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After these Frequently-Asked Questions (FAQ), you will also find a GLOSSARY of terms that may help you. Our goal is to help provide the best information on death, dying, and bereavement.

What purpose does a funeral serve?

The funeral service serves a number of important purposes. The service:
  • Helps confirm the reality and finality of death
  • Provides a climate for mourning and the expression of grief
  • Allows the sorrows of one to become the sorrows of many
  • Is one of the few times love is given and not expected in return
  • Is a vehicle for the community to pay its respects while encouraging the affirmation of religious faith
  • Celebrates a life that has been lived
  • Serves as a sociological statement that a death has occurred

In other words, a funeral helps to meet basic needs by providing a means for the bereaved to be with people and greet friends and relatives. It is the time when the community, family and friends gather to express sympathy and support. For all people, it is a moment of honest expression of feelings.

It is the customary way to recognize death and its finality. Funerals are recognized rituals for the living to show respect for the dead and to help survivors begin the grief process.

What do funeral directors do?

Funeral directors help to meet needs of families by providing service to the living. The funeral director gives direction to disorganization and demonstrates compassion and the ability to be receptive to grief. In short, the funeral director is the facilitator and organizer.

Also, funeral directors are caregivers and administrators. As a caregiver, the funeral directors are listeners, advisors and supporters. They have experience assisting the bereaved in coping with death. Funeral directors are trained to answer questions about grief, recognize when a person is having difficulty coping, and recommend sources of professional help. As administrators, the funeral directors make the arrangements for transportation of the body, complete all necessary paperwork, and implement the choices made by the family regarding the funeral and final disposition of their loved one. Funeral directors also link survivors with support groups at the funeral home or in their community.   

Funeral directors also understand the needs of the person(s) they serve. For example, the year in which we are born has an enormous effect on the way we think, the way we view the world, and the way we live. Each generation of people has its own characteristics. The funeral director is aware of that fact and strives to serve the needs of each person. It is useful to acknowledge the characteristics of the different age groups, from the pre-World War II to Baby Boomers generations, and beyond. 

Funeral directors are recognized professionals that have met the rigorous standards of education and training that are necessary to earn a Funeral Service license.  As professionals, we maintain affiliations with trusted funeral organizations such as The National Funeral Directors Association, The Order of the Golden Rule and Selected Independent Funeral Directors.

Why have a public viewing?

Public viewing of the deceased is a part of many cultural and ethnic traditions. Many grief specialists believe that viewing aids the grief process by helping the bereaved recognize the reality of death. A public viewing allows people of the community to show their concerns to the family and respect to the deceased. It also gives an opportunity for tributes to be made on the life of the deceased.

For honest confrontation of the reality of death, it is necessary for the mourners to see the deceased person, or a symbol of the deceased person, (in cases where it is impossible to view the body) which represents the reality of death. By seeing and/or touching the deceased, the mourners have the necessary visual and physical opportunity needed to verify the reality and truth of death. In cases where the deceased is lost forever and there is no chance to establish the reality of death, the risk of complicated bereavement exists.

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming is necessary to sanitize and preserve human remains to render them safe for handling while retaining naturalness of tissue for funeral viewing purposes.

It retards the decomposition process, and enhances the appearance of a body disfigured by traumatic death or illness. Embalming makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, thus allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service most comforting to them.

In today’s society, embalming continues to serve a practical use and maintain its aesthetic value in that it renders the body inoffensive and makes it presentable. Its purpose in making the body presentable is not to create an illusion, but to create the remembered perceptual body image. It also serves as an emotional buffer when the bereaved encounter a traumatic mode of death. The reality of traumatic death may be too burdensome a sight for the bereaved. The process of embalming aids in the restoration of the person. This is done not to mask reality, but to give the bereaved a body image that their perceptual pattern of recognition remembers and that is manageable.

The embalmed body affords every valid opportunity for survivors to be able to establish the reality of death. There exists no documentation of an inherent need for a bereaved person to be faced with the graphic, visual details of a traumatic death. The reality of death is established by utilizing the restored remembered body image through funeral rites. The bereaved must know the truth of death, and by using the values of embalming and restorative art, this truth is established in a more gentle and professional manner.

