Warm holiday greetings from the staff of Waller Funeral Home! We feel greatly blessed to be a part of this community and appreciate the trust you place in us by letting us serve you.
Although we are mindful that our nation has experienced great tragedy during the last months and that families in our community have also experienced the loss of loved ones, we extend our wish that the holidays will be a time of healing, of love for our fellowmen, and of thankfulness and joy for the gift of God’s Son.
As in the past, we will be mailing helps for coping with the holidays after the death of a loved one to those we have served since last Christmas. If you know of someone else you feel would benefit from these grief helps, please let us know.
As an expression of our appreciation and friendship, inspirational and dashboard calendars are available on request at the Funeral Home.
One of the first Bible verses we learned as children and taught to our children was "Be ye kind one to another." If only this lesson could be learned world-wide, we would live together in peace. Man’s inhumanity to man on all levels from hurt feelings on the playground to mass terrorism would not happen if simple kindness was practiced.
The importance of kindness cannot be overstated. The heroic efforts of rescue crews and many other people who have assisted in the area of the World Trade Center have illustrated vividly the strength of kindness. Racial discord would be eliminated if individually we were all kind to each other. Other discrimination because of nationality, appearance, economic status, or other differences would be eliminated.
Family harmony and family ties would be enhanced if husbands and wives were kind to each other, and if brothers and sisters substituted kind words and deeds for disparaging remarks and deeds. Kindness means more and unkindness hurts more from those we care about. Big family feuds occur in the absence of consideration for others.
Analyses of school violence has revealed that most perpetrators exploded after continued teasing and other unkind treatment by fellow students. Consideration for others on our streets and highways would prevent the road rage which has caused numerous tragedies. Fairness in business dealings, especially avoiding taking advantage of the weak and uninformed, show kindness.
As children, hurtful remarks some-times caused us to recite the old verse "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." We were trying to convince ourselves more than our tormentors of an enormous untruth; names—words—are a terrible weapon. Hurt feelings are often more painful than physical pain.
We see it happen frequently—a shopper with a basket full lets another shopper with a hand full ahead, a driver eliminates the aggressive "me-first" attitude, a stranger holds the door and smiles as he lets another go ahead, a friend stands by in time of grief. We hear stories of strangers in unfamiliar places stopping to offer assistance to a confused-looking visitor. The Bible gives us the example of the Good Samaritan and also Jesus’ admonition that "in as much ~s you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me."
Good manners are based on kindness. Showing respect for others means never telling a joke at another’s expense or laughing at another’s efforts or misfortune. To be kind includes showing interest in another person and valuing his/her opinions. Judging what is hurtful can be made by putting ourselves in another’s place.
Professional skills without kindness often fall short of the best results. The kind doctor, teacher, minister, funeral director can ease the pain of difficult situations. Also kindness to those in service occupations—clerks, waitresses, maids, etc.—makes their lives better. Fault-finding and negativism hurt. A sincere compliment is a gift we can all give.
The kindness of volunteerism and philanthropy make the world a better place. Helping with Meals on Wheels, the Pantry, Habitat for Humanity, and other community outreach projects; gifts to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and other worthy charities; and blood and organ donations show kindness to our fellowmen.
Kindness builds self-esteem, making both the receiver and giver feel better about themselves. The people we like best are those who make us feel good about ourselves.
You may say, "The old lady is oversimplifying the cause of our troubles," and that may be so. We can’t solve all the problems of the world by being nice to each other, but we can make a start toward world harmony by improving our everyday relations with each other. A kind word, a hot meal, a small favor, even a smile will help. Let’s do it!
Children & Grief: When You Wish Upon a STAR
Because this article from the June 2001 issue of American Funeral Director deals so effectively with the important issue of helping children through grief, we are devoting a major portion of this newsletter to sharing it with you.
Let’s pretend. You’re six and not going to school today. Someone in your family has died, and this "dead" thing has turned your world upside down.
You eat your breakfast in silence, hoping mommy doesn’t break down and cry again. The phone has been ringing a lot the past few days and every time your parents answer you can tell they are upset. They tell the same story over and over. In their hushed conversations you hear the same strange words—stroke.., pneu-monia.. ventilator.., intensive care... died!
Strangers have been coning to your house bringing food. It looks like there is going to be a party, but there are no balloons or crepe paper streamers. Just silences and sadness and tears.
Something has happened—something big. Everyone is acting so strange. It scares you. Was it something you did?
You promise yourself—you are going to try to be a better boy so this won’t happen again.
It’s time to go now. They say you are going to the funeral home. You are going there to say goodbye. Your grandpa’s body will be there. You wonder where his head will be. Everyone is quiet in the car on the way.
When you arrive in the parking lot, you recognize this place. Your family has driven by it many times on the way to the park, and the grocery store and Sunday school. But those other times everyone in the car had acted "normally." The car has stopped. You wait for instructions. You don’t want to make a mistake. You are on a mission. To be a good boy.
