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Positives of advance funeral planning preplanning

Email to a Funeral Director

To: Funeral Director

From: Dad with no plan

Subject: A question about funeral preplanning

Before I get to my question, I have to tell you the background.

Friday after Thanksgiving I took my wife (who cooked for a week for that dinner) and my kids (who came from west coast, east coast, and the middle) and the grandkids (who only ate rolls for Thanksgiving) out for pizza. 

Sounds nice, right? OMG! It took us forever to order, no one could agree!  We ended up with one cheese pizza for the picky grandkids, a large with ¼ meat lovers, ¼ with anchovies, and ½ supreme. We also ordered a medium white with gluten free crust. Still they were all picking stuff off, making faces, and huffing and puffing. OMG again!

So, my question…and I need your opinion here…how are they going to do when the time comes for them to meet with you to plan my funeral? Do you think maybe the wife and I should do one of those funeral preplans or advance funeral plans?


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To: Dad with no plan

From: Funeral Director

Subject: Re: A question about funeral preplanning

OMG yes, you and your wife need a plan. Your family sounds perfectly normal! They’ll get over the pizza … but  I’ve seen too many families break apart over disagreements about how to honor their parent’s life. Decisions such as burial or cremation or who is going to pay can be tough when families are grieving. A funeral plan is an easy fix. I‘d be happy to help. When do you want to meet with me? At the funeral home or your house?

Comfort before or after a funeral with food

Food and Funerals

Why is food such a fundamental part of any funeral?

Food provides comfort and strength. A gift of food shows that we care. It’s natural to connect food with the healing process of a funeral.

When should you give food? What’s helpful without being overwhelming?  How do you accept food graciously without having to buy a second refrigerator?  

If you’re helping a friend who is dealing with the death of a loved one, a gift of food is appropriate before the funeral, at the conclusion of the funeral, and even weeks or months after the funeral. 

As you think about your gift, be aware that your friend may not even know they’re hungry. They likely won’t be able to tell you what they want or need.

Take the initiative and make it easy on them. Call with a simple offer that can be changed to meet the needs of those on the receiving end. You might say something like this:

“I’d like to bring your family dinner tomorrow evening. I thought I’d bring you a turkey roast with a broccoli casserole. Will that work for you? I’ll bring dinner by around 10:30 a.m. It’ll be all ready for you to warm in the oven or microwave.” 

When you’re on the receiving end, be gracious, but honest.

Your friends want to help you. If their offer won’t be helpful, give them an opportunity to make a different suggestion.

“Thank you for your offer, but we’re all set for the next few days. May I have a rain check?”

If you’re part of a close circle of friends, consider coordinating with others in your group to cover the family’s food needs on different days and with a variety of dishes.

Consider breakfast food. A basket with granola, muffins, or a breakfast casserole may be a nice change.  

Sheet pan dinners, where the entire meal is cooked on one pan in the oven, are easy for both parties. You can find lots of recipes online.

If you don’t cook, consider giving a gift card for a local restaurant that offers take out.

Whatever you do, don’t forget your friend after the funeral is over. Most people find sitting alone at the dinner table one of the bigger challenges of their bereavement.

A loaf of your famous zucchini bread will be greatly appreciated and it’ll be even better if you can share it together over a cup of tea.

Funeral attire

How to Dress for a Funeral

First, understand that what you wear to the funeral is much less important than actually going to the funeral or gathering.  Don’t underestimate the value of your presence. 

Your kind words, shared stories, or even just a hug will mean a great deal to friends and family when there has been a death. Don’t let not having a pair of dress shoes keep you from offering your support.

That being said, what you wear depends on several different factors. The first thing to consider is who died.

If your 80-year-old grandfather passed, the funeral is likely to be more traditional. His older friends will attend, so you will want to be more conservative.

A pair of slacks and a collared shirt for men and boys will do nicely. If you own a sport coat, by all means wear it. A tie with or without the jacket would be a nice, but not a required, addition. 

For the ladies and girls, dress slacks and a nice sweater or blouse will serve the purpose. A dress or skirt would also be lovely. Do pay attention to necklines and length of the skirt. 

When the funeral is for a younger person or will not be faith based, it may be more informal.

A celebration of life is typically more relaxed and may even have a theme that the family will ask attendees to support.  So if you’re asked to wear golf attire to the funeral of an avid golfer, don’t be surprised. 

