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Do I really need to attend the funeral?

Your presence is important. If there is any way possible, please, just be there. When a child is born it is a life changing event for the parents, siblings and grandparents at the very least. It may also be a life changing event for the kindergarten teacher five years in the future. Bottom line, life matters.   

When a life ends, it is also a life-changing event. Regardless of the age at which the person dies or circumstances of the death, lives will change. Family and friends will never see that person again. They will not share in each other’s joy. Neither will they have the opportunity to heal old wounds. They will not hear that voice in praise, love or anger ever again. It’s over, and in some way everyone close will have to adjust to the change. 

The funeral, the gathering together, acknowledges a living person is gone. Your presence says, “Yes, this life mattered. And, yes, your lives have changed. But not everything has changed, you still have us.” Going is important.   

The funeral home is a safe place for the family to receive guests and their condolences. It’s ok to cry at the funeral home. In a few weeks when you see this friend of yours who lost her mom, you will want to say something. And when you do, the emotion will open up and the sadness will surface. Crying at the grocery store or the soccer field is uncomfortable for everyone.   

When people organize a funeral gathering and ask friends and family to come to them to share in their loss and sorrow, to help them. Please go, hold a hand, give a hug, share a memory, offer your condolences, and smile at the video. Let them cry in a safe place.

 

 

Where should I send my condolences?

Condolences do matter and timing is important.

Do not put off contacting your friend to express your sympathy. Options and opportunities may have changes over the decades, but the importance of reaching out to those suffering a loss has not. A call or a written note is always just right. Social media is just fine under some circumstances and a personal visit is lovely. Additionally, many funeral homes have a place on their website to post condolences. This format allows your expression of sympathy to be delivered privately and quickly.  

So, let’s start with the newest trend - technology and social media. It’s so fast and so easy to access. If you are texting a co-worker several times a day about other things, it would seem rude to not mention the loss of her mother. Do use private messaging forms of social media with people you communicate with regularly in this manner. Caution!! Be very careful to not send a public condolence message using social media if your friend has not made an equally public announcement of his or her loss on the same platform. Do follow-up your message with a call or personal note. Finally, do not use electronic messaging if the receiver is not a regular user of tech.  

Hand written notes or cards made for just this purpose should be mailed to the person closest to the deceased or to a personal friend who has experienced a loss. Your personal note should be simple. Thoughts such as you are sorry for their loss, you are thinking of them in this difficult time or they are in your thoughts and prayers are appropriate. If you knew the deceased, you might share a brief story about the person who died and shares your connection.    

Should you make a condolence visit? Oh, my yes! A personal visit is the only way to give a hug.  However, do call ahead. Do keep your visit brief and do focus on the grieving individual. Please, don’t say you know how they feel even if you share a similar experience. There will be a time for sharing later. For now, just let them know you are sorry for their loss. Come as a listener not a problem solver.

 

 

Make Family the Foundation for Funeral Planning

 

There are two ways to take care of funeral planning: 1) you can plan your own funeral in advance or 2) your survivors can plan your funeral for you after your death. Regardless of when or who plans the funeral, the planning needs to begin from the inside out. It needs to start with your family. Your family should be the foundation for funeral planning. 

After all, the funeral is not really for the deceased…it is for those who survive. We show respect for all human life in the manner in which we care for the body that housed the soul or spirit of our loved one. Respect and dignity for the body is important. The funeral helps those of us who survive as by changing our focus from the cause of the death to the life that was lived. The funeral is the beginning of our grieving process and that is why funerals are so important.

If you are planning in advance for your own final remembrance, begin by thinking of those who love you. Your spouse, your children, your grandchildren, your friends and even your co-workers, what will they remember? What will make them smile? What will comfort them? What will they need? When they think of you what will come to mind? How is faith a part of their lives?

If you are planning a funeral for a deceased family member, involve the children, grandchildren and even close friends in the process. Ask them how they remember their friend or relative. Remember, we have all had a unique relationship with the deceased, so what you want to remember may be different from what your brother remembers. Ask your funeral director for ideas so they can help you capture and express the unique personality of your family member in the service plan.

For many years funeral planning started with a different set of questions. It started with questions about the faith. What church did your mother belong to? It followed with questions about the decedent’s wishes. What do you think your dad would want? These are still good valid questions but basing the entire funeral plan on only these aspects may not touch every family member.

Mother may have preferred that no one see her after death, but if you, her daughter, need to see her, speak up. If you don’t share your brother’s faith and you need to hear a eulogy that is all about his life or see pictures that bring back your time growing up together, speak up. The imprint of the funeral sticks with the surviving family. It is literally the last memory we carry of someone we loved. 

 

 

Who Will Take Care of My Funeral Plans?

 

It is not uncommon for people to ask themselves, “Since I never had any children, who will take care of my funeral plans?” That is all the more reason to preplan your own funeral!

Each state has laws that say who will “own” your body when you die.  The “owner” is responsible for making and paying for your funeral service and “final disposition”. Final disposition is simply what happens to your body in the end and those choices include burial, cremation or donation. Regardless of disposition, a funeral service with or without a religious component will take place before or after disposition. These are all choices the responsible person will make. 

If you are to be cremated, there is still the matter of what will be done with your cremated remains. They can be kept by a family member, scattered on private property, buried in a cemetery, or kept in a columbarium niche. Again, this is a choice the responsible person will need to make.

