Half-Way Day!

As many of you know, I (Linda) have been working on obtaining my funeral director’s license. I take classes through Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science.

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Last week was a milestone because it included HALF-WAY DAY! October 4, 2019 is the last day of my program!

Thank you for your encouragement and prayers! We’re on the backside!

About Face

This post was originally placed in my “havenlife” blog in March 2011. It must be the snowy days because this story came to mind again today . . . 

It seems like the funeral director in your town or neighborhood has been there forever, right?  The turnover rate is so low in some places that you get the impression that he was born in the funeral home.

But when a new director does come, it’s a transitional period for the community as well as for the funeral director.  He has to learn all the names, the relationships in all the families.  He needs to learn where all the churches and cemeteries are located; develop relationships with all the pastors and cemetery sextons.  He will learn all of the town and village clerks and the local veteran’s services agent.  He will also build bridges with other area funeral directors and service organizations.  I think you’re getting the picture.

Life for the new funeral director is very interesting, indeed.  And in the early part, it’s like you never really catch up, and you’re praying like mad that things go well.

I remember Mrs. C, an amazingly gracious woman.  Her husband had passed away in during a cold, snowy winter.  She no longer lived in the area, but she understood the plight of the new funeral director; where he needed assistance with information that the previous director would have known, Mrs. C amicably provided it.

It turns out the cemetery was quite far away and it was not one that was utilized by this funeral home often.  For peace of mind, it was necessary to drive out, look over the cemetery, and develop confidence in the route for a successful processional.  Having done that, it seemed we could relax a little about logistics and concentrate on service.

The calling hours and funeral service ended, it was time to proceed to the cemetery.  An accurate and orderly processional was created and off we went.  Driving, slowly, but just driving.

And then, we noticed out the driver’s side window that Mrs. C’s car had pulled up along side of our car, having pulled out and passed the hearse to make the maneuver.  This was in 2003 and cell phones had not migrated into the elderly portion of the population at all, so this was her only method of communicating with the funeral director.

So we pulled over, lowered our window, and heard Mrs. C kindly say, “I’m not familiar with this route to the cemetery.”  Which was enough to send a creeping pink line up the funeral director’s neck (my dear husband) as he looked around to determine our location.   They discussed the situation and decided how to get things back on track for that successful processional.

As there was no cross-road nearby, a turn-around was the course of action chosen.  The “about-face” went amazingly smooth, as numerous cars executed the needed maneuvers to stay out of ditches and snow banks.

Mrs. C was, indeed, very kind about the whole situation keeping the intimate details of that conversation discretely to herself.  Of course, we now know where all the cemeteries are and have not repeated this mistake!


Hijacking Taps

Note: This posting is not meant to demean any honor guard of any branch of the military. It is simply a true story from our cache of stories …

In January the father of a good friend passed away. And in September, we were honored to assist them in conducting a graveside memorial service in the Catskill’s, quite a distance from our home. So on a Saturday morning, we made the drive out with a van load of equipment and our friend’s father’s ashes, as well.

We found the Veteran’s Cemetery, located the grave lot, and proceeded to set up the equipment. Soon people began to arrive; and shortly, the honor guard arrived as well. There were three soldiers in attendance. What I noticed immediately was that the bugler seemed to be preparing to use a ceremonial bugle.

“The Ceremonial Bugle …

is a dignified method of playing Taps at a military funeral when a live bugler is not available for military funeral ceremonies. It was developed in order to provide a solemn visual image and as an alternative to the playing of a recorded version of Taps on a CD/cassette player.

The Ceremonial Bugle has an electronic insert that enables an individual to “symbolically” play Taps, a more respectful means to honor those who served.”

With fewer musicians available for the rendering of military honors, someone has created this product that usually works well in presenting “Taps” during a ceremony. I have seen the ceremonial bugle used successfully many times. But there were a couple of times when it was not so successful.

As I was watching the people assemble and participants preparing for the memorial service, I remembered some of those not-so-successful attempts and decided to prepare myself as well, not really thinking that I would need to do anything.

The military honor guard positioned themselves, two under the canopy to present the flag and the bugler a good distance away. And the ceremony began. The flag bearers extended the American flag as they waited for playing of taps. The bugler brought the bugle to his lips and . . . nothing happened. He, in a very stately manner, slowly dropped the bugle to his side (presumably make sure the switch was in the “on” position) and lifted it to try again . . . to no avail. With great military bearing, and as his coworkers were still standing with their arms furled out wide holding the flag, he slowly moved the bugle away from his face once again and gave it a little shake. Perhaps he was hoping that it would jar just a little bit of electricity from the battery–just enough to play “Taps” one time, please?

Once again, the bugle traveled to his lips only to leave the audience wondering, and the flag bearers struggling to maintain stance. Meanwhile, I had stepped out of the view of those in attendance and had “Taps” queued up in my cell phone. I wasn’t confident about the volume nor how well it would travel. But I did know that hijacked “Taps” is better than no “Taps” — so I drew in a “here goes” breath and pressed play.

