Arrangements / Appointments

Are there any other personal items I should bring for arrangements at the time of death?

Yes. Other than information (please see our Vital Statistics page), please bring clothing for the funeral…items that he or she would normally wear inclucing shirt, coat, pants, tie for men…or dress, blouse & skirt for ladies, underwear, socks or stockings, jewelery and any other personal items to be placed into the casket. It is necessary to choose clothing items with a high collar and long sleves.

Casual clothing can sometimes be used if that fits their personality better. Shoes are not necessary. Also, bring a good photograph of how he or she normally looks. This would be used for our reference and as a guide to his or her normal hairstyle, complexion, etc. We will return the photograph to you.

My mother is 87 years old and in good health, but she wants to prepare for the future. When I come to the Chapel of the Highlands to make pre-need arrangements, which of her personal items do I need to bring to you for the appointment?

You will need to bring personal information about your mother for the State of California Death Certificate which we will keep on file. If your father is living, he should be along to sign all the necessary paperwork, unless you have the legal right to sign in his place, or since your mother is living, she could sign too if she wishes. We will not need any of her personal items for the pre-need arrangements, but someday if she were to pass away, we would then ask that you bring us the clothing that you want for her to wear, and a good photo of how she normally looks so she can be properly prepared for visitations and services. If she is to be cremated without viewing or services, her clothing would not be necessary. We will help you and discuss your options in detail when you come in to see us for the pre-need arrangements.

What information do I need to bring to my appointment?

You will need the information that is located on our Pre-Planning page. Please fill out as much as you can and print out a copy to bring with you to your appointment.

How do I set up an appointment?

You may call us at (650) 588-5116 to set up an appointment with one of our funeral counselors. Or if you wish you may email us with your name and phone number and we will call you back to set up an appointment.


Do you handle the cemetery arrangments for us?

After making funeral arrangements at the Chapel, you will need to choose a cemetery if you haven’t done so already. Choice of the cemetery is a personal family matter. There are many fine cemeteries on the Peninsula and it is important for you to choose one that you feel comfortable with.

After choosing a cemetery, there are arrangements to be made with their office also. The cemetery that you choose will need for you to come in and select a place of burial and sign some necessary documents. So, after you make arrangements with us at the Chapel, we will contact the cemetery and coordinate aspects regarding the day and time of the burial, and you will be making the purchace of a grave or mausoleum space personally with the cemetery office.


I don’t have a regular church or a clergyman. What do I do?

We have access to clergy of all faiths. We will contact an appropriate clergyperson of your faith for you and have him/her meet with you if you wish. Also, non-denominational clergy members are available for services.

Cremation Questions

What exactly is cremation?

Cremation is the physical process of breaking down a human remains by high temperature flame – 1400 degrees to 2100 degrees. Cremations are preformed at a Crematory, which is located at a cemetery or place designated by law to perform cremations.

A combustible cremation container is required for a person’s remains to be placed into and cremated in (necessary for handling, transport, and sanitary purposes). A person’s remains are kept identified at every step of the cremation process. It is illegal to cremate more than one human remains in a cremation chamber at a time (unless the next of kin provides written permission and the crematory can allow it).

When the high flame cremation step has been completed, the cremated remains are removed from the cremation chamber. Larger fragments of the cremated remains are physically processed again and reduced down further so they are as small as possible. Care is taken to remove every bit of cremated remains, but some microscopic dust particles or molecules are physically too small to remove and are disposed of during cleaning. This is common for cremation anywhere.

When ready, the cremated remains are carefully placed into an individual polyurethane container or into an urn that has been selected by the family.

From there the cremated remains are taken to a cemetery for burial, returned to the family residence or scattered at sea as per the families instructions.

Does the Chapel of the Highlands have to send a body to the Neptune Society to be cremated?

No. The “Neptune Society” is a chain of mortuaries that deals mostly in “Direct Cremations”. CHAPEL OF THE HIGHLANDS is a 100% independent family owned Chapel and is not connected to other Funeral Homes or Cremation Societies.

We care for the families that we serve as if they were our own. If a family wishes someone’s remains to be cremated, we use a highly trusted crematory at one of our local cemeteries. They have preformed well for us and have assisted us with their services for many years.

If I compare "cremation societies" to the Chapel of the Highlands, what do you offer that "cremation societies" do not?