In most states the responsible person is your spouse. When there is no legal marriage then your parent will be responsible. If your parents are deceased, then your child will take the lead. When there are no children then your eldest sibling will be responsible. 

As you can see, this system only works if you and your family are all of like mind regarding the funeral and you are on the same page regarding faith. Since this is not always the case, you can break the legal chain and designate a person of your choice to carry out your wishes. 

It’s not at all difficult or even expensive. You just need to call the funeral home of your choice, ask for an appointment with the person who does the pre-planning. Be sure to tell that individual that you want to designate someone to carry out your wishes. He or she will need to get the proper paperwork for you to complete this task. 

This is also a perfect time to talk to the pre-planning person at the funeral home about your ideas regarding both your funeral service and your final disposition. A funeral professional can help you get everything written down so that your designated person will know just what to do. Since this person will also bear the financial burden for your funeral service and burial or cremation, you will want to talk to the advance funeral planner about eliminating that burden by prefunding your plan.

 

 

Get Your Family Involved in Funeral Planning

 

When death is near or has just occurred, there are so many things to do and yet there is nothing you can do. You feel helpless. You can’t make the person well or bring them back.  But you know you will, very soon, need to make many decisions about the service, the final resting place, the music, food, flowers, donations, clothing and much more. Your mind is racing and oddly enough, at the same time, at a complete standstill. On one hand it feels like it is too soon to do anything. You’re just not ready. But at the same time, you feel the weight of all that is coming.

This is stress. It is hard. If you can, reach out to your family and friends and let them help you. Have your son or daughter get the older grandchildren involved in pulling together pictures and music. They are really good at this stuff. Going through the pictures brings back happy memories and it’s one of the most therapeutic chores that comes with funeral preparation. Let them do something that will help them - they are dealing with this loss too.

If would you would like family and friends to donate to a charity, put someone in charge of looking into that. Have your daughter-in-law pull together a few clothing choices for your final selection. Send your son-in-law to the cemetery or have him get the cars washed. You may want to delegate the task of writing the eulogy and obituary. Give someone the job of gathering information for the funeral luncheon or brunch. 

Spread the work around. Let go, embrace help and give them something to do. You’ll feel better that things are getting done and they’ll feel better because they are involved and helping.

 

 

 

How Much Do Funerals Cost?

 

For most of us, one of the first questions think of when we think we need a funeral home soon is, “How much will it cost?”  It’s understandable that everyone wants a simple answer to this question. Unfortunately, there is no one simple answerThink of the last time you bought a pair of shoes. It’s not really helpful to know that the average cost of a pair of shoes is $75.00. So, what does an “average” pair of shoes look like? Shoes come in many different sizes, colors and styles. You wouldn’t expect to call the shoe store and ask, “How much does a pair of shoes cost?” Everyone needs some help finding the right fit for his or her feet. You also understand that you’ll need to share more information about the kind of shoe you are seeking before you find the cost.

It’s the same with funerals. The funeral you choose will need to fit your family’s needs as well as your budget. The funeral director will help you with both. You will be pleased to know funeral homes are required to have standardized prices for everything they do. This price list must be printed and available for you. You should also take comfort in knowing there will be a range of prices associated with the choices you will be making. The funeral director wants you to be satisfied with both the service you select and with the costs associated with those services.

As soon as you are able, it is a good idea to call the funeral home and ask to set up a time to meet with a funeral director to review your options and prices. There should be no cost for this meeting. This is the best way to assure that you understand what is involved with the various services so that you can get the best value for your dollar.  You can schedule this kind of meeting with as many funeral homes as you desire.

At first, this may seem like a lot of work. The reality is, however, that you’ll obtain far more information by meeting with the funeral director versus searching online or making phone calls. You’ll save time, too. Don’t wait to set up that meeting if you think you’ll need a funeral home soon.

 

Cremation Society or Funeral Home

Cremation, like electric cars and cell phones is here to stay. For some people cremation is part of their religious practice. For other people, cremation just feels right for them.  The big question is who should help you with your cremation, a society or a funeral director?Cremation Societies specialize in what is called a direct cremation. Direct cremation means the society will remove the deceased from the place of death and take the body directly to their crematory where the cremation process will take place. Following cremation, the ashes are returned to the family in a bag or box. It’s all pretty quick. The cost is quite low for direct cremation.

But something is missing.

How do we feel when a family member dies? What helps? Death is a loss. It is hard to describe how loss feels, but it is something like a void, a vacuum, or an energy shift.  You see something close when you watch victims of the California wild fires or a tornado on television. You see that dazed and stunned look on their faces. That is loss.  There they stand looking at a pile of rubble that was their home … and now it is gone.  That look is about loss of a building. Loss of a person, someone you love, is so much more. It hurts your heart.

Funeral directors are trained and specialize in taking care of the deceased AND in taking care of the family of the deceased. They know people need more. They are going to encourage you to slow down a little and give the family a little time for the reality of the loss to sink in. Give a little time for the family to consider what they need to do to begin to heal. 

Funeral directors specialize in helping families put together a gathering to honor the one who died. They know that being with those you love and who love you helps. They know words, as a part of a religious, spiritual, or life celebration ceremony help. Funerals are the funeral director’s specialty. They have done this many times with many families.  Funeral directors are the experts.

