My First Funeral

I’m referring to my Grandpa’s funeral; he died when I was in fifth grade. His services iStock-173198700-1280x720began with a “wake” which was held in his church.

What is a “wake?” These thoughts are from the Protestant perspective, or more specifically, a primitive denomination viewpoint. A wake is an old, old custom rarely seen these days. The original idea was that family members would remain with the body for a period of time and remain awake, watchful, and praying. A common time frame for this event was three days and usually the deceased remained in the home for those days. Originally, there was the belief that the body could be overtaken by an evil spirit after death and the people watching could prevent this.

A common thought is that a wake was intended to verify that the person had, in fact, died. But the practice of wakes continued to take place well into the 20th century – even though the idea of inhabitation by evil spirits had by then been widely rejected. Also, holding wakes occurred even long after the practice of embalming was well established. It would be impossible for an embalmed body to revive from a comatose or near-death state.

Grandpa and Grandma had given the church a building lot on their land so the church was just across the field. There was quite a tribe of cousins and we didn’t understand about a “wake” and we had no desire to sit in a church with a deceased person in a closed casket (even though it was Grandpa) and a crowd of emotional people. So, we were allowed to go “up to the house” and so we could get away from it for a while.

And things were fine until it got dark. Suddenly we all heard something – a noise we could not identify. Then the terror fell upon us. We had all been subjected to superstitious stories by Grandma when we visited so we were certain that what we heard was a GHOST—or maybe even Grandpa! We ran! Every last one of us! I remember running in the mostly dark down a rutted dirt lane. My sister was just enough older than I was that she realized we would have to run beside the highway if we kept going, so we cut sideways across the field to get to the church. The adrenaline carried us all the way there – though a bit slower than the cousins!

I don’t remember anything until the scene jumps and I am in the church on the day of the funeral. This particular denomination would always, I have learned since, have a string of preachers take their turn preaching at every service, even funerals. My Grandpa had been one of the preachers in that church, so he may have had the honor of a visiting preacher or four. They have a particular style of preaching that is very energetic, but hard to understand. The service was long, long, long. The drive to the cemetery was long. The graveside service was long. I only have specific impressions after the near-ghosting – short shadows of a few memories all shoved together.

Why did I want to share this with you? True confession, it is great of fun to tell, because it is kind of weird. Primarily though, it is a part of my history. The death of a grandparent is a hard, hard thing that many parents want very badly to shield their children from the experience. They want to protect their children from all real-life human death.

ChildAttendingFuneral-1 Our protectiveness drives us to seclude them from calling hours and funeral services and grave side committals. We fear that we are going to damage their tender emotional health by exposing them to the realities that each person must someday face in one way or another. I believe this approach is detrimental to the child.

That death is inevitable is without question. Today’s children will experience death less frequently than children of the past. Families are smaller, infant and child death rates in the United States are less than in the past, adults are living longer. By default, young people have less exposure to death than people of previous generations. The result of this is that they have a nearly non-existent framework for managing the process of death and the events following.

should-children-attend-funeralsParents will have few opportunities to journey with their children through this difficult time, so I believe they should be willing to walk them through each loss that comes. When a friend of the family or distant relative dies, this can be a time of learning and preparation for the youngster. When the parents process death maturely in the presence of their children, they gain a wealth of information that will help them throughout their lives. They learn basic things such as the social graces of how to conduct themselves in the funeral setting. They learn family culture as they observe the ceremonies that are chosen for the purpose of honoring the deceased. They also learn about more difficult tasks, including processing the emotions that refuse to be controlled or reconciling the ideas of death and their faith or after-life beliefs, or managing various aspects of grief.

I am sad when I see parents who do not understand that they have so few times when they can make an incredibly positive impact on the long-term emotional health of their children. By the simple act of allowing the child to observe them in the funeral setting and by speaking carefully and truthfully about the events, parents can set their children on a path of healthy attitudes toward death.

I encourage parents to include their children in the various ceremonies of a funeral event – calling hours, funeral or memorial service, graveside service. I believe it helps them to be encouraged to take a participatory role as this helps them to process their own grief.

Given all this, a parent may be overwhelmed by the prospect of presenting something child-funeral-crying-blog5-e1510928675106-600x300that they, themselves, do not know all that well. We offer a resource that they may not even realize is an option. I am available to give tours of the public spaces in our facilities, and to talk with children about how to “do” the social things at a funeral, and to help them understand that they will be sad and that’s okay. During the tour, they will hear suggestions that will help them to process their grief and direct them toward healthy closure. A funeral home does not have to be a big scary place in their minds; I love to help children see that they can be comfortable and find closure through the funeral services.

My first funeral was not your normal sort of event, to be sure, and I have many impressions but few solid memories. But it taught me about some of our family culture, which as an adult I have come to value more highly, so I’m thankful to have been included. My own children, to this day as adults, have not experienced the death of a close relative, but I’m hopeful that they have a been instilled with the framework of how to prepare for that time.

 

 

 

Pooh said it . . . (1)

I love quotes. I enjoy concise statements that hold profound thoughts. I have quote signs in my house. I believe that these little signs help keep us focused and on track all through out the day. I have lately become aware of numerous quotes by a loveable bear, Winnie the Pooh.

journey

“Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.”

So what’s in your today or tomorrow? Lots of problems that you have been staring you in the face for some time now? That’s the thing about problems, they just hang around and we feel like we always have to be conquering them. And once one is solved, it seems there are always more to fill the space.