Our beautiful Chapel can offer your family a wide selection of cremation offerings to choose from. “Cremation Societies”, unfortunately, are limited to what can they offer the public and are not equipped to provide a full variety of service. We will do our best at the CHAPEL OF THE HIGHLANDS to serve your family and to give you the variety of choice that is expected from a quality and 100% family owned Chapel.

If you are thinking about cremation, here are some of the regularly selected options to choose from:

1. “Direct or Immediate Cremation”: If someone is to be cremated directly, their remains are removed from the place of death (under normal circumstances), and brought back to our Chapel and placed into a “cremation container” (a body is required to be in a combustible container for the actual cremation). After we complete arrangements with the family, and after completing and filing the necessary legal paperwork with the County Health Department, we are then allowed to bring a person’s remains to the crematory for the cremation. From that point it may be several days before the cremation is complete and someone’s cremated remains are ready. The family may choose to keep the cremated remains at their home, arrange to place them at a cemetery of their choice, or scatter them at sea. We will scatter the cremated remains ourselves if the family wishes, or the family may scatter them personally if they wish.

2. “Immediate Cremation followed by a Memorial Service”: Following a Direct Cremation, someone’s family may wish to have a “Memorial Service” for them. A “Memorial Service” is a service in someone’s memory without their remains present for viewing. A “Memorial Service” can be scheduled for any time after the cremation, and can take place at our Chapel, or a Church, your home or at any place of your choosing. (Also see the “Cremation Services” category)

3. “A Brief Viewing or Simple Service followed by Cremation”: If a family wishes, someone’s remains may be embalmed and prepared for viewing and a simple service. In this case, we would need clothing and a good photo of how the person normally looked when alive so they can be prepared properly. The family would also select from us a “cremation container” which is designed to be used for a viewing or service. We would arrange with the family for a day and time for the viewing or simple service, and after the conclusion, we would continue privately to the crematory.

4. “A complete Traditional Funeral followed by Cremation”: Some people who wish to be cremated also would prefer a traditional funeral to celebrate their life for their family and friends. This type of service is easy to arrange. The only difference is that after the visitations and funeral services have concluded, we would continue (usually privately) to the crematory for cremation instead of to the cemetery for burial. After the cremation is complete, a person’s cremated remains may still be buried at a cemetery, taken home and kept with the family, or scattered at sea.

5. “Unique Services”: We can also try to accommodate any special wishes or desires. We can make suggestions and help you to prepare a personalized service that is uniquely designed for your loved one.

Does the Chapel of the Highlands offer cremations?

Yes, we offer a wide variety of cremation options. In fact, the CHAPEL OF THE HIGHLANDS has been a leader by offering cremations since we first opened in 1952, decades before “cremation societies” came into existence. Our charges for a “direct cremation” (no viewing or services) are comparable to, and many times below, what “cremation societies” offer. Also, we offer families the advantage of personalized service and care for someone’s remains. We truly do give care to people in our community.

Cremation with Services

If someone is to be cremated, can we also have a service?

Yes. There are several options to choose from:

1. Someone may be cremated without any viewing or services, and that is called a “direct cremation”. If someone has been cremated, you may still have a “memorial service” for them at any time. A person’s body is not present for a “memorial service” which means “service in their memory”…though, their urn or “cremated remains” may be present for the memorial service. Personalization is ideal for a memorial service. Photographs, momentos, personal objects, and favorite music CDs are some suggested items for the family to bring to the Chapel before the memorial service. We will assist in arranging those items for you.

2. If a cremation is planned, you may still have a full traditional funeral – viewing and services with the body present. The only difference is that after the Chapel or Church services we will continue (usually privately) to the crematory for the cremation instead of to the cemetery for burial. Everyone who is to be cremated is required to be in a combustable “cremation container” for the cremation. In the case of a full traditional funeral, the casket will be the “cremation container”. Since the casket will be cremated, you will need to select a casket made of wood. We have a selection of caskets for you to choose from which are approiate for services and also for cremation.

Death Certificates

How many Certified Copies of the Death Certificate do I need? And where can I get them?

