We don’t sell you flowers . . .

Recently a lovely lady approached us during calling hours to ask about the flowers she ordered. She indicated that she had purchased them from our website and the order said that the flowers would be delivered in time for the visitation. Her flowers were not on display and she was dismayed that we would make a promise like this and then not fulfill.funeral flowers

As I began to talk with her, I realized that it would be better to ask her to show me how she had ordered the flowers. We went to the office and I showed her our website. I took her to the obituary and I clicked on the “Send Flowers” link. This link is shown on every current obituary page. The link takes you to a page that shows some local florists from whom flowers may be ordered. But there is no order form, simply phone numbers and names.

She said this is not where she got the flowers; in fact, the page she used had flowers shown and choices to make and could be ordered directly from that page.

I then did a search on the obituary, which brought up the Legacy.com version as the top option in the search. I clicked on the obituary and she was very excited to see the exact page she had seen earlier.

But this page has nothing to do with us. We do not support it, nor do we benefit from it. In fact, we usually are harmed by it–as are our local florists. What we would like for each person to understand is that Legacy.com is big business.

From Wikipedia:

Legacy.com is a website founded in 1998, the world’s largest commercial provider of online memorials. The Web site hosts obituaries and memorials for more than 70 percent of all U.S. deaths. Legacy.com hosts obituaries for more than three-quarters of the 100 largest newspapers in the U.S., by circulation. The site attracts more than 30 million unique visitors per month and is among the top 40 trafficked websites in the world.

Legacy.com is a privately held company based in Evanston, Illinois, with more than 1500 newspaper affiliates in North America, Europe and Australia . . . .”

As you can see, newspapers are primarily responsible for the success of Legacy.com. Our local papers jumped onto this platform many years ago because it took away the need for them to support websites to hold myriad obituaries for their local community. They found a way to allow someone else to carry the cost of perpetual maintenance of the life stories of the people in your hometown. And that was just fine with Legacy.com because they had a larger vision.

Now you can search for an obituary from your community and land on a national clearing house that looks like it could be a page from the funeral home down the street. And on that page, they will be offering to sell you flowers, candy, balloons, chocolates, and various other comfort items.

But they are not us. They are not even the local florist. They are not even in our state. And Legacy.com makes promises that cannot be kept because they do not understand the economic and customer service dynamics of our region.

And if they cannot deliver, as was the case in my opening story, they don’t care. The lady of the story did not receive any kind of customer service call telling her there would be no flowers. She just arrived and was totally disappointed.

So, why do we allow this to happen? Shouldn’t we be the top response when someone searches for an obituary. We learned a long time ago that Legacy.com has resources that we cannot match–literally, a business has to “buy” the opportunity to be at the top of the results when a search is performed.

So “Caveat emptor” — that web site that you’re clicking on might not have anything to do with a local business. When searching obituaries, you can be sure that Legacy.com is not a “local” company and they do not support local businesses.

If you must search for a place to purchase flowers — start on the website of the funeral home handling the services. Some of those do, in fact, have ordering platforms from which you can order flowers. In these situations, the florist is not getting the full cost of the arrangement as the funeral home receives a commission.

On our site, you will find referrals to our local florists.  These establishments are in the business of flowers and provide wonderful services directly to you. They answer to you and you can bring your concerns and questions directly to them. And from them, you can expect and receive excellent service on the arrangements you need for funerals in our area.

(And please, read the other postings about bloomstoday.com, flowers.com, and other flower gathering services….)

(Just for fun – I looked up the ranking for our website. In the United States, there are 1,727,216 sites that get more traffic than does ours!)

sendflowers

The day I almost cried over Chik-fil-A

So, many of you know that I have been pursuing getting my funeral director’s license. At the end of the course, in order to be eligible to graduate, a student must pass the Comprehensive Exams. I have been studying diligently for this; yet in the two weeks prior to the test, I had very little time to actually concentrate on those studies.

But on Sunday night, I drove down to Pittsburgh to take the exam on Monday. The process is that the test is divided into two sections with six tests making up each section. The test taker has to pass all the tests with a score of at least 80%. If all the tests are passed on Monday, then the tester is done. If they are not all passed on Monday, the tester returns on Wednesday to retake those not passed at the stated percentage. On Friday, the tester has opportunity to take the test once again to finish the week by taking any remaining parts that were not previously passed.

Each half of the test runs in the neighborhood of 200 questions with a two-hour window to take the test.

