One night, my sister had her new friend Mark over for dinner. Making small talk, my Dad asked him what his father did for a living. We all squirmed a bit when he told us that his dad died last year. The subject was soon changed and we all went about finishing our meal when suddenly my dad says:
“I’m sorry, Mark, what did you say your dad does for a living again?”
In our culture we honor the dead by carving their names in stone, staging celebrations of life, and personalizing any and all funeral accessories from the casket to the urn.
In contrast, here in the Bible Belt, I’ve attended a few services that where the body is on display (usually in a church) but the ceremony itself is actually an altar call for the “lost”.
In talking with Native Americans I’ve learned that in their culture, it is forbidden to mention the name of the deceased for fear of disturbing and disrupting the journey of the spirit.
Recently, a friend in Texas attended her neighbor’s funeral and was saddened that the minister never mentioned the deceased, only HIS relationship with God.
We never learned anything about his mother. We didn’t learn where she was born and grew up, who she married, or the names of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We didn’t learn if she had any hobbies, or if she had ever belonged to any church or community organization.
I’d like to think this was a culture clash and not a minister with a captive audience. We just have to hope the family was satisfied with the service.
The message here is, depending on your beliefs and desires for the funeral service DON’T ASSUME that your pastor or family member will know what you want for your loved ones. Write it down, ask questions, or communicate your wishes to the funeral director handling the service.
Today’s Tip: Celebrate Life
Crystal Lake, IL
Jeff Hornagold loved Nascar, baseball, spending time with family and friends….and his job at UPS, where he worked for 20 years as a driver.
Hornagold died last Tuesday from lung cancer. As a memorial tribute, his friend and co-worker Michael McGowan, made a final delivery in his UPS truck, transporting the casket with Hornagold’s body from the funeral home to the church where memorial services were held on Saturday.
McGowan says he plans to keep a picture of Hornagold in his truck until he retires so that they can keep riding together.
Tip to TT, story here.
More with Cheryl Thompson-Morrow of Thompson Funeral Home, Broadman, OH.
20 Years Later: “It’s been a good career choice, the initial transition was difficult, because many of the families insisted on working with my father, and weren’t accustomed to a female funeral director.
On Technology: “Technology has really freed our time up, in that in the old days, before we could forward calls, my dad would stay home all weekend to catch the phone.”
Cheryl is uncomfortable with casket retailing on the internet, and would like to educate her clients regarding funeral costs and the value of a funeral service. “I want to do more with our website, add educational content and market our services.”
On Cremation: “You know, when I started working at the funeral home, my dad had one urn, and it was in a dusty box. Unopened.” Despite being in a pretty traditional area, cremation is definitely on an upswing. “March’s services were all cremation.” Most of Thompson’s cremation families choose traditional viewing with casket rental at the funeral home. Cheryl usually discourages the scattering of ashes until a later date, to make sure the family is comfortable with the decision. It’s pretty mixed on families that choose burial, or to take the ashes home.
On Changes in the Industry: “Besides cremation, families are buying more keepsakes, and there’s more interest in pets.” It used to be that the funeral homes in our area were denomination specific, there’s more cross-over now. Besides more women in the funeral profession, I see a lot more women in the clergy. The other day, I realized that we were doing a service with a female funeral director, and two female funeral clergy…there was a time, that was unheard of!”
“We haven’t had a lot of requests for catering services or food.” Although, she did have a family from California that wanted to bring “snacks” in before the visitation, and wound up setting up a full buffet and bar. It was no problem she said, but the family took care of everything.
Cheryl sees funeral service as a life long career and says, “I’ll probably work until I die.” “My dad never got to retire, and in the my pre-kid days, I was at the funeral home ALL the time, even coming in on weekends I didn’t have to work, just to make sure everything was alright.” Cheryl and another funeral director trade weekends on call.
“Now, I realize life is too short! We have a cottage at the lake that’s only an hour away and I want to spend time with the kids, while they still want to!” Cheryl has two children, 11 and 12.