Four years ago was the first time we held a "Service of Remembrance" during the Christmas holidays. We had heard that other funeral homes were doing something on the same lines and thought it might be nice to try something and see how the community would accept it. I personally wasn't sure if people would welcome this idea or not but was willing to give it a try.
You see, after a death, a funeral, we do several things to try to stay involved with the families we serve. They aren't big things at all but we want our families to know that our services don't end after the funeral is over; we're still there for them if they need us. We want to become "their" funeral directors. On the part of the funeral home it has to be a regimented system in order for these things to continually happen but our hope is that each individual family feels it's personal; often it is on our part as well.
At the 3 month anniversary of the persons death we have a book of what we hope are meaningful scripture and poetry sent to the family commemorating their loved one. On the 6 month anniversary we send a donation to their church or the location they requested memorial contributions to be sent to in the deceased persons memory. At the one year anniversary we send a bouquet of flowers to the family to say we're thinking of them. I told you these are small things but you'd be surprised how many people are genuinely touched and appreciative of them.
This "Service of Remembrance" is fairly simple as well. Each year we have gotten a minister from one of our local churches to officiate at the service which is comprised of a message from the minister and a reading of the names of the deceased persons. What follows is each attendee holds and lights a candle before gathering around a tree which has a light representing each of their loved ones. The tree is then lit and there are angel ornaments on the tree which bear the persons name which the family is free to take home with them. Afterwards there are some refreshments. It's not a long service and has gone over extremely well. We still have people from the first year coming back to participate.
This post was spurred by someone who left me a message yesterday. I had posted a discussion in BlogCatalog asking the question "Will you be cremated or buried". I thought it was a pretty simple question but then I got the following response - "I want to be cremated using the cheapest container available. I don't believe in the family wasting money on expensive burial caskets, pillows, seals, linen, etc if it's going in the ground. Makes no sense. BUT, I work in the public safety system - so if I die in the line of duty I want the full shebang! Honor guard, casket, flag, bagpipes ... everything. Reason? Family isn't paying for it. I believe the family should keep as much money as possible in the end should the death occur. Throwing it in the ground via ruthless funeral directors who take advantage of the worst emotional time of your life is ridiculous."
As I began reading it I was agreeing with the person in my head - they should only do what they feel they need to. Then I got to the last sentence. At first I was incensed. I know I shouldn't have taken this personally because I know better; I know how I feel, I know what I do. But I did. Then today I got to wondering how many people perceive me or other funeral directors this same way. Am I really doing a service or have I unknowingly become part of a group that mainly takes advantage of the emotionally crippled? I know that this type of "bad media" has been around for a long time but when did it start and was it warranted when it did? Or, once again has the press manipulated the public with words that sell? Either way, he wasn't talking about me, I now fully know that. I also know that I do not go out and round up dead people so that I can take advantage of their families...the families call me.