Honoring The Wishes of The Deceased: “There Will Be No Services”
Guest Post From: Patrick Fahrenkrug – Patrick has been involved in funeral service since 1988 and has been a state of Wisconsin licensed funeral director since 1994, Patrick currently serves as Community Outreach Director and Advanced Planning Consultant for Wieting Family Funeral Homes in Kiel and Chilton Wisconsin. Patrick also owns and operates Forrest Run Pet Cemetery and Cremation Service in Sherwood, WI.
As a funeral director, phrases such as “There will be no service?” are troubling to me. I can remember a time when no one would offer such a statement. Now it seems you can?t pick up an obituary section of the newspaper without seeing several that state-: There will be no services. As a funeral professional, the big question is, how can anyone feel that the precious gift we call life is not worthy of recognition or celebration? The bigger question to me is, as a profession, where have we gone wrong? Isn?t it part of our job to provide meaningful services and options? Why don?t people see value in the types of funeral services we are helping them plan?
Anyone who has been in funeral service for any period of time knows that we have witnessed many changes. With the world changing faster today than ever before, funeral service has to change faster than it ever has before. That is a huge challenge for us. Take websites, for instance, for those of you that haven?t even entertained the idea of developing one??You might be surprised that your competitor probably not only has a web site offering online condolences , but they are probably gearing up to start offering web casts.
Technology in funeral service is just one area that is changing. However, one area of change that funeral service must embrace if we are going to survive, is the change of values. Many people are not seeing value in the types of service options we are providing to families, the types of services we are planning. Undoubtedly, we still have many requests for the “old traditional funeral”, and we of course are going to provide that service option. But how can we “change it up” a little bit? It may be as simple as offering a DVD Tribute, instead of the traditional picture boards, or maybe having a therapy dog present at the visitation or service. Whatever that “change up” may be, we have to be willing to step out of our comfort zone which is a challenge for many of us. There is a fine line between how far we can go to suggest “new things”. This is maybe why we are hesitant. Nonetheless, we have to challenge ourselves to get as close to the line as we can.
Many firms are having more and more requests for services without any religious denomination. This is a big element of change that is only going to increase. Do we have a list of Pastors or Priests, who say they can perform a non-religious ceremony, but only really use the opportunity to try to recruit new members for their church, or try to convince the un-churched to have a change of heart? Or do we have access to a Funeral Celebrant or better yet, have one or two on staff? If the wishes are for no services, just visitation or gathering of family and friends, what type of gathering or visitation are we planning to make this a valuable and meaningful time for all involved.
The “job description” of the funeral director needs to change. We need to become an integral part of not only planning the service, but we also need to become part of it. We need to be Master of Ceremonies. This is how we create value, not only of the service we?ve helped plan, but value of our profession. The days of standing at the door, or in the corner directing people to the registration stand and restrooms, are over.
Maybe it?s time we changed our title from Funeral Director to Celebration of Life Planner or something of that nature. It?s not like our title hasn?t changed before. How many of you like and are still being called “undertaker” or “mortician”? How morbid does that sound in today?s world!
Over the years, a lot has been said about how we are going to accommodate the baby boomers. As the baby boomers are dying, the survivors are Generation X. The gen Xers are doing the planning. We need to start focusing on their values, wants and needs, because if their parents haven?t made their wishes known through some form of pre-planning, then we will be fulfilling their wishes. And, on occasion, the older Gen Xers are dying as well. We have to start adapting our way of thinking and service planning to reflect their values.
There are so many opportunities for us to create value for the families; no matter what type of request is presented, even if that request is: No Services. We just need to have the fortitude and passion to embrace that opportunity and to communicate it to each family. We need to “step outside the box” or just get rid of the box altogether. If we can successfully promote value of a life lived to our families today, we will have succeeded as a profession tomorrow.
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