Monday, July 28, 2014

Funeral Director Fears for Her Life

Today started out as many do for a funeral director working with broken families, sadly and tragically. Add to this scenario, the loss of a child, and you potentially have a volatile situation on your hands. When I decided to become a funeral director, I did not realize there might come a day I would fear for my life in my own residence, but today was that day. Who knew funeral directing could carry fatal risk? The point is that when life has been lost, emotions are severely heightened; hearts are filled with despair, and anger is uncontrollably prevalent.
It has been my experience, that feuding families strike out at each other and anyone else, who happens to be in their path. Old wounds are ripped asunder with new wounds, and at the time of loss it seems that the downward spiral of despair has the strength of a vortex. Today was not the first time I have been nervous about my safety. It was; however, the first day I feared mortal injury. A grieving giant stood before me, suffering inconsolable agony and mad as a bull over wording in his grandson’s obituary. He was truly frightening.
Misunderstandings and tense situations usually surface due to a lack of communication and information between estranged families. Add a death to this mix, and the possibilities are potentially explosive. When families are in the midst of losing a loved one, communicating with each other, or with the funeral home, is not the most important task of the day. Final farewells and precious moments are the critical objective, because, in an instant, they will no longer be possible. In a moment, they will slip away and despair will reside in their stead. Final farewells and precious moments are and should always be; the first and foremost focus of the surviving family, and every funeral director and person outside of the family should understand that.
This man, yesterday, suffered his longest and most dreaded nightmare. No measure of preparation could make that moment anything less that horrific. He had the core of his soul ripped from his aching arms, and there was not a thing he could do to stop it from happening. His heart will never be the same again, nor will his world. He will yearn forever the gentle touch of his grandson’s hand, the sweet fragrance of his hair and the precious kiss so gently placed on his angelic cheek. Eventually he will recover to some extent, but life will never be what it was.
Once he is calm and potentially years from now, he will realize that he has been blessed more than others, who have suffered the loss of a child. He does not understand it now, but his blessing was his advanced knowledge that his grandson would pass away from a rare and dreadful disease. Although it is unfair that a child should suffer such a disease and that a family must witness the ravages and loss of their child, he had forewarning that his grandson would prematurely slip from his loving grasp. And that is more than many parents are allotted. His advanced knowledge offered him time to show and express his devotion to his grandson, time to make memories fishing out at the pond and time to make moments count.
I would never want to change places with this grandfather. I am expecting a grandchild myself within the next few months, and I pray incessantly that he will arrive without incident, illness or disease. I cannot imagine the pain and anguish this heartbroken man, who lost his beloved grandson last night, along with all of their future experiences together, is suffering.
My prayers go out to this family. I hope that the pain they suffer will become happy memories of this beloved child, as soon as possible. Their support group is vast, but they have a rough and very sad road ahead of them. Every fiber in their bodies and deep down in their souls ache over this loss, and my soul aches for them.
Tonight friends and family will gather to offer condolences and words of comfort, and preachers will offer words of inspiration. No matter what is said or what is offered, the hearts of this family are so full of sorrow that there is no room for anything else; inspiration and comfort are not possible. There is nothing anyone can say or do, to make this family feel better about what has happened. There is no erasing this tragedy and the pain that comes with it. This family will trudge through despair, and hopefully after great suffering and misery, they will come to a place where they can function and live within this unfair and tragic experience.
I know that everyone coming tonight is searching today for words of comfort to share with this poor family. I am searching myself for some way to help them through this dreadful experience. My best advice would be to allow them to mourn and recover on their own schedule. Offer to be there and support them throughout the coming months which may turn into years, as they work their way from death, back to living. Never become impatient with their sorrow, never abandon them and always provide a path of gentle re-acclamation back to friendship and social acquaintance.
This sorrowful grandpa, so tall in stature and powerful in voice, has been crushed by the fate of death within his family. As we experience the services honoring his beloved grandson over the next few days, I hope that I will be able to protect him from unintended offenses from others and even myself. Nevertheless, if he is overcome with anger and frustration, who wouldn’t understand and give him a little latitude. I would rather be intimidated and frightened any day, than walk a mile in his heavy-laden and mournful shoes.
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.

