Wherever You Go, Take Your Whole Heart AlongDuring my long career in the funeral profession the most important lesson that I ever learned was to be real to those I served. By that I mean I learned the lesson the hard way. It has been said that good times become good memories but bad times become good lessons. Let me tell you a story.
It had been a busy week. Unexpectedly, I was called to serve a family. I had known for years and their tragedy was personal. They had a high community profile and I wanted … no, needed … to put my best foot forward to make everything proceed smoothly. Let me share this … serving personal family friends often comes with diverse blessings including unspoken expectations of discounts and special needs … I was so consumed by their `over-and-above` ?we are family? demands that I focused on their needs only. In retrospect it was not their fault … it was solely my own doing.
Their service was to be at 2:00 on a sunny afternoon but another director had booked a 10:00 am morning service and he needed help with. A last minute phone call (that I could had another staff member attend to) from my friends delayed me and I arrived at the morning service at 9:50. Bad mistake … there were mounds of flowers at the back of the church that needed to be placed … the other director had already arrived with the family in tow and they had hoped for (and cleared with the minister) one last chance to view … In the middle of placing flowers and feeling embarrassed by the situation, I snapped at the other director when he made a comment … indicating that the 2:00 service was all that was on my mind …
?Let?s just get this one over with!?
I heard a small gasp and realized that my comment … an angry comment that was meant to be private and confidential … had been overheard by the widow.
I apologized profusely and tried to explain, but she silently, slowly and sadly turned and walked from me. My words had probably hurt her more than anyone had in her whole life. I had minimized her worth and feelings by my distraction.
Lesson learned … sadly learned … at another?s expense.
If but one of you can hear my story with your heart, it will have been worth the sharing. When you, as a funeral professional, become distracted by business issues … distracted by your own family matters … distracted by personal problems or even your own ?busy-ness? … please think of me. My lesson was learned the hard way but I NEVER forgot it ? and that made the experience for the thousands of families I served thereafter all the better. As for the dear lady I had slighted by not bringing my heart to work that day … she has become one of my best friends and a valued ?sounding board? for many issues. I have told this story at many keynote presentations I have done over the years and she was present at two of them. Healing and forgiveness have come a long way with a valuable lesson learned.
Whatever your role in this wonderful profession … in each service you conduct … with each family you meet … for every pre-arrangement you do … for every grave you dig … for every cup of coffee you pour … for every telephone call you answer … always bring your heart with you. Wherever you go, please bring your whole heart along.