There are many questions and uncertainties surrounding funerals.  Should I pre-plan my funeral?  What is the difference between a funeral and a memorial service?  To help you answer these questions and more, we have compiled answers to frequently asked questions about funerals, pre-planning, cremation and general funeral planning.


What is Pre-Need Insurance? How is it Different From Life Insurance?

Pre-need insurance is a specific tool to take care of final expenses and works much better than life insurance for this purpose. The purpose of life insurance is to replace your income for your family after you die. Pre-need insurance is designed specifically to cover funeral arrangements. It enables you to guarantee the cost of your funeral.

How Can I Afford to Pre-Plan? I Can’t Afford Any More Payments Each Month!

You may be surprised just how affordable your pre-arrangement payments can be. You may want to ask yourself this question – “If I can’t afford this while I am young and working, how will I be able to afford it if I am older and on a limited income?” and “How will this affect my family both emotionally and financially if I don’t take care of this now?” Affordable options are available to meet any budget.

How Does Pre-Planning Save My Family and Me Money?

Several ways. First, you receive generous savings that are only available to our website guests. Second, you are paying today’s price for tomorrow’s needs therefore avoiding inflation. Third, this is the missing piece to your retirement and estate planning. Having funeral needs taken care of in advance helps protect the value of your estate.

What Happens if I Move or Get Transferred Out of the Area?

If you have done a pre-arrangement, your money will go with you, no matter where you go in the country. You never lose your money. The details of your pre-arrangement contract will transfer to another funeral home where you relocate.

Is There Any Obligation Should I Decide to Meet with an Advanced Planning Funeral Director?

No. Our advance planning funeral director, Marla Meek, will be happy to meet with you to help you start the planning process. You may complete your pre-arrangements and we will keep your records on file at no cost whatsoever.

Questions About Funerals

What is The Difference Between a Funeral and a Memorial Service?

Really the only difference between these two services is whether or not the body is present. A funeral service is conducted with the presence of the body and a memorial service is conducted in memory of the person, without the presence of the full body.

What is the Purpose of Embalming?

Embalming sanitizes and preserves the body, and slows down the decomposition process. It makes it possible to lengthen the time between death and the final disposition, allowing family members time to arrange and participate in the type of service that means so much to them.

Is Embalming Required by Law?

No, in Virginia embalming is not required by law. However, embalming is required if the family has selected a funeral service with a public viewing or visitation. Embalming is also required if the deceased is to be transported from one state to another by common carrier. For example, if an individual passes away in Virginia and is to be transported by airplane to Ohio for burial, embalming would be required.

What Times are Available for a Visitation?

While we provide guidance with respect to visitation periods, we leave the actual time up to the family. Visitations may extend to multiple days or may take place in just an hour or so before the funeral service. Morning, afternoon and evening hours are available during the week or on weekends. It all depends upon the needs of the family.

Why do Funerals Seem so Expensive?

When compared to other major life cycle events, like births and weddings, funerals are not expensive. A wedding costs at least three times as much; but because it is a joyous event, the costs of weddings are rarely criticized. Our funeral home is a 24-hour, labor-intensive business, with extensive facilities (viewing rooms, chapels, limousines, hearses, etc.); these expenses must be factored into the cost of a funeral. Moreover, the cost of a funeral includes merchandise, like caskets, but it also includes the services of a funeral director in making arrangements, filing appropriate forms, dealing with doctors, ministers, florists, newspapers, etc.

Can You Still Have a Traditional Funeral with Cremation?

Yes, Even if someone is interested in cremation that does not mean that the family cannot have a viewing and funeral service. All of the customs and ceremonies associated with a traditional funeral can still be performed prior to the cremation taking place. For these occasions, we offer economical cremation caskets and rental caskets.

Where can a Funeral be Held?

Traditionally, funerals are held in a church, which is still a common practice today. However, there are several other options. Funeral services may be held at the funeral home in our Chapel or can even be held at the graveside.

Can a Funeral be Personalized?

Absolutely. It is becoming more common to customize a funeral or memorial service to the personality of the deceased. Pictures and mementos can all play a major role in making the final tribute fitting and moving. You can choose to display family photographs, favorite possessions, items from a hobby or awards the deceased received. These items help celebrate a person’s life.


Many families are choosing cremation these days. Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory owns and operates their own on-site crematory ensuring you the highest standards of care, comfort and accountability. Being an actual crematory operator and serving more cremation families every year than the majority of all other area funeral homes, we know all there is to know about cremation, and would like to share that knowledge with you so you can be an informed consumer. Please attend one of our free cremation seminars, or with our “open door” policy, drop by and we would be proud to give you a tour of our facility.

What is Cremation?

Cremation is the process of reducing the human body to bone particles and ash through the application of direct flame and intense heat.


Can I Have a Service with Cremation?

For those desiring cremation, you actually have more options and flexibility when it comes to service offerings. Everything is available from a traditional funeral ceremony followed by cremation and then burial to a memorial service after the cremation has occurred. Furthermore, since we are not restricted by the operating hours of the cemetery, you have the flexibility to schedule your ceremonies for day or night.

Is a Casket Necessary for Cremation?

Virginia law does require that the body be held in a rigid, leak-proof container for dignified storage, transfer and handling. Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory offers a variety of cremation caskets and containers that are very economical and manufactured specifically for cremation.

What can be Done with the Cremated Remains?

Your options are many. The cremated remains can be buried in a cemetery, placed in a columbarium niche, kept at home, scattered on private property, the possibilities are endless and our staff is here to assist you with your ideas.

How Long Does the Cremation Process Take?

It depends on the size of the individual and the type of cremation container or casket. Typically, the process takes 2 to 3 ½ hours at a normal operating temperature of 1600 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.

What Happens Following the Cremation Process?

Following the actual cremation, all bone particles and other materials are retrieved from the cremation chamber by sweeping them into a stainless steel collection pan for cooling. Once cooled, all metal materials (metal casket parts, hip joints, & bridgework) are removed by both visual inspection and use of a strong magnet. The remaining bone particles and ash are then reduced into a small, consistent size using our processing unit and placed in the selected urn.

What do Cremated Remains Look Like?

Cremated remains resemble coarse beach sand. They are typically light to medium gray in color. The cremated remains of an average size adult would weigh between 5 to 8 pounds and usually take up 200 cubic inches in volume or less.


Do You Provide Catering Services?

Frequently after a service, the family is interested in having a reception. We are happy to arrange for a catered reception in one of our large visitation rooms. Please click here to let us know if this is of interest to you.

Do You Organize Speaking Engagements?

Tharp Funeral Home has frequently been asked to speak at civic and church organizations. We have been considered the leaders in the field on the subject of death and dying, pre-arrangements, Medicaid spend down, cremation and all the options available regarding funeral arrangements.

If this is something you would be interested in having us do, please contact us in the Bedford and Smith Mountain Lake areas at 540-586-3443 or for those in the Lynchburg and Madison Heights areas at 434-237-9424.

We believe that an educated decision is the best decision, and we are proud to be able to offer this service to our community.


We hope that we have been able to answer the majority of your questions about funerals on this page but we realize that you may have more specific questions as well. Please contact us and we will be happy to help. Thank you.