Grief Brief 51 - Men and Women Express Themselves Differently

Men and women express themselves differently.  This fact is magnified in a grief situation.  Men may not feel free to openly express the depth of their grief.  Societal mores allow women much more latitude in the expression of grief.  

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, July 21, 2014

Caskets II - Carrying Mechanisms

The carrying mechanism of a casket is made up of many components. Each component has a unique and specific purpose.
The obvious component of the carrying mechanism is the bar. The bar is the portion of the casket that the pallbearers will grab onto in order to lift and carry the casket from one point to another. Caskets consist of two different bar systems.
The first system is a stationary bar. A stationary bar is fixed and does not move. A stationary bar system is not the most comfortable system for carrying a casket. There is, however, an argument to be made for sturdiness. The stationary bar is very strong and sturdy. In a stationary bar system, the wrists hold most of the weight of the casket and the grip may be painfully stressed. The bar presents a flat shape, failing to provide the pallbearers a substantial gripping surface. I have never seen a stationary bar fail during a service.
The second system is a swing bar. A swing bar moves away from the casket for carrying purposes and tucks back tightly to the casket for aesthetics. A swing bar system is more comfortable for the pallbearers. It allows for more room between the casket and the pallbearer's arm and grip. This extra room provides greater leverage, so the pallbearers do not have to lean outwardly from the casket. Standing straight keeps the weight of the casket evenly distributed throughout the pallbearer’s body. In so doing, a pallbearer’s back is not overly strained, and his wrists are not overly stressed. Of equal importance is the extra room for gripping provided through the outward movement. These precious inches between the casket and swing bar provide skin saving space for the pallbearers hands. The swing bar also has a fuller shape. This fuller shape gives the pallbearer a more substantial gripping surface.
The swing bar is attached to an arm. The arm is the portion that allows for the movement of the bar outwardly from the casket. The arm is quite possibly the most important part of the entire bar system. If the arm is weak, the weight of the casket when carrying a decedent may be cause for alarm. I have only seen one swing bar system too weak to support the weight of the casket during a service. The casket was made by a custom cabinetmaker, and he had purchased the bar system on the internet. The casket carvings and staining were beautiful. All of that paled, however, when the arms failed, and the casket began to awkwardly tilt.
The arm of the casket is attached to the ear of the casket. The ear is not only decorative; it serves to strengthen the area where the entire carrying system attaches to the casket. Without the ear, the ability of the system to carry the weight of the casket and the weight of the decedent would be greatly reduced.
Caskets and casket components have size and weight restrictions. Some of us are fortunate enough to have light loved ones. A light loved one can utilize the least expensive caskets in the funeral home's selection room, internet shopping mall or the casket store's sales floor. If your loved one was a bit portly or extra tall; however, you might consider the advice of your funeral director as invaluable. Unlike a salesperson, a funeral director has had extensive education in funeral traditions, equipment, merchandise and law. His or her knowledge and hands on experience with funeral issues will probably save you tons of anguish and possibly money in the long run. At any rate, advise your funeral director of any issues or concerns you might have about caskets or other funeral merchandise, and he or she will be able to answer or research the answers for you. At least armed with their knowledge and advice, you will be better able to make an informed decision when choosing a casket.
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 atwww.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Grief Brief 50 - Accepting Death

The funeral is an important factor in accepting the death of an individual.  Without the acceptance that death has occurred, the survivor enters into a state of loneliness.  A prolonged state of loneliness ushers in isolation.  Extended isolation will metamorphose into depression.  Once depression occurs, grief recovery becomes increasingly more difficult to overcome. 