When you step inside you find yourself in a beautiful room. It looks like a living room with couches and chairs and lamps and tables, and boxes of tissues, everywhere! You stand close to your parents. You notice there’s a sign above one of the closed doors in the room with your grandpa’s name on it. A man in a dark suit approaches and with a solemn voice says, "My condolences to you and your family." What are condolences? You have heard so many strange new words the past few days. What do they all mean?
The days surrounding a death can be a confusing and disorienting time for young children. Altered daily routines and unfamiliar sights and sounds can be difficult to understand. Children notice even the most subtle changes in their routines and surroundings.
Kids get so much of their knowledge and beliefs from their parents, teachers, and peers as well as from TV shows and movies. Is it any wonder they are so misinformed about death and funerals? Often times parents struggle with how to approach the subject of death and find it difficult to know just how much to include the children in the events of the funeral process.
The STAR Class is a sensitive, caring approach to explaining the funeral process to children attending the services for a loved one who died. I have listened to families trying to decide if their children should attend the services for a family member or friend who died.
A social worker told me the story of three little boys living in a violent home situation. One fall afternoon the 7-, 5-, and 3-year old were pushed out onto the porch and the door locked behind them. They stood peering in through the living room window and watched their father stab their mother to death. It was a horrific scene. The day of the funeral the grandmother decided the boys would not attend the funeral for their mother. "It would be just too hard on them," she said.
Children need simple, honest, straightforward explanations about death. We must encourage them to share their thoughts, fears, and observations of the events taking place around them. They are naturally curious about what happens to the body after death. They need visual and tactile opportunities to come to terms with the reality of death.
I have spoken with parents who are troubled about whether to allow their child to view the body of the deceased.
One father was torn about his 4-year-old daughter viewing her grandfathers body in the casket. "She has such a vivid imagination, you know. What if seeing him like this is hard on her?" I responded, "Because she has a vivid imagination, it is possible that she will imagine a far worse scene than the reality of her grandfather lying peacefully in a casket, surrounded by friends and loving family members." He and his wife did bring their daughter to the funeral home. When she went into the room to view, she appeared calm and at ease in her father’s arms. "Poor Grandpa," she said, "he died."
With careful preparation and knowledge of what they might expect to see, hear and experience at the visitation and funeral, it is my experience that children most often accept the situation with a very matter of fact attitude. But when left to their imaginations, children can conjure up all sorts of macabre and frightening scenes.
Six-year-old Katie, attending a visitation at the Morris Nilsen Funeral Chapel announced. "I’m not lookin’ at no dead bodies. No way!" She crossed her arms across her chest defiantly. But this wasn’t just any "dead body." It was her mother. I reassured her that no one would force her to see or touch her mother’s body, but that maybe we could talk about what it would be like if she did. "If I get too close, she might reach out and grab me!" I responded, "I’ll bet you have seen that happen on television." She nodded. I continued, "It really looks real, doesn’t it? But it isn’t real. It is pretend. The body of a person who has died can’t move. It doesn’t work anymore. It is not alive."
When explaining how the body of the deceased will appear in the casket, I try to cover all the bases. By previewing the room set up, casket type, special objects present, and the clothing the deceased is wearing, I can prepare the children for viewing.
As I explained to a 7-year-old about how his grandpa’s body would appear in the casket, he asked, "Where will his head be? Did they bury it already?" His older siblings laughed. "Well, you keep talking about his body, I don’t want to see his body without his head." I reassured Joey that his grandpa’s head was indeed attached and that the word body means the whole person from head to toe. "Oh, that’s good!" he replied.
Even within the same family, parents do not agree about the benefits of viewing the deceased.
Two sets of cousins attended a STAR class at the Morris Nilsen Funeral Chapel after the death of their grandfather. The two brothers were ages 7 and 5 and the two sisters were 6 and 3. The mother of the two boys pulled me aside. "We have decided that the boys will not be viewing their grandfather’s body. We think it is best." I agreed to respect the family’s decision. But suggested perhaps she would rethink the decision after the class. "No. We have decided." (End of discussion.)
All four children wrote STAR messages to the deceased. When we went upstairs, the boys waited outside the visitation room while the girls put their messages in the casket, touched their grandpa’s hand and said goodbye. The gins stood for a while looking at the body, fixing in their minds that he indeed looked and felt different. He was dead. As the girls came out of the visitation room the boys both jumped up and with their paper STAR messages still in their hands and huddled around their cousins. "What did he look like?" "Was his hand really cold?" "Where did you put your STAR?" The four walked off to the playroom as they tried to come to terms with this "death" thing.
As much as we wish we could protect our children from the pain and sense of loss, we cannot. Death is a reality for all of us. Children see it and hear about it everyday in news reports in between cartoons and game shows. They see plants and flowers in their own gardens that wither and die every fall and winter. They have seen animals that have died: squirrels, rabbits, birds, or their own pets. But they don’t necessarily understand what death means. What is dead? How long does it last? Three-year-old Emily asked, "When will my grandma wake up?"
Euphemisms like, "Grandma