So on Monday, I took the test. There were several “administrative” bumps that caused me angst in the way the test was proctored; but that was manageable. All the same, when the test was over, I would have to describe myself in a state of test-shock. I considered staying in Pittsburgh just a bit to get something to eat. However, given the time of day and the fact that I needed to get some media prepared for a funeral service the next day, I was not comfortable with remaining.

And then I remembered! Chik-fil-A, in Erie, is half-way home. So, off I went — happy to be getting out of the city before traffic would be any sort of an issue! It was only two hours to Erie, yet my stomach was not happy with this decision. So I kept myself going with the thought of a chocolate milkshake and chicken tenders and a chocolate milkshake. Did I mention that chocolate milkshake?

The stress of that test had really taken its toll and I was so looking forward to a nice meal, oh, and a chocolate milkshake–LARGE. Just a little further–almost there!

As I pulled into the parking lot, there was a huge sign–CLOSED FOR CONSTRUCTION. WHAT?!?!?! How could they do this to me? And the letdown was almost too much…yes, really, I almost cried.

But then I pulled myself together by reminding myself that it’s not Chik-fil-A, or their chocolate milkshake, that sustains me. God is bigger than a fast food chain and He’s bigger than a Comprehensive Exam. He reminded me that He is Enough, no matter what.

For the record — I passed seven of the twelve parts that day and on Wednesday, I passed the remaining five.

milkshakes-cow

Many Thanks

Once again, I want to thank so many of you for your votes of confidence — literally — on Tuesday’s election.thank you

It is an honor to serve the residents of our county in the office of Coroner.

Along with the voters, I would also like to thank the election officials.

Each election event requires many hands and much oversight. Thank you to all who serve on this day. Every candidate appreciates you!

Bud

being  I am currently on “break” from school. My courses run in eight-week sessions with a two week break between. I had grandiose plans of getting so much done, but today is the last “official” day. And nothing is done.

No laundry, no changing my textbook/study center, no closet cleaning, no swapping out winter clothes, no basement hoeing, no plant planting. No “thing” is done. I didn’t actually hope to accomplish all of that, but I thought I would get to one or two things on the list.

Even though I sound discouraged, because I do like a tidy home and a lovely yard, I am not. All these things will get done when they are supposed to, if they are supposed to. You might be walking up my porch steps as I put away the last pair of underwear or wash that last pan, but “just in time” works. If November comes and I pull a sweater out of the dresser in my bedroom, where it has been for the entire summer and fall, then I’d say I’m ahead of the game.

So if I accomplished none of these “things” — where did my break go?

Two events come to mind. One event was a “must do.” Our lives are made up of those. Not because others dictate to us, but because we understand the importance for ourselves of doing them. This “must do” was attending my uncle’s funeral. Nearly all of us understand the “must do” component — while you want to support your family and be there for the event, the “must” part comes because no one likes facing death. But it is part of our lives and it is a fact of our history.

The other event was only a “must do” in that it was time for us to get away. But this was mostly spontaneous, especially in that we didn’t actually plan where we were going and just decided along the way. We didn’t actually book hotel rooms, either. Well, I guess that’s not so unusual for us. We just “hope” it works out and we might find a deal. My poor kids can tell you how this usually worked when traveling long distances!

So we ended up enjoying four nights and five days of spontaneity. Each night, the hotel room hunt was successful. The capstone night was finding the Common Man Hotel and Restaurant in Claremont, New Hampshire. What a lovely place. And we were offered a discounted rate, besides!

We didn’t have any particular agenda; no schedule to keep; no people to meet. So we drove, relaxed and rested.

But always present was one extra visitor that we didn’t invite. It was “that guy,” Cancer. He’s always with us these days. Though the doctors have indicated he is not active, neither do they say he is gone. And sometimes, we are reminded that he invaded our lives because of treatment side effects.

So in our wanderings, he was there. But because we were able to cut out other stresses, the time together was refreshing and brought us closer together. I recently heard a friend say that she is “living” with cancer — we are still learning how to do that.  It is a challenge to teach yourself to live in the moment; knowing that cancer wants to limit the moments. Our journey has been somewhat calm, so far, compared to others we have known. We are thankful for that and it reminds us to pray for those who face very hard treatments and prognosis. Our long weekend resulted in some much needed rest, introspection, conversation and rejuvenation.

So those things that I thought I’d get done during break don’t matter. Life isn’t about “things” — it is about moments. Our wonderful, happy, spontaneous moments this past week — that was living.

