Funeral Industry: We Make Great Things Happen – Part 2
Pre-arranging a funeral gives family members the gift of time. Some people choose to pre-arrange their own funeral, choosing the music or poetry they enjoyed in their lifetime as well as organizing the visitations, the type of casket, vault, and funeral or memorial which reflects who they are in their lifetime. In this way, it is a final gift to the family left behind, one last opportunity to share with the deceased, to remember, to laugh and to shed a tear. Other times, it is a family member or members who come into the funeral home with a heavy heart as they realize that death is knocking at a loved one?s door. The Jones family to our funeral home, anticipating a death and wanting to create a funeral that would be fitting of the man they loved as a husband and father; a funeral that would reflect his faith, his love, and his life.
Funeral directors have an important role as teachers about our deathways, not only about what is required by provincial or state law, but they also share their knowledge about the choices available which allow a family to personalize the funeral service. Today, we have the technology and the creativity to help families put together something truly unique; something which belongs exclusively to them and which they choose to share with everyone who attends and even with those who are unable to be physically present.
Let?s fastforward to the morning of the funeral. The chapel had been set up the evening prior after the visitation. The casket remains open, surrounded by the flowers chosen by the family, roses, red long stemmed roses in a vase to match the spray of roses on the casket. The family pieces are surrounded by arrangements which have been sent by friends and co-workers. The television has been raised to viewing height at the front of the chapel. The CD player set with two discs the family have chosen for the funeral and the recession. There is no order of service; There is no member of the clergy present; There is no organist; There is no music playing in the background. Before allowing their guests into the chapel, the family choose to have a few minutes of time with their father and husband before we close the casket. Immediately following the closing the family is surrounded by other family members, friends and co-workers. The chapel is almost full. Outside the main parking lot is full and we are parking and flagging cars for the procession in the overflow lot and on the street. At exactly 10am, the funeral for Jim Jones begins.
His eldest son approaches the dais and thanks everyone for coming and their support. He informs them that he will be acting as the MC for the service. The first person he calls upon is a family friend who will lead the community in a short prayer and offer words of reflection. This man is not a member of the clergy but from his words, it is clear that he is a man of deep faith. He asks that everyone give thanks for Jim, for the time he walked among them as husband, father, friend, and coworker. He asks God to ease the pain in the hearts of the wife, children who will never know why but must accept God?s will. After a final moment of reflection and he returns to his seat in the congregation. The next speaker gives the first eulogy. This man is a co-worker of more than 25 years. He shares the story about how he and Jim met, a friendship which was forged and remained over time and distance. He too, offers a prayer of thanks for friendship. The third and fourth speakers are the other two sons of Jim. One after the other they reflect on their relationship with their father and how they have been groomed by their father and mother to face the years to come. The strengths they have learned to accept and carry with them as a man and as a father. The final speaker is the wife who reminisces about how she and Jim met, their 35 years together and life without Jim. A different future than they had planned together for their retirement years. The last speaker is the son who has acted as the MC. He invites everyone to watch a video which has been prepared for them. The CD they have chosen begins exactly as the first video picture appears. There are in total 65 pictures on the disc, chosen carefully by the family to portray the life a man who played such an important and vital role in their lives. The chapel is silent save the music. All eyes are on the television screen for the next 8 minutes. Occasionally a stifled sniff can be heard, a tissue taken from the box. Otherwise there is silence. The last picture shows Jim waving as he gets into a limousine. The music ends.
The final announcements concerning the procession are made by the funeral director, pallbearers into the center aisle, the casket is swung around and the family follows out to the waiting hearse, the community of friends behind them. The procession to the cemetery begins, slowly pulling away from the funeral home.
The committal at the cemetery is performed by the funeral director who first reads the 23rd psalm and then the words which will return Jim to the earth from which he came. The family has chosen not to lower the casket into the vault. It remains on the lowering device as family and friends place roses from the spray upon the casket, each person taking a moment to reflect and say goodbye. The reception is being held at their home, located only 5 minutes from the cemetery which was chosen for this reason. It is close, familiar and always accessible even on an evening walk.
Lets look back at the choices the family made: Embalming, open casket, flowers, 2 visitations, traditional funeral service with an untraditional format, a video, personal choice of music for video and recession, vault, no member of the clergy, family and friends as speakers who delivered prayers and the eulogy, burial in a local cemetery close to the family home, words of committal by the funeral director because the family feared they would breakdown in the committal service, and a reception at the family home. A funeral director embalmed Jim and casketed him, arranged the visitation room and later the chapel, prepared the video and ran the CD and other equipment, recorded the funeral service for the family, funeral home staff parked the cars and assisted with donation cards as well as finding a ride for several elderly people who wanted to attend the committal service. All the choices were made with the guidance and insight of the funeral director working with the family. The family crafted the funeral ritual to reflect Jim?s life and to meet their needs. The funeral director and staff were there to assist them as they took their first steps as a bereaved family, to offer educated and insightful advice where necessary.
We can make great things happen ? every time a family walks through our doors!!