Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Arrangement Conference

As I was ordering lunch at a local fast food restaurant, my cell phone rang.  I stepped to the side and answered the call.  It was my three o’clock appointment.  He said that he had come by early and was sitting in front of my funeral home with his mother.  I canceled my order and returned to my office.
As I parked my car, I saw his mother first.  She was a beautiful woman, tall with striking silver hair.  She was dressed in purple, and it suited her.  As we greeted, I looked deep into her eyes, from the depth of her soul, she radiated gentleness and kindheartedness. 

Her son was exiting their car.  As I turned my attention toward him, I noticed that although he was young, his movements were measured with caution.  As he rose, I could see that he, as his mother, stood tall.  He matched her beauty, both inwardly and outwardly.  He was remarkably handsome and radiated a tranquility one does not often witness in young adult men.

They were both friendly, and I invited them into my funeral home.  As we walked the first twenty feet or so, I could see the young man’s strength waiver.  He immediately sought out a couch and sat down.  His mother and I spoke for another few moments, and then I invited them into my arrangement room.  I immediately offered each of them a General Price Sheet and began narrowing their needs.

The handsome young man asked about various funeral options, and as he began to make choices, a tear or two would spill out of the corner of his eye.  He would immediately brush it away, perhaps pause for a moment, regain his composure and continue with his arrangements.  For a brief moment, he excused himself from the room.  I could hear him in the hallway.  He was very ill.  I was overcome with respect and love for this young man and his mother.  I looked at her.  She sat there silent and still, listening to her son, as he struggled to catch his breath and regain his strength.  I could see the worry and fear in her countenance.  A tear or two spilled out of the corner of her eye as she struggled to maintain her composure.  Her eyes met mine; they were wide and fearful.  She excused herself and went into the hall to shore up her son. 
As I listened to her encourage him, she emptied her heart with tenderness.  Her expressions were the deepest love of a mother, witnessing the premature and painful death of her young adult child.  I was overwhelmed with heartache for them.  The reverence and pain of the moment was a heavy burden to witness.

I do not know what disease he suffers, only that it will take his life in the near future.  A handsome young man in the prime of his life is losing his life, before his loving mother’s eyes.  For those few brief moments that I shared with them, I witnessed the unconditional love and excruciating heartache of a mother for her dying child.  I could see in her eyes, and witness in her soul, that she would take his burden and trade his suffering for her health.  If it were possible, she would gladly die in his place.

We completed his arrangements.  He wanted it all written down and signed.  His final act of strength was to lift this burden from his mother on the day she will suffer the most tremendous heartache known to mothers, the day of her beloved son’s death, his death.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 


Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Grief Brief 38 - Friends and Family

Family and friends can be a great resource for grief recovery.  Traveling to visit loved ones in other areas or having them visit the survivor, offers companionship that is familiar, uplifting and relative to their life’s experiences. 

 My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Obit

Occasionally, I work with a family wishing to forgo the printing of the death announcement, a.k.a. obituary,  in the newspaper.  Before becoming a funeral practitioner, I, as these families, thought obituaries unnecessary and a bit obsolete, especially if the decedent’s circles of friends and family were small.  I have a rather small group of immediate and intimate friends and family, and have thought in the past, that when my time comes, the printing of an obituary would be unnecessary.  After becoming a funeral director and working with families for a few years, my opinion of the necessity of an obituary notice, printed in the newspaper, has most definitely changed.  It is a small bit of money, very well spent.


A death notice, a.k.a. obituary is a quick and fairly inexpensive way of notifying the living, that an acquaintance, friend, relative, co-worker, etc. has recently died.  It also informs them of the service dates and times if they wish to attend or send condolences.


The obituary lists the names of family who have preceded the decedent in death, as well as the survivors.  This is a very important part of the obituary.  Listing the preceding kinship and surviving kinship allows readers to recognize those in their community that will be entering bereavement.  It also allows them to link families and verify that they may, or may not know the decedent.  This knowledge also allows the community to understand the unusual melancholy behavior among the survivors with greater understanding and compassion.


The obituary may also be used by HR services, to verify and allow bereavement leave for family members.  It also verifies time off for staff and personnel wishing to attend services.  On occasion, it may be used for certain bereavement allowances and discounts.