Here’s what we got to do!
Friday morning – rescheduled MRI in Rochester;
Friday night – Syracuse (NY) Mets ball game – Tim Tebow at bat x3 ;
https://www.milb.com/syracuse

Saturday morning – breakfast in Syracuse with Titus and Abigail  
http://www.thegemdiner.com/menu/ – “World Famous” Gem Diner;

From here I thought we were going to Boston, but the traffic dissuaded us.

Saturday afternoon – stopped in to see Bud’s Dad;
Saturday night – Dinner at Lizzie Keays (Bud’s sister’s restaurant in Warrensburg, NY)
http://www.lizziekeays.com/

Visit with friends in Thurman, NY;
Sunday morning – church at New Hope Church – Queensbury, NY;
http://www.sharingnewhope.org/ — excellent place to worship!
Sunday – Lunch with Bud’s Dad – Bud’s locally famous spaghetti;
Sunday afternoon – Andover, VT;
Sunday night — The Common Man Inn and Restaurant in New Hampshire
https://thecmaninn.com/ – a must do for you!;

Monday – Andover, New Hampshire
AND Andover, Maine
Had a great late lunch here:
https://www.facebook.com/AndoverGeneralStoreandDiner/;
Tuesday – Joshua Chamberlain Museum in Brunswick, Maine – Bud’s “History fix” – a bit of history about a Civil War general.
http://pejepscothistorical.org/chamberlain

and Home!

Christmas Points to Calvary

This year just needs to be simpler. So I only decorated a short little Big-tree-wanna-be. But the beauty still touches my heart. I placed on an ornament that commemorates our first date, one that is from our wedding, and mainly dough ornaments I made for our first Christmas tree. That first tree also had some tulle from the material for my wedding veil — I have echoed the idea once again in this tree. Our handcrafted (from a dear friend) angel was too weighty for the tree itself, but she’s there at the base.

With no adornment at the top, the tree seemed pretty empty. So I made a simple reminder. It isn’t a star, reminiscent of the Star of Bethlehem. It isn’t an angel to remind me of the account of the angel encouraging the shepherds to “Fear Not.”  It is a simple shiny red ribbon, surrounded by a lovely white bow.

” . . . Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; . . . “

And the tree, itself, is a reminder that though Jesus came as a sweet little baby, His destiny was the cross–the tree of Golgotha. It was this tremendous act of love that made possible the transformation of my sin, and yours, from scarlet to white.

Bud and I send Christmas greetings to one and all and we pray that your celebrations will remind you of God’s great love for you. He gave you the greatest gift of all, His Son.

2018Tree

Aware

HCHaSo, here we are at the second Christmas since Bud’s cancer diagnosis.

I think that the word that comes to mind for me now is “aware.” I am a bit more aware of the goodness of the Lord. I am also a bit more attuned to seeing that goodness around me.

Even before the diagnosis, when things seemed huge in our lives it seemed to be my “go to” statement — “God hasn’t brought us this far to just leave us stranded.”

Side note confessional: Okay, so the truth is I actually say “God hasn’t brought us this far to just drop us in a hole.” The first sentence sounded more socially acceptable. The second demonstrates the depth of the anxiety that was involved.

The main point is that usually it took a “huge event” to cause me to state my trust in the goodness of God. As I look at things as they are today, I see how many holes He has drawn us around, eliminated, or bridged over for us. And I understand more fully that each day is fraught with holes. The unfortunate thing is that I allow myself to think that I can handle those “every day holes.” I easily forget that without God, I would plummet every time.

Bud’s medical status is great. All of the locations have been radiated and the scans (as of this week) show no active cancer in these sites and no new cancer anywhere in his body. As a result of a trip to Sloan Kettering in August, an adjustment was made to his medication dosage that has eliminated the vast majority of the side effects of the treatment. He is feeling great and has good energy. We’re back to the lifestyle where I have a hard time keeping up with him.

I want to remember to remember the goodness of God. I want to see it every day and to be aware of it at all times. When I plummet into a hole, for certainly I will, I want the grace of God to draw me out of it and to bridge it over for me and I want to recognize His goodness even then.

God is good, of course all the time. I want to be aware of it, all the time.

 

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.

pims  download

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!

There is the miracle

This is a modest edit of my May 5, 2018 posting to “Mercies in Disguise”

The scans show that there is no growth of the existing (lung) lesion! And no new growth! Both answers to prayer.

