2021 - April - CDT - Helping Hands
After I officiated at a relative’s memorial service a few years ago, an out-of-town family member shared with me about his wishes concerning his own death. He said he wanted to be cremated without any services – no visitation or funeral service before the cremation, and no burial or memorial service afterwards. During our conversation, I asked him how long his drive home would be the next day. He said it was going to be several hours longer than normal because he was driving out of his way to visit his mother's grave.
An interesting dichotomy. He traveled a distance to attend a memorial service and was driving home an even longer distance to visit his mother’s grave, but he wanted to be cremated with no services or marker for himself. I understand the reasoning. Sometimes we think asking our relatives to have services for us will be a burden on them and we don’t want them to be sad about our deaths. But as this story illustrates, services and final resting places are healing for the living and do mean something to those left behind. When the funeral directors at Koch Funeral Home guide people through preplanning their after-death care, the directors encourage these individuals to make some choices, but to leave some for loved ones so they can choose what will be most healing for them. After-death care is about honoring the dead, but also very much about comforting the living.
This story of my relative keeps popping into my mind as we navigate the pandemic. We often hear how we need to stay strong while these challenges continue. I know there are many people who have been heeding the guidelines and staying away from all gatherings. What's ironic is it’s during these challenging times when we need each other even more!
And then when you add a death during the pandemic, regardless of the manner of dying, the need is even greater. The importance of coming together, honoring a life and supporting one another in our grief is beyond words. As physician and author, Rachel Naomi Remen said, “We heal best in community.” If you look at the history of humankind, you'll find that funerals and grieving in community have been there all along.
It's never too late to honor your loved ones and your grief. Countless times people have told me how gathering together in some way helped them heal. Please visit our Because Love Can't Wait and Helping Grieving Hearts Heal programs at www.kochfuneralhome.com to learn about the many safe options we have for services both virtually and in person with masks and social distance. You can also learn about our grief support programs.
Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.