Archive for the ‘funeral’ Category

funeral friday 4

It seems like the funeral director in your town or neighborhood has been there forever, right?  The turnover rate is so low in some places that you get the impression that he was born in the funeral home.

But when a new director does come, it’s a transitional period for the community as well as for the funeral director.  He has to learn all the names, the relationships in all the families.  He needs to learn where all the churches and cemeteries are located; develop relationships with all the pastors and cemetery sextons.  He will learn all of the town and village clerks and the local veteran’s services agent.  He will also build bridges with other area funeral directors and service organizations.  I think you’re getting the picture.

Life for the new funeral director is very interesting, indeed.  And in the early part, it’s like you never really catch up, and you’re praying like mad that things go well.

I remember Mrs. C, an amazingly gracious woman.  Her husband had passed away in during a cold, snowy winter.  She no longer lived in the area, but she understood the plight of the new funeral director; where he needed assistance with information that the previous director would have known, Mrs. C amicably provided it.

It turns out the cemetery was quite far away and it was not one that was utilized by this funeral home often.  For peace of mind, it was necessary to drive out, look over the cemetery, and develop confidence in the route for a successful processional.  Having done that, it seemed we could relax a little about logistics and concentrate on service.

The calling hours and funeral service ended, it was time to proceed to the cemetery.  An accurate and orderly processional was created and off we went.  Driving, slowly, but just driving.

And then, we noticed out the driver’s side window that Mrs. C’s car had pulled up along side of our car, having pulled out and passed the hearse to make the maneuver.  This was about eight years ago and cell phones had not migrated into the elderly portion of the population at all, so this was her only method of communicating with the funeral director.

So we pulled over, lowered our window, and heard Mrs. C kindly say, “I’m not familiar with this route to the cemetery.”  Which was enough to send a creeping pink line up the funeral director’s neck (my dear husband) as he looked around to determine our location.   They discussed the situation and decided how to get things back on track for that successful processional.

As there was no cross-road nearby, a turn-around was the course of action chosen.  The “about-face” went amazingly smooth, as numerous cars executed the needed maneuvers to stay out of ditches and snow banks.

Mrs. C was, indeed, very kind about the whole situation keeping the intimate details of that conversation discretely to herself.  And we now know where all the cemeteries are and have not repeated this mistake!


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funeral friday 3

Memorials.  They are a sobering vision.  We look at them in Arlington Cemetery, in national parks, in city parks–they’re all around if we just look.  That statue in your city circle is a memorial to a brave person of long ago–or maybe even of recent events.

Memorials are about a remembering a an event, a culture, a life.  In Joshua 4 God instructed the Israelites to build a memorial.  This was an altar of rocks.  The purpose of the memorial was that the story of the crossing of the Jordan would be repeated.  And then, “all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”

Each life will be remembered for some thing.  Some for bravery; consider the marine statue of Iwo Jima.  (There was one Navy corpsman as well.)  Others, perhaps more for a whimsical, cultural impact such as the Jim Henson Memorial.

Memorials are in the fabric and life of our culture.  Not everyone will get a statue in front of city hall, but everyone is worth honoring by a memorial.

Funeral services are about remembering.  Taking time to celebrate life–the life that was and the great impact it had on you personally–and cherish memories is the essence of the memorial.

How is this done?  In your own way.  Display Dad’s work tools, set up photo boards, hang Mom’s quilts, put the Harley on the funeral home porch, write a poem or essay about your good memories.  (The bad ones are just trash, put them on the compost pile where they should have been years ago…)

Remembering through a memorial is not ignoring the reality of life, nor is it implying perfection.  A memorial simply selects worthy moments and characteristics and allows us to shout out “Look!  This was important to me.”

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funeral friday 2

The sequels are never as good as the original.  That’s what people say about movies, anyway.

Our funeral home is also heavily into “print shop” types of functions.  We believe that a funeral can be memorable in a positive way and achieving this comes through personalization.  A good portion of the creation of media falls into my hands, as I am not a funeral director and I am pretty good at media.

There was a time when we worked in a funeral home that was in a start-up stage and we drove about 15 miles to get there.  This funeral home was  so much a start-up that we were using our personal computer and printer to create the memorial cards.  So while we were at home, I prepared these memorial cards, printed them, bagged them, and laid them on table to pick up as we left.

In creating these cards, I knew that the cards had to be perfect when we left the house, because there was no way 15 miles down the road to re-do them.  No do-overs!  I always agonized over the name and dates knowing that these absolutely had to be accurate.

We were serving a patriotic family, this particular time.   They had requested that the words to “Taps” be placed on the memorial card.  Easy enough.  “Taps” is a pretty simple poem.  I know you’ve all heard the tune, but do you know the words?

Day is done, gone the sun from the lake, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.
Thanks and praise for our days neath the sun, neath the stars,
neath the sky.
As we go, this we know,
God is nigh.

So, out the door we went — rush, rush, hurry, hurry.

Riding along, I looked down at the cards, and saw “God is high.”

Shame on me; I started chuckling.  I could have been struck with the thought that God is high and lifted up.  But no, I had placed myself into the shoes of some of the attendees we knew about and realized they would more likely think “high” in terms of marijuana.

When asked what was so funny, I shared it with my husband — the funeral director.  Obviously, he was looking at it from the perspective of providing excellent service and my mistake was no longer funny.  We had no time for a do-over remember.

What did we do?  We went with it.  We told ourselves that not enough people knew the words to the poem to absolutely point out an error.  As no one mentioned it, that may be the case.

However, we did have opportunity for a do-over.  The family had not picked up the cards and over the course of the calling hours they were depleted.  When we returned the next day for the funeral service, we had a new supply, all stating

God is nigh.

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funeral friday

Remember earlier in the week when I mentioned writing about our business?  Yes, the alliteration reference — Funeral Friday.

I hope you enjoy installment number 1.

Do you get your local newspaper?  Are you like me, that when it arrives you immediately turn to page 2?  The obituaries.  You glean so much information from that page.

Obviously we place obituaries in the newspaper on a regular basis.  Usually the notice is placed in our local paper or in communities within our state.  Only occasionally do we have a need to place an obituary in an out-of-state paper.  When we do, it is simply a duplicate of the information placed in our area paper.

Most obituaries give biographical information about the deceased, listing family connections, interests, education and career achievements.  And usually an obituary will give information about the funeral service such as the time and location.  Included in that is an item referred to, by us, as “Calling Hours.”

“Friends may call on Thursday from 2-4 and 7-9…”  This is the visitation period offered to the community so that acquaintances, friends, and extended family may greet the grieving family and express their sympathy in the loss of this dear person.

I believe that the written invitation to visit may be expressed in different manners in the various regions of our country.

A number of years ago, shortly before our evening “calling hours” began, my husband received a phone call from Georgia.  A very cordial woman, and very articulate too, I might add, greeted him.  She proceeded to talk about the deceased telling about how they became friends, what a wonderful person he was, and how she will miss him greatly.

Though my husband was happy to talk with her, he was somewhat concerned as he likes to be available when the family comes in after their break from the afternoon calling hours.  So he gently commiserated with her and eventually asked what he could do for her, since she had called him.

She said that since the obituary said that friends could call from 7-9 she picked up the phone and called…

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