The average American family moves once every four years. Thus, humans and their significant relationships are scattered about the nation and about the globe. Human remains are transported daily for consignment “back home.” For sanitation and health measures, it takes time to arrange the necessary burial and transportation. Embalming offers our culture the time and assurance that the remembered body image will temporarily remain intact while arrangements are made and/or transportation for the body is complete.

Embalming practices continue to reflect the technology of the age. In ancient times, people used herbs and spices to maintain a type of odor control and primitive preservation. Today our basic intent is the same, but instead of herbs and spices we use sophisticated chemicals that have been developed by educated chemists. Early embalmers contended with lengthy and hazardous embalming procedures. Today the embalming process is more efficient and sophisticated simply because of technology.

To summarize, embalming provides an efficient and secure manner of restoring the dead body while affording family and friends the time to adjust to the loss, conduct ceremonies of remembrance, and decently care for their dead. Embalming has been accepted as the most practical manner of treatment of the dead.

Does a dead body have to be embalmed, according to law?

No. There is no law that requires embalming. However, most states require embalming when death was caused by a reportable contagious disease or when remains are to be transported from one state to another by common carrier or if final disposition is not to be made within a prescribed number of hours.

Is cremation a substitute for a funeral?

No. There are several methods of disposition of a deceased person and cremation is one of those ways. Cremation is an alternative to earth burial or entombment for the body's final disposition and often follows a traditional funeral service. In fact, according to the Cremation Association of North America ( figures for 1998, cremation occurred in 23.7% of deaths. Cremation may be traditional cremation with a viewing and ceremony or a direct cremation.

How much does a funeral cost?

In 2001, the average charge for an adult, full-service funeral was $6,642. This typically includes charges for a professional service, transfer-of remains, embalming, other preparation, use of facilities for viewing, use of facilities for ceremony, hearse, limousine, and casket. The casket typically included in this price is an 18-gauge steel casket with velvet interior which may or may not be the most common casket chosen. Vault, cemetery and monument charges are additional. (Source: The American Funeral Director for June 2002)  All funeral homes are required to provide General Price Lists upon request.  The General Price List provides detailed current pricing on all available services provided by the funeral home.  Advance funeral and cremation planning is a beneficial way to protect your family against escalating funeral costs. 

How does one pay for the funeral expense?

You may pay with CASH or Certified Check, which is the preferred way. Credit Cards, such as Discover, VISA or MasterCard are accepted. You may use life insurance assignments directly to the funeral home.  We will gladly assist you in the filing of these claims on your behalf.  You will simply need to provide the policies and sign the necessary assignment-of-beneficiary forms for us to accomplish this.

Henry Funeral Home also accepts funding vehicles, such as Atlantic Coast Life, Horizon Burial Trust, Shenandoah Life, or “Forethought” where you make arrangements in advance for a funeral service, take out funeral expense insurance, and at the time of death use the insurance to pay the funeral expense. Another funding vehicle is the "Trust", where you pay on installments and if at the time of death, the full amount of the pre-arrangement has not been paid, then the balance is due and must be paid.

Under certain situations, Social Security (, Veteran Administration (VA) (, or fraternal organizations may pay part of the funeral expense.

For more information about advance planning, please see the pre-arrangement section of our web site or contact one of our funeral directors at 885-7211.  

Can I transfer my current pre-arranged funeral to Henry Funeral Home?

Yes.  If you have an existing funeral plan with another funeral home, whether in Virginia or in another state, we will gladly prepare the necessary documents and make all contacts on your behalf to accommodate this for you.

Who pays for funerals for the indigent?

Other than the family, there are veteran, union, and other organizations' benefits to help pay for funerals. In most states, some form of public aid allowances are available from state, county, or city or a combination. Most funeral directors are aware of the various benefits and know how to obtain them for the indigent. However, the funeral home often absorbs costs above and beyond what is provided by agencies to insure the deceased a respectable burial.  Our funeral directors will advise on your options for available financial assistance.

What should I do if a death occurs in the middle of the night or on a weekend?