Of course, the funeral home will help you with a direct cremation if that is what your family prefers. To be fair, cremation societies will also add on some service options at the family’s request. As you add services the cost increases. It is important to look for value.

The funeral home is staffed by licensed trained funeral directors and serves families from a clean, company ready facility with plenty of parking and is a good value. Do your homework. Where will cremation take place? If your family wants service where will the service take place? If you add service and products what is the difference in price?  How important is cost over expertise? Share your budget with the funeral director at your funeral home. Don’t assume you need to sacrifice ceremony for savings.

 

The 4th of July … Birthday of Our Great Nation

It’s a time to celebrate. Summer is in full swing. We get out the barbeque and cook our hot dogs and hamburgers. We fly the flag, go to a parade and end the day with fireworks. Happy Birthday America!

Two hundred and forty- three years ago, this July 4th, the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia. Twelve colonies, New York abstained, declared separation from Great Britain. The actual war of independence had already begun in 1775 and would continue until the final battle in 1781 at Yorktown. The war was not officially over until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783.

But what was born?  Who are we as a Nation?

Four hundred years ago in 1619, the seeds of who we wanted to be and who we would become were sown in Jamestown, Va., as the reorganization of the bewildered Jamestown settlement was begun.

Second sons who would not inherit from their fathers on the European continent traveled across the Atlantic seeking land and success. Vicars, and those of the church, came to the new world for the opportunity of religious freedom or to save the souls of the natives.  Others, like the Virginia Company, came to find riches for their investors. Some of the early founders, like Edwin Sandys, saw the opportunity to build a colony of people governed for the common good of the people, to establish a commonwealth

However, we were never all of like mind about our goals, objectives and purpose. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton worked together on The Federalist Papers and then were at great odds over the creation of a national bank. George Washington mediated between Thomas Jefferson, who favored States rights, and John Adams, who believed a strong central government was necessary to hold together the infant United States.

We the people have, from the beginning, held very different ideas about how to go about pursuing happiness, but we have always been of one mind about the desire to pursue.  We have all embraced the quest for opportunity from the very beginning.

When we are at our best, we listen with a desire to understand our fellow countrymen’s viewpoint. Jefferson famously invited his friend Madison and his rival Hamilton to dinner at Monticello where the three broke bread, talked, and listened to each other. They agreed to support both the creation of a national bank and the placement of the capitol on the Potomac.  Prior to that dinner they were locked in an intractable debate with Hamilton wanting the capitol in New York and a national bank and Madison and Jefferson wanting the capitol in the South and squarely against the creation of a national currency and bank.

Normandy's Hallowed Ground 

On June 6, 2019 the world will mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion during World War II. The invasion by the Allied Forces established a foothold on the shores of France; and was the start of the Allied advance into the interior which eventually lead to victory in Europe and liberty for the millions of people living under the tyranny of Adolf Hitler. The costly battle was the most important allied victory in the second world war. The campaign began on June 6 and ended on June 30. During that period 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded, or went missing. Many are buried in the 27 war cemeteries, ranging in size from 30 graves to 20,000, in Normandy. 

The Normandy American Cemetery is the resting place for 9,387 Americans, most of whom gave their lives during the landing operations and in the establishment of the beachhead. The headstones are of white Italian marble adorned with a Star of David for those of Jewish faith and a Latin Cross for all others. The permanent cemetery is located on land France granted to the United States in perpetuity.

For those fortunate enough to visit the burial grounds, the experience is singular.  Approaching alone or with a group the mood changes. Breathing slows, the chatter quiets, tones are hushed. The feeling is somber. It draws you in.

And then, there it is, pristine lush green lawn dotted by thousands of white markers in perfect formation overlooking the very beaches where those buried here fought and died.

Visitors are, at first, overwhelmed by the sheer number of markers. But as you get closer and begin to read the engravings, the reality of the cost of war begins to sink in.  So many died, they were so very young, and all lost in such a short span of time.

All those lives ended before they ever really began. So many who would never find their true love, hold a new born child of their own, or buy a home. So many who never got to experience all the post war changes the rest of us take for granted. Those buried here did not live to see air travel become commonplace, a man land on the moon or watch a color television.

They were heroic and their sacrifice was great. We must never forget.

The anniversary is an opportunity to honor those lost. It is also an opportunity celebrate peace and reconciliation. In our mindfulness we become aware of the fragility of peace and the pain of war. It is that mindfulness that makes us better people.

In the words of the late John Lennon…

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace 
 

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

 

 

Writing the Thank You Notes 

Writing thank you notes is usually one of the very first “after the funeral” tasks you will undertake. You may be surprised to find that your brain/hand coordination is not working so well. You sit there with pen in hand and well-formed thoughts in your head, but somehow it all gets lost between the head and the paper. Don’t despair. This is normal and it’s all part of the grief journey. You are not thinking straight now, but you will again soon.

 

First, let’s tackle who gets a “thank you” and then I can give you a few wordy ideas to help you get started. Anyone who made a donation or sent flowers should get a thank you note from a family member. You will also want to send a note to people who helped. Maybe they provided food or took care of the dog for you or picked up people at the airport. All of those folks should receive a note of thanks. You do not need to send notes to people who sent condolence cards, emails, or texts.  