The two soldiers holding the flag seemed to perk up a bit taller as the bugler swiftly but smoothly put the bugle to his lips and held the stance throughout the playing of “Taps” from who-knew-where. As the tribute concluded, the flag bearing soldiers proceeded with the rest of the honors ceremony as though nothing had been amiss.

As the regular military honor guard were making their formal retreat, the one of senior rank caught my eye and his expression conveyed both gratitude and relief. And since the attendees didn’t really know what was happening, they didn’t understand that there was an equipment malfunction nor did they realize that I had just hijacked “Taps.”



Note: I believe that the color guard inspected and tested the equipment prior to beginning the service. It just seemed to be a “matter of what can go wrong–will go wrong.” 





This posting begins the new category of “unsolicited advice.” Because sometimes, you just have to say it.

Don’t send internet flowers. If it has to be UPS’d, Fedex’d or DHL Express’d … just don’t do it. Boxed flowers are not going to be a satisfying experience. I think I can give you some compelling reasons to avoid this manner of expressing your sympathy.

  1. They don’t arrive in a timely fashion. — Often, boxed flowers arrive at the funeral home at a peak activity time. This means that your funeral director and his staff are occupied with the business of preparing for a funeral. When boxed flowers arrive, someone has to devote considerable time and attention to this service. If things are going smoothly in the funeral home, then the boxed flowers will get reasonable attention. If there are complications in the funeral home, the boxed flowers will fall to a low priority.
  2. They don’t arrive IN TIME. We returned from a post-funeral dinner to find this on our porch.img_20161111_125014560
  3. The flowers require a great deal of work. Just getting the product out of the packaging is time consuming. Next, the discovery is made that all the stems come in the same length. This means either dropping the conglomeration into the vase “as is” or trimming stems — and that takes time.
  4. A beautiful bouquet is dependent upon the skills of the arranger. Funeral directors and their staff may not be (read this: are not) trained and accomplished florists. Try as we might, the end result is not going to go so well. Those stems need to be trimmed and bows fluffed and just so much primping to make a bouquet look right.
  5. The flowers are not going to arrive in good condition. Consider the weather. If it is down to freezing at night, those flowers are going to wilt. If it is below freezing at night, those flowers are going to freeze. Alternatively, if there is a heatwave, the flowers are going to show the damage. Consider the weather from where the blooms begin their journey all the way to where the journey ends. At any point in the transport, your daisies are susceptible to some sort of weather related incident. The merchandiser likes for you to believe that flowers are resilient and will “perk back up” but, well, you know.
  6. You will be disappointed. Well, if you’re sending internet flowers, chances are you won’t even see them. But the display will be a disappointing tribute of your affection. Take a look at the images below.


In the “What they got” image, you cannot tell that the rose tips are all brown.


In this example, the item that they purchased was named “Stunning White Lily” arrangement. None of the lilies were in bloom. The snapdragons were suffering from having been too cold. The directions on the box were followed exactly. This arrangement arrived about 40 minutes before calling hours. Though the box promised that warm water would induce the blooms to open, the lead time was not sufficient to make that happen. The blooms on this arrangement did emerge three days later.

The blue accents were added. Though a person could not tell it by looking, the arrangement actually looked worse without the additions.

While the marketing on the outside of the boxes pledged “Better Flowers,” I believe that the actual product fell far short of meeting the promise.

I have given you only two examples. But not once has the final result with boxed flowers led me to believe that this internet product is a good value.


Life in the Valley

Welcome to the first installment of what is bound to be an eclectic blog!

This site is born of a desire to remove barriers, inform, and share life from a particular perspective. My husband owns two funeral homes in Western New York. This is a very rural region of our state. In our area, it is not uncommon for a funeral director to have his residence on the property of the funeral home.

I have spent the last thirteen years living nestled all around our funeral home facility. We have living space on the main floor; our bedrooms are upstairs; our school room turned family room is in the basement.

Throughout all these sixteen years, I have assisted my husband in various ways in the funeral service. I have seen, heard and experienced many interesting things. One thing I have heard over and over is “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . ” This is the inspiration for the name of this blog.

The families that we serve are, in fact, walking through a very hard situation. Unlike them, I find that we are in this valley very frequently and it has been imperative that we have a real life while we assist others in navigating the valley.

I am not a funeral director. I do provide technical services for all of our funerals and memorial services. I am instrumental in the marketing portion of our business. I assist at funeral services and memorial services. As we are now an empty-nest family, I find that I have time for some creative aspects of our business.

It is my hope that I will share insights, humor, and information that will be uplifting and helpful. I also know that our industry has a certain threshold of mystery or fear attached to it. That doesn’t have to be so. Perhaps along the way, you will learn something that will remove the cloud for you. Of course you are welcome to ask questions…I’ll do my best to answer you.

So let the journey begin.journey