Just call our funeral home. At Henry Funeral Home, one of our six licensed funeral directors is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We may be reached by telephone at (540)-885-7211.

Will someone come right away?

If you request immediate assistance, yes. If the family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good-bye, we will wait until you are ready. Someone from the funeral home will come when the time is right.

If a loved one dies out of state, can the local Funeral Home still help?

Yes, we can assist you with out-of-state arrangements, either to transfer the remains to or from another state. We can also provide forwarding services to or receiving services from other funeral homes.  As a member of the Order of the Golden Rule and Select Independent Funeral Homes, we are networked with countless other select independent funeral homes that maintain the same high standards of service as we do.

I've decided on cremation; can I still have a funeral or a viewing?

Yes.  All of the traditional elements of a funeral service are still available to you when you decide on cremation. (Visitation/Viewing, Casket selection, Pallbearers, Chapel/Church Funeral, Clothing selection, Reception) Your options are: you may have a direct cremation, i.e., removal from place of death to the crematory; you may cremate and then have a memorial service; or you may have the traditional funeral service and then cremate. At Henry Funeral Home, we can assist you with the further information regarding these options.

What do I need to bring to the funeral home when making arrangements?

No one knows exactly how to plan for death or exactly what do when a death occurs. So it is natural for families to have many questions. At Henry Funeral Home we take great pride in being the people to ask…when you don’t know who to ask. Below is a list of important items to consider in preparing for the funeral service
Funeral Arrangement – Be prepared to discuss the following items for the funeral service:

  • Information for the death notice (biographical and vital statistics)
  • Funeral Program (and photos)
  • Flowers (casket spray, etc.)
  • Church or Chapel location for service
  • Minister(s)
  • Casket and Burial Vault selection
  • Organist, Pianist, or other Special Music
  • Pallbearers (Active and/or Honorary)
  • Information for the death certificate

Some of the information required on the death certificate is often rather difficult to obtain. Each family should have a record of such facts as full name and residence of the deceased; length of residence in locality; nationality; occupation; Social Security number; military service record; if married, widowed or divorced; name of husband or wife; date and place of birth; name and birthplace of father; maiden name and birthplace of mother; place and date of interment.

Cemetery Arrangement  
Cemetery arrangements are separate transactions between the family and the cemetery facility and involve the procurement of the burial space and payment for the opening and closing of the grave. The family often must also make contact 48 hours prior to burial to complete arrangements for interment. 

  • The funeral director is familiar with all area cemeteries and can provide you with a sheet of phone numbers to most local cemeteries and advise you on anticipated cemetery costs
  • In the case of military cemetery or local church cemetery, the funeral home will make all of the necessary arrangements for interment.

Military Arrangement  the requirements for veterans wishing to use National Cemeteries are as follows:

Insurance Policies  Life insurance policies may be used to settle the charges associated with the funeral. We will call the insurance company for verification that the policy submitted is active. Most life insurance companies require the following to process the claim:

  • Assignment signed by the beneficiary for proceeds
  • Copy of the certified death certificate (family to provide)
  • Original policy or lost policy statement
  • Copy of the funeral statement of goods


Since arranging a funeral is done so seldom in one’s lifetime, people can be unaware of many of the terms used in the funeral ceremony and industry. Henry Funeral Home is providing this glossary to promote a better understanding and provide the knowledge necessary for you to make informed decisions regarding all aspects of funeral service. If we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone (540) 885-7211, or by email:

Alternative container: A container which does not meet the standards of a burial casket and is used to hold human remains for cremation. It is usually made of heavy cardboard or chipboard.
Apportionment: Dividing cremated remains into portions for separate disposition. For example, a set of cremated remains could be divided into three portions, with one portion placed in an urn in a columbarium, another portion scattered in a favorite place, and yet another carried in a locket.
Arrangement Conference: The meeting at the funeral home when funeral arrangements are made.
Arrangement Room: The funeral home room used by family members and the funeral director to make arrangements for the funeral service.
Ashes: See cremated remains.
Burial: Also interment. Placing human remains in a grave in the earth or in an underground tomb.
Burial Case: See Casket.
Burial Permit (or certificate): Legal permission from local authorities for the burial to occur. It may also authorize cremation or removal of the remains to a distant place.
Burial Garments: Clothing made especially for the dead.
Burial Insurance: See funeral insurance.
Canopy: A portable canvas shelter used to cover the grave area during a burial. Also called a tent.
Casket: Also called a burial case. A container made from wood, metal or plastic into which a body is placed for burial.
Casket coach: See Funeral coach.
Catafalque: A stand for holding the casket in state during visitation and the funeral service.
Cenotaph: An empty tomb, monument or plaque erected in memory of a person whose remains lie elsewhere.
Certified Death Certificate: A legal copy of the original death certificate, issued by local authorities at the request of family members, for the purposes of substantiating claims for insurance etc.  These copies of the original often contain the signature and embossed seal of the local authority.
Chapel: A large room in a funeral home dedicated to holding funeral services.
Coffin: An English-style, wedge-shaped casket, usually with 6 sides.
Columbarium: A building or part of a building containing niches designed to hold and memorialize cremated remains.
Committal service: The final part of a funeral service during which the remains are buried or entombed.
Cortege: See Funeral Procession.
Cosmetology: Using cosmetics to restore a lifelike appearance to the deceased. Usually done when there will be visitation.
Cremated Remains: Also called ashes. The portion of a body remaining after cremation. For an adult this is about 6-8 pounds of bone fragments.
Cremation: Reduction of the body to cremated remains by fire or intense heat.
Cremation Permit: A certificate issued by the local authority authorizing cremation of the deceased.
Crematory: A specially-designed furnace for cremating human remains, or a building housing such a furnace.
Crypt: Vault or room used for keeping remains.
Death Certificate: A legal document signed by a physician showing cause of death and other information about the deceased.
Death Notice: A paragraph in the relevant section of the newspaper informing people of a person's death and giving those funeral details the survivors wish published. Most list the names of the deceased person's close relatives.
Deceased: (1) To be dead. (2) The dead person.
Disinter: Also Exhume. To dig up the remains from the burial place. This may occur when a family wishes to re-bury the remains in a family plot or move them to another cemetery.
Display room: The room in a funeral home or cemetery where caskets, urns, memorial plaques and other funeral and memorial related materials are displayed.
Door Badge: A floral arrangement placed on a door of a residence to announce that a death has occurred.
Embalming: The surgical procedure whereby the arteries, veins and body cavities of the deceased are injected with antiseptic and preservative chemicals to delay the process of putrefaction.  The embalmer will set the facial features in a natural and peaceful way.  Other embalming procedures include surface applications and surgical restoration.
Entombment: Placing the body in a tomb.
Exhume: See Disinter.
Family Car: A limousine used by immediate family in the funeral procession.
Family Room: A room in the funeral home where the family can have privacy at the time of the funeral.
Flower Car: Vehicle used to transport flowers from the funeral home to the church and/or cemetery.
Final Disposition: The last process the remains go through, for example burial, cremation, burial of cremated remains.
Final Rites: The funeral service.
First Call: The funeral director's first visit to the place of death in order to remove the remains and obtain any information which is needed immediately.
Funeral Coach: Also casket coach or hearse. Motor vehicle designed to convey the casket from the funeral service to the place of burial in the cemetery.
Funeral Arrangements: A conference between the deceased's family and the ~funeral director where the details of the funeral and relevant finances are finalized.
Funeral Director: Also mortician, undertaker. A trained and certified professional who arranges and supervises the burial or cremation of human remains.  The funeral director coordinates the rites and ceremonies that have been arranged with the next of kin.
Funeral Home: A building used for embalming or otherwise preparing human remains for final disposition and for arranging and conducting funeral services.
Funeral Insurance: Also burial insurance. An insurance policy, normally written for a small amount, which provides money for a funeral upon the death of the person insured.
Funeral Procession: A procession, usually in motor vehicles, from the church or chapel to the cemetery.
Funeral Service: Also final rites. The rites conducted immediately before final disposition of the dead body.
Funeral Spray: A floral tribute sent in memory of the deceased to their residence or to the funeral.
Funeral Trust: See Prearranged funeral trust.
Grave: A hole excavated in the ground for the purposes of burial.
Grave Liner: An unlined receptacle made of concrete, metal, plastic or wood used to line the grave to protect the remains and to prevent the grave from collapsing.  These grave boxes are usually bored with holes in the bottom to allow water to flow through freely.
Grave Marker: See Memorial marker.
Hearse: See Casket coach.
Honorary Pallbearers: Friends, or members of a religious, social, fraternal or military organization, who act as an honor guard or escort for the deceased. They do not carry the casket.
In state: See Viewing.
Inquest: An official inquiry, sometimes before a jury, to determine the cause of death.
Inter: To bury in a grave or tomb.
Interment: See Burial.
Inurnment: The burial of an urn containing cremated remains.
Lead Car: The car leading the funeral procession.
Mausoleum: A building containing above-ground tombs or crypts.
Memorial Marker: A marker used to identify a grave, crypt, urn placement site or other place of final disposition. Permanent markers are usually of metal or stone and give the name of the deceased, their dates of birth and death, and sometimes a sentimental message.
Memorial Service: A service conducted in memory of the deceased when the remains are not present.
Minister's Room: A room in the funeral home set aside for the use of the clergy person or officiant before and after a funeral service.
Morgue: A place where human remains are kept pending autopsy or identification.
Mortician: See Funeral director.
Mortuary: See Funeral home.
Mourner: Someone who is present at the funeral out of love and/or respect for the deceased.
Niche: A hollow space in a wall made for placing urns. It may be indoors or outdoors.
Niche Garden: An outdoor garden containing structures with niches.
Obituary: A notice, usually in the newspaper, containing biographical details of the deceased.

