My daughter Makaila challenged me to write down ten things I have learned in the last 36 years (since becoming a Funeral Director) and here they are…
- THAT HARD WORK PAYS OFF.
My father instilled that in my brain all my life. I was raised on a dairy farm. There were chores to do every day, morning and night. I have always worked hard.
- THAT TRUST IS EARNED.
I will be forever grateful to the families who have let us prove that we were worthy of their trust. It doesn’t matter how fancy your buildings or your cars are…what matters is how you treat people.
- THAT NOT EVERYBODY LIKES THE SAME THINGS THAT I DO.
And that’s okay. We all have different tastes in music, food and everything else. I am one of the most non-judgmental people you will ever meet. You only have one chance to make a funeral the way that you want it to be. Follow your heart.
- THAT DESPITE THE BAD THINGS THAT HAPPEN, SOMETIMES THERE ARE GOOD THINGS THAT SURROUND THEM.
I hear this a lot. I experienced it in my own life. Despite many obstacles on the night my Mom took a turn for the worse, we were all able to make it to the hospital and be with her when she died.
- THAT I CAN FUNCTION ON LITTLE SLEEP.
It doesn’t matter what time of night it is when a hospital calls, I go. You may never find out that I do that, but it’s important to me. It goes back to the fact that I treat everyone like I would have wanted my mother treated and I loved her a lot.
- THAT PEOPLE LOOK FOR SIGNS.
Everybody wants to know that everything is okay. I believe in signs. I can tell you stories.
- THAT EVERY PERSON AND EVERY FAMILY HAS A STORY.
You’re not alone. Nobody is perfect and no family is perfect. We just do the best that we can. I meet with people at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives and I learn a lot of things…all of which I will take to my own grave.
- THAT THERE IS GOOD IN EVERYONE.
- THAT I’VE LEARNED HOW TO BECOME A GOOD LISTENER.
- THAT SOMETIMES IT’S THE SMALL THINGS THAT MATTER THE MOST.
We have entered our fifteenth year here at the Blenheim Community Funeral Home. After a long time of not really taking any time away, we have been fortunate enough to find a part time Funeral Director who we trust to take care of families the same way that we would ourselves. Some of you have already had the chance to meet Jeff McGivern, who has been with us for almost a year now. Last November when we took our first vacation in many years, Jeff was the Funeral Director who was here in my place. A lot of people look at him and think that he is my son, but honestly he’s not! He’s just a great guy who will treat you and your family with the same respect that you have become accustomed to here. His full time position is in Chatham at the Hinnegan-Peseski Funeral Home, the same funeral home that I worked at for many years before opening the Blenheim Community Funeral Home. I have always maintained a good working relationship with the folks there and we help each other whenever we can.
Jeff covered me this past weekend when our children all met at my sister’s house on the lake and we celebrated Thanksgiving early. There is something to be said about the simplicity of a beach, some sand toys and some lawn chairs. And when you mix that with an afternoon of making memories while the smell of turkey fills the house, life feels good. From our house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. Although life may not seem perfect sometimes, my hope for you is that the good outweighs the bad and that you find a reason to give thanks.
Until next week,
Over the years it has become very popular to produce a slide show of still pictures and music and burn it onto a DVD to be played on a television or a screen during visitation. We can “loop” a slide presentation so that it plays continuously during the time that families are here; that way all of your friends can watch it too as they come and go. And when the funeral is over, families choose to take copies home as keepsakes. We’ve never charged any extra to families to produce a slide show for them, rather it’s just one of those extra things we do for them.
Years ago, before slide shows were very popular I set out to make one for my family. I set up my video recorder on the dining room table and leaned pictures against a box, zoomed in on each one and when I was done I added music…a long and tedious job (which is much easier and higher quality now). I made the slide show for an early summer family gathering that we were having and I was so glad that I did it when I did, because my Mom passed away that fall and she got to see it before she died.
