Who Holds the Future

Last week was another progress check week.

Bud had his scans on Tuesday and results appointment on Thursday. The doctor indicated that the scans show NOTHING NEW IS HAPPENING! We are so thankful again and again.

Those of you who have to have regular scans, know what a roller coaster that can be with your emotions; and I’ve even written about that before. But in all of that we never want to lose sight of sharing our gratitude about how God is working in this situation. He is always with us and is ever there to comfort and guide us. Should the news ever come back in a disappointing direction, this truth remains: He will never leave us nor forsake us.

As we remember where our path was just one year ago, the difference is so amazing. We had so few answers and were given such little hope. And even then, God was with us with His special comfort that doesn’t make sense to this world.

Bud tackles every day with energy and enthusiasm. He is able to to everything that he was before the symptoms appeared. Projects are on track–well, as on track as an easily distracted person keeps them. He is not hindered in serving families at the funeral home.

Thank you for your prayers through this process. We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Him who holds the future. And He is entirely trustworthy.

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Double rainbow – SR 21 to Hornell 10/23/2018

 

Not Our Clients

In reading blogs by other funeral professionals, and in our networking situations, I hear the families being served referred to as “clients.” I suppose in the strictest sense of the word, you are “clients” or “customers.” But we just don’t think of you in that way.

When the phone rings and our services are required, we take a large breath with you and feel your loss. Our lives slow down and we once again are reminded of those intangible things that are most important to us. Things like love, reverence, friendship, and relationship. And we hang up our construction clothes, put aside our creative projects, and focus on why we are here. Even though I am not the funeral director, I am fully aware of an actual shift in our purpose and a change in our priorities.

Now is our time to stand with you and to help you. Through this process, it is amazing how much we learn about each of you. We learn things like your favorite childhood memories with the person you’ve lost; we learn about habits good and bad; we learn of your family heartaches and joys.

I love hearing the inside jokes and the practical jokes that run rampant through families. I think sharing safe/kind humor is evidence of deep love and understanding of those you live with. I am sometimes amazed to learn of the life achievements of your loved ones. Great achievements from people who were very humble or who were from humble beginnings.

In the space of three days, we are welcomed into your private lives and we get to know you images-1in a very intimate manner. Perhaps we have come to your home and spent time with you before bringing your loved one to our home. Perhaps we have prayed with you for peace and strength for the events to come in the next few days. Perhaps we have just hugged you or held your hand; or listened to that favorite story; or advised your family about practical concerns; or shared a post-funeral diner with you. . .

It is because of this that we can never call you, our friends and neighbors, “clients.” We refer to you as our “families.”

 

 

DIY Funeral Home

Purchasing a funeral home that needs updates is a challenging proposition. In 2003, we came to Andover and purchased the local funeral home, knowing that we would make many changes.

It is amazing to me now as I consider all that has transpired and as I remember that all the while the work was going on, we were living in the midst of the remodel.

Whenever Bud would begin a remodel phase, he was always trying to contain the scope of it so that he could shut it down in the event of a funeral call. He wanted to be able to shut it down in a way that would still provide a good experience for our families. (Since we never call our clients by the word clients, and we always call them families, I’m hoping that my post will not be confusing…!)

I think the most inconvenient funeral we ever had was when the Andover gathering room was increased in size. It only increased about 14 feet, but in the process of making the addition, we did get a funeral call. The family we were serving at the time was very gracious, and I think the accommodations worked so that story ends on a good note.

Anyway, the goal with renovations, is to start them and keep them moving along in the hopes of avoiding just such conflicts.

When it was time to work on the front porch, that was also the goal. The weather was good, the work space was covered, and Bud just worked and worked barely stopping for meals.

At that time, the girls were attending Andover Central School. Every day, we would have our breakfast and they would scoot along out the front door off to school. The day before “the incident” they had come home from school and entered the house up the front steps like usual and had spent the rest of the day either in the house or in the back yard via the back door.

Meanwhile, Dad came in for supper, and went back out to work on the front porch project.

And another school day came. The girls came down for breakfast and we were having a good time together. Then they realized that they were running late. Karissa was the first to lay hold of her things and she took a speedy departure. As she got to the front door, upon zipping through

she found herself airborne!

And then she went “kerplunk.”

