Home / FAQs


What should I do if my loved one is expected to die very soon?

If your loved one is able to communicate, ask them their final wishes. They can choose to put someone in charge of carrying out their wishes by formally appointing an Authorized Agent. Reach out to Sparrow if you want more guidance. 

If the person is not able to communicate and you would like to plan ahead, reach out to Sparrow. A funeral director will get in touch with you as soon as possible to discuss your needs.

What happens if someone dies in the middle of the night?

Call Sparrow. Simply call and we will arrange for your loved ones' retrieval. 

Sparrow is here to support you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Who has the right to plan the funeral?

Unless someone is appointed in writing as an Authorized Agent, per New York State law the responsibility of “right to disposition” happens in the following order: 

Spouse or Domestic Partner
Any child over 18 (no child has priority over other children)
Any parent (neither parent has priority over the other parent)
Any sibling over 18 (no sibling has priority over any other siblings)
An authorized guardian
Any grandchild
Any great grandchild
Any niece or nephew
(It is important to note that Power of Attorney ends upon death.)

Where will my loved one be once they are retrieved by Sparrow?

They will be brought back to our funeral home and placed in an appropriately refrigerated facility. If your tradition requires the body to be accompanied by a religious figure, prayer, or other recitation, please let Sparrow know and we will accommodate your wishes.

Can I have a funeral at home?

Yes. Sparrow is happy to help your family prepare and honor a body at home. Sparrow can help facilitate a home funeral, vigil or visitation for up to three days. If your loved one died in a hospital, nursing facility, or was brought to the medical examiner’s office, Sparrow can still arrange for the person to be brought home.

Can I plan my own funeral?

Yes, and Sparrow hopes you do! Nobody knows what you want better than you do.  

Sparrow encourages people of all ages and stages of life to consider planning, including those with a terminal illness.  

What is an Exit Party?

An Exit Party is an event that allows you to say goodbye BEFORE you die.  At Sparrow we have seen how powerful it can be for those with terminal illnesses to be able to celebrate their lives with friends and family before they die. The person being celebrated sees how much they are loved and friends and family are left with a beautiful memory of celebration.  Reach out to set up a time to speak with Sparrow about planning your Exit Party.

My loved one died in hospice at home. Should I call 911?

No. When someone dies in hospice it is not an emergency. Call the hospice nurse and let them know that they have died. Hospice will guide you through their next steps.  You can decide if you want to call the funeral home right away or spend some time at home with your loved one.  Sparrow is here to help you navigate the time leading up to and after death.

What is an autopsy and do I need one?

Autopsies are usually done if someone dies under suspicious circumstances, due to an accident or violent act, or without prior indications of illness or injury. Hospitals are prohibited from discouraging or persuading families to allow an autopsy to occur, so feel free to discuss the matter with the attending physician and other family members before making a decision. You may also reach out to Sparrow for guidance on this matter.

Should I call social security after my loved one dies?

Social Security will be alerted of the death once the funeral director files the death certificate. If you are concerned about it, you can call social security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-​800-325-0778). 

Who determines the cause of death?

Only the attending physician, hospice team, or medical examiner can determine the cause of death, not the funeral home.

How many death certificates do I need?

Sparrow suggests ordering one death certificate for every financial account the person held or shared. This includes banks, mortgages, trusts, credit cards, and insurance policies. Each entity may ask for an “official transcript” of the death certificate and most of them do not return them. In New York City, the cost of each official transcript is $15.


What exactly happens during a cremation?

The body is placed in a cremation chamber (also called a retort) where the heat reduces it to ashes and bone fragments. The ash and bone fragments are then carefully swept out of the chamber and processed down into more uniform ashes. The ashes are returned to the family in a temporary urn.

How much is cremation?

How much is cremation?

All costs vary depending on choices made by you or your loved one. Please call us to discuss the options.

Can I see my loved one before they are cremated?

Yes. You can schedule a Private Farewell at Sparrow for immediate family or have your loved one laid in honor for a viewing or ceremony before the cremation. 

What will my loved one be cremated in?

Almost all of the caskets we offer at Sparrow are suitable for cremation. Many people choose to be cremated in a plain but sturdy “alternative container” which is made of cardboard.

Can I attend the cremation?

Yes. Attending or witnessing the cremation is an important part of many cultural traditions. Regardless of your religion or background, all families are welcome to schedule a Witnessed Cremation.

What happens to the ashes after cremation?

The ashes are returned to the funeral home to be picked up by the family.

Do I have to purchase an urn?

No. You can use the container provided by the crematory.  But, the process of transferring ashes into an urn can be a chance to reflect, sing, recite poems, or otherwise find solace in a time of transition. Sparrow is more than happy to help you transfer ashes or provide you with the materials and information you need to do so at home.

How do I know the ashes are my loved one’s ashes?

Sparrow takes a series of measures to ensure that the ashes you receive are the ashes of your loved one. When Sparrow brings someone into our care, they are given an ID band with their name and place of death. 