Bud has been off the protocol for 26 days and they have been waiting for the side effects to clear up in order to re-start. However, they were not satisfied that the side effects had subsided sufficiently and determined that he is not ready to start the protocol again. Since he can only be off for 28 days, that decision essentially removed him from the clinical trial.

He will now begin the treatment that he would have taken in November, had a clinical trial not be available.

Our status reports will now be every 12 weeks.

Bud and I have been through at least one catastrophic event in our lives (two if you count the day of the cancer diagnosis.) When Caleb died of SIDS in 1987, that was a catastrophe such as I had never imagined. The emotions were overwhelming; time was forever marked by that day. But the thing about a catastrophe is that it happens and immediately thereafter, the healing begins. The event keeps your mind preoccupied for a time, but a new normal settles in and you begin to adjust to the reality that you now have.

I have pondered the contrast of catastrophic events and chronic events since that time. One is called on to pull out different resources to manage each. Many of us have had at least one time of wondering how we would handle some type of tragedy. Perhaps we’ve tried to stand in some else’s shoes and walked ourselves through how we would like to handle a certain type of event. I know that when I heard of people dying, I always hoped that I would have the spiritual fortitude to look to God for my comfort and to praise Him through the storm that had overtaken.

But at some point I started thinking about the chronic events of life and wondering how I would handle those. Years ago, we had a friend who suffered from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. He had a wife and one child at the time. Consider how little is currently known about this disease and then think how frustrating it would have been 25 years ago. But his wife was a woman of strength and dedication. When I think of my early examples of how to handle chronic issues, this couple comes to mind.

As I’ve considered them, I see how the catastrophe in our history perhaps prepared us for the chronic event before us. I believe that God used many details in the death of Caleb to touch others and to grow us. I believe that we have honored God in our representation of this event and in how we responded. It was a huge, huge event; I just cannot describe or tell all that happened.

And now, we are on the cusp of a chronic event. Yes, I agree that the initial diagnosis felt more like a catastrophe. But it hasn’t gone away and now we have to manage our lives around that intruder, cancer. The little beast is on our minds day after day preying upon our peace. We have no answers or conclusions, we have no point in time where we can “settle in” for a new normal. The reality is always changing.

We respond differently to chronic than we do to catastrophic. What do we do when there is a catastrophe in the family of a friend? It is so easy to be there for them and to support them. And it is so easy for them to let us, because it will level out soon. They understand the significance of the catastrophe and often they are depending upon God and shining His light and His love through the event.

Contrast that to how we respond when our friends, once again, need support in the same “old” trial. It feels heavy, doesn’t it? It feels like things are never going to change or get better — and that second part is really what we want — that it would get better. And, it’s difficult for them to keep accepting help. They know that in some way, they are disrupting our lives; that they are taking our precious time and maybe even some resources. They may have to pray more frequently about their attitude or they may be so discouraged that praying is hard.

Chronic is defined as an illness “persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.” (Google Dictionary) I don’t know what is classified as a “long time” but as I look at lung cancer, perhaps this is a chronic event for us. People may look at our blog or Facebook page looking for updates, but with a chronic situation, updates are sparse and usually uneventful. So what would I like for you to know about us and how we are handling our chronic illness?

We have to pray more frequently about our attitude. God is a comforter and healer and we know this. We know that He can fully heal Bud at any moment. And what praise we would offer to Him at that point! But sometimes, it is not about the miraculous thing that God could perform. Sometimes it is about the continual work that He is doing. He is continually comforting. He is continually communing with us. He is continually adjusting our attitudes. He is continually meeting our needs. Perhaps that is the miraculous; that He never grows tired of our situation and that He is bigger than the evil one who wants to pull us down.

I know that there are those of you who struggle with chronic illness or chronic obstacles such as addiction, family problems, emotional issues, or any number of things. We know that God could instantly remove all of those diseases or problems. Not since Jesus walked the earth has there been widespread healing. While there is healing today, still, and I do believe that, the normal course is to deal with the chronic event day by day.

And where is the miracle in that? The miracle is that He never leaves us; nor does Hemiracle-tree forsake us. The miracle is that He has given us His Comforter to come along side us and help us in all our situations. The miracle is that He loves us and provides for us each and every day. The miracle is the love of our brothers and sisters who reach out to us and who pray for us and help us. Have you stopped seeing the miracles in the chronic? The miracle is that He can adjust our eyes to see things the way that He does. The miracle is that we can daily depend upon Him and not be disappointed. The miracle is that He draws us ever closer to Him.