Unbeknownst (yes, people still use that word) to us, Bud had gotten to the part of the porch project where the floor boards needed to be removed. It was a good place to stop for the night, but he didn’t remember that the girls would be exiting the front door, so precautions for a safe exit were not considered….

Thankfully, Karissa was not injured badly. Horrible as it seems, we had a hard time expressing our true empathy because our laughter was vying for first expression. Thankfully, Karissa can now laugh with us and understands the mental image we had; continue to have as I am barely able to contain myself as I write this post… (I love you Karissa! Thank you for permission to post this story.)

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Frugality

One of the things that my mom did really well was to teach her children frugality. While it was not a predetermined goal of hers, it certainly was a necessity.

Our childhood years were marked by difficult times and Mom did her best to take up the slack. We didn’t have expensive cuts of meat on the table, our Christmases were often lean, and our clothes seldom came to us new with the tags still on. But she didn’t complain about it, so it just seemed like our lifestyle was normal.

I believe that since she didn’t complain, as we entered our teen years, the “hunt” of the garage sale and the thrift stores was truly a fun thing for us. It was a great adventure to see how far we could stretch our dollars. I came through those years feeling as though I had everything I needed and much of what I wanted. Even still as I go “hunting” I frequently end the day feeling as though God put something in a shop especially and specifically for me.

Frugality is truly a great life lesson.

This life lesson has carried through all stages of my life — even into the present day. Serving a small community in funeral directing is a very fulfilling life. However, it is not the lucrative life that one might think. Yet we have done remarkably well in raising our children, renovating our facilities, and giving back to our community through this life. I believe that God has not only provided the funds, but He has also stretched our dollars in memorable ways.

The latest big thing in our lives is that we are building an addition onto one of our funeral homes. This, too, is proving to be a great adventure to see how far we can stretch our dollars! Sometimes we have the money we need for certain things. Sometimes we re-evaluate to determine if this thing that we thought we needed is really a need. And sometimes God just stretches our dollars to bring an idea to fruition.

My funeral director husband does an amazing job as a general contractor. When you calculate the savings of doing this task himself, he has really stretched our dollars! He keeps his eyes open for less expensive ways to accomplish our objective and very often he is led to just the right solutions.

I am a good match for my husband when calculating up the dollar stretching genius. And even now, during the construction phase, I am looking ahead to the interior decorating and gleaning ideas and making a plan. It is not in my disposition to hire someone to do this portion of a project. Besides, I love creating inviting spaces…when I grow up I want to be Joanna Gaines. Throughout all the decorating plans and ideas, my mom-taught frugality continues to guide me.

As I look at our project, it is rewarding to remember those points where God has undoubtedly stretched our dollars.

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The Picnic Basket

My children had never “lived in” a funeral home prior to our move to Andover, New York in 2003.

At the time, I didn’t consider what a transition that would be for them.  Suddenly we were going to have to share our house with a lot of people on a regular basis. When we first took occupancy, our personal space was only somewhat separated from the funeral space. There was no basement living space at the time. The only access to our upstairs bedrooms and the “TV room” was via the stairway inside the funeral home space.

To complicate matters, our private bathroom was upstairs. The funeral home restroom was in a very public and awkward location for the children to access.

It is not unusual for arrangements to include calling hours in the afternoon, calling hours in the evening, and then an actual service the next day. In light of this pattern of events, it became apparent that we were going to have a bit of a problem. At the time, I was homeschooling all four of our children which meant that they were home all day. So the question became, “Where are the kids going to be during all these events?”

As I have never centered our living room around an entertainment center, changing the purpose of our living room just didn’t appeal to me. Quite frankly, the “living room” was pretty small at the time, given that the majority of the space was being used for home school!

But, I could have placed an entertainment center there and somewhat solved the problem. (The bathroom issue still remained.) The complication with doing that was that when these events were not happening, our living space would be centered around an entertainment center. At the time, we were running in the neighborhood of 35 calls each year. So for conflicts of 70 or less days each year, did I really want the TV in the living room? I decided “no.”

With the configuration of the house at the time, sound from the TV was going to be a huge consideration. Having a TV in the living room just was not going to work. So, our kids were going to have to bear the burden of being inconvenienced by remaining upstairs during calling hours and funeral services.

