficult for your survivors to visit the site to remember you.
Even if your cremated remains are scattered in your backyard, what happens if your survivors relocate sometime in the future? Once scattered, cremated remains cannot be collected.
Having your remains placed, interred or scattered on a cemetery’s grounds ensures that future generations will have a place to go to remember. If remains are scattered somewhere outside the cemetery, many cemeteries will allow you to place a memorial of some type on the cemetery grounds, so survivors have a place to visit that will always be maintained and preserved – a place where your name will live on.
• If I am cremated, can I be buried with my spouse, even if he or she was in a casket?
Yes. Depending upon the cemetery's policy, you may be able to save a grave space by having the cremated remains buried on top of the casketed remains of your spouse, or utilize the space provided next to him/her. Many cemeteries allow for multiple cremated remains to be interred in a single grave space.
• Can the family witness the cremation?
Yes. Our state-of-the-art cremation facility is located at our Greenfield mortuary and is designed to allow family members to be present when the body is placed into the cremation chamber. In fact, some religious groups include this as part of their funeral custom.
Common Questions about Preplanning
• Why plan ahead?
Planning ahead – or preplanning – simply allows you the opportunity to put down on paper things you want your family to know…things like where you’d like to have your funeral, what songs you’d like played, or where your insurance policies are kept. We like to think of preplanning in three simple steps: collecting biographical information, selecting merchandise and services, and planning for the payment. For details on these three steps, visit our Why Should I Plan Ahead page,
Common Questions about Veteran’s Benefits
• What Veteran’s Benefits will my family receive?
Confused by veterans benefits? There's no need to worry. We have years of experience in coordinating benefits for the family of the deceased. We'll help identify available benefits and file the necessary paperwork to ensure you receive the benefits you're due – eliminating frustration and confusion.
Here’s a look at what County and Federal benefits you and your family may be entitled to receive:
- Burial in one of 114 National VA Cemeteries, including:
- Grave space
- Grave opening and closing fees
- Perpetual care
- Headstone, marker, or plaque (even if not buried in a National VA Cemetery)
- $100 county marker installation reimbursement (amount varies by county of residence)
- $100 county burial reimbursement (amount varies by county of residence)
- U.S. flag
- Presidential Memorial Certificates
- Federal burial reimbursement (only available in certain, limited circumstances)
- Plot allowance (only available in certain, limited circumstances)
The staff at Erlewein Mortuary will file for all veterans benefits for which your family qualifies---at no extra charge. We’ll complete the paperwork and, hopefully, make life a little easier for you.
• Important notes:
- VA does not pay the cost of placing the headstone or marker on the grave in a cemetery other than a National Cemetery.
- Spouses and minor children may also be eligible for burial in a National Cemetery.
- A headstone/marker will also be provided for the spouse and minor children if burial is in a National Cemetery.
• Other helpful VA information:
- Government Life Insurance Information
- For information on government life insurance, contact the VA Insurance Center at 1-800-669-8477. They are available from 8:00am to 6:30pm Eastern Time.
Add Your Loved One's Name to the National WWII Memorial Electronic Registry
Visit the WWII Memorial Website or call 800-639-4992.
Common Questions about Social Security
• How will I know which Social Security benefits my family will receive?
We'll provide you with a checklist that will help you gather information required by the Social Security Administration. We’ll also provide you with the telephone number and address where you can call or visit to get help determining and receiving your benefits. You may also visit www.ssa.gov anytime to find out more.
Common Questions about Traveling for Funerals
• Do airlines give discounts if I have to fly to a funeral?
Most major airlines offer reduced fares for funerals. Discounts range from 50% to 70% off full-fare price for a round-trip coach ticket. Some airlines offer the 7-day advance purchase price for tickets purchased at the last minute for a funeral. These discounts are typically limited to immediate family only, with some airlines extending this to clergy serving funerals, or life/domestic partners. Some proof (i.e., copy of death certificate, contact number for an attending physician, hospital, or funeral home) may be required to obtain reduced fares. Airlines usually require this proof at the time of reservation or at check-in. Before booking any air travel, be sure to check with your airline or travel agent for current information.
• Do hotels give discounts for a stay connected with a funeral?
Many of the hotels in Hancock County do give a bereavement rate. Contact us at (317)467-4918 or (317)485-5138 for a list of local hotels offering discounts.