Mitchell-Wiedefeld Funeral Home, Inc.
We all know that times change, as a society we live and do many things differently than we did just two decades ago. Sometimes it is important to take a moment to look at some of the changes we have made and ask ourselves if it was the right change. Perhaps there was some wisdom in the “old” ways, can there be a meeting in the middle?
For many decades now, society has pushed death further and further away. There was a time when most people died at home; the embalmer brought his equipment to the house and did his work right there. Then, there was a week-long wake right there in the living room before going to church and cemetery. Now, when Mom and Dad get old enough they’re not as mobile as they used to be and are consequently not as self-sufficient, they move to a nursing home. Ultimately, they either die there or at a hospital and from there are transported to the funeral home. Traditionally, once at the funeral home, a viewing is planned and then on to church and cemetery.
We have removed the death, and even aging, of our loved ones from our every day sight. And now, fewer and fewer people are having viewings after death. Death has become so uncomfortable that our society, as a whole, not only does not want to see it but does not want to even think about it. What is the result? Memorializing and paying tribute to our loved ones is on a steady decline.
When I meet with families, I so often find them sitting in front of me having the discussion regarding the services that they want for their mother or father for the very first time, even though the death has been anticipated for a while. Many take a no muss, no fuss approach, or say that they don’t want to do “all that” for one parent that they did a few years ago for the other. In those cases, they most often end up having a cremation or private burial service and a memorial service later on, all with little or no personalization.
Would they have put on more of a fitting tribute, a much more personal memorial, had they thought about it and talked about it ahead of time? You bet they would have. What pains me to think about is the moment they realize that. Perhaps they attend a service for a friend months later and see some personalized tributes that they were not aware of at the time of their loved one’s death. They think to themselves, “wow, we had one chance to send Mom or Dad off with a fitting tribute and we blew it.”
That is why funeral directors and pretty much anyone involved with death and funerals wants families to have those discussions ahead of time. The Have the Talk of a Lifetime campaign is all about encouraging people to have conversations. We don’t usually think of it as a means to help prevent people from ending up living with a lot of regret, but for me, that is exactly what it boils down to. After having thorough discussion, many families may still decide to not have the full, traditional funeral that had previously been the family’s custom. But if they do so in lieu of a less involved, but much more appropriate and personal tribute for their loved one then, even as a funeral director, I say more power to them. Have the Talk of a Lifetime is not about us, those involved with death and funerals. It is about families and reflecting upon the last thing they did for their loved one and feeling good about it.