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Writing the Thank You Notes

Published: July 12, 2019

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Writing thank you notes is usually one of the very first “after the funeral” tasks you will undertake. You may be surprised to find that your brain/hand coordination is not working so well. You sit there with pen in hand and well-formed thoughts in your head, but somehow it all gets lost between the head and the paper. Don’t despair. This is normal and it’s all part of the grief journey. You are not thinking straight now, but you will again soon. 

First, let’s tackle who gets a “thank you” and then I can give you a few wordy ideas to help you get started. Anyone who made a donation or sent flowers should get a thank you note from a family member. You will also want to send a note to people who helped. Maybe they provided food or took care of the dog for you or picked up people at the airport. All of those folks should receive a note of thanks. You do not need to send notes to people who sent condolence cards, emails, or texts.  

Your words can be brief. No one expects a long letter from you at this time. It is just nice to know that the flowers arrived, or the donation was received. Your kind friends just need to hear thank you. 

Thank you for all your kindness ….  

Your help meant so much to us…. 

We all loved the broccoli, thank you for taking care of us …. 

Your flowers were so beautiful and such a comfort to us …. 

For some, these are written the day after the funeral. Everyone sits around the kitchen table to write the thank you notes and everyone laughs as more than a few notes are torn and tossed in the trash. This may be the first laughter heard in several days.

What Funeral Directors Do

Published: July 1, 2019

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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.

Food and Funerals

Published: July 1, 2019

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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.

 

Email to a Funeral Director

Published: July 1, 2019

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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?

___________________________________

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?

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