Frequently Asked Questions

What to Do When Death Occurs

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

Bonney-Watson personnel are available to assist you at any hour, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call us anytime at (206) 242-1787, or call any of our locations for assistance.

Will someone come right away?

If you request immediate assistance, yes—someone will come right away. If your family wishes to spend a short time with the deceased to say good-bye, it's acceptable. Bonney-Watson staff will come when your time is right.

What should I do if the death is unexpected?

Call 911; the medical responders will help you through the next steps. When you are ready to call the funeral home, call Bonney-Watson at (206) 242-1787 any time, day or night.

What should I do if the death was expected?

If your loved one was receiving hospice care, call the hospice to let them know. Many hospice organizations provide support for you if your loved one dies at home. They may call us for you, or you can call Bonney-Watson directly at (206) 242-1787 any time.

What options do I have?

Burial is a traditional form of disposition. Bonney-Watson has a large, well-established cemetery in SeaTac. If you use Bonney-Watson for your arrangements, you are not required to choose burial with us. In addition, you may choose another funeral service provider to handle your arrangements, and have your loved one buried at Bonney-Watson Washington Memorial Park. You can also choose entombment in a crypt. Bonney-Watson offers a full range of above- and below-ground interment options, including a beautiful mausoleum.

Cremation is another popular option, particularly in the Puget Sound area. Cremated remains are held in an urn and either buried, placed in a memorial niche or columbarium, or kept at home. They can also be scattered; the State of Washington has laws which govern this practice.

Regardless of which option you choose, grief experts strongly encourage you to hold some type of funeral or memorial service to honor the memory of your loved one and to help you and others start the healing process.

If my loved one dies out of state, can Bonney-Watson help?

Yes, when death occurs away from home, Bonney-Watson can assist you with out-of-state arrangements. We can also organize transfer of the deceased back to Washington or another preferred location. Call us at (206) 242-1787 or any of our locations for assistance.


Funerals & Memorial Services

What is the purpose of a funeral or memorial service?

Funerals and memorial services play an important role for those mourning the loss of a loved one. At Bonney-Watson, we know that by giving surviving family members and friends a caring, supportive environment in which to share thoughts and feelings about the death, funerals and memorial services serve as a critical step in the healing process.

Regardless of whether your loved one is buried or cremated, the ritual of a funeral or memorial service offers many benefits:

  • Provides a social support system for the bereaved
  • Helps the bereaved understand that death is final and part of life
  • Integrates the bereaved back into the community
  • Eases the transition to a new life after the death of a loved one
  • Provides a safe haven for embracing and expressing pain
  • Reaffirms one's relationship with the person who died
  • Provides a time to say good-bye
  • Allows the bereaved to begin the healing process
I've never arranged a funeral or memorial service before. What do I need to know?

Nearly everyone needs to make or help make funeral arrangements at some point. This will not be an easy time, but we offer these tips for smart planning:

  • Be an informed consumer and ask questions.
  • Choose an independent funeral home like Bonney-Watson.
  • Make sure your funeral director is properly licensed.
  • Discuss all service and payment options.
  • Make sure you receive a copy of the funeral home's General Price List.
  • Be prepared; whenever possible, make decisions and organize details in advance of need.
  • Plan a personalized and meaningful ceremony to help you and others begin healing.
What do funeral directors do?

Bonney-Watson’s funeral directors are licensed professionals with specific education and training. They:

  • Make arrangements for the funeral or memorial service
  • Help you notify friends and family
  • Secure necessary permits and death certificates
  • Take care of the body
  • Coordinate all details with the clergy
  • Help arrange for burial or cremation
  • Notify your attorney if you need legal help
  • Help secure any benefits to which you may be entitled (such as life insurance)
  • Follow up after the funeral, helping you adjust to your loss
What type of funeral or memorial service should we plan?

Every family is different, and not everyone wants the same type of memorial service or funeral. Bonney-Watson is well-known for helping families make arrangements that meet their needs and celebrate their memories and culture. Practices are influenced by religious and cultural traditions, costs and personal preferences. These factors help determine whether the service will be elaborate or simple, public or private, religious or secular, and where it will be held. You may also choose whether the body will be present at the funeral, if there will be a viewing or visitation, and if so, whether the casket will be open or closed, and whether the remains will be buried or cremated.

Why do people have a public viewing of the body?

Viewing is 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.


Cremation

What is cremation?

Cremation is the process in which a body is reduced to bone fragments using high heat and flame.