Your words can be brief. No one expects a long letter from you at this time. It is just nice to know that the flowers arrived, or the donation was received. Your kind friends just need to hear thank you. 

Thank you for all your kindness ….  

Your help meant so much to us…. 

We all loved the broccoli, thank you for taking care of us …. 

Your flowers were so beautiful and such a comfort to us …. 

For some, these are written the day after the funeral. Everyone sits around the kitchen table to write the thank you notes and everyone laughs as more than a few notes are torn and tossed in the trash. This may be the first laughter heard in several days. 

 

Memorial Day

What is the purpose of Memorial Day? Why do we have this holiday?

Of course, it is a three-day weekend. A perfect time to hit the road and do something in the great outdoors. After all, in most parts of the country it’s the start of the Summer season. Time to clean off the grill, get out the frisbee, and invite family and friends over for the first barbecue of the season. 

But wait, before you get going on the “Yay! It’s Summer” theme, take a moment to remember the origin of this holiday.

It started as Decoration Day. The Civil War ended in the Spring of 1865 claiming 600,000 lives. More lives than in other wars in US History. Decoration Day was a day set aside to decorate the graves of those who died in this war. Graves were decorated with flowers and flags with a goal to honor the ultimate sacrifice of those who died. By the end of the 1800’s Decoration Day was an official holiday.

After World War I, Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day. The revamped holiday was set aside as a time to remember all who gave their lives in service of our country in any war. Memorial Day is a distinctively American holiday and is properly celebrated with red, white, and blue American enthusiasm. 

It is also a time to visit the cemetery and decorate the graves, fly the flag, and go to a parade. It might also be a time to think about and learn a little about American History. You could even make it a family activity. Get the kids to put those electronic devices to good use playing Memorial Day Trial Pursuit of sorts. How many wars have we Americans participated in? Where did we fight? Why were we fighting? Just go with the tried and true journalism questions… who, what, where, when, and why. There is a lot to learn.  Your family might even have a discussion!

Use a little of that time off work to learn about, remember, and honor all the men and women who have died in military service.

 

Mother's Day

Mothers come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. There are tall moms, short moms, thin moms, and moms with soft edges. There are single moms, moms with partners and moms with husbands. Moms are an indispensable part of our existence. They literally keep the human species from becoming extinct. Hooray for Moms! Today is their day!

There are different ways to become a mother, but there really is no training program for being a mom. Most moms will tell you they had no idea what they were getting into. The job requires that one learns as one goes. On the job training.

There are a few how to parent books that may be helpful. Then there is always the option of getting advice from another mother or even your own mother. But, when all is said and done, it is the mom who decides. Moms decide what their children eat, what they wear, and when they sleep. Then one day the decision maker dynamics change.  This change comes when the child develops a mind of his own. Children typically begin to come into their own mind beginning at about age three and believe themselves to know all by age 12. Then a mother prays.

Moms are always “moming” no matter how old their children become, no matter how many degrees they get or how smart they are, no matter they are moms themselves. Being a mom is a forever job.

Once you have a child you never really sleep soundly again. Oh, and yes, moms do have eyes in the back of their heads. They grow in when their child begins to crawl. They stay fully functional for the life of the mother. Some mothers are able to put blinders on those eyes once a child becomes self-supporting, but other moms just keep watching forever! Moms are wonderful but never perfect, you know.

So, how do you say thank you for all of that? It really doesn’t take a lot. Mothers are notoriously easy to please. A call, a card, dinner out, flowers. It’s pretty easy to please a mom. Don’t forget, May 12 is MOTHER’S DAY. Send her your love!

 

Death and Taxes

Death and taxes (seemingly unlikely bed fellows at first glance) are often linked together because they have long been considered unavoidable life events. Some even say they are the only two things that are certain in life. Neither are something people typically look forward to, but they are both events that are anticipated and can be prepared for in advance. 

This is the time of year when folks hope they have prepared well for their taxes.  Most people prefer to get a tax refund rather than a tax bill. They hope the calculations have been made correctly and the payments made throughout the year will be enough to offset the sting of a big tax bill come April 15th

Hmmm… come to think about it, most folks don’t typically look forward to a big funeral bill at the end of their life either. Few want to leave their family responsible for funeral costs. However, many people don’t plan to offset that expense like they do their taxes. 

Even though most people, 62.5 percent according to the National Funeral Directors Association’s (NFDA) annual Consumer Awareness and Preferences Study, think it’s important to plan in advance. Only a small percentage (21.4 percent) actually act on their good intentions. Why? They have the perception that prepaying is too costly.

Most people are unaware that prepaying does not mean you must pay in one single payment. Many funeral homes offer specialized programs that allow funerals to be paid in advance, just like taxes, in small easily digested bites. Payments can be made on a variety of schedules allowing the consumer the opportunity to choose how long to stretch out payments and how often to make those payments. Individuals can even choose to make one payment per year!  That means a person could choose to put their tax refund toward their funeral.  Taxes could pay for death!

What about that roughly one quarter of people who do go beyond thinking they should make a funeral plan and actually make one? How do they feel once they have their plan in place? Ahh, they feel good. Funeral planners often say they see shoulders go down, hear audible sighs of relief and get hugs at the conclusion of a planning session. It’s like cleaning out the junk drawer. Something most folks put off but when they dig in and get it done, it feels so good they just keep going back to sneak a peak at that drawer all in order.

