Caring for your own at the time of death
With the interest in Green Burials and caring for our own in this town, we would like to share these guidelines on how to make the process as stress free as possible. The Wendell Cemetery Commission is sincerely committed to assisting you in a timely and respectful burial of your loved one When a funeral home is not involved, burial is time sensitive. It also leaves the family (who is coping with the loss of a loved one) with the legal documentation. Our Town Clerk can provide you with the necessary paperwork.
If the death is anticipated
Plan ahead: have as many of the difficult conversations before death is imminent. Figure out who will complete each task because the family and friends are responsible for all plans and paperwork.
- Purchase a cemetery lot.
- Think about timing and which family members or friends will take on which tasks.
When death becomes imminent
- Notify the town clerk of pending death and complete initial paperwork.
- Notify cemetery commission.
At the time of death
- Contact the health care provider (a medical professional who has been treating the person) A hospice nurse can pronounce death. The doctor will complete death certificate.
- Contact town clerk and complete paperwork.
- The town clerk can then issue a permit to transport (formerly burial permit).
- Notify cemetery commission.
- The permit to transport and grave opening fee should be presented to the cemetery commission at the time of interment.
If the death is not anticipated
- Call 911.
- The First responders will determine death and call the Medical Examiner.
- If the Medical examiner needs to examine the body a vehicle will be sent to pick it up. If it is not necessary the family should now notify the Town Clerk and Cemetery Commission as soon as possible.
Some funeral homes are now doing green burials but if the plan is to do it yourself the guidelines are the same with more details for green burial. A simple degradable box or shroud and a hole dug to four feet is usual.
Because feelings are deep and fragile at this time, it is important to have as much as possible done ahead of time. Have a check list and support system on hand to deal with the technical details.
Complete guidelines are available from the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Eastern Massachusetts.
A few words from the Town Clerk re: Green Burials
If you are planning on a green burial or otherwise choosing not to use a Funeral Director please let people know so we can all help with the process. Communicate – speak with the Cemetery Commission and the Town Clerk. Both have folders of information that should answer FAQ. Make sure you know how to reach town contacts at home and at work.
When your loved one dies, alert the associated medical persons (Hospice or Primary Care) ASAP; don’t wait until the morning. Write down the time of death.
Assign 1 family member to speak with the Town Clerk and Cemetery Commissioner about what happens next.
Ask questions if things are not clear. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
When asked to complete a worksheet or sign a form, make sure the hand writing is legible. Except for your “signature”, print clearly and use black ink if possible.
The death certificate is intended to state where and when death occurred and cause of death. In addition, the person’s age, birth date, address, marital status, veteran status, occupation, birth place, parent’s names, doctor’s name, and burial information is included.
The Cemetery Commission is responsible for all things related to the burial.
The Town Clerk is responsible for all things related to the Electronic Death Registration System or EDRS. The end result of completing all the requested Forms and Worksheets is a completed Death Certificate. You can expect to receive certified copies of the death certificate, as many copies as are needed by the family ($5/ea). An archival copy (special paper and ink) of the death certificate will become part of the permanent documents held in Wendell in the town vault. If at any time an additional copy of the death certificate is needed by the family, the Town Clerk can create a new certified copy from the permanent record. If in the future, the record cannot be found, the State will have the original and can mail you a copy for a fee. For help, contact the Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics at (617)740-2600.
List of documents you are most likely going to hear about or see
- Pronouncement of Death – completed by on site medical staff e.g. hospice nurse.
- Informant Worksheet – completed by family designee.
- Attestation Form – completed and signed by MD (provided by Town Clerk to MD).
- Medical Certifier Worksheet – completed and signed by MD.
- Informant Verification Form – reviewed by the Informant to confirm all the information is correct.
- Death Certificate – completed by Town Clerk. Note that any of the forms listed above that include details of the cause and time of death itself are often referred to as the death certificate. This can be confusing. Everything will work out all in due time.