Is a casket needed for cremation?

No, a casket is not required for cremation. All that is required in Washington State is an alternative container constructed of wood or cardboard, which is cremated with the body.

Is embalming required prior to cremation?

No. In fact, it is against the law for a funeral home to say or imply that it is.

Can the body be viewed without embalming?

Yes, Bonney-Watson allows immediate family members to view the deceased prior to cremation.

How can I be sure I receive the correct remains?

Bonney-Watson has developed rigorous sets of operating policies and procedures to maximize the level of service and minimize the potential for human error. In addition, we differentiate ourselves from other cremation providers because we have on-site crematory facilities. This means that your deceased family member never leaves our care, reducing chances for error. We also encourage families to personally inspect our crematory facilities, and we strictly adhere to a code of ethics that assures you of our commitment to dignity and honesty.

How long does the actual cremation take?

It depends on the weight of the individual. For an average size adult, cremation takes from two to three hours at normal operating temperature between 1,500 degrees to 2,000 degrees F.

What happens after the cremation is complete?

All organic bone fragments and non-consumed metal items are ‘swept’ into the back of the cremation chamber and into a stainless steel cooling pan. All non-consumed items, like metal from clothing, hip joints and bridge work are separated from the cremated remains. This separation is accomplished through visual inspection as well as using a strong magnet for smaller and minute metallic objects. Items such as dental gold and silver are non-recoverable and are commingled in with the cremated remains. Remaining bone fragments are then processed in a machine to a consistent size and placed into a temporary or permanent urn, selected by the family.

Can two cremations be performed at once?

Never. Not only is it illegal to do so, our modern cremation chambers are not of sufficient size to accommodate more than one adult. Thus it would be a practical impossibility to conduct multiple cremations simultaneously.

What do cremated remains look like?

Cremated remains resemble coarse sand and are whitish to light grey in color. The remains of an average size adult usually weigh between four and six pounds.

Will all of the cremated remains be returned to me?

With the exception of minute and microscopic particles, which are impossible to remove from the cremation chamber and processing machine, all of the cremated remains are given back to the family.

Do I need an urn?

An urn is not required by law. However, you may want an urn if you will be holding a memorial service or if the remains are to be interred in a cemetery. If an urn is not purchased through Bonney-Watson or provided by the family, the cremated remains will be returned in a temporary plastic container.

Can my family witness the cremation?

Yes, Bonney-Watson allows 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.

Is cremation accepted by all religions?

Today most religions allow cremation except for Orthodox Jewish, Islamic, Eastern Orthodox and a few Fundamentalist Christian faiths. The Catholic Church accepts cremation as long as it is not chosen for reasons which are contrary to Christian teachings.

May I bring an urn into church?

Nearly all Protestant Churches allow for the urn to be present during the memorial service. Most Catholic Churches also allow the cremated remains to be present during a Memorial Mass. In fact, if the family is planning on a memorial service, we encourage the cremated remains be present as it provides a focal point for the service.

What can I do with cremated remains?

You have many options available to you. Remains can be buried in a cemetery lot or cremation garden, inurned in a columbarium, kept at home, or scattered.

In the State of Washington, you may scatter cremated remains on:

  • National parks, after receiving permission from the Chief Park Ranger.
  • State trust uplands, after receiving permission from the regional manager. However, scattering by commercial scattering services isn’t permitted.
  • Public navigable waters under state control, including Puget Sound, the Pacific Ocean within the 3-mile limit, rivers, streams, and lakes.
  • The Pacific Ocean beyond the three-mile limit. These scatterings must be reported within 30 days to the Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10, 1200 Sixth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101.
  • Private land, with the permission of the land owner.
Do people choose cremation only to save money?

While some people select cremation for its economy, many choose this option for other reasons. The simplicity and dignity of cremation, environmental concerns, and the flexibility cremation offers in memorial service planning and final disposition all add to its increasing popularity.

Don't most funeral homes have a crematory?

No; most funeral homes subcontract this delicate procedure out to a third-party provider in another location where the funeral home has little or no control over the crematory's operating procedures. By contrast, Bonney-Watson operates our own cremation facilities, on Capitol Hill and at SeaTac.


Embalming

What is the purpose of embalming?

Embalming is the funeral custom of cleansing and disinfecting bodies after death. As far back as the ancient Egyptians, people have used oils, herbs and special body preparations to help preserve the bodies of their dead. Yet no process or products have been devised to preserve a body in the grave indefinitely, and the Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule prohibits funeral providers from telling consumers that it can be done. For example, funeral providers may not claim that either embalming or a particular type of casket will preserve the body of the deceased for an unlimited time.