Like the dress code for most events today, what we wear to a funeral has relaxed. Black is no longer required, but neat, clean, and subdued are always in good taste.

A funeral is not a place to stand out or be the center of attention. As you survey your wardrobe, think in terms of what you would wear to an important job interview or something you would want to wear to apply in person for a bank loan. 

New Year's Resolutions

Enjoyable New Year’s Resolutions

New year, new you. It’s an exciting concept full of promise, right? Then we take all the fun out of it by resolving to do things we don’t like to do. We’ll lose weight, eat healthier, exercise more, give up ice cream. Ugh, no fun at all.

So how about selecting enjoyable resolutions instead? Some ideas to get you thinking are listed below:

1. Do more of something you love. Read more books, go fishing more often, spend more time with your kids or grandkids, binge-watch your favorite series from the start again. Just enjoy and give yourself a big old hug in the form of having fun your way.

2. Get better at something you really like to do. Take a lesson, learn to cook something new, improve your golf swing, learn a new knitting stitch, or just build on what you love.

3. Make a dream come true. See the mountains or the Grand Canyon. Go to the opera or to Disney. Buy the car, lease the car, or rent the car of you dreams for a weekend. Just complete the following sentence and do it: “I’ve always wanted to _______.”

4. See your town like a tourist. Everything fun doesn’t have to require a lot of money. Most of us have attractions, restaurants, natural wonders or parks close to home that we haven’t visited in ages. Just go.

5. Make lots of new friends. Some friends are for life while other friends can be for just for a few hours or even minutes. Try smiling and talking to the cab driver, the checkout person, or the person next to you as you walk into or out of church.

Enjoy your life. Seize the day. Happy New Year!

Accepting an Invitation after death of loved one

Accepting an Invitation

Previous blog posts have acknowledged how hard it is to deal with special occasions (e.g. holidays, birthdays) when you’ve recently lost the one you love. So, what do you do when you receive an invitation for that special occasion that you don’t feel like accepting? Maybe you are afraid you’ll be a wet blanket, or you aren’t eager to do something new and different because you really just want things as they were. That’s understandable but perhaps turning down the invitation isn’t really in your best interest.

Before you say “no” to an invitation too quickly, give yourself a few minutes to think about it. Take that time to consider your alternatives. What will you do if you don’t accept it? Is there something you would prefer to do? Think about it, do you really want to be alone on that special day?

It is important to acknowledge that the day won’t be the same. Acknowledge your loss. A woman who recently lost her husband goes to the cemetery for a little chat on those special days. She “tells” her husband how it’s hard for her and that she misses him. Then she tells him how she is going to spend the day.

It is difficult to do something different on those special occasions. Your first few efforts may even fall short. Eventually, perhaps even sooner than you expect, you will find your joy in the occasions again.

First year after funeral

A Year of Firsts

When someone close to us dies, a spouse, a child, a parent, a sister, brother, or friend, their passing leaves an empty space in our lives. We will go on and we will have happy moments, then happy days, and eventually whole stretches of happy time. However, that initial year, after the death, we must deal with a whole year of firsts. The first anniversary, birthday, holiday or vacation without the one we loved can be challenging to celebrate. 

Why are these occasions so hard and what can we do to get through this hard place?  They are difficult because the pain of that empty space our loved one filled is so very acute on these special days.  There is probably nothing that can be done to prevent the feeling of loss. It will follow you for sure if you run away from it and try to ignore the special day. But perhaps, with anticipation and preparation, the occasion can be made easier and maybe even special.

Keep an eye on your calendar, don’t be blindsided by an event. Prepare in advance, make a plan and include others. Tap your family members or your friends and let them in, tell them this will be a tough day for you. Consider what will be the most difficult part of the day.

Maybe it’s not receiving a gift from the love of your life, or not having your wife bake your favorite cake on your birthday. What can you do to work around the pain, acknowledge the loss, and save the day? Perhaps you can go shopping with a good friend and buy yourself a “gift”. Then write a little thank you or whisper your thank you to the one you miss in your prayers. Pull out your wife’s recipe for that cake, call in a grandchild and bake it together. It won’t matter one little bit if the cake doesn’t match up to the quality of your wife’s baking.

As you make your plan for the special occasion be sure to include some way to honor the memory of the person who died. Your day will not be the same without the one you lost, death is a loss. However, you can ease the pain and have a pleasant day in a slightly new and different way.    