 

 

Funerals are for Saints and Sinners

These days we’re hearing a lot about life celebrations. A funeral is a ceremony for someone who has died and the survivors. A celebration of life is a funeral with a celebratory feel and it may or may not have a faith-based component. Celebrating the life of the accomplished, the kind, and the generous feels natural. It feels like something we should do.

On the other hand, what do we do about the “broken” people? The bullies, the addicted, the angry, or those who just never got it all together. What do we do when they die? Most of us have one or more imperfect people in our immediate circle. 

The loss of one of these folks is real and it hurts. Because they are gone, our lives will not be the same. We may be relieved of a burden, but we are also without hope. The hope that we will get a hug or a kind word is gone. The hope that a child will get sober and realize the potential you knew was there is gone. The hope that we will hear “I’m sorry” or understand the reason behind the addiction, the anger, or the hatred is now gone. It’s painful. Someone we love has died. Having a funeral will help.

It can be hard to know just what to do when “celebration” doesn’t feel right. This may be especially true if a faith-based service does not feel like the right fit. Ask your funeral director for help. There are funeral celebrants who are not attached to a church who can help you find the right fit. Your funeral director can help you find the right person. 

Funerals are always for the survivors. Regardless of how the deceased spent their time on this earth, survivors need to gather with each other and their friends.  Everyone needs to share in a safe place. All survivors grieve. We all need the opportunity to begin our grief journey in a healthy way. A funeral, a ceremony for someone who has died, is the beginning of that journey.

 

Plan It…All the Way Out 

The ritual harkening the long-awaited approach of spring is upon us – March Madness.

 

People of all ages, incomes, and professions will be completing their brackets and winding down to the biggest decisions of all … the final four! Players and coaches have been working hard for months leading up to this finale.

 

The work and preparation leading up to the end of the college basketball season is not unlike what we all do in our professional lives. Most people work for years in anticipation of the day when they will retire and have the luxury of calling their time their own. The final five working years before retirement are typically the time to get your ducks in a row.

 

Most people approaching retirement begin to think about maxing their savings in those final years of earning. Many take care of deferred maintenance to the home and some even work on their estate plan. Fewer think about the final duck … their funeral. Planning and funding your funeral during those years is a great time to get it done. Especially if being frugal about this expense is of importance.

 

Some of the benefits to planning and funding a funeral in advance include:

  • A payment plan set up while you are still working and earning means the funeral will be completely paid for (at today’s cost) before you retire. That means you won’t need to withdraw from investments to cover this cost in your retirement years.
  • Most people are in good health as they wind down their working years. That means the total cost of the funeral can be covered should something unexpected happen before the payments are complete.
  • Funerals, like most things, tend to inflate in cost over time … it’s not going to get cheaper. You can lock down your cost and be done before you retire.

 

It’s easy to find out everything you need to know about planning and funding a funeral. Just call the funeral home and ask to speak to the individual who takes care of advance funeral planning. 

 

Plan early, live long… and have fun during your March Madness and beyond!

 

Control Funeral Costs by Planning Ahead

How does planning for your funeral in advance save you money? Doesn’t it just let the funeral home make money on your money? How big a part should emotion play in your funeral selections?

First, let’s be honest. Emotion is not a bad thing. Some life events should move us emotionally.

Marriage, birth, and death all appropriately tug at our heartstrings. But the cost of all three can also get out of hand if you make all the decisions when emotions are running high.

Put the word “wedding” in front of anything and the cost doubles. If you’ve ever planned a wedding you know that the dress will cost you half as much if you buy it in far in advance instead of just before you need it. The same is true of funerals.

When you and your spouse sit down together with the funeral director, well in advance, you’ll feel a little emotion as you consider the reality of your death.

But that little tug is nothing compared to what your husband or wife will feel if you don’t prepare in advance and they’re making those decisions alone hours after you’ve died.

Emotional overspending happens. Funeral directors don’t make it happen. In fact, they don’t like it either.

Advance planning allows you to make all the decisions that determine the final cost. Making them together with cool heads and warm hearts saves dollars.

Planning ahead eliminates the excessive spending that can occur when someone is in a heightened emotional state.

Think back to wedding planning.

Starting early can also help you absorb the cost over a longer period of time. That means you don’t drag the wedding debt into your brand new marriage.

When you plan your funeral in advance, you will also have the option of paying for it over time. That means you don’t have to take money from your savings or investments and your survivors won’t have the financial burden of paying for your funeral days after your passing.

Advance planning eliminates the need for a lump sum payment when death occurs.

All money set aside in advance for a funeral should be held with a third party. Nearly all funeral homes participate in programs that hold the dollars in either insurance or a trust product until the death occurs.

The funeral home should not have access to your funds and the insurance products they use should have an increasing death benefit to help offset inflation, providing a cushion for increasing funeral costs.

Consult with an advance planning specialist for more details.

 

 

Food and Funerals

Why is food such a fundamental part of any funeral?

Food provides comfort and strength. A gift of food shows that we care. It’s natural to connect food with the healing process of a funeral.

When should you give food? What’s helpful without being overwhelming?  How do you accept food graciously without having to buy a second refrigerator?  

