The Tradition of the Spanish Funeral

Fast interment, above ground niches, remaining close to the body

Different countries have different funeral traditions. The Spanish funeral focuses, among other things, on a rapid burial or interment.

Crowds mourn at the death of a bullfighter


Many deaths in Spain occur in the home. The sick person’s loved ones usually start to prepare for the death a few weeks or a few days before it’s expected to occur. The first step is offering communion or last rights to the dying person.

When death takes place, the family calls the local police, or “Policia Local.” The police or the family then contacts the dead person’s physician. The family then chooses the funeral director, sometimes with the assistance of the police.

The funeral director takes over and makes all the arrangements so that the family will not need to undergo any additional stress. Autopsies only occur when the cause of death is unclear.

The funeral director then arranges the transfer of the body to the “tanatorio or “chapel of rest.” The funeral director, family or police register the death within 24 hours at the civil agency. Interment or burial generally takes place within 24 hours as well, and no more than 48 hours after death.

The loved ones of the person who has died usually learn of the death by word of mouth, rather than reading an obituary. Because the funeral occurs so quickly after death, an obituary usually doesn’t have time to run before the burial.

After the body reaches the “tanatorio,” it is typically placed in a coffin behind a glass casing. Curtains are available for those who do not want to view their loved one.

Members of the family stay with the body until the funeral. Sometimes only one person, such as a spouse or a friend, sits vigil. Other times several people who were close to the person who died sit together or take turns.

A simple procession after a death due to flu


The body is then moved from the chapel of rest to the cemetery when it is time for the funeral. Family and well-wishers often walk behind the casket as a sign of respect.

Cremation is not common during Spanish funerals. The usual method of disposition is interment in an above ground family niche. Families rent these niches for a set period of time. When that time expires, the body is moved to a common burial ground unless there are family members who wish to rent the niche again.

Dress for a visitation generally consists of dark colors and an outfit that is not overly formal, flashy or showy. After the funeral, the families have two choices. Some Spanish funerals hold wakes with drinks and story-telling. Other families find these wakes offensive and prefer to return home directly after the funeral.

Nine days after the death, the family holds a ceremony known as a “rosario.” It consists of candles, flowers, prayers and sharing memories of the person who has died. The rosario also takes place every year on the anniversary of the person’s death.

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Study Finds Sticker Shock with Newspaper Obituary Prices

More families are avoiding high newspaper obituary costs
A stack of newspapers open to the obituary section sitting on a table


If a close loved one died, would you buy space for an obituary in your local newspaper? A recent study found that 88 percent of respondents would. However, many of these same respondents were surprised to find out just how much an obituary costs. asked more than 1,000 people whether they would buy an obituary for a loved one. They also asked them what price they would be willing to pay for this service. The researchers discovered that interest in obituaries is high, yet few people choose to purchase space after they find out how much it costs.

The cost of an obituary depends on the format and the location of the newspaper. The more text and photos you include in an obituary, the more it costs. It also costs more to place an obituary in a major metropolitan newspaper compared to a local paper with a smaller readership.

Generally, small newspapers either won’t charge for an obituary at all, or will charge a flat rate of less than $50. By comparison, larger newspapers charge anywhere from $88 to $100 per inch. The San Francisco Chronicle typically charges $86 per inch and adds a $170 fee for photos. All told, if you were to place a 3-inch death notice in the Chronicle with one photo included, you would pay about $428 for the obituary. These costs also depend on how long you want your notice to run.

The greatest discrepancy in cost expectations and real pricing comes from national newspapers and papers from cities with high populations. Due to the size of the readership and limited space availability in the obituary section, even short obituaries cost much more than most people expect. If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you will pay much more for an obituary than someone living in a small town in Kansas, because print space in the Bay Area is more sought-after and limited.

The obituary section of a newspaper, with a notice of death written inside


However, this recent study found an alternative for families who aren’t willing to drop hundreds of dollars on an obituary. Online-only obituaries cost an average of 70 to 80 percent of what a print notice costs. And this can amount to hundreds of dollars in savings. Researchers also found that online notices were much closer to buyer expectations.

In addition, a newspaper’s online obituary section isn’t as limited on space as the print edition. This means that you can run your notice longer than you would with a print version. You can also easily share the notice with family living abroad. And more people are likely to see it online.

The people in this study varied in age and came from diverse backgrounds, yet the majority believed that obituaries were an essential part of the end-of-life process. Now that affordable online resources are available, we could see a growing number of obituaries from people who would otherwise be unable to afford space in a traditional newspaper.