The most important role of the obituary, however, is to link genealogy.  The listing of kindred dead and living survivors serves as a printed witness for family historians and genealogists.  Obituaries can be used as evidentiary paperwork to prove lineage when other documents are not available.  The obituary lists personality characteristics of the decedent, as well.  This information is a treasure trove for the generations that follow.  Saving and re-reading obituaries may serve as helpful therapeutic grief recovery tools in the months and years that follow a significant loss.


If you have suffered the loss of a loved one or expect a loss in the future, please consider the importance of a well-written obituary.  I have researched loved ones through obituaries.  If fortune is smiling upon me, there will be a picture included.  These tiny bits of genealogical treasure bring me great joy.


My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Grief Brief 37 - Hope

Religion offers hope for the future and forgiveness for the past.  It also offers likeminded support and understanding.  It can be a source for counseling and re-socialization, a gateway for grief recovery.


My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 


Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Man of Steel

My first case as a fully licensed funeral practitioner was my Uncle Roy Don.  As I was sitting in church Easter Sunday, I was reminiscing over family gatherings and events I had shared with my Uncle Roy Don.  He was the strongest man I had ever known.  He could pull the engine out of a car without the assistance of a lifting winch.  He had super strength; he was a “Man of Steel.”  He had grown up in a rougher time, when people worked hard for what they had and fought hard to keep it.  Men would come from far and wide to challenge his strength.  They always left with a new respect for his reputation.  I had seen him do so many things in life that were physically impossible for the average person.  His super strength is what had kept him going after losing his beloved, Betty Jean.  I prayed for him that day at church.  Prayed that he would have the strength to live another day, so that my cousins would not lose their father on Easter. 
As church was ending, my cell phone rang.  I walked out into the foyer to answer it, and my cousin informed me that her father had just passed away.  Now every year when Easter comes around, I think of my Uncle Roy Don and the special experiences I shared with him when he was living.  I see my cousins, his daughters, either around town or on social media, and every year at Easter, they express memories of their late father.
When one has lost a significant loved one on a holiday, that holiday instantly changes forever in their heart.  The primary focus or celebration now becomes the marker in one's memory, as the day they suffered the loss of their loved one.  The first few years, one may be sad when that holiday comes around.  One hopes that the sadness of the death experience will eventually be replaced with happy memories of wonderful times shared together.  Reality however, works at a snail’s pace, and such a change does not happen quickly.
One need not lose a loved one on a holiday to feel an increase of pain on holidays.  The loneliness of loss is magnified every holiday, as we cycle through the first year, and each year after a substantial loss.  Holidays are set aside for family and close friend gatherings.  They are social events, shared with those we love most.  By disrupting our social circles, death disrupts our social events.  If you know someone who has lost a loved one, be mindful that he or she might delight in a thoughtful card, call or visit to get through a very painful day. 
I was so honored that my cousins called upon me to lay their beloved father to rest.  It shall remain forever a special memory, that they put their trust in me to get them through such a dreadful experience.  Moreover, Easter has forever changed for me.  The profound celebration depicting the resurrection of our Savior gives me hope that one day, my darling cousins will reunite with their real life superhero, “Man of Steel.”

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 
Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Grief Brief 36 - Frozen Imperfection

While it is true that none of us is perfect, at the moment of death, imperfection is frozen.  Unfinished business remains unfinished, estrangement remains estranged, meanness remains mean, etc.  Death robs the living of the opportunity for resolution and blocks the comfort of peace.

 My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 


Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Choose Recovery

I visited with a mother last week, who had suffered financially and emotionally at the hands of her recently deceased son.  She vocalized her anger toward her son and her disappointment in herself for these feelings.  Upon further discussion, I discovered that her son had suffered a severe drug addiction and had involved himself in activities that were quite dangerous.  His exploitation of his mother has left her nearly destitute, and she is suffering financial consequences as well as the intense grief that follows the loss of a child (even when the child is an adult at death).

Where does she go from here?  Her grief is overwhelming.  Her son is now deceased.  She feels as though her sacrifices for him were for naught.  The financial crisis in which she now finds herself only acerbates her grief.  What then is she to do, to rectify this situation and move forward in her grief recovery?  Her goal is to be able to mourn the loss of her son with fond memories and love, rather than pain and resentment.  She is in a tough situation indeed.  The financial pressure of making ends meet is interfering with her ability to move from resentment into grief recovery.  Unfortunately, her son committed suicide shortly after a realistic conversation between the two of them, addressing the severe consequences of his situation.  This conversation and his self-infliction of death compound her sadness, regret and confusion. 

How then do we help this heartbroken mother recover from this tragic situation?  How do we help her mend her feelings of guilt, resentment, anger, panic and embarrassment?  Fortunately, she is willing to discuss her feelings.  This indicates that she is desirous of resolution.  She is hopeful yet lost; confused on what to do or where to go for help in her recovery journey. 

The first step toward recovery is to choose to recover.  She has made that decision.  The second step is to move forward with recovery.  How does one accomplish this?  The easiest way to recover from a tragedy is to have someone support you and help keep you focused.  This mother has a second adult child, who is mourning the loss of her sibling, yet is willing and actively involved in supporting her mother through this journey.  After meeting with the both of them, I am confident that they are moving toward resolution and that together, although their road will be bumpy and filled with potholes of despair, they will eventually arrive at their destination of peace.

The mother will suffer through the financial stress of debt recovery, but she will realize that her sacrifices were out of unconditional love for her son.  Although she will have internal regrets that her financial support may have enabled him to continue his destructive behavior and eventual fatal demise,  she will realize that her funds were merely a way of keeping him close, allowing her to affect his choices in a more positive direction.  She will eventually understand that her last conversation with him was not abandonment; it was encouragement to reach his potential by letting go of a life that was filled with danger and evil.

I visited with a mother last week, who had suffered greatly at the hands of her deceased son.  I discovered that she was a great mother who loved her son deeply, a mother who had sacrificed all that she had to save her son, and now was left with the unimaginable sorrow of losing her son to drug induced suicide.  A desperate and tragic situation at best.  More importantly though, I discovered that this tragic loss was serving to bring a mother and daughter closer together.  I witnessed two women in tragedy bond together.  Each helping the other overcome the great sorrows that come with extreme tragedy.  I saw them choose to embark on recovery rather than tragedy. 
I saw the moment their recovery began.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Grief Brief 35 - Exercise

Exercise is good for the heart, body and soul.  A 20 to 40 minute aerobic activity results in improvement in the survivor’s state of mind.  A vigorous pumping heart decreases anxiety, lifts the mood and creates a positive experience that persists for several hours.  Psychological benefits associated with exercise are a welcome bonus for the bereaved.  They are comparable to the gains found with standard forms of psychotherapy.  

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 


Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Missing Toddler

When my daughter was a toddler, my husband served in the US Navy, and we lived in a very large coastal California city.  One day my husband and I decided, for entertainment, we would like to go to a large swap meet.  We loaded up our toddler, invited my mother and away we went.  It was a wonderful activity, filled with exciting things to see and purchase.  The prices were low and the local delicacies abundant.  We were having a fabulous time. 

About two hours into our activity, I walked over to my husband, who was shopping a different booth than I, and noticed that our toddler was not in her stroller.  I asked my husband where she was, thinking that my mother must have her, and my husband said, “She’s in her stroller.”  Suddenly, my whole life changed.  My wonderful day of pleasure shopping abruptly changed into a horrid emergent situation.  I felt as though I could not breathe, it seemed as if the world began to spin a million miles per minute.  My toddler was missing at an open-air swap meet, in a large and dangerous city, and I had no idea where she was or what might be happening to her. 

My husband, being the organizer that he is, immediately sprang into action.  He instantly located my mother and sent her to the business office to alert security.  Her next task was to go to the entry gate and detain anyone trying to exit with a child near the age of our daughter.  My husband headed toward the restrooms to inspect them for our daughter or signs of foul play, and I was to comb through the rows and rows of shopping booths, calling out my daughter’s name and scanning for anyone that might be trying to escape with her.  We all three sprang into our appointed duties.  I ran as fast as a cheetah, calling my daughter’s name and inspecting anyone and everyone within the isles and shops.  I was frantic, just recalling the event, is causing my heart to race slightly and my eyes to tear.  As I rounded a corner, I saw a woman, tugging my daughter by the hand.  My child was hysterical and I am sure I looked a fright, because the woman quickly threw her hands up in the air and started yelling that she had found my daughter and was taking her to security.

Sobbing, I fell to my knees and held my child tightly to my chest.  My daughter was equally distraught; she was crying and holding onto me just as tightly.  Oh my, I just cannot tell you what a horrid experience that was.  I had felt as if my life were over.  Lost in a whirlwind of panic and fear.  I had felt unbelievable anguish and inconceivable despair.  We left the swap meet and went directly to a large warehouse, where we purchased a personal alarm for my daughter.  She has never been lost again.

Many times over the years, as I have watched her grow into a wonderful woman, (currently expecting her own child), I have reflected back on that horrific experience.  The thought of what could have happened to her that day, still frightens me and almost brings me to my knees.  If my daughter had been kidnapped that day or killed, I do not know that I could have lived on without her.  The pain, anguish and self-blame would have been too much to bear.  I am so thankful that she was all right, that I found her and that the poor woman who had her was a Good Samaritan, rather than a demented crazy axe murderer.  My experience although terribly frightening ended with a positive resolution.

The feelings and panic I experienced that dreadful day were real and powerful.  They pale, however, in comparison to those a family feels, when they have unexpectedly or suddenly lost a loved one.  Unexpected loss brings a multitude of issues beyond those of an anticipated loss.  When a loved one has been ill, or has been suffering severe pain for an extended time, although we mourn the loss, death is sometimes a relief for those witnessing day in and day out, the unrelenting pain and suffering of their family member or close friend.  When death is unexpected or sudden, family and close friends develop regrets, and are robbed of the time they need to prepare themselves, and resolve any unfinished business or issues existing between themselves and the deceased.  These issues will fester over time and can become severe health issues, both psychologically and physically.  Equally robbed is their opportunity to simply say “good-bye.”  This simple moment, shared between those we love, is immensely important.  Being robbed of this final rite of passage creates a helplessness that is difficult to overcome.  Mourners carry this pain with them for a very long time, and some are unable to overcome it.  Pair with this the regret of unfinished business, the anguish of brutal death, or the eternal yearning for an unfound loved one, and there is a recipe for extreme extension with a myriad of additional complications to overcome, for the accomplishment of grief recovery. 

An example of this sort of loss would be the disappearance of Natalie Holloway.  Her mother, Beth Holloway, was relentless in trying to find her daughter.  For years, she pursued the whereabouts of her daughter and those who may have had a hand in her disappearance.  In the end, the legal system failed her.  Often people would ask, “Whatever happened to her (Beth Holloway)?  It seems she just gave up and disappeared.”  If she had been the giving up type, none of us would have ever heard of Natalie Holloway.  I am amazed that Beth was able to go on as long as she did.  The stress, sorrow and regret she suffered, eventually overpowered her ability to continue her search against the unsupportive legal system of Aruba and the inabilities of our government to help resolve her fight against them.  She had to begin her road to recovery without resolution.

Currently in the news, one intently follows the disappearance of the commercial 777 jetliner.  The sorrow on the faces, and behavior of the families suffering through this crisis, show the same complications present in the Natalie Holloway case.  These families need extreme support and aggressive counseling, rather than being abruptly escorted away from those who should be offering insights and answers.  With leadership comes great responsibility.  With the absence of information and answers, responsible leaders should render greater latitude and understanding than is being offered to these families in despair.  We continue to hope for the safe return of the commercial 777 jetliner and it’s passengers.  We know that their families do too.  In the end, if this is not realized, we hope and pray for their recovery, as we did, and continue to do for Beth Holloway.  They too, may be forced to begin their road to recovery, as did Beth, without resolution.


The feelings and panic I experienced that dreadful day at that open-air swap meet, when I briefly lost my toddler, were real and powerful.  They faded somewhat, upon locating my unharmed daughter.  Although unlikely, my fervent prayer is that these unfortunate families with loved ones aboard the 777 jetliner would have the same resolution of having their loved ones returned to them whole and unharmed.  In that this scenario is less and less probable as the days painfully pass, I pray that the world and especially those in authoritative roles, will render them the tender love and extended grief care resources, of which they so desperately stand in need.