Saying the right thing at a funeral

How to Say the Right Thing at a Funeral

First, take a deep breath and relax. We all worry that we’ll say the wrong thing.

Second, know that you don’t have to be eloquent. While we wish it were so, you can’t make everything all better with a few words.

Here are a few simple ideas to keep in mind to be sure you say the right thing when attending a funeral.

Don’t underestimate the power of your presence.

It’s important. Just being there says more than you can know.

Keep your words simple.

“I’m sorry for your loss” may be all that is needed.

Share your story.

If you have a brief anecdote about how you interacted with the deceased, share it. Knowing how her sister lit up her workplace may just be the most comforting thing a mourner can hear. 

Use deceased person’s name.

“Mary always made me laugh.” “John had the longest drive, too bad it wasn’t always straight.” “We always knew when Big Bad Byron was in the plant, everyone was on their toes.” “Nobody made better chocolate chip cookies than your mother.”

Avoid using common platitudes.

Resist the temptation to tell the bereaved how they must feel -- “grateful that he is in a better place,” “relieved that his suffering is over,” “grateful for a long life,” etc.

We don’t know how that wife, husband, mother, son, or daughter actually feels. Just say you’re sorry for their loss.

Let them tell you how they feel and accept it with a nod or hug.

Don’t forget about listening. 

Listen to understand, not just to hear. Listen to show you care, not to judge. Listen with love, even when you’ve heard the story before.

The Cranberry Sauce is for Dad

The Cranberry Sauce is for Dad

People often say that one of the hardest things about that first year, the year after your loved one died, is that no one uses their name or talks about them. The hole in your heart begins to feel deeper and wider because talking about them seems forbidden. And as the holidays approach, the quietness can feel even more painful. So, why not take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and find a way to bring your loved one to your holiday gathering in a light but meaningful way. 

A good example of keeping your loved one in your holiday gathering is the family that always includes that jiggly cranberry sauce straight from the can on their table. There it is - just as it comes from the can - indentations, ridges, and all. Every year it’s there for dad. Every year it is ceremoniously placed on the table accompanied by a few words about how important it was to dad’s enjoyment of the holiday. Every year it brings lots of smiles and stories about dad.

If you have lost someone dear, and you miss them more at the holidays, consider opening the conversation, using their name, and talking about them in a positive way.    

Surviving the first Thanksgiving without the one you love

The First Thanksgiving Without the One You Love

Oh boy, here they come. The holidays! You can’t really ignore them, but they are going to be different because that special person in your life is no longer going to be sharing the day with you. So, what do you do?

First, acknowledge your loss and be aware that you need a plan. Thanksgiving isn’t just another day unless it has been just another day for you in the past. Losing someone you love always leaves an empty space in your life so how will Thanksgiving be different this year? So, what will change?   

For some it may mean you no longer have a place to gather. For others it may mean no one knows how to cook the turkey, make the dressing, or smooth gravy. Maybe you lost the one who carved the bird or said the blessing.

Regardless, you need a plan. The time to deal with the loss of the gravy maker is not at the last minute when the turkey comes out of the oven. A sudden realization catching everyone off guard is likely to intensify and expand the feeling of loss and your day may fall apart entirely. Plan in advance and give the gravy job to another family member. Be prepared for a different sort of gravy. There may be lumps, it may come from a box, it might be better or worse, but it will all right.  

If you are going to be alone this year, consider inviting others who don’t have family close at hand to join you. Make Thanksgiving a potluck. After all, that’s what the first Thanksgiving was…people sharing the bounty of the harvest.

This year be sure that you include some acknowledgement of the one who died in your plans for the day. Maybe you pull out the photo albums after dinner and just express your gratitude for the good days with your loved one. Maybe you include your thanks in the blessing before the meal, or have everyone share something special about your loved one as you gather around the table. Yes, it is difficult, but don’t forget to look for the positives. They are there, you just have to find them.    

Funeral expectations

What to Expect at a Funeral


We’ve all been there. Going to a funeral can be a little daunting, especially if it’s your first or if it’s been awhile since you attended one. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the terms you will hear and what you can expect in general.

There’s a great deal of variety in funeral service today. The funeral home works with the surviving family to help them choose service options that reflect their lifestyle and belief system. The spouse, parents, or children of the deceased determine the content of the service.