The crematory has a ID system in place that ensures there is no mix up and a chamber can only accommodate one person at a time. Each set of ashes is also given an official Certificate of Cremation.

Can I get gold fillings, bones, or surgical implants back after the cremation?

Although gold fillings may look large, they are in fact a very small amount of metal. This metal is rendered unrecognizable by the cremation process and is not possible to recover. All bones are processed and returned to the family as part of the ashes. If your tradition requires a specific bone to be left intact, please talk to Sparrow about possible options. 

Pacemakers are carefully removed by Sparrow prior to cremation. After removal,  it is sent to a medical recycling company to be refurbished and used again. All other surgical implants are cremated with the body and removed from the ashes and sent to a medical recycling company.

How long does it take to get the ashes back and can they be shipped?

It usually takes 3-4 business days for the ashes to be returned to the family. For an additional fee the process can be expedited. And yes, Sparrow can ship the ashes. USPS is the only carrier allowed to transport ashes.

Is cremation green?

No. Cremation uses fossil fuels to generate and maintain high temperatures. The average cremation releases over 500 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere. This can be offset by planting at least 6 trees.

Does an urn have to be sealed?

No. The lid does not have to be sealed, unless you want it to be. 


How much does a funeral cost?

All costs vary depending on choices made by you or your loved one. Please contact us to discuss your needs and review your budget. Sparrow is committed to being transparent with you about the costs of your funeral.

What is embalming?

Embalming slows down the decomposition process if need be.  Embalming is the process of preserving a body by replacing bodily fluids with a preservative solution. 

Does my loved one have to be embalmed?

Embalming is never required by law and at Sparrow we try to guide our families toward refrigeration as long as the viewing is within an acceptable time frame. Sometimes this is possible and sometimes it isn’t. We can accommodate any needs your family might have. Wherever possible, Sparrow uses formaldehyde free alternatives that are friendlier to the earth and our bodies. 

Can I help wash or dress my loved one?

Yes. At Sparrow, we encourage families to be a part of the death process and can make accommodations for you or your loved ones to wash the body and assist in the dressing.  Contact Sparrow to discuss.

What is green/natural burial?

Both “green” and “natural” burial refer to the process of taking care of a person’s body after death with as little environmental impact as possible. This means that the body will not be embalmed with preservative chemicals. In lieu of a traditional casket, green burials require that all parts of the casket be biodegradable or the family can choose to use a natural shroud instead of or in addition to a casket. The burial site is certified “green” by the Green Burial Council. People are laid to rest within the first three to five feet of soil (not 6 feet under) . 

Most green burial sites do not allow permanent grave markers like headstones, however most encourage families to plant native species or use objects found around the burial site to memorialize the site. Muslim and Jewish burial traditions are and have always been green.

Where are the green cemeteries near New York City?

The closest green burial site is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. It is an hour away from Sparrow. Maryrest Cemetery is an hour and ten minutes from Sparrow and has a Catholic green burial section. Wooster Cemetery is  an hour and 40 minutes away. 

If you are willing to travel up to two hours away the list expands to include Southampton Cemetery, Friends of Rhinebeck Cemetery, Green Meadow Cemetery, and Rosemount Cemetery. 

For a more detailed list of these cemeteries and their pricing click here.

Can I see my loved one before they are buried?

Yes. You can schedule a Private Farewell for immediate family at Sparrow or have your loved one laid in honor for a viewing or ceremony at Sparrow before the body is buried.


My loved one passed away from COVID-19. Is there financial support?

Yes. FEMA is providing financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred on or after January 20, 2020 in the amount of $9,000 per deceased individual. Visit FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance to find out more. If you have questions or want help navigating the application process, call us.

Can Sparrow help me apply for COVID-19 funeral assistance?

Yes. We can help you navigate the application process and gather required documentation for your COVID-19 Funeral Assistance application. In order to ensure that relief funds of up to $9,000 per deceased individual are properly distributed to ease the burden of the virus, the person applying for relief funds must be the individual who incurred COVID-19-related funeral expenses. Call us and we will help you as much as we can with your application process.

Is FEMA providing financial assistance for COVID-19 deaths?

Yes. Under the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, FEMA is providing financial assistance for COVID-19 related funeral expenses incurred on or after January 20, 2020, in line with their mission to help people before, during and after disasters. FEMA is helping ease some of the financial stress and burden caused by the virus. Visit FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance website to find out more or call us— we are here to share our knowledge to help you navigate the application process.

I’m having trouble coming up with the funds to pay for a funeral. What should I do?

Call us to talk through your situation and we will guide you based on your circumstances. For example, in New York City, funeral financial assistance may be available from the Human Resources Administration (HRA) to meet funeral expenses for a low-income New York City resident who passed away. Or, if your loved one passed from COVID-19, FEMA funds are available. In addition to guiding you to available sources of financial assistance, we customize our offerings to meet your budget and properly honor your loved one.