 

Embalming is most often done by using chemical substances. We use embalming today for two primary reasons—to allow adequate time between death and burial to observe social customs such as visitations and funeral services, and to prevent the spread of infection. Cosmetic work is often used for aesthetic reasons.

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

In the State of Washington, embalming isn’t required, but all human remains must be either embalmed or refrigerated upon receipt unless disposition of the body has been made. Remains cannot be embalmed without authorization from a family member or representative of the deceased. If refrigerated, human remains may only be removed from refrigeration for 24 hours or less to perform various activities (washing, anointing, clothing, praying over, etc.). Otherwise, the remains must remain in refrigeration until final disposition or transport.

Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing. If you do not want embalming, you have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require you to pay for it, such as direct cremation or immediate burial.


Cemetery

Why do I need a cemetery?

Throughout history, burial grounds have provided a place for survivors to visit, to reflect, to remember and to heal. The magnitude of a death and the massive dislocation of relationships that can occur are too much of a burden for most people to absorb at one time. Periodic visits to a cemetery, over the months or years that it takes to adjust to a loss, assist many survivors to return to a life now lived without the deceased.

In the State of Washington, it is a misdemeanor to bury any human remains anywhere except inside a licensed cemetery like Bonney-Watson’s or a building dedicated exclusively for religious purposes.

Do I need to use Bonney-Watson's cemetery?

No, you do not need to use our cemetery. Bonney-Watson has a large, well-established cemetery in SeaTac. We offer a full range of above- and below-ground interment options as well as a columbarium, a beautiful mausoleum and several niches and memorial gardens, along with a designated Veteran’s section.

However, if you use Bonney-Watson for your arrangements, you do not have to choose burial with us. In addition, you may choose another funeral service provider to handle your arrangements, and have your loved one interred at Bonney-Watson Washington Memorial Park. It’s your choice.

Is burial space becoming scarce in the Puget Sound area?

While it is true some other areas of the country have limited available cemetery space, there is plenty of space for entombment and grave burial in the Puget Sound area.

At Bonney-Watson Washington Memorial Park, our first burial took place in 1931. Since then, we’ve been privileged to handle placements of about 40,000 people. Through proper planning, we have room to serve families for the next 100 years.


Advanced Planning

What are the benefits of pre-arranging a funeral or memorial service for myself or a family member?

There are many benefits. Some people choose to plan ahead because they want to spare their family members from having to make decisions during a stressful time; easing the burden during their time of grief. Others have a definite preference concerning their funeral service, and they want their families to be informed and involved in those decisions.

Many people pre-arrange because they like the peace of mind knowing there will be adequate funds to cover funeral expenses. Pre-payment can provide real benefits when you are applying for Medicaid. Bonney-Watson can provide details.

Most importantly, pre-arrangement allows you the time to make rational decisions without the usual urgencies when death takes place.

What steps are involved?

Once you determine your funeral preferences, a Bonney-Watson staff person will talk to you about your options and guide you in establishing your own plans. You should find the advice of your family, clergy, and your funeral director especially helpful when considering the options. We will then record certain vital information and gather documents for the required forms.

Next, you can select a casket, burial vault, urn or other merchandise associated with the service you choose. Finally, you may pay for the services and merchandise ahead of time through our funding program.

How are sales regulated in the State of Washington?

Bonney-Watson is licensed to sell prearrangement funeral service and cemetery contracts by the Washington State Department of Licensing. When you purchase a contract, we are required to deposit or invest a percentage of the money you pay in an insured account to protect your investment. In addition, the State monitors the status of our prearrangement trust funds.

What will the pre-arranged funeral service cost?

The cost is a matter of your choice. You are able to decide on the types of services and merchandise. Once details have been finalized, your Bonney-Watson funeral director will prepare an agreement and fully itemized statement for your review, and detail your choices for payment.

How is advanced planning handled?

A Bonney-Watson staff member will meet with you at a time and location that is convenient, and help you record your wishes. You choose everything you want for your funeral: the type of funeral or memorial service, casket, burial vault, urn, music, and flowers. There is absolutely no pressure; the decisions will be all yours. We will also help you record important obituary information. Once you have made your selections, you will learn the payment options available to you. A record of your selections will be kept on file at Bonney-Watson until needed.