The family of the deceased, or responsible party, will usually be the ones to handle any of his/her legal or financial dealings in the weeks and months after the time of death. If the deceased had any Life Insurance Policies, Pensions, Stocks or Bonds, Bank Accounts, Social Security or Veteran’s Benefits (if applicable), or any other legal dealings, his/her family or responsible party will need Certified Copies of the Death Certificate to legally show that he/she passed away.

Each of the above organizations may need to keep a Certified Copy, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask for the Certified Copy back…in which some organizations may be able to return it to you. Banks are usually good about making a copy of the Certified Copy for their records and returning it to you. But, Life Insurance Companies, Pensions, Stock or Bond Companies, the V.A. or any organizations which may be providing a benifit to the next of kin will require that they keep the Certified Copy.

We will order these for you from the County Health Department (the County where he or she passes away will issue the Certified Copies). The County Health Department will mail them to the Chapel of the Highlands and it may take several weeks for them to arrive after the time of death. We will contact you as soon as they arrive and you may pick them up or we can forward them to you in the mail. If at any point you find that you did not ask for enough, we can order more for you, or it may be faster and easier for you to obtain them directly from the Health Department. The rate varies by County, ranging from approximately $12.00 to $15.00 per copy.

Embalming / Preparation

What clothing would be used after Embalming?

As for clothing the body, tradition has been for the decedent to wear semi-formal clothing (a suit jacket and tie for men; a dress for women); however, in more recent years, the family sometimes chooses to dress the decedent in more casual wear (long sleeves with a high collar preferred), especially if the deceased was young. It is also customary to use undergarments and stockings. Shoes are usually not required.

After the deceased has been dressed, he or she is placed in the casket for the various funeral rites. It is common for photographs, notes, cards and favorite personal items to be placed in the casket with the deceased. Even bulky and expensive items, such as electric guitars, are occasionally interred with a body. In some ways this mirrors the ancient practice of placing grave goods with a person for the afterlife. In traditional Chinese culture paper substitutes of the goods are cremated with the deceased instead and hell bank notes specifically purchased for the occasion.

What is Embalming Fluid?

Embalming chemicals:

Simply explained, embalming fluid acts to “fix” (technically denature) cellular proteins which means that they cannot act as a nutrient source for bacteria and it also kills the bacteria themselves. Modern embalming is not done with a single fluid. Rather various different chemicals are used to create a mixture called an arterial solution which is generated specifically for the needs of each case. For example a body needing to be repatriated overseas needs a higher index (percentage of diluted preservative chemical) than one simply viewing (known in the United States and Canada as a funeral visitation) at a funeral home before cremation.

Potential ingredients in an arterial solution include:

Preservative (Arterial) Chemical. These are commonly a percentage (18%-35%) based mixture of formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde or in some cases phenol which are then diluted to gain the final index of the arterial solution. Formalin refers specifically to 40% aqueous formaldehyde and is not commonly used in funeral embalming but rather in the preservation of anatomical specimens.

Water Conditioner. These are designed to balance the “hardness” of water (the presence of other trace chemicals that changes the water’s pH or neutrality) and to help reduce the deceased’s acidity, a by-product of decomposition, as formaldehyde works best in an alkaline environment.

Cell Conditioner. These chemicals act to prepare cells for absorption of arterial fluid and help break up clots in the bloodstream.

Dyes. These are use to restore someone’s natural colouration and counterstain against conditions such as jaundice.

Humectants. These are added to dehydrated and emaciated bodies to help restore tissue to a more natural and hydrated appearance.

Anti-Edemic Chemicals. The opposite of humectants these are designed to draw excessive fluid (edema) from a body.

Additional Disinfectants. For certain cases, such as tissue gas, specialist chemicals normally used topically such as Dis-Spray are added to an arterial solution.

Water. Most arterial solutions are a mix of some of the preceding chemicals with tepid water. Cases done without the addition of water are referred to specifically as waterless. Waterless embalming is very effective but not economically viable for everyday cases.

Cavity Fluid. This is a generally a very high index formaldehyde or glutaraldehyde solution injected undiluted directly via the trocar incision into the body cavities to treat the viscera. In cases of tissue gas phenol based products are often used instead.

What are the details of the Embalming Procedure?

Modern embalming:

Embalming as practiced in the funeral homes of the Western World uses several steps. Modern embalming techniques are not the result of a single practitioner, but rather the accumulation of many decades, even centuries, of research, trial and error and invention. A standardized version follows below but variation on techniques is very common.

