Friday, October 26, 2007

Have it your way...please

It's not just a place to mourn for the dearly departed who've left our sides forever. It's not an event to show how much you've thought of someone by displaying what you've lastly provided for that person who meant so much to you. Walking around with sad eyes, clutching a tissue, crying on the shoulder of the nearest person doesn't always cut it. I'm sure you remember my words, "death is very personal", "every funeral is personal", you may even be tired of hearing them, but my friends, it is and always will be.

When I heard that we had gotten the call, when I heard the name of the person who died, I immediately figured that this was going to be a lavish display, a BIG funeral in all senses of the word. This family's name is plastered all over the place; on grocery stores, on street signs, on boat dealerships, farms, cemeteries are named after them, entire communities bear their name. They are one of the most powerful and oldest families in the area and are involved in local government, commerce, as well as in churches.

Three people showed up to plan the funeral arrangements, a son and his wife and a daughter of the deceased; one son couldn't bear to be in attendance. I already had some things mapped out in my mind based on their stature and the fact that this hadn't been the first time that we had assisted this particular family. The content of our meeting was totally unexpected even though I fully know and understand the words I seem to often preach, "...........personal".

After introductions, condolences and hand shaking I escorted them to our arrangement office and offered them some coffee as I began idle conversation. I invited them to sit when out of the blue, very politely I might add, I was informed that they knew I was kind and compassionate, they knew, but there was no need to try to help them arrange anything; it had all been planned by their mother. Despite what had been done in the past or what will be done in the future, her plans were set.

Their mother had planned virtually every detail of her funeral and they were there to simply let me know what it was that I was to do. It was to be as simple as possible however needed to remain within certain guidelines. She did not want to have the body that she once lived in traipsed up and down the highway between funeral home, church and cemetery. She did not want to have that body looked upon, cried over, primped, made up or viewed by anyone at all. She had instructed two ministers exactly how she wanted her service to be played out, no mention of her, she simply felt that the gathering at her funeral service was the best time to hold a "captive" revival. She had selected the music she wanted as well as the artists. She had instructed her children that flowers were not an option, she loved and enjoyed them in life but saw no need for them to be at her funeral. She chose precisely where she wanted her body to be buried and also advised her children that no one was to be at the cemetery when she was buried. Money was obviously not the issue here, it was merely personal choice. I once met with a gypsy family and the arrangements were very similar in the respect that they knew exactly what they wanted; I liked this, I liked this a lot.

So, still trying to make it appear as if it was actually a funeral as opposed to a tent revival in the presence of a casket we tweaked it as best we could to fulfill all of her wishes. Her service was held at the funeral home and her un-embalmed body which had only been seen by the staff that brought her into our care and the people who placed her in her inexpensive casket was never viewed. There were three small floral pieces which had been sent before we could advise our local florists that "none were wanted" which eventually went to her grave. The music that night was beautiful. The service itself, although somewhat unexpected by many was overflowing and a success, especially after the ministers explained her wishes. The visitation that followed the service seemed to be more like a cocktail party sans the cocktails than the aftermath of a funeral with more laughter than I have ever seen at any funeral or visitation; our vast array of Kleenex boxes went untouched that evening.

The following day we took her to the cemetery and aside from the vault man, our grave diggers and myself there were four others there; the son and his wife and the daughter and her son. There was no tent, no chairs, no fake grass, just an open grave and a mound of soil next to it; just what she wanted.

Although odd sounding to some, perhaps most funeral directors, this has got to be one of the best funerals that I have ever been involved with. As simple as it was, this was a funeral that did it's job. This was a funeral that left everyone in attendance at peace and there wasn't the slightest bit of dread or fear. I liked that; I liked that a lot.


paisley said...

bravo.. i am so pleased to hear that her family did what she wanted instead of tweaked it up to be what they felt would be appropriate..
what a send off if you really think of it in those terms... no gruesome mourning,, just on with the lives of the living... bravo!!!!

Anonymous said...

This is/was a great tale to share.

Hungry Ghost said...

I love how you - the narrator - step back and allow the story to unfold. There is no overt judgment. Nice work.

Matty said...

Wonderful story. I'm pleased to see the family followed their mother's wishes.