That brings me to what I’m thinking about this morning. Sometimes I wonder if folks wish that they had made a slide show earlier rather than waiting until after someone passed away. I think that seeing a slide show of my life, one that includes my younger years with my brother and sisters, one that includes my rebellious teenage years and one that includes my wife, my children and my grandchildren would be awesome.
So instead of waiting until something happens to Great Uncle Harry and then coming to the Funeral Home with the pictures and music, why not bring them now? I’ll bet it would make him smile to see his life captured on a DVD. At the Blenheim Community Funeral Home, we would be happy to help you with that.
Until next week,
I’ve written before about stages of grief that you can expect to go through following a loss…but what about the stages you can expect to go through if you find out that you are faced with the reality of an impending death, be it yours or a loved one? Inspired by her work with terminally ill patients, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross introduced five stages that people can expect to experience when they learn of a terminal illness. She also noted though that these five stages are not a complete list of all possible emotions that could be felt, that they can occur in any order, and that personal losses are as unique as the person experiencing them.
DENIAL: This is a defense mechanism. This is when we say “I feel fine. This can’t be happening to me”. This stage allows us time to take baby steps; to accept and process things as we are able.
ANGER: “Why me? It’s not fair!” In this stage, a person recognizes that denial cannot continue. Because of anger, the person who is dying can be very difficult to care for due to misplaced anger and envy. It’s important to remain nonjudgmental when that anger is directed at you.
BARGAINING: “I’ll do anything for a few more years”. “I’ll go to church every Sunday”. Usually the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle.
DEPRESSION: “I’m so sad, why bother with anything?” It’s natural to feel sadness, regret, fear and uncertainty when going through this stage. It shows that the person has begun to accept the situation. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer an individual up who is in this stage; it is an important time for grieving that must be processed.
ACCEPTANCE: “It’s going to be okay”. “If I can’t fight it, I will prepare for it”. In this last stage, individuals begin to come to terms with their own mortality or that of the person they love. People dying can enter this stage a long time before the people they leave behind, since survivors must pass through their own individual stages of dealing with the grief.
This information can be found in Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ book On Death and Dying.
Until next week,
Next week will mark the beginning of the 15th year since we opened the doors of the Blenheim Community Funeral Home. I can’t begin to tell you how many wonderful people I have come to know and walk beside. Thank you for your trust and thank you for your friendships.
One of the things that I keep saying here is that I treat everyone the way that I would have wanted my Mom to be treated, and I mean that. Those of you who know me well and who knew me before my Mom died know just how much I loved her. In my eyes, she was as perfect as any Mom could be and I know that she would be proud of the person I have become. So my promise to my Mom, who I loved and respected so much will be to keep on being the son that she raised.
Thank you to all of the awesome staff that I have had to opportunity to work with and the staff who continue to work together here…Cathy, Anna, Robbie, Barrie, Mary Ann, Scott, Craig, Mike, Jeff, Moe, Makaila, Lynn, Rachel, Lucas, Graham, Darrell, Jenny, Brian, Jim, Dena, Wayne, Kyle, John, Jean and Ada. Because some people work behind the scenes and others are semi-retired, you may not see them often but they are all a part of what makes us who we are.
With much respect,
Marc and Gail Eskritt
There have been a lot of changes in the funeral world since 2003 both in the legislation that governs the industry and in the ways that people choose to deal with funerals and funeral homes. With that thought, another thing that I say is that there are no rules in funeral service anymore. Thank you for listening and thank you for asking me to be a part of the Lecture Series at the Mary Webb Centre in Highgate. On September 13th I will be speaking there and the title of that speech will be exactly that topic…there are no rules in Funeral Service anymore.
