Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Questions Are:

How do you treat an interracial funeral?
How do you treat a gay funeral?
How do you treat an Atheist funeral? 
How do you treat a family requesting cremation?

The simple truth is we are talking people, they are not aliens from a different solar system, and they are people, no different than you or me. They laugh when they are happy and cry when they are sad. And, they experience all of those joys and sorrows as they go through life like anyone else.

The fact is they don’t want to be treated differently than anyone else. They want to be accepted for what they are, people. They want to be treated with respect and understanding as they deal with a traumatic event in their life.

In the course of my life as a funeral director I have dealt with many different people and I treated them all with the same respect I would want. I catered to their requests if they asked for anything different form the normal level of service I provided, I would have gladly done my best to oblige them, because that is what I was there for. A funeral director’s lot in life is to serve. A funeral director is a care giver and care givers serve.

A funeral director is neither a judge nor a God. He or She needs to be a people person possessing the gift of a good bed side manner. In my mind a basic requirement for a funeral director is a sincere caring, to help a fellow human being. Not to question the color of their skin, who they love, what church they attend or their funeral preferences. And, make no mistake a funeral is a funeral and cremation is a preference for final disposition no different than burial. That I am sorry to say is where a lot of funeral directors go wrong, they themselves see cremation as different. They are confusing funeral with final disposition.

True! Very often when someone is requesting cremation they are looking to eliminate the funeral. Why? Perhaps they want to avoid the additional trauma of viewing a loved one that has been ravished by disease. I’m sorry to say a lot of this points back to the funeral director/embalmer. When I started in funeral service the philosophy was “Good embalming, means repeat business and the funeral director would go the extra mile to make the deceased appear comfortable and at peace”. Today it seems that philosophy has changed and the attitude is “we sell memorialization”. I believe we need to go back to the basics. “Good embalming means repeat business” pay less attention to the casket selected and go the extra mile assisting the family of the deceased.  And, yes, money may be an issue and that could be the reason your family is asking for cremation, they may not see it as such but they are seeking a less expensive means of caring for their loved one by eliminating the funeral; by eliminating a costly casket. It does not mean they are uncaring or less loving and their reasons should never be questioned or judged; least of all by someone who has chosen to be a caregiver.

The only exception to the “how do you treat list” above is How do you treat an Atheist funeral? Different from anyone else? Certainly not because they are atheists. Religion is personal. You never have a problem dealing with families with religious beliefs different than your own; why should you feel differently toward someone who chooses not to believe in God.

Of all the religions in our world very often the final disposition religious customs are very slight but that doesn’t mean they are all the same. Using the services of a non-denominational clergyman may be convenient for you, but that is not necessarily best for the family. In the case of anyone with no religious convictions, if you are not prepared yourself you should have at your disposal the name of a funeral celebrant that will offer a ceremony and eulogy that can help create a meaningful memorial fitting an end of life tribute.