How does advanced planning work if my loved one is on Medicaid?

Under the Federal Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid guidelines of the State of Washington, an irrevocable trust may be established if you are now, or expect to be in the near future, on public assistance. This means you may set any sum of money aside for your funeral, provided the money is specifically set aside for that purpose and can be supported with a list of selected services.

What are the benefits of prepaying for a service prior to your eligibility for SSI or Medicaid?

Prepaying allows you to pay for the funeral of your choice before assets are used up for medical care and before assets are reduced to SSI or Medicaid eligibility levels.


Funeral and Memorial Service Etiquette

Do I need to be invited to a funeral or memorial service?

A funeral or memorial service is typically open to anyone, unless the family requests that it be a private ceremony.

Do I have to wear black?

No, wearing colorful clothing is no longer inappropriate for relatives and friends. Most people choose formal clothes like a suit, and men normally wear a tie.

May I bring a cell phone?

All cell phones should be turned off or switched to silent mode before entering the service, or before participating in any type of graveside ceremony.

Can children go to a funeral?

Yes, but toddlers and babies can be disruptive, especially if it’s a long service, so be prepared to take your child outside if he or she becomes noisy. You can take older children if they want to go. It’s a good idea to prepare them beforehand so they know what to expect.

Do I send flowers or gifts?

It is completely up to you and depends on the closeness of your relationship with the family or the deceased. You can send flowers to the funeral home prior to the funeral or to the family residence at any time. Florists know what is appropriate to send in the funeral context.

Gifts in memory of the deceased are often made, particularly when the family has requested gifts in lieu of flowers. The family is notified of the gifts by personal note from the charity or other organization. If you like, you may send the family a note to let them know of your gift.

Even if you don’t make a gift or send flowers, it is entirely appropriate to send a note or card to the deceased person’s family expressing your sympathy, especially if you weren’t able to attend the service.

What do I do when I arrive at the service?

When you arrive, quietly take a seat if the service is being held in a church or chapel. The first few rows are usually reserved for the immediate family and the casket bearers. There may be an opportunity during the service for you to share some words about the deceased. If the ceremony is being held at the interment site, seating is usually only available for the immediate family. Other attendees should plan to stand.

Do I approach the casket? If so, what do I do?

The decision of whether or not to approach the casket is a very individual one. It is not required or considered rude if you decide against it. Many people find that viewing the deceased helps them accept the loss and move on. If you decide to approach the casket, use that time to say your good-byes and pay your respects. Keep in mind that there are often long lines to follow and everyone deserves their moment with the deceased.

Who travels with the funeral procession?

When the funeral ceremony and the burial are both held within the local area, it is appropriate for friends and relatives to accompany the family to the cemetery.

What happens at the cemetery?

The casket is normally placed beside the grave, before all the mourners gather at the gravesite. People then gather around the casket to listen to the rites of burial given by the clergy. Following the clergy's remarks, family members may place a flower on the casket. In many cases, the funeral director will provide flowers for each mourner. Attendees should follow the family in placing flowers.

What should I say?

No matter what means you use to express your sympathy, it is important to clearly identify yourself to the family and remind them of your relationship to the deceased. In addition to expressing sympathy, it is appropriate, if desired, to relate to family members your fond memories of their loved one. In some cases, family members may simply want you to be a good listener to their expressions of grief or memories of the deceased. In most circumstances it is not appropriate to inquire as to the cause or details of death. When in person, sympathy should be expressed by clasping hands, an embrace, or a simple statement of condolence like: “My sympathy to you;” “It was good to know John;” “John was well-respected at work and a fine person. He will be missed;” “My sympathy to you and your mother” or similar expressions.

How can I help my friend through this tough time?

One of the best ways you can help your friend is to allow him or her to feel what they want to feel. They may feel anger, guilt or fear. Let them talk these feelings through with you — don’t try to stop them because you think they are irrational. Listen and be available; grief is rarely convenient.

You can offer friendship and someone to talk to at a time when they need it most. There is often the assumption that family grief is private and that you may be intruding. But many people live far away from their family and would appreciate your help with practical things like preparing a meal or taking children to school.

How often should I stay in touch?

Remember that grief doesn't go away in a few short weeks. Even one year may not be long enough to adjust to changes in your life. So, a friend who calls in three, six or 12 months may be one of the few who still asks how things are going. Special days like birthdays, anniversaries or Christmas may be just the time to pick up the phone and say, "I was thinking of you today."


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