It’s true that more people are choosing cremation today. Sometimes following the cremation there may be a memorial service or there may not be one. Sometimes there is a very personal gathering of family at the graveside to say goodbye and sometimes there is a boat chartered out into the waves of Lake Erie…any funeral home can arrange those kinds of services with outside companies who offer them. When I hear people talking about these kinds of services, I hear different comments…some people like it and some don’t but it’s a very personal choice and more times than not, it is a choice that was made very clear before the person passed away. I always said that I wanted to be cremated and have my ashes spread in my mother’s garden so that if I got stuck on her boots I would go for a walk with her. Since that isn’t possible anymore, I am open to whatever my family’s needs are at the time. While a simplified funeral service may be less expensive than a traditional funeral service, both services can be equally as meaningful. There are so many ways that you can make that time what you need it to be. I always say to follow your heart and then you will know that you did what was right. You only have one chance and you won’t regret the things that you do, only the things that you didn’t do. I wish that people wouldn’t be afraid to ask me any question because you would find that I am one of the most open minded people that you will come to know in your life. I will discuss any funeral service options with you. We are not a part of a “pack” that other funeral homes say they are trying to lead; instead we are part of the “pack” that is led by consumers. Our motto here is “yes we can” or more importantly “yes YOU can”.
Until next week,
Nineteen years ago a wonderful thing happened in our lives…we were given the chance to be parents just one more time. On Saturday, the first day of being an “adult” and the beginning of the last year of being a teenager, Makaila chose to spend the day with her parents and go to the Festival Theatre in Stratford to watch “Romeo and Juliet”. Given the things that she could have chosen now that she is 19, I think that spending the day with us said a lot.
Happy 19th birthday, Makaila! In the words of Robert Munsch, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be”.
I read a good article about helping children grieve. The article talks about how we as parents tend to protect the innocence of our children from the realities of death by keeping them away from funerals, viewings and the dead. Although the desire to protect our children is understandable, the reality is that death is a part of life that that we cannot protect them from and if ignored, it only becomes more difficult, more frightening and more harmful. We need to realize that children also grieve. They are connected, they love and they feel, so when a death occurs, they will grieve. Depending on their age and developmental stage they will grieve differently than adults. So how can you help them?
- Tell the child about the death immediately. Stay close to them and give them physical affection. Don’t push them away.
- Realize that taking a break from grief is okay. Having fun or laughing is not a sign of disrespect to the person who died.
- Include children in the funeral, but don’t force them to go.
- Understand that one of the reasons that we don’t take children to visitations or funerals might be that we don’t want them to see us grieve; that we don’t want to appear weak to them. Let children see you grieve. Grief shared is good.
- Understand that questions are going to be asked. Understand too that if you don’t have the answers, that’s okay. Answer each question as honestly as you can.
- Be honest with the child about how much it will hurt…it’s okay to let them know that this is one of the worst things that could happen to them.
One of the reasons we have a dedicated children’s room here at the Blenheim Community Funeral Home is that we believe that children should be a part of life changing events. The children’s room is located across from the visitation room so that children can feel free to join their parents or take a break and play. And parents can also see and hear their children so that they know they are safe. We believe in kids!
Until next week,
There was a moment of panic this morning when I realized that August had crept up on me and I felt that I wasn’t ready! For as long as I have had children in school, summer has been defined as the period of time between the last day of school in June and the first day of school in September. It’s funny how that block of time seemed longer when I was a kid than it does today and how I always looked forward to the first day of school more as a kid than I do now.
Getting ready for school back in the day was a big event…it would come in August when the second cutting of hay had been baled and there was a lull in the farm work that needed to be done. Back to school shopping would be one of the few trips that we would make to London (unlike now when my children commute back and forth to work). Back then, there was a downtown mall in London on the corner of York and Wellington with a parking garage attached to it and that’s where we would shop. Our school bags were sturdy and lasted us for years and our metal lunch pails only needed to be replaced if they had been damaged or if they got rusty. I still remember a certain smell that metal lunch pails had or maybe it was just the ketchup sandwiches that I took to school! We didn’t have juice boxes or pre-packaged snacks. Instead, we would go to the garden and pick a tomato or some grapes for our lunches.
Our back to school shopping would have mostly been to buy a new outfit to wear on our first day back and only a few school supplies because our pencils and workbooks were supplied at S.S.#8 Beechwood; the one room school house that we went to. For the first couple of grades, we were given fat pencils to use while we learned how to print in workbooks that had three lines; one on the bottom and one on the top for capital letters and one in the middle to show us how high lower case letters should be.