If you’re helping a friend who is dealing with the death of a loved one, a gift of food is appropriate before the funeral, at the conclusion of the funeral, and even weeks or months after the funeral. 

As you think about your gift, be aware that your friend may not even know they’re hungry. They likely won’t be able to tell you what they want or need.

Take the initiative and make it easy on them. Call with a simple offer that can be changed to meet the needs of those on the receiving end. You might say something like this:

“I’d like to bring your family dinner tomorrow evening. I thought I’d bring you a turkey roast with a broccoli casserole. Will that work for you? I’ll bring dinner by around 10:30 a.m. It’ll be all ready for you to warm in the oven or microwave.” 

When you’re on the receiving end, be gracious, but honest.

Your friends want to help you. If their offer won’t be helpful, give them an opportunity to make different suggestion.

“Thank you for your offer, but we’re all set for the next few days. May I have a rain check?”

If you’re part of a close circle of friends, consider coordinating with others in your group to cover the family’s food needs on different days and with a variety of dishes.

Consider breakfast food. A basket with granola, muffins, or a breakfast casserole may be a nice change.  

Sheet pan dinners, where the entire meal is cooked on one pan in the oven, are easy for both parties. You can find lots of recipes online.

If you don’t cook, consider giving a gift card for a local restaurant that offers take out. 

Whatever you do, don’t forget your friend after the funeral is over. Most people find sitting alone at the dinner table one of the bigger challenges of their bereavement.

A loaf of your famous zucchini bread will be greatly appreciated and it’ll be even better if you can share it together over a cup of tea.

 

 

 

How to Dress for a Funeral

First, understand that what you wear to the funeral is much less important than actually going to the funeral or gathering.  Don’t underestimate the value of your presence. 

Your kind words, shared stories, or even just a hug will mean a great deal to friends and family when there has been a death. Don’t let not having a pair of dress shoes keep you from offering your support.

That being said, what you wear depends on several different factors. The first thing to consider is who died.

If your 80-year-old grandfather passed, the funeral is likely to be more traditional. His older friends will attend, so you will want to be more conservative.

A pair of slacks and a collared shirt for men and boys will do nicely. If you own a sport coat, by all means wear it. A tie with or without the jacket would be a nice, but not a required, addition. 

For the ladies and girls, dress slacks and a nice sweater or blouse will serve the purpose. A dress or skirt would also be lovely. Do pay attention to necklines and length of the skirt. 

When the funeral is for a younger person or will not be faith based, it may be more informal.

A celebration of life is typically more relaxed and may even have a theme that the family will ask attendees to support.  So if you’re asked to wear golf attire to the funeral of an avid golfer, don’t be surprised. 

Like the dress code for most events today, what we wear to a funeral has relaxed. Black is no longer required, but neat, clean, and subdued are always in good taste.

A funeral is not a place to stand out or be the center of attention. As you survey your wardrobe, think in terms of what you would wear to an important job interview or something you would want to wear to apply in person for a bank loan. 

 

 

Advance Funeral Planning Email to a Funeral Director

A funeral plan for a family that doesn't agreeTo: Funeral Director

From: Dad with no plan

Subject: A question about funeral preplanning

 

Before I get to my question, I have to tell you the background.

 

Friday after Thanksgiving I took my wife (who cooked for a week for that dinner) and my kids (who came from west coast, east coast, and the middle) and the grandkids (who only ate rolls for Thanksgiving) out for pizza. 

 

Sounds nice, right? OMG! It took us forever to order, no one could agree!  We ended up with one cheese pizza for the picky grandkids, a large with ¼ meat lovers, ¼ with anchovies, and ½ supreme. We also ordered a medium white with gluten free crust. Still they were all picking stuff off, making faces, and huffing and puffing. OMG again!

 

So, my question…and I need your opinion here…how are they going to do when the time comes for them to meet with you to plan my funeral? Do you think maybe the wife and I should do one of those funeral preplans or advance funeral plans?

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------- 

 

To: Dad with no plan

From: Funeral Director

Subject: Re: A question about funeral preplanning 

OMG yes, you and your wife need a plan. Your family sounds perfectly normal! They’ll get over the pizza … but I’ve seen too many families break apart over disagreements about how to honor their parent’s life. Decisions such as burial or cremation or who is going to pay can be tough when families are grieving. A funeral plan is an easy fix. I‘d be happy to help. When do you want to meet with me? At the funeral home or your house?

 

 

Accepting an Invitation

Previous blog posts have acknowledged how hard it is to deal with special occasions (e.g. holidays, birthdays) when you’ve recently lost the one you love. So, what do you do when you receive an invitation for that special occasion that you don’t feel like accepting? Maybe you are afraid you’ll be a wet blanket, or you aren’t eager to do something new and different because you really just want things as they were. That’s understandable but perhaps turning down the invitation isn’t really in your best interest.

Before you say “no” to an invitation too quickly, give yourself a few minutes to think about it. Take that time to consider your alternatives. What will you do if you don’t accept it? Is there something you would prefer to do? Think about it, do you really want to be alone on that special day?

 It is important to acknowledge that the day won’t be the same. Acknowledge your loss. A woman who recently lost her husband goes to the cemetery for a little chat on those special days. She “tells” her husband how it’s hard for her and that she misses him. Then she tells him how she is going to spend the day.