 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, July 14, 2014

Love Me Tender


”The beauty of Elvis’ voice has filled our chapel this morning, the sweetness of his words has filled our hearts, but those of us who have witnessed the love story of Milton and Mona Gay, realize this morning, that even the unparalleled talent of this great vocalist has failed to express its sacred grandeur.”  Wow, what an opening statement at a funeral service. 

I met my client nearly four years ago as we buried his brother.  My client is a kind and dear man in his seventies.  Throughout the years, I have seen him around town, and he has never failed to pull a faded and tattered picture from his wallet of his beautiful wife and tell me how much he loves her.  Nearly three months ago, my client and his daughter came to my funeral home to make pre-arrangements for his wife. 

Late last week, while directing a service for a different family, I received the dreaded call.  The nurse on the other end of the line notified me that my client’s wife had died.  I was heartbroken for him for I knew in his heart, his life had ended as Mona Gay drew, and then released her last breath.  Unfortunately, I could not go to the nursing home myself, so I sent my dear husband in my stead to respectfully gather Mona Gay’s remains, and bring them back to the funeral home.  All through the night, I worried about my client.  I knew he was devastated over his loss.  Even when one has anticipated the loss of a loved one who has been ill for quite some time, the actual occurrence of death is always dreadful.

Early the following morning, my client came to the funeral home to finalize the details of his beloved’s services.  As he sat beside me, he reached into his wallet and pulled out the old, faded and tattered picture of his wife, that I had seen on many previous occasions.  True as ever, his bright blue eyes radiated deep love as only true love can do.  This day was different though, his eyes were bluer, brighter and more deeply radiating as tears ran down his cheeks, and he spoke of his lost love.  When it was time to leave, Milton could barely stand.  His legs were weak, and his body seemed frail. 

Milton and his daughter came early for their visitation.  He was hesitant and did not want to see her in her casket.  He was so heartbroken and did not think he could bear the anguish of this new life without her.  He told me that he thought he might die too, and that his sorrow was too painful to survive.  He apologized for crying, not realizing that his tears, his fears and his agonizing sadness were a great honor to his wife.

At the funeral, Milton’s strength failed him.  He fell to his knees as he approached his beloved’s casket for the last moment they would share together.  His tears and acclamations of tender love broke my heart, yet renewed my faith that love endures when all else fails.

The beauty of Elvis’s voice filled my chapel that morning, and the sweetness of his words filled my heart, but the love I had witnessed from Milton for his beloved Mona Gay will never be expressed through the earthly talent of a great vocalist.  Their tender love was one of sacred grandeur.

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, July 10, 2014

Grief Brief 49 - Accept Death

The first task of grieving is to accept the reality that your loved one is dead, that they are gone and that they will not return. 
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 atwww.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Pet Grief

Occasionally, I find letters in my inbox from someone who has read one of my articles. Today was such a day.
Hello Tracy,
We just lost our dog today in an untimely death/accident. I blame myself, and I feel sick, sad, weak, and I’ve been crying most all of today! It hurts so much when you lose a pet. The pain of loss is so unbearable and never-ending. It will always be with me forever and ever. Do you have any grief briefs concerning pet loss that I could read? I will check your blog, thanks for your help.
Kelly from Alaska
Dear Kelly,
I am so sorry to hear of your pet's death. I have pets myself, and just can't bear to think of the day that they will die. Although I do not know the circumstances of your pet's passing, I wanted to let you know that it is natural to blame yourself when accidents occur. As your pet's custodian, you naturally feel responsible when tragedy occurs. Accidents, however, are called accidents for a very specific reason...they are accidental. Even when accidents are caused through carelessness, they are still accidental. Although one may feel a measure of responsibility in the circumstances; unless one purposefully causes the death of a beloved pet, an accident remains an accident.
I know this does not take the pain away. I have pets that have passed away, and at times, I will think of things I might have done better, that may have prolonged their lives. Unfortunately, there are no do-overs. I have to realize that I have learned to do better, and in my stewardship over my current pets, I will be more alert and proactive.
I am sorry for your loss and know that you will suffer and mull over in your mind the things you wish you had done differently. When this happens, remember the good things you did and the joy you shared with your pet. Eventually, fond memories will override the pain, and you will realize that you are a better person because of the love you shared with your pet, and the lessons you have learned through them.
I do not have pet specific articles because I specialize in human loss. Loss, however, stretches over all life. Grief is the same whether you have lost a pet or person. The depth of grief is based on the depth of love. I know your heart is full of love and very sad right now. I hope you will mend without complications.
Take care and feel free to write me again if you would like.
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 atwww.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Grief Brief 48 - Functionality