We are all on the same page about the latest problem of Covid-19. This problem has been stealing quality time for weeks and weeks. It promises to steal away our summer, and our autumn and maybe even our winter by affecting our vacations, our harvests, and our employment. Obviously, I have no answers to this problem—lots of opinions, but nothing of substance.

But the journey–I am so encouraged by those of you who are still making a wonderful journey for yourselves and your families. On Facebook, I asked for people to share “one great thing the little people in your house did today!”

The responses were truly delightful and included:
Molly JT – Belly laughed…with one another, again and again. Time together is bringing them even closer.

Kimberly – They actually got along all day and hung out together.

Jordan – Read a story together like we do every night before bed and with the little babe, snuggled.

Katrina – Helped clean up the kitchen.

Joy – He wanted to talk about Jesus a lot at bedtime and wanted to pray on his own. Without prompting, he prayed, “Jesus, You are Lord and God.”

Chris – Sang the entire Hallelujah Chorus with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on video.

Tricia – Our little girl has been saying “I love God” all on her own, many times a day!

Aimee – He climbed up in the chair with me and cuddled for a half hour before bedtime.

And I love Tara’s contribution:
My kids brought all their outside toys into the turkey coop and set up a little amusement park so the turkeys could have fun!

Such entertaining and creative things happening in your homes! Remembering that we are on a journey together may be just the thing to help us focus on the good experiences rather than the problems. We all know that our problems are always going to be with us, but how easy it is to forget that the other people in our homes are what makes the journey exciting, fun, and memorable.

When we each come to our own journey’s end, we will not be thinking about all the problems we solved or the many that were elusive. We will be thinking about those dear people who experienced with us the joys and heartaches, the triumphs and the tragedies, the moments and the milestones. May we each find ways every day to celebrate our journey and experience the great things that are in our homes, just waiting to be noticed.

Celebrate your life and cherish memories!

Feel free to add a comment about some good things happening in your homes . . .

 

Valley of the Shadow

Click here to take a look at this video:  I love the message of this song. Never alone.

valley

Life in the valley. What valley? The valley of the shadow. We always think of this phrase in terms of the “valley of the shadow of death” as referenced in Psalm 23. But this world is beset by shadows of all types and sizes . . .

Shadow of sorrow
Shadow of disappointment
Shadow of betrayal
Shadow of misunderstanding
Shadow of smarminess
Shadow of doubt
Shadow of hurt
Shadow of isolation
Shadow of separation
Shadow of criticism
Shadow of castigation
Shadow of humiliation

In order to have a shadow there must be light. In this light, some obstacle must insert between the observer and the source, stopping the light — resulting in an area of darkness. Too often, the obstacles are us.

Perhaps you are the obstacle between me and the light. Perhaps I am the obstacle between you and the light. Perhaps I am the obstacle between me and the light – meaning, I can even create my own obstacles. Did you ever hear someone say “I can’t get out of my own way?”

The obstacle always results in an area of darkness. Never have I seen a bright shadow, or a glowing shadow, or a radiant shadow. Just like no one ever really saw a radiant pig; sorry, Charlotte, to shine the light on that myth. Shadows are dark—and darker.

Never have I seen a luminous shadow, but I have seen a shimmering reflection. A reflection happens when light bounces off an object. The surface of the object determines the directness or the amount of diffusion the reflection has. But never does bouncing light result in darkness—only light.

You know where I’m going with this. Jesus is the light, the Light of the world. Those who know Him have a daily choice to make. Will I be an obstacle that results in darkness? Or will I choose to pass the light along, reflecting brilliance from Him? Some days this is a moment by moment choice for me. I struggle with attitude; I struggle with purpose; I struggle with motivation. Let’s face it, I struggle with so many things that it might be easier to list what I’ve mastered.

Here’s the list:             .

This is why I have to constantly strive to turn those shadows out and allow the light to shine. I want to turn those shadows above into something other.

reflections of joy
reflections of contentment
reflections of loyalty
reflections of insight
reflections of sincerity
reflections of certainty
reflections of healing
reflections of community
reflections of unity
reflections of approval
reflections of praise
reflections of affirmation
Reflections of grace.

reflection

Not cancelled . . .

I’m feeling it, so I’m sure that you are as well, that it would be wonderful if we could move on from the current health crisis. COVID-19 has hijacked our entire existence and even our deaths, and as such, we all need to adapt. Yet funerals still happen and need to happen. Mourning does not stop for a virus. Grieving continues, and in some families, is amplified because of the virus.

We continue to offer viewings and funeral services for the immediate family. For years we have offered free webcasting services. This service is even more valuable to you now in the midst of the current crisis. Given the private nature of funerals, our streaming is password protected, giving you total control over your guest list. You choose your password and give it to those friends and family that you’d like to participate.

I love these words by  Jamie Tworkowski from the TWLOHA blogsite:

“Conversations will not be cancelled.
Relationships will not be cancelled.
Love will not be cancelled.
Songs will not be cancelled.
Reading will not be cancelled.
Self-care will not be cancelled.
Hope will not be cancelled.”

Adding to the list:

Mourning will not be cancelled.
Compassion will not be cancelled.
Encouragement will not be cancelled.

We are here to help and offer hope. Click on the image below for a story of hope . . .

Promise-Blog

 

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.