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“Sometimes we stare so long at the balloon in the sky that we forget our ice cream is melting on the plate. Enjoy your ice cream!”

ice cream sundae

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Addiction: The Terminal Illness No One Talks About

Addiction and its aftermath kill millions of Americans every year
Crocus flower coming through ice addiction


Turn on the radio or TV news today and you will probably hear something about America’s epidemic of drug abuse. Opioids (a class of drugs that includes prescription medicines like oxycodone and fentanyl as well as the illegal drug heroin), are at the forefront of the discussions — and perhaps justifiably so. Opioid-related deaths are increasing at an alarming rate, reaching 50,000 in 2016. It’s a public health issue of considerable proportions, and one that our society should and must take seriously.

But drug abuse is not a simple issue. And it’s difficult for me, as a healthcare professional, to watch our legislators and policymakers treat it as such. Since the abysmal failures of Prohibition and our nearly 40-year long “War on Drugs,”  it seems to me that we should have learned by now that laws and regulations merely drive addiction underground, where it’s more difficult to detect and treat. What’s more, criminalizing addiction is as ineffective and barbaric as criminalizing diabetes or heart disease. All three are lifestyle illnesses, yet we treat two of them with medicine and supportive care, and throw the victims of the third in jail.

Millions of Americans suffer or know someone who suffers from a life-threatening addiction. My mother died at the age of 60 due to complications of alcoholism. Her sister and her father died of the same disease. All three knew that their drinking was killing them. My mom also promised dozens of times that she would stop. As her disease progressed and her liver failed, she even swore to me and my brothers and sisters that she had. Yet after her death, we found empty liquor bottles stashed in nearly every nook and cranny of the house.

crocus breaking through ice shows struggle with addiction

My mother didn’t want to die. But like all addicts, she was powerless to stop her behavior on her own. Her motives for not seeking help long before her illness took her life will always be a mystery to me. But I believe they were rooted in our nation’s anachronistic view of addiction as a shameful character flaw rather than a complex physical, emotional and social disease.

Adrianne was a 30-year-old mother of two young children. Her daughter, Amanda, is now four, and her son Todd just turned two. Adrianne worked part-time at a local convenience store, and all of her friends called her a “great mom.” She was pretty and vivacious and seemed very much in love with her husband of 10 years, Tom. No one in her immediate circle suspected that she was addicted to drugs and alcohol until the morning she ran her car off the road and into a ravine. She died several hours later in the ICU. An autopsy revealed she had a blood alcohol level of 0.18, over twice the legal limit, and had been using cocaine.

After Adrianne’s death, Tom opened up about her struggles with drugs and alcohol, which had been going on for years. Like many women who become addicted, Adrianne had been sexually abused as a young girl, and that early trauma haunted her throughout her life. She started drinking at 13, but stopped for a while after she met Tom. She didn’t drink or use drugs during her pregnancies. And she remained sober until six months after her second child was born, when financial pressures forced Tom to take a second job.

“Maybe she was lonely,” Tom says, looking bewildered and sad. “Maybe I should have stayed home more and helped with the kids…Would it have helped? I don’t know,” he said, covering his face with his hands. “She always seemed to do really well and then she would just fall apart.”

Tom and Adrianne’s experience was not an unusual one. Many addicts go through long periods of sobriety only to relapse when some triggering event occurs. Sometimes it’s an external stress, like being fired from a job or a divorce. Sometimes it’s something internal — an emotional crisis of some kind. Many people who suffer from addiction also suffer from a mental health disorder that may influence their need to use drugs. And many family members struggle with feelings of guilt and regret when relapses occur, thinking, “What should I or could I have done?”

crocus in late spring addiction recoveryThe National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.”

What this means is that addiction in all its forms is not a failure of will. It is not a character flaw. It is not a sign of weakness or lack of self-care. Nor is it, as it is often called, “slow suicide.” People who are addicts are not killing themselves. Their illness is killing them by driving self-destructive behaviors they cannot control.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, I urge you to seek help. Speak with your doctor; contact a mental health professional or reach out to your local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous for support. Treatment is available, and it can work. Even if the person who is addicted is not open to getting help at this time, there are resources available to help you and your family cope with the disease.

About Kathleen

Each month Kathleen Clohessy, R.N., offers a new perspective on living with a terminal illness. Kathleen comes to SevenPonds with 25 years experience as a registered nurse caring for families and children facing life-threatening illness. She began her career in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Nassau County Medical Center in New York. After relocating to California, she spent 15 years as an R.N. and Assistant Nurse Manager at the Pediatric Oncology & Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Lucille Salter Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. She uses her knowledge and expertise to enlighten our readers about the challenges associated with chronic illness and its effects on family relationships.

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Monday Hearts for Madalene

Page Hodel creates beautiful hearts as a tribute to enduring love
handmade heart of flowers

Spring renews my love for you

It’s an honor for SevenPonds to share with our readers the story of the Monday Hearts for Madalene project, a true account of the power of love in the midst of death.The project’s origins take us to 2005: the moment Page Hodel encountered Madalene Rodriguez and fell “instantly, dizzyingly in love with her.” The couple’s first meeting was electric, and Page felt inspired to do something unique for the woman who captured her heart. So, she began leaving handmade hearts – made from flowers, leaves, and other materials – on Madalene’s doorstep. The hearts became a ritual, and they were there to greet Madalene as she left for work every Monday.