It is difficult to do something different on those special occasions. Your first few efforts may even fall short. Eventually, perhaps even sooner than you expect, you will find your joy in the occasions again.

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoyable New Year’s Resolutions 

New year, new you. It’s an exciting concept full of promise, right? Then we take all the fun out of it by resolving to do things we don’t like to do. We’ll lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, give up ice cream. Ugh, no fun at all.

 

So how about selecting enjoyable resolutions instead? Some ideas to get you thinking are listed below:

 

1. Do more of something you love. Read more books, go fishing more often, spend more time with your kids or grandkids, binge-watch your favorite series from the start again. Just enjoy and give yourself a big old hug in the form of having fun your way.

2. Get better at something you really like to do. Take a lesson, learn to cook something new, improve your golf swing, learn a new knitting stitch, or just build on what you love.

3. Make a dream come true. See the mountains or the Grand Canyon. Go to the opera or to Disney. Buy the car, lease the car, or rent the car of you dreams for a weekend. Just complete the following sentence and do it: “I’ve always wanted to _______.”

4. See your town like a tourist. Everything fun doesn’t have to require a lot of money. Most of us have attractions, restaurants, natural wonders or parks close to home that we haven’t visited in ages. Just go.

 

5. Make lots of new friends. Some friends are for life while other friends can be for just for a few hours or even minutes. Try smiling and talking to the cab driver, the checkout person, or the person next to you as you walk into or out of church.

 

Enjoy your life. Seize the day. Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

A Year of Firsts

 

When someone close to us dies, a spouse, a child, a parent, a sister, brother, or friend, their passing leaves an empty space in our lives. We will go on and we will have happy moments, then happy days, and eventually whole stretches of happy time. However, that initial year, after the death, we must deal with a whole year of firsts. The first anniversary, birthday, holiday or vacation without the one we loved can be challenging to celebrate. 

 Why are these occasions so hard and what can we do to get through this hard place?  They are difficult because the pain of that empty space our loved one filled is so very acute on these special days.  There is probably nothing that can be done to prevent the feeling of loss. It will follow you for sure if you run away from it and try to ignore the special day. But perhaps, with anticipation and preparation, the occasion can be made easier and maybe even special.

Keep an eye on your calendar, don’t be blindsided by an event. Prepare in advance, make a plan and include others. Tap your family members or your friends and let them in, tell them this will be a tough day for you. Consider what will be the most difficult part of the day.

Maybe it’s not receiving a gift from the love of your life, or not having your wife bake your favorite cake on your birthday. What can you do to work around the pain, acknowledge the loss, and save the day? Perhaps you can go shopping with a good friend and buy yourself a “gift”. Then write a little thank you or whisper your thank you to the one you miss in your prayers. Pull out your wife’s recipe for that cake, call in a grandchild and bake it together. It won’t matter one little bit if the cake doesn’t match up to the quality of your wife’s baking.

As you make your plan for the special occasion be sure to include some way to honor the memory of the person who died. Your day will not be the same without the one you lost, death is a loss. However, you can ease the pain and have a pleasant day in a slightly new and different way.

 

 

 

 

The Cranberry Sauce is for Dad 

 

People often say that one of the hardest things about that first year, the year after your loved one died, is that no one uses their name or talks about them. The hole in your heart begins to feel deeper and wider because talking about them seems forbidden. And as the holidays approach, the quietness can feel even more painful. So, why not take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and find a way to bring your loved one to your holiday gathering in a light but meaningful way

A good example of keeping your loved one in your holiday gathering is the family that always includes that jiggly cranberry sauce straight from the can on their table. There it is - just as it comes from the can - indentations, ridges, and all. Every year it’s there for dad. Every year it is ceremoniously placed on the table accompanied by a few words about how important it was to dad’s enjoyment of the holiday. Every year it brings lots of smiles and stories about dad.

If you have lost someone dear, and you miss them more at the holidays, consider opening the conversation, using their name, and talking about them in a positive way. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Thanksgiving Without the One You Love 

Oh boy, here they come. The holidays! You can’t really ignore them, but they are going to be different because that special person in your life is no longer going to be sharing the day with you. So, what do you do?

First, acknowledge your loss and be aware that you need a plan. Thanksgiving isn’t just another day unless it has been just another day for you in the past. Losing someone you love always leaves an empty space in your life so how will Thanksgiving be different this year? So, what will change?    

For some it may mean you no longer have a place to gather. For others it may mean no one knows how to cook the turkey, make the dressing, or smooth gravy. Maybe you lost the one who carved the bird or said the blessing.

Regardless, you need a plan. The time to deal with the loss of the gravy maker is not at the last minute when the turkey comes out of the oven. A sudden realization catching everyone off guard is likely to intensify and expand the feeling of loss and your day may fall apart entirely. Plan in advance and give the gravy job to another family member. Be prepared for a different sort of gravy. There may be lumps, it may come from a box, it might be better or worse, but it will all right.  

If you are going to be alone this year, consider inviting others who don’t have family close at hand to join you. Make Thanksgiving a potluck. After all, that’s what the first Thanksgiving was…people sharing the bounty of the harvest.

This year be sure that you include some acknowledgement of the one who died in your plans for the day. Maybe you pull out the photo albums after dinner and just express your gratitude for the good days with your loved one. Maybe you include your thanks in the blessing before the meal, or have everyone share something special about your loved one as you gather around the table. Yes, it is difficult, but don’t forget to look for the positives. They are there, you just have to find them.

