In my first blog post I talked a little about how I like to bring creativity and problem solving into my everyday life. “How can I do this better? What would make that easier? What can I do to make this the best it can be?” Something I love about my profession as a funeral director is the opportunity to be creative with the families I am serving.
Funerals aren’t by the book anymore. Back in the day it seemed like everyone had the same expectations. “The casket will go here. The flowers will go there. We will sing Amazing Grace at this time. Etc, etc, etc.” Not that there is anything wrong with that. For many folks, that’s actually the perfect service, and that’s great. It’s just that everyone is different – different likes, dislikes, hobbies, lifestyles. So why shouldn’t funerals for different people be different? What is stopping us from going outside the book a little bit and really making services unique and even customized to the person we are saying goodbye to? That’s where I really like to get involved.
So here is a (very) short list of a few of the unique and even “cool” things we have done with funerals. Some were big things, some small. I think all were significant and meaningful.
– Jukebox: When talking to a family about what music to have playing in the background of a visitation there were a lot of ideas, but the best one involved a jukebox. This gentleman had a collection of restored jukeboxes that housed all of his favorite songs. The family was able to bring one in and have it set up, and all night we were able to punch in music from his personal playlist. If I remember right, there might have even been a little dancing. There were definitely smiles and great stories.
– The Rodeo: I met with the family of a man who was a certified cowboy. He and his wife travelled the country competing in Rodeos. He was described as the life of the party and the guy who would always meet you after your event with a beer, some food or some encouraging words if needed. It was the family’s wish to make it a celebration…more of a party in his honor. With the visitation was in full swing, you wouldn’t have been able to tell you were in a funeral home. Country music was cranked up, the crowd was dressed head to toe in everything from cowboy hats to big belt buckles and ropers or boots, instead of a table with an urn, we had hay bales with saddles and saddlebags, and in one room we even had a roping dummy set up where guests could test their skills. It was quite the setup and quite the night.
– So Many Ties: A well-known teacher passed away and one of his attributes was his collection of ties. He owned enough ties to get through an entire school year without wearing the same one twice, and then some. His wife challenged us to see what we could do with them all, and I am proud to say that we were able display every single tie, using some trees, mannequins, different displays, and a lot of wire. It was definitely a challenge but worth it to see when you heard former students, family members and friends telling stories about those ties and, in turn, those ties sparking some stories about the great teacher they had lost.
– The Hockey Teams: I have worked with a few hockey associations as they have said goodbye to various supporters, helpers and family members. During the winter, hockey is my life and I always have a special place in my heart for the tradition and sport. At many of these services, we have coordinated a “stick salute”, where, as the casket or urn is taken out of the church the team taps their sticks on the ground in unison and raises them in an arch for the deceased to pass under. It always seems to become perfectly quiet and solemn when this takes place and is very moving to see a group of young players say goodbye in a way that is very meaningful for them.
– Video Games: We worked with the family of a grandmother who passed away. A significant memory her grandchildren all shared was playing video games with her. I don’t mean she did her best while button mashing. This wasn’t a lady who just did her best but couldn’t keep up with the action. I am talking about a grandma who had her own headset, controller and PS3 online account. She took this stuff seriously. Upon their arrival at the funeral home, the grandkids were excited to find their grandmother’s video game set up in one of the corners of the chapel. Her TV, consoles, and games were all there for them to enjoy.
These have been just a few of the neat, personal things I have had the opportunity to be a part of in my career. It certainly doesn’t stop there. As we meet new families and hear new stories, we are always trying to see what we can do for those we serve.