The service typically includes:

1.    A gathering or visitation

2.    A religious ceremony

3.    Burial or placement in a final resting location (committal)

4.    A luncheon, brunch, or wake

The gathering may be held the evening before the service or the same day as the service.

The religious part of the service may be held in the funeral home chapel or in the family’s place of worship.

At the conclusion of the service, a procession will usually travel to the graveside where the casketed body will be buried. Cremated remains may be buried, placed in a niche, presented to a family member for keeping, or scattered.

The committal service is often followed by a meal at the church, the funeral home’s celebration center, the family home, or a restaurant.

If you are attending a gathering or visitation that takes place before the service, the body may or may not be present. When the body is present in an open casket, attendees will usually approach the casket briefly and silently say a few words of farewell or prayer.

The family may choose to receive their guests informally and casually engage in conversation as they circulate among those attending or they may choose to receive guests in a more formal receiving line. 

If you are attending a memorial service, the body will not be present. A memorial service may take place weeks or even months after the passing and may or may not include the presence of cremated remains.

The family may choose to have a memorial service for a variety of reasons. Some religions require that the body be buried immediately, necessitating service after burial. Some families just need more time to come together.

How we celebrate a life is often less formal today.

The service may include pictures and music that reflect the lifetime of the deceased. Work or interests of the deceased are often reflected in objects placed in the room or favors shared with attendees.

Attendees may participate by sharing memories of the deceased. A family member or celebrant may also tell the life story in the form of a eulogy.

Funerals are an important part of the grief journey that all families must travel when they lose a family member.

We attend to support and help the family members transition their thoughts from the cause of death to the life’s legacy. This is so they can begin their long healing process.

Your attendance is appreciated and important.

What funeral directors do

What do Funeral Directors do?

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

Today, there was a funeral. People cried. Tissues were crumpled and left on the tables.  Flower petals fell to the floor. Now, the cleaning staff is making things tidy for the family who will be here tomorrow.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

Someone in our town died away from home, the funeral director is traveling many miles to bring him home and into the funeral home’s care. The light is on in anticipation of his safe return.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

Hospice called. The teacher who taught the funeral director -- and you -- in the third grade isn’t expected to make it through the night. He’s catching up on paperwork while he keeps vigil. Soon he’ll be called to the home and it will be his turn to take care of the teacher.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

There are computer problems. The video tribute file a family sent won’t work. We’re staying late to make it right for their service.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

It was a busy day today and we still need to notify Social Security and the Veteran’s Administration of Mr. Smith’s death.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

There’s been a terrible accident. We’re doing our best to make a loved one presentable so that they can say goodbye with dignity.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

The obituary the Jones’s gave us for their father is full of misspellings. We need to correct them and get it to the paper.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

We’re reviewing all of the details for tomorrow’s service. When will the celebrant arrive? Do we have drivers for the cars? Who will be the pallbearers?

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

We’re checking tomorrow’s weather in case we need the umbrellas.

It’s late, why is the light on at the funeral home?

The light is on because your neighbor, the funeral director, is pacing the floor. He can’t sleep. Tomorrow, he will oversee the service for his daughter’s classmate.

Sometimes death is just too close, even for him.

Thank a veteran

Thank You for Your Service

Because you are there we all sleep better at night. You serve in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. Some of you serve for two years, some for twenty or more. Some enter into service at a tender age looking for opportunity. Some are following a longstanding family tradition. You are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters. We, thank you for your service.

You spend days, weeks, and even years away from your family. You are not always there to teach your daughter to ride her bike; perhaps you missed your son’s first steps. Because you serve, you can’t always be counted on to attend the baseball game or the teacher conference. With your service comes sacrifice. Sacrifices made by both you and your family.  We thank you and your family for your service. 

Thank you for being ready and on alert so that we can go about our business without even thinking about the “what ifs”. Thank you for putting yourself in harms way.  Thank you for giving us your time, your energy and your youth. Thank you for representing us with honor where ever you are stationed.

Regardless of whether you serve us at home or in foreign lands, in time of war or peace, we thank you for your service. 

On Memorial Day we remember those who gave their lives in our service, on Armed Forces Day we honor those currently serving. On Veterans Day we honor all who have served our country from the Revolution in 1776 to today. Thank you.