The first thing an embalmer should do is verify the identity of the deceased (normally via wrist or leg tags) and perform basic tests for signs of death, such as clouded-over corneas, lividity and rigor mortis. While people awakening on the mortuary table is largely the province of horror fiction and urban myth, testing for death is still a final additional precaution. Any clothing on the corpse is removed and set aside; jewelry, also, is inventoried. A modesty cloth is then placed over the deceased’s genitalia for dignity. Following this the corpse is washed in disinfecting and germicidal solutions, shaved, and groomed. The embalmer bends, flexes and massages the arms and legs to relieve rigor mortis. The eyes are closed and kept closed with an eyecap that keeps them shut and
in the proper expression. The mouth may be closed using an adhesive, and a device is also
employed to allow the embalmer to set the facial expression of the corpse. The process of closing the mouth, eyes, shaving etc is collectively known as setting the features.

The actual embalming process usually involves four parts:

1. arterial embalming, which involves the injection of embalming chemicals into the blood vessels, usually via the right common carotid artery. Blood is drained from the right jugular vein. The embalming solution is injected using an embalming machine and the embalmer massages the corpse to ensure a proper distribution of the embalming fluid. In case of poor circulation, other injection points are used;

2. cavity embalming, the suction of the internal fluids of the corpse and the injection of embalming chemicals into body cavities, using an aspirator and trocar. The embalmer makes a small incision just above the navel and pushes the trocar in the chest and stomach cavities to puncture the hollow organs and aspirate their contents. He then fills the cavities with concentrated chemicals. The incision is either sutured closed or a “trocar button” is screwed into place.

3. hypodermic embalming, the injection of embalming chemicals under the skin as needed; and

4. surface embalming, which supplements the other methods, especially for visible, injured body parts.

Most good embalmings are completed in two or three hours, although an easy case may take less and complicated cases can take days.

After the deceased is rewashed and dried, cosmetics are then applied to make it appear more living and create a “memory picture” for the deceased’s friends and relatives. In the United States an oily foundation is placed on the visible areas of the skin, and theatrical or mortuary cosmetics are placed on the corpse. Mortuary cosmetizing is not done for the same reason as make-up for living people. Rather it is designed to the add depth and dimension to a person’s features that the lack of blood circulation removes. Warm areas, where blood vessels in living people are superficial, cheeks, chin and knuckles have subtle reds added to recreate this effect while browns are added to the palpabrae (eyelids) to add depth, especially important as viewing in a casket creates an unusual perspective rarely seen in everyday life.

A photograph of the deseased person in good health is often sought, in order to guide the
embalmer’s hand in restoring the remains to a more lifelike appearance. Blemishes and
discolorations (such as bruises, in which the discoloration is not in the circulatory system and cannot be removed is arterial injection) occasioned by the last illness, the settling of blood, or the embalming process itself are also dealt with at this time. Various funeral homes have different practices as to whether the remains will be clothed during the time of application of the cosmetics, or whether the cosmetics will be applied first and the remains clothed afterwards.

What is the history of Embalming?

Embalming, in most modern cultures, is the art and science used to temporarily preserve human remains to forestall decomposition and make it suitable for display at a funeral. It has a long history, and other cultures had embalming processes that had much greater religious meaning.

History of embalming:

Embalming has been in many cultures. In classical antiquity, perhaps the Old World culture that had developed embalming to the greatest extent was that of ancient Egypt, who developed the process of mummification. They believed that preservation of the mummy empowered the soul after death, which would return to the preserved corpse.

Other cultures that had developed embalming processes include the Incas and other cultures of Peru, whose climate also favored a form of mummification. Embalming in Europe had a much more sporadic existence. It was attempted from time to time, especially during the Crusades, when crusading noblemen wished to have their bodies preserved for burial closer to home.

Contemporary embalming methods advanced markedly during the American Civil War, which once again involved many servicemen dying far from home, and their families wishing them returned for local burial. Dr. Thomas N. Holmes received a commission from the Army Medical Corps to embalm the corpses of dead Union servicemen to return to their families. Military authorities also permitted private embalmers to work in military-controlled areas.

