Not in Kansas

IMG_0446This is a photo that Bud sent me via text, with the caption that said, “Verrazano Bridge – not in Kansas anymore.” He took this on his way to Coney Island on Wednesday.

Navigating the City was nothing like usual. This photo was taken during “rush hour” but the normal rush was nonexistent. It appears that the situation held a similar surreal quality such as when Dorothy found herself in the Land of Oz.

The purpose of this trip to Coney Island is to answer a call for assistance with the many death cases occurring in the area. In September, 2001 there was a call for funeral directors in New York City.  At that time, Bud did not feel that he was in a position to help.

Once again, there is a call for funeral directors. The providers there are overwhelmed with the number of cases and need help with transporting the deceased, embalming or cremation prep, and many other tasks. Bud has been thinking of going for a couple of weeks, as this time he feels he should be there.

One of the funeral homes he contacted had, at the time of his initial contact with them, 109 cases to work through, with more calls coming. For comparison, funeral homes that are members of the National Funeral Director’s Association handle, on average, 113 cases per year. This one facility is working to serve one hundred and nine families, and their call rate is currently about 30 new calls per day.

On his first partial day, Bud has simply been transporting decedents from the morgue at Mount Sinai Hospital to the funeral home. The photo below was captioned: Ramp to temporary morgue, Trailer 2. (The temporary morgue is not the house in the background, rather it is the white trailer.)

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In my reading, I’ve learned that most hospitals in the area have morgue capacity for about 12, but there are some that can handle up to 25. This has resulted in the installation of the temporary morgues.

As you consider the situation in New York City, whatever you may think of the entire Covid-19 scenario, please remember that grief is running rampant there. Vast numbers are managing grief every day and their pain is deep and real. Please pray for those families and friends who are navigating the valley of the shadow of death.

Please pray for Bud. It may be that he will be the most help by transporting, but whatever his assigned task, it will be challenging simply because of the sheer numbers involved.

 

Valley of the Shadow

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

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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

 

Winter Wonderland

Friday was a beautiful snowy day in Andover — and in much of the state. Alfred University and State both called snow days and area schools were closed.

But in Manhattan, Bud was scurrying down to get a report on the MRI and CT scan that he had scheduled the day before. We had decided that this time, I would stay in Andover and “tend to business.” I know that many of you know just how fidgety you can get in the days leading up to progress scans and reports. Though we were not expecting bad news, we also don’t want to presume upon God. We ask Him, in faith, to heal completely and, in the absence of that, to work effectively through the medication.

Part way through the morning I got the text “Everything looks good.” There were good friends here when I got the text and we rejoiced together. Later, when I had a minute, I put the news on our prayer chain and more of you rejoiced with us.

Bud arrived home later in the evening and gave me the more complete report — but the end result is still the same — “Everything looks good.” Thank you for your prayers — there is nothing more meaningful to us than to know that our friends and loved ones are praying on Bud’s behalf.

Likewise, we continue to pray for those of you who are also walking through difficult medical situations. We may not have the same diagnosis or the same disease, but we are learning, just as you are, what it is like to live under a cloud. We want for each one to remember that the sun is still shining further above the thunderhead that you’re facing.

For us this is a beautiful reminder that no matter what the trials are that beleaguer us below, God is still at work in ways that we cannot see or imagine. He is good all the time, friend. You can trust that He loves you.

Fclouds

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

MSKCC Update

Bud went to Memorial Sloan Kettering last week for scans and reports.

We are grateful to report to you the following:

  1. From the oncologist – everything looks good and and we will keep the three-month check up cycle. Continue with the targeted therapy medicine–no changes at this time.
  2. From the radiation oncologist – things look really good; even evidence of the bone in the spine regrowing. They gave him an osteoporosis shot to help boost that activity of growth. No need to go back to this doctor for six months.

How great to display for you the works of God! We are thankful for the great report and we are humbly thankful for each one of you who is praying for Bud’s health. Whenever you share that you’ve been praying, we are reminded of the wonderful love that God shares with us through His dear children.

Blessings to each one of you. 169632-Max-Lucado-Quote-We-exist-to-exhibit-God-to-display-his-glory-We

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

Election Time!

They’re popping up all over the village, town, county….those reminders of an upcoming election! The “Vote For . . . ” signs are also a reminder to us to say . . .

thankyou

You have elected Bud for three terms as County Coroner! He is on the ballot once again this year and we are thankful for those who choose to vote for him. He appears under his “stodgy name” — Maynard Baker.

Every county needs coroners; it is a vital function that serves the people of our county on a very personal level. In case you didn’t know, our county has four coroner positions.

So thank you again …

And from Bud — It is always an honor to serve the people of our county. I am thankful for all who fill in the “Maynard Baker” circle when they cast their votes!

vote

Keep Calm . . .

2nd opinionA whirlwind of activity…

We learned on June 7, that there is a bit of new cancer growth on Bud’s spine. The Rochester doctor gave us her plan. Friday, we went to NYC, Memorial Sloan Kettering, for their opinion and plan.

Yes, there is a little bit of new growth, which the radiation oncologist wants to radiate. (Correction: a previous site — the spine — shows additional growth. This is not a “new site.” Sites radiated with “curative doses” of radiation rarely have additional growth. Bud’s original dose was a palliative dose, to alleviate his severe back pain.) He is confident that it can be eradicated without a great deal of risk to the spine, even though that location has been radiated once before. So we will proceed with making plans for a biopsy of that growth and radiating it at the curative dose level.

Earlier in the month, there was some evidence of something unusual happening in the brain. The Rochester doctor believes it is radiation effect and not new cancer. The NYC radiation oncologist also thinks this may be the case. There is a specialized MRI that can tell him for sure. Bud will be having that done on July 2. Given the level of confidence that both doctors have that this is not new cancer, and given how the symptoms have subsided after initiating steroids, we are believing this too unless the coming scan shows otherwise.

And likely, we will stay on the current medication for some time longer. It has a typical “shelf life” of 12 months. It has worked for Bud for about 20 months. (The NYC doctor feels that the new cancer growth is a result of radiation failure, not med failure.) Even if it was med failure, once the location is radiated, then there is no rush to change meds if the activity in his brain is not cancer.

As long as the current medication is working, we are advised to stay with it. Another consideration is that each med has a “shelf life” and we don’t want to start the clock on a new one prematurely.

In this cancer journey, we can see God writing a story and molding lives. Along the way, we think of so many things for which to be thankful. One of the foundational things is advice from a family member early in the process. She encouraged us to go to the best hospital in our region for a second opinion. It was excellent advice two years ago; and it proved to be excellent advice at this crossroad as well.

Originally, Bud thought that we would just go with the advice of our nearby doctors and not incur the expense for second opinions. But it is amazing what different doctors will see, know, and suggest. This was well worth the effort and money involved.

The second opinion infused new hope into our journey, as I’m sure some of you can hopeunderstand. If you don’t already know, “hope” is a powerful word.

Thank you for your continued prayers.