After the first “set” of calling hours, they emerged from the TV area all in one piece, but “hungry.” Of course, if you’re watching a movie, you just have to have a snack! I’m sure they took something up with them at the beginning. But it probably just wasn’t exactly what they thought they wanted. Anyway, it became apparent for several reasons that they needed to have access to the kitchen and living room.

So, we came up with a “plan.” The kids would stay upstairs during all the aforementioned services. They were allowed a certain number of “trips through” the funeral home during each set of services. In order to go through, they had to be fully dressed, including shoes and socks, in presentable clothing, their bodies clean, and their hair brushed. Anyone who did not meet the criteria could not go through.

So, over time what we saw develop was this … our kids would set up camp in the upstairs portion of the house. They spent their time tinkering, reading, or watching a video. Occasionally, if a person watched closely, you could see a cute little preteen coming down the stairs making his or her way to the private portion of the building. After awhile, you would see that same person on a return trip with a picnic basket in hand! (Their idea, not mine!)

If my memory serves me correctly, it was usually our oldest daughter who made the food run for the whole group. But I know that each of them made some “trips through” over time.

Bud began the renovations on the Andover building in the Spring of 2003, so this format didn’t last indefinitely. While it was inconvenient for the kids, I think it was a good experience for them. And the memory is a good one for me as I think about seeing one of my smiling kiddies walking softly down the stairs and moving with consideration through the people visiting that day.

I don’t remember my children ever once complaining about the plan or the fact that they had to alter their lives for other people for a few hours. One could look at it on the surface and simply call it an inconvenience. In our house it’s just the way it was. And in my mind, it was a built in opportunity to develop poise and thoughtfulness of others.

So I’ll take a moment now and thank my children for their cooperation with “the plan.”

 

What’s in a Name?

So as I have been contemplating this blog, I came up against the name. A person could travel down so many paths just in the choice of a blog name — some of them not so good.

I have a creative family, so I enlisted their help. I even engaged one friend, who I find particularly creative and I think she’s still puzzling over it. From the tone of her texts, I think she was laughing her way through the dark ones and still had not turned the corner yet. Maybe someday I’ll hear about those that had her in a state of “rofl” . . .

Back to my family … I got return texts that looked like this:

The Morbid Details
Lilies and Kleenex
We Put the Fun in Funeral
Grave Situations
The Many Adventures of Christopher Funeral Mouse
“I got nothing… I gotta think on that”
Life in the Business of Death (And the author immediately recognized that it sounds like an assassin’s blog.)
Grave Stories

But “Life in the Business of Death” did get me thinking. I looked for recognizable references to death and thought of one of the most used phrases in funerals … “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death … ”  So there you have it “Lifeinthevalley.com?”

Research showed that this name with .com/.net/.org were all taken. These are the common extensions so now what? I really like the “life in the valley” part. An easy fix would be to add the word “my” … mylifeinthevalley.com. But I didn’t like that so much. So I started looking at extensions. Did you know that there are a plethora of extensions available?  As I researched, I found several interesting ones…

.coffee, .ninja, .cool, .shoes, .today, .rocks . . .

I paused on “.us” — and my conspiracy nature took over, feeling like this was putting a target on my blog. Hacker to Hacker friend: “Let’s crash all the domain names with the extensions of .us!” I know, ridiculous!

I even found “.rip” — yes, it really is there.

And the list of extensions just goes on and on . . .

And the list of extensions just goes on and on . . .

So I immediately sent that out to an analytical son-in-law and an edgy millennial daughter. My daughter loved it … lifeinthevalley.rip … just as I thought a millennial would. My son in law pondered it and posed questions.  I considered this one for awhile … Life/rip.  Ultimately, this one died on the vine because I felt like it sent conflicting messages (but I did enjoy the chuckle.)

I am just so not wanting to add “MY” — what an easy way out … But unknown extensions? What to do, what to do…

What not to do — not doing “my.” And so, we end up with an unconventional extension.

http://www.lifeinthevalley.me.

Remember, “Life in the Valley” is a blog from me, not my funeral director husband. Therefore as I might have perspectives that he does not, I think the extension is a reminder that the “opinions and interpretations found in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of our resident funeral director.”

More than likely in five years, multiple extensions will not be a big deal. But until then, you might have trouble finding me. So, keep the name handy and share it with others too!

So, what’s in a name? A lot of research and thought!