I pray that as I walk through this chronic event, that I will look for the miracles. If God were not with me, there would be no comfort, no help, no provision, no prayer, and only disappointment. In embracing the Him, there is the miracle.

Family, Friends, Faith

This has been a week of formally being thankful. I’ve seen so many thankful and grateful postings. I’ve heard people speak about gratitude and I’ve seen so many sharing their thankful lists. I don’t want the weekend to end without my own voice joining in with the others about the many things for which to be thankful!

1546363_10152035273148813_1391714057_nFamily. I am so thankful for all my family. Along with wonderful children and their spouses who we claim as ours as well, we have our parents and siblings and aunts, uncles, and cousins, etc. All of these people are part of our story and we are thankful for them.

 

Friends. I have been overwhelmed with the recent reminder of the many friends in our lives. You have come to our aid by taking Bud and his medical needs to God, by taking care of our dogs, by sending simple texts that say “Good morning friend. Just wanted to say I was thinking of you . . .,” by driving our trash to the transfer station, by offering a lunch out, by sending cards—so many cards of encouragement, by your special little gifts.

Faith. Some people do not claim a faith. In fact, some people consider it a crutch. If that is the case, then I’ll just admit it–I’m lame. Without faith to depend upon, life would be so bleak. The New Century Bible says it like this “Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.” (Hebrews 11:1)

I hope for a day without pain, sorrow, tears. Faith allows me to be sure that this day will come.

I hope for a time when I will be with Jesus. Faith means that at some point I will experience this blessed event.

I hope for a life free of fear, anxiety, and condemnation; a life of beauty, love, and peace. My faith assures me that this desire will be fulfilled.

All these things that I hope for are clearly offered in God’s Word. I know that these events and qualities will one day be mine. I’ve never seen anyone attain these things but I don’t have to see it to believe it.

I hope for comfort from God Himself, who loves me and promises to never leave me or forsake me. My faith tells my hurting soul that the help I have each day, the balm that heals my heart, the hand that lifts me up are all from Him.

But this is about gratitude.

So I am thankful for that day without pain, sorrow, tears. I am grateful that one day I will be with Jesus. I am thankful that He takes the fear, anxiety, and condemnation and trades it for beauty, love and peace. I am thankful for the help that I have each day as my friends pray for me, for the balm that heals my heart when I read words of encouragement that you have taken time to write, and for the hands that lift me up by praying for me. For this is the evidence that God Himself, who has promised to never leave me or forsake me, is comforting me.

Family, friends, and a crutch. I am deeply thankful.

gratitude

Rest

Bud has had three radiation days. These included radiating the two spots on his brain and the spot on his spine. He has two spine treatments left. And he has signed up for the clinical trial. Next week we will find out which group of the trial he gets. And on November 17, he will start the treatment; this will give plenty of time for the radiation to leave his body so that it will not interfere with the drugs.

So much has transpired in so few days. I feel like I’ve been through a year’s worth of living. Today I did not go with Bud for his radiation. It seemed like I need some rest.

Bud and I have been reading Max Lucado’s book, “Traveling Light” together. It is a book about Psalm 23. I am reminded of how the path that the sheep take is carefully prepared by a good shepherd. He does not let them travel down questionable or unknown roads. He is there with them, making the way for them. He offers them safe rest in green pastures and beside quiet waters. But he has first located these pastures and made them ready. He has first scouted out the water supply to assure that it is plentiful and calm. He has gone before them.

God always goes before us. He is not taken by surprise by a suddenly steep or daunting path. He has already been there. And He knows how to get us through. He is not unaware of the waterfall nearby; but He knows that the path opens to a wide field with a serene pool. And He places himself between us and the rushing water. He is fully engaged in our care. In all of the circumstances of life, He has gone ahead of us and He has made a way for us.

God’s care does not rely on optimal circumstances. Our rest does not depend on everything being just right. Our rest comes because of God’s diligent work on our behalf. He is always between us and the danger. His great love for us is manifest every day. That we are able to rest at all is evidence of God’s hand of provision and protection. Rest is good; every good gift comes from God.

So, today, I take that rest. I choose to rest in His great love. I believe that He has gone before me and He knows where He is taking me. His great love will bring me safely through the circumstances ahead of me, circumstances great and small.

quiet water