“To start her week with a visual reminder of our beautiful love.” Page Hodel

Just seven months later, Madalene was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and passed away on June 20th, 2006. But Page’s love for her hasn’t ceased, and she continues to make a heart for her every Monday in celebration of her life.

If you would like, you can also receive Page’s “Monday Hearts for Madalene” by emailing her at with “subscribe” written as the subject. Images of the hearts can also be purchased in her beautifully compiled book, Monday Hearts for Madelene. Please also visit her website and Facebook page. A portion of all sales will go to the Women’s Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, California ( See more Monday Hearts for Madalene here.

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Haute Couture Cemetery Fashion Debuted This Spring

It's official: traditional burials are dead history

I’m under the hair dyer at my San Francisco salon flipping through a large format fashion magazine when there it is — I’m staring straight at haute couture cemetery fashion. Embroidered across a midi length green taffeta skirt are the words “Hollywood Forever Cemetery.” I simply can’t believe it.

Gucci cemetery fashion designs

Credit: the book Neiman Marcus

The first thing that hits me is the enormous and ever-growing popularity of the topic of death and dying. Haute couture — Gucci no less — is designing fashion inspired by a cemetery!

They say one is an anomaly, two a coincidence and three a trend. So it’s official: Funeral fashion (including traditional burial and cemetery fashion) is a trend.

First, back in 2006, there was Alexander McQueen’s fashion line “Widows of Culloden.” Without question it was inspired by the widowhood fashion of the Victorian days along with a Scottish edge.

Stella McCartney fashion show in a cemetery is an example of cemetery fashion

Stella McCarthy Spring Fashion Garden Party at the New York Marble Cemetery
Credit: badjoan.blogspot.come

View of cemetery in Lolitta Manhattan

My polaroid from the 80’s of a hidden Manhattan cemetery

Then four years ago, Stella McCartney introduced her spring fashion line at a “garden party” in New York City’s Marble Cemetery. It so happens that the cemetery is one block from where I lived in Manhattan in the 80’s and five blocks from where I worked back then. Three stories up, the office overlooked another such hidden cemetery (see my polaroid from the 80’s). These rare cemetery gems are completely unknown to those walking outside their walls each day.

But unlike the cemetery outside my office in New York, the Marble Cemetery has no gravestones. It only has inset marble mausoleums along the interior walls. While anything green in Manhattan is a commodity, Stella was well aware she was juxtaposing her bright cheerful spring line, in a cemetery no less.

Fast-forward four years later and Gucci ratchets it up by debuting its new Spring 2017 Forever Hollywood line. It draws directly from the stars buried at the famed LA Forever Hollywood Cemetery. The concept is to capture a wide variety of Hollywood fashion glamour from the past. It includes all eras: 19th century, Japan, 30’s and 70’s to name a few. As W magazine points out, the new fashion line has “no boundaries.”

Gucci belt with the word "cemetery" written on it is an example of cemetery fashion

Hollywood Forever Cemetery fashion line
Credit: W Magazine Soko Loved Gucci’s Spring 2017

And yes indeed the boundaries are gone. It’s one thing to use the famed cemetery as a way to bring back fashion signatures of famed glamour stars of the past. But it’s another to actually write the word “cemetery” on a belt or a skirt.

This trend has nothing to do with a lack of respect for the departed. What it does illustrate is there are truly no boundaries with traditional funerals anymore. Most of us are now so distant from any cemetery experience (I myself have not even been to a traditional funeral in decades) that we view cemeteries as a thing of the past. We are so distanced in our ethos that no boundaries exist — only a void. We are disenfranchised.

Gucci's New 2017 spring line of cemetery fashion

Credit: screen shot of W Magazine Soko Loved Gucci’s Spring 2017 Hollywood Forever Cemetery Fashion Show

The rule of thumb in the creative world (my past life) is we draw inspiration only from dead history. When we bring fashion or design back it must be long gone to be reconsidered and reconfigured to become fresh and new again. As one fellow designer once said, “Nothing ever comes back the same.” Hence, when you view the line, not one outfit directly references any specific Hollywood star.

With cremation taking over as the most popular form of disposition, cemeteries are now old school. Not only do the statistics show cremation is the No. 1 choice (reaching well over 50 percent nationally), but the theme of cemeteries injected into high fashion is virtually the nail in the coffin, so to speak.

For those of you who point to green burial, I say this: It currently accounts for less than one percent of all burials. So it’s not part of the conversation yet. It’s a whole new approach that has barely even begun, even in the fashion world. (For a look at what I mean, see one of our old posts here.)

Cemeteries may be here forever, but not as a choice of disposition going forward. But cemetery fashion; well that’s another story.

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