Pall: A cover for a coffin, bier, or tomb, often made of black, purple, or white velvet or fine linen.

Pallbearers: Those who physically carry (or bear the weight of) the casket during a funeral service. They are usually friends and relatives.
Plot: A privately-owned piece of ground in a cemetery which contains two or more grave sites.
Prearranged Funeral: A funeral which has been arranged and paid for before the person's death.
Prearranged Funeral Trust: A trust fund where money for prearranged funerals is held until needed. In most States trusts are established under State law and/or supervision.
Preparation Room: A specially-designed room in the funeral home equipped for preparing the deceased for final disposition.
Procession: See Funeral procession.
Register: A book containing details about the deceased and the funeral service which can be signed by all those attending. It is then given to the immediate family.
Remains: The dead body of the deceased person.
Reposing Room: See Visitation room.
Service Car: A vehicle belonging to the funeral home or cemetery and used to transport chairs, flower stands, etc.
Slumber Room: A room containing a bed on which the deceased lies until being placed in a casket. In some cases the deceased my lie in state in the slumber room.
Survivors: Those who have outlived the deceased, especially family members.
Tent: See canopy.
Tomb: A chamber excavated from earth or rock specifically for receiving human remains.
Transit Permit: A permit issued by a local authority allowing a body to be transported to the place of burial or cremation.
Undertaker: See Funeral director.
Urn: A container, usually of metal, wood or porcelain, into which cremated remains are permanently placed.
Urn Garden: A garden containing urn burial sites and frequently niches also.
Urn Placement: Permanent placing of an urn into a niche or urn burial site.
A burial vault is a lined and sealed outer receptacle that houses the casket. It protects the casket from the weight of the earth and heavy maintenance equipment that will pass over the grave. It also helps resist water and preserves the beauty of the cemetery or memorial park by preventing the ground from settling.  A grave box (see Grave Liner), often mistakenly called a vault, is the most basic burial container.
Viewing: Making the deceased available to be visited and seen by relatives and friends before or after the funeral service.
Vigil: A Roman Catholic religious service held on the eve of the funeral service.
Visitation: An opportunity for family and friends to view the deceased before the funeral service.  This is commonly referred to as "family night".
Visitation Room: A room in a funeral home where the body lies in state before the funeral service so that people may view the deceased and spend time with other survivors.
Wake:(1) A watch kept over the deceased the night before the funeral service. (2) Social activities such as feasting and dancing associated with some funeral traditions.