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How to Say 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.    

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.    

What to Expect at a Funeral

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 do 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 You for Your Service

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.    

How to Thank 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.

The 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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