In 1867, the German chemist August Wilhelm von Hofmann discovered formaldehyde, whose
preservative properties were soon discovered and which became the foundation for modern methods of embalming.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries arsenic was frequently used as an embalming fluid but has since been supplanted by other more effective and less toxic chemicals. There were questions about the possibility of arsenic from embalmed bodies later contaminating ground water supplies.

There were also legal concerns as people suspected of murder by arsenic poisoning could claim that the levels of poison in the deceased’s body were a result of embalming post mortem rather than evidence of homicide.

Is Embalming required by law?

There are situations where embalming is not required by law. Embalming is not required if
someone’s remains are to be cremated without viewing or services, or if a person’s casket will remain closed for funeral services and not out of a refridgerated environment for over 24 hours.

Examples of when the law does require embalming is when a human remains will be seen by the public during visitations and funeral services, if someone’s remains will be transportated out of state, or other special circumstances.

What is Embalming?

Embalming is a surgical and chemical procedure that will sanitize and help to preserve human remains in preparation for viewing and funeral services. Our professional staff at the CHAPEL OF THE HIGHLANDS is licensed by the State of California to perform surgical embalmings. The embalming procedures are performed in our preparation room at the CHAPEL OF THE HIGHLANDS. If someone dies out of our area, we may ask a funeral home local to the person’s remains to assist us with embalming before being transported to our Chapel in Millbrae, if it is necessary.


When and where should flowers be delivered?

Please deliver flowers according to our Service Schedule. If you are a florist and wish to deliver flowers to us, please see our Flower Deliveries page for flower delivery information.

Does the Chapel of the Highlands provide flowers?

Family and friends send flowers as a way of showing their support for the family, and to express their feelings for the person who has passed away. We recommend that you contact your local florist to assist you with your personal choices, such as styles of arrangements, flower colors, flower types, etc. Your florist will deliver them to the Chapel for you. The immediate family usually arranges with their florist for a casket spray which drapes over the top of the casket. This is also a personal decision that the family needs to make, but it is not always necessary. For example, if the deceased is a veteran, a flag may be draped over the casket in place of flowers.

Location / Directions

How do I get to Chapel of the Highlands?

You may see a detailed map and personalized driving directions on our contact us page.


Why would I want to Pre-Plan a Funeral, Cremation or Memorial Service?

We all know how important it is to plan for the future, whether it’s for our child’s college tuition, or to prepare for a rainy day. So many of us overlook a very important part of our lives…it’s conclusion.

Funerals are an important part of our lives and we can not only learn about the people who’s Funeral’s we attend, but also about ourselves. Everyday we prepare for for school, work, dinner, and we also prepare for holidays, vacations and our retirement. Why are we timid about preparing for our Funerals? Because it is not really something we want to happen…but it will happen to us all and it is wise for us to prepare.

Preparing for our Funeral will not only finalize our wishes with regard to our Funeral or Cremation, but can also help our surviving family or loved ones deal easier with the necessary plans, paperwork and costs involved at the time of our death.

If you call us and ask to set up a pre-need arrangement, we will go over important details with you such as Death Certificate and Obituary Information, type of services and or cremation, casket selection, signatures on necessary documents, among other items, and these can all be taken care of ahead of time.

You may also arrange to “pre-pay” by putting funds for the total Funeral costs away into a California Master Trust account. This will lock-in the Funeral costs at today’s prices and will help to avoid any financial burdens on your surviving family. The funds will be held in trust until your death and only at that time will they be used for the cost of your funeral.

Whether you are planning Funeral arrangements for yourself, for a family member or someone close to you, it is always wise to be prepared for the future. This page will help you to organize important information that we will need for pre-planing a Funeral or Cremation Service with you. Please fill it out carefully and when you are finished, feel free to send it to us by clicking at the bottom. We will be glad to go over all necessary items with you and will do our best to help. You may also click here to watch a Pre-Planning video.

Pricing Information

How can I obtain Pricing Information?

You may call us at (650) 588-5116 or email us for pricing or other questions.

We will also gladly send you information via mail including our General Price List, Casket Price List, Cremation Options, Pre-Need Options, and Vital Information Booklet (for you to fill out with necessary information and other details needed at the time of death).

Services / Schedule

Where can I find information about upcoming services you have scheduled at the Chapel of the Highlands?

Please see our Service Schedule for service information, including service times and places, donation preferences and flower deliveries.