Talking with a veteran

Talking with a Veteran

Talking with a veteran of the more recent wars or conflicts such as Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq can be intimidating. You may have a parent or spouse who served in Vietnam who has never shared anything about their experience with you. The Vietnam War was different from wars in the past in that the value of the war itself was questioned and many of those who served came home to a hostile public. It was not a hero’s welcome. Their story may have been bottled up all these years and time is running out for families to learn about their loved one’s experience.

Since the Vietnam War, a small percentage of the U.S. population has served in our armed forces. This means the Vietnam experience is not shared by the broader population and those who did not serve can’t possibly understand what war is like. Not understanding can make us uncomfortable about starting a conversation.  As a result, veterans can feel isolated while we remain unaware.

How can we push past our discomfort? How can we talk with these people we love and appreciate about a period in their life that was so very important to them? It can be tricky depending on how well you know the veteran. Below you will find some tips to aid your conversation with a veteran:

During the discussion:

  • Take your time, go slow
  • Plan to LISTEN
  • Listen without comment or judgment
  • Listen to learn, not to tell.

Below are some suggestions you can ask:

  • Would be willing to talk with me about your experience?
  • What service were you in?
  • What inspired you to join?
  • What does your service mean to you?
  • Would you mind sharing what you are currently doing?

You may want to avoid some of the topics/questions below:

  • Don’t ask if they killed anyone or saw any dead bodies.
  • Don’t be surprised if they don’t want to talk.
  • Don’t ask about PTSD.
  • Don’t make it about you.
  • Don’t think you know what it is like to go to war unless you have been to war.

It is always a good idea to do your homework and study the war prior to your discussion. And most of all, express your appreciation for their time and service.

Thanking a veteran

How to Thank a Veteran

Three hundred and sixty five days a year, twenty-four hours a day, rain or shine, hot or cold, from the year 1776 to present day, they’re serving our country.  They are our veterans and November 11th is the official day that we honor and thank them each year. 

So what can you do to show your appreciation?  Here are a few ideas:

- Attend a parade or remembrance event held in your community
- Brush up on your patriotic etiquette
- Teach your children things such as when to stand for the American flag or what to do during the playing of our National Anthem
- Visit the gravesite of a veteran
- Hang a flag in your yard
- Support a veteran-owned business
- Hire a veteran or the spouse of a veteran
- Visit a veterans hospital
- Say thank you to a veteran and his or her family

Did you know you can even hold a “Care Package Party”? Here’s how:

  • Invite friends to bring items for those serving away from home. 
  • You can contact the US Post Office for help with packaging supplies for military care packages.  Some items you could send:

          1.    Foot care products

          2.   Cotton socks

          3.   Flavorings for water

          4.   iTunes gift card

          5.   Snacks

          6.   Hand written notes expressing your thanks

Everyone is busy and on Veteran’s Day we’ll be inundated with advertising. It will be easy to see November 11th just as another great sale day…but it is so much more. Perhaps the most important thing you could do is ask a veteran you know to tell you about their experience and then listen. Just really listen.

History of Veterans Day

The History of Veterans Day

Veterans Day, a national and state holiday, serves as a day for Americans to come together to show their deep respect and appreciation for the military veterans of our country. It is the one day a year when we pause, reflect and show our gratitude to all those who are serving or have ever served in our military. So how did it come to be?

What we know today as Veterans Day was originally called Armistice Day. On November 11, 2018, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. This armistice was signed at the 11th hour on the 11th day in the 11th month of 1918. At the time, we believed World War I was “the war to end all wars”.  One year after the armistice, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. In his address to his “fellow-countrymen” delivered from the White House on November 11, 1919, Woodrow Wilson praised the contribution of the American people and shared hope for the future:

With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.

Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests, which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men. 

To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations. 

Of course, lasting peace was not to be. After the Second World War, Alabama veteran Raymond Weeks had the idea to expand Armistice Day to honor all veterans. On May 26, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into a law a bill presented by Congressman Ed Rees from Kansas establishing Armistice Day as a national holiday eight years after Weeks began celebrating Armistice Day for all veterans. Congress amended the bill on June 1, 1954, replacing "Armistice" with "Veterans," and it has been known as Veterans Day since.

Memorial Day honors those who died in service, Armed Services Day honors those who currently serve. Veterans Day honors ALL veterans. Thank a Veteran on November 11th and be very proud and happy to go to bed tonight in the United States of America.

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