The funeral of New Orleans’ James (Soulja Slim) Tapp’s was an orgy of sound, dancing, and glitz, says the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Far more often, families of murder victims struggle to meet even the basic costs of burying their kin. Memorial T-shirts are a fashion necessity at even the thriftiest funerals, but brass bands and horse-drawn carriages are out of reach for most families. With homicides in New Orleans striking poor families disproportionately, few can afford the $5,000 average cost. Some public money is available to help, but few families know about the aid, and not every murder victim qualifies.
The newspaper says that grieving families treat funeral homes like car dealerships, shopping for the best deal and raising money by shaking cans on street corners, selling memorial T-shirts, and hosting impromptu fund-raisers. The money woes add to survivors’ emotional strain.
For Frazie Hall Jr., seeing Larvell Burham, his only child, dead on his knees in a courtyard in a public housing complex was horrific enough; having no money to bury him compounded the anguish. Hall’s first option was cremation, which typically costs $1,500 to $2,500 with a funeral included. When he told other relatives that he was considering cremation, the women in his family would not accept the idea. Hall, his own savings drained after treating a recent heart attack, started over, scraping together a down payment from other relatives and borrowing the rest. The funeral home “kept it under $4,000,” he said. “They gave me the limo free, certain things they didn’t charge for. I was real pleased over how everything went.” Hall had tried to prepare himself for the possibility that his son would die young. “He was a drug user. He sold drugs. He never had a job in his life,” the father said. “I tried for years to get him to get some burial insurance. But he said that was bad luck.”