 

 

 

What do Funeral Directors Do?

 

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

Today, there was a funeral. People cried. Tissues were crumpled and left on the tables.  Flower petals fell to the floor. Now, the cleaning staff is making things tidy for the family who will be here tomorrow.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

Someone in our town died away from home, the funeral director is traveling many miles to bring him home and into the funeral home’s care. The light is on in anticipation of his safe return.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

Hospice called. The teacher who taught the funeral director -- and you -- in the third grade isn’t expected to make it through the night. He’s catching up on paperwork while he keeps vigil. Soon he’ll be called to the home and it will be his turn to take care of the teacher.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

There are computer problems. The video tribute file a family sent won’t work. We’re staying late to make it right for their service.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

It was a busy day today and we still need to notify Social Security and the Veteran’s Administration of Mr. Smith’s death.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

There’s been a terrible accident. We’re doing our best to make a loved one presentable so that they can say goodbye with dignity.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

The obituary the Jones’s gave us for their father is full of misspellings. We need to correct them and get it to the paper.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

We’re reviewing all of the details for tomorrow’s service. When will the celebrant arrive? Do we have drivers for the cars? Who will be the pallbearers?

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

We’re checking tomorrow’s weather in case we need the umbrellas.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

The light is on because your neighbor, the funeral director, is pacing the floor. He can’t sleep. Tomorrow, he will oversee the service for his daughter’s classmate.

Sometimes death is just too close, even for him.

 

 

 

Thank You for Your Service

 

 Because you are there we all sleep better at night. You serve in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Some of you serve for two years, some for twenty or more. Some enter into service at a tender age looking for opportunity. Some are following a longstanding family tradition. You are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. We, thank you for your service. 

You spend days, weeks, and even years away from your family. You are not always there to teach your daughter to ride her bike; perhaps you missed your son’s first steps. Because you serve, you can’t always be counted on to attend the baseball game or the teacher conference. With your service comes sacrifice. Sacrifices made by both you and your family.  We thank you and your family for your service. 

Thank you for being ready and on alert so that we can go about our business without even thinking about the “what ifs”. Thank you for putting yourself in harms way.  Thank you for giving us your time, your energy and your youth. Thank you for representing us with honor where ever you are stationed.

Regardless of whether you serve us at home or in foreign lands, in time of war or peace, we thank you for your service. 

On Memorial Day we remember those who gave their lives in our service, on Armed Forces Day we honor those currently serving. On Veterans Day we honor all who have served our country from the Revolution in 1776 to today. Thank you.

 

 

How to Thank a Veteran

 

Three hundred and sixty five days a year, twenty-four hours a day, rain or shine, hot or cold, from the year 1776 to present day, they’re serving our country.  They are our veterans and November 11th is the official day that we honor and thank them each year. 

So what can you do to show your appreciation?  Here are a few ideas:

- Attend a parade or remembrance event held in your community

- Brush up on your patriotic etiquette

- Teach your children things such as when to stand for the American flag or what to do during the playing of our National Anthem

- Visit the gravesite of a veteran

- Hang a flag in your yard

- Support a veteran-owned business

- Hire a veteran or the spouse of a veteran

- Visit a veterans hospital

- Say thank you to a veteran and his or her family 

Did you know you can even hold a “Care Package Party”? Here’s how:

  • Invite friends to bring items for those serving away from home
  • You can contact the US Post Office for help with packaging supplies for military care packages.  Some items you could send:
    1. Foot care products
    2. Cotton socks
    3. Flavorings for water
    4. iTunes gift card
    5. Snacks
    6. Hand written notes expressing your thanks

Everyone is busy and on Veteran’s Day we’ll be inundated with advertising. It will be easy to see November 11th just as another great sale day…but it is so much more. Perhaps the most important thing you could do is ask a veteran you know to tell you about their experience and then listen. Just really listen.

 


The History of Veterans Day

 

Veterans Day, a national and state holiday, serves as a day for Americans to come together to show their deep respect and appreciation for the military veterans of our country. It is the one day a year when we pause, reflect and show our gratitude to all those who are serving or have ever served in our military. So how did it come to be?

What we know today as Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day. On November 11, 2018, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. This armistice was signed at the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918. At the time, we believed World War I was “the war to end all wars”.  One year after the armistice, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. In his address tohis “fellow-countrymen” delivered from the White House on November 11, 1919, Woodrow Wilson praised the contribution of the American people and shared hope for the future.

With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought. 

Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests, which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men. 

To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations. 

Of course, lasting peace was not to be. After the Second World War, Alabama veteran Raymond Weeks had the idea to expand Armistice Day to honor all veterans. On May 26, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into a law a bill presented by Congressman Ed Rees from Kansas establishing Armistice Day as a national holiday eight years after Weeks began celebrating Armistice Day for all veterans. Congress amended the bill on June 1, 1954, replacing "Armistice" with "Veterans," and it has been known as Veterans Day since. 

Memorial Day honors those who died in service, Armed Services Day honors those who currently serve. Veterans Day honors ALL veterans. Thank a Veteran on November 11th and be very proud and happy to go to bed tonight in the United States of America.

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