On average, a widow tends to begin the realization that she must function on her own 3 – 4 months following the death of her husband.
 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 atwww.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Funeral Decorum

When I was a little girl, I lived in a small town filled with elderly relatives.  My relatives would periodically pass away and so at a young age, I had quite a vast knowledge of funeral traditions and funeral etiquette.  The first time I became aware that there were “Varying Rules of Etiquette and Tradition” for such an occasion, was at the funeral of my maternal grandfather. 

Upon notification that my grandfather had passed away, my paternal grandmother quickly gathered my siblings and me, and off we went to the grand clothing stores in downtown Baton Rouge, LA.  I was surprised that I needed special clothing for the event.  When I was young, girls were required to wear dresses to school, so I had plenty from which to choose.  For some reason, however, although my dresses had always been adequate for funerals in the past, my grandmother felt that they would not do for this particular funeral.  She purchased each of us, me and my siblings, beautiful semi-formal clothing.  My brother, a beautiful navy suit with a crisp white dress shirt and a dark tie, my sisters and I, each beautiful navy dresses with white patent leather shoes, white anklet socks with lace on them and white patent leather handbags.  She also purchased us dainty white gloves and lovely white hats to complete our ensembles.  It was rather like Easter, but the clothes were not pastel and the fabrics were heavier and more tailored than usual. 

After she was satisfied with our clothes, off we went to Opelousas LA, the location of the funeral home where my mother and her immense family were gathered.  Upon arrival, I realized that this funeral was unlike any other funeral I had attended thus far in life.  The funeral home was large and filled with my very sad relatives.  Of course, sadness is not, in and of itself, unusual at a funeral, but my relatives were overly sad and I attributed their sadness and all of the extra attention toward our clothes and behavior on my grandfather’s unusually violent death.  I was a child, and although funerals did not bother or confuse me, this funeral was somehow very different, and I just could not quite figure out why.  As I grew older, I realized my parents had cultural differences within their marriage, and I was witnessing the variances of culture in its fullest extent, the expression of grief upon the death of a significant loved one.

The funerals I had previously attended were always from my dad’s side of the family.  His family practiced a gentle Arklatex Christian religion and the funerals were in accordance with their beliefs.  This funeral was on my mom’s side of the family.  Unlike my dad, my mother had been raised a Southern Louisiana Cajun Catholic, and their funerals, as I was about to learn, were very different from the ones to which I was accustomed.

The reason I have shared this with you, is that I am constantly asked by people, “What is appropriate to wear to a funeral?”  There is not a simple answer to this question.  Clothing and even behavior are predicated on religion, culture and tradition.  One should accommodate each funeral to the traditional systems practiced by the grieving family.  After all, we go to a funeral to pay our respects.  Should we not then practice respect towards the family’s religion, culture and traditions?  Paying one's respects does not mean that we merely show up and sign the register book.  Paying one’s respects encompasses a myriad of components.
Of course, most of us know that we wear subdued colors, we speak with our quiet voices and one hopes we clean ourselves up before going to the funeral.  Many people believe that black is the only color one should wear when in attendance.  Although in some groups this is true, in others it is not.  For a Buddhist, white is the appropriate color for bereavement. 
My basic rule for funeral decorum is the same as it is for attire and language;
“Be clean, be respectful and be modest.”
If you will observe this rule, you should be able to attend almost any funeral and not be offensive to anyone.

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.