2019 - Jan - The Daily News - Huntingdon

By: Jackie Hook
Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Funerals Matter

I worked with a woman who was pregnant with her first child. When it was time for her to give birth, she and her fiancé drove to the hospital, took the elevator and got off on the Labor and Delivery floor.  As they exited the elevator, they noticed a couple being discharged, the dad walking beside the mom in a wheelchair holding their brand new baby in her arms. The pregnant couple excitedly thought, “That will soon be us.”

This couple registered and got settled into their room. Medical professionals performed the appropriate monitoring. Not too much time passed before the couple noticed the professionals were acting uneasy. More staff was called in. The flurry of activity was disconcerting but the couple tried to remain positive. Tragically, a doctor informed these first time parents that their baby had died.

Devastated, they garnered their courage, moved forward and this brave woman went through childbirth to bring their son into the world. The hospital staff was very considerate and kindly tended to this bereaved couple. Relatives arrived, spent time with this family of three and mourned.

The couple chose to have their son cared for by their hometown funeral home in another part of the state. This meant the funeral professionals didn’t arrive for several hours. During this wait, family members and hospital staff began encouraging the mother to say goodbye to her son and let the medical professionals take him away. She refused. This mom could not imagine giving her son to anyone other than the funeral staff because she knew they would compassionately care for him. As the time passed, others became more and more uncomfortable, but this mother was steadfast. She held her son and waited. Eventually the funeral home staff arrived and she handed her son over to them. It was a sacred act. It was also a healing act.

The work of a funeral home is sacred, healing and important. Many believe the work is about endings but it is really about beginnings. It is about helping people begin their lives without their loved ones in a healthy and healing way. And it is healthy and healing to have a meaningful and personalized funeral. A funeral is what transpires from the place of death until the final resting place. The question isn’t whether the body will be at the funeral, the question is will you? The body in one form or another is always at the funeral.

Studies have found that participating in funerals helps people and communities journey through grief. In their book The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care, Thomas Long and Thomas Lynch say that by getting the dead where they need to go you get the living where they need to be. Funeral home staff members help facilitate this process.

I was the celebrant for the memorial service of a family matriarch. The family members weren’t sure what kind of services they wanted to have. As I do with all clients, I met with this family and heard stories of the matriarch’s life. They told me about her childhood, how she met her husband, the funny things she did and how much she loved her family. We sat together for a couple of hours. Afterwards a grandson said, “That was cathartic.”

This family decided to have a visitation, a memorial service and a legacy reception. After the visitation, they commented about how good it felt to hear stories of how their matriarch touched so many lives. They participated in the memorial service with readings, songs and ritual. The legacy reception was home to much storytelling and sharing. At its end, a daughter said to me, “I get it now. Each of these events helped move me along and helped me heal.” Funerals and their accompanying services and gatherings matter.

Once the funeral and other services are over, to continue on a healthy grieving journey, it is important to move your grief from the inside to the outside. For some people, supportive gatherings help them do this. Below are some upcoming gatherings you are invited to attend:

  • HEART Grief and Loss Support Program, Thursdays, January 17, February 7 and February 21 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. at TIDES Meetings, Houserville Elementary School, 217 Scholl Street, State College – This series is for parents/couples who have experienced pregnancy loss, stillbirth and/or early infant death. The group is led by a certified spiritual director and celebrant and a former group participant. Pre-registration is required. Call TIDES to register at (814) 692-2233. For more information, visit the HEART of Central PA Facebook page.
  • Monday’s Moments Complimentary Luncheon - “Love Heals. Love is Celebrated.”  Monday, February 4 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 1730 University Drive, State College – February is a month when we talk about love. Remembering with love can help us heal. Please join us for a time of celebrating love while we move through our grief together. RSVP by Wednesday, January 30. Space is limited.
  • Remembering with Love: A Ceremony Honoring Your Loved One Who Died, Sunday, February 10 at 1:00 p.m. at Centre Hills Country Club, 153 Country Club Road, State College - As George Eliot said, “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” Your love lives on and will be recognized as we share a tribute video of those who died and were cared for by Koch in 2018. If your loved one is not included in this category, you are welcome too, just provide a name and digital image when you RSVP with the number of family members attending. We will also have a candle lighting, name reading ceremony and moment of silence. Please RSVP by Wednesday, February 6. Space is limited. Light refreshments will be served.
  • Tears and Laughter through Loss, Monday, February 25 at 7:00 p.m. at The ATTIC of the State Theatre, 130 West College Avenue, State College - Learning to Live: What's Your Story? and State of the Story present an evening of MOTH-style storytelling about the tears and laughter we experience through loss. Admission is $7.00 and tickets are available at http://thestatetheatre.org/

Unless specified above, RSVP to Jackie Hook at Jackie@JackieHook.com or 814-404-0546.  These events are open to the public. For additional information, please visit the John B. Brown Funeral Home website and click on the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal Community Outreach Events.

It is our honor to help you create funerals that matter!

Jackie Hook, MA, is a spiritual director and celebrant.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through John B. Brown and Koch Funeral Homes.  For more information, please call 814-643-1256 or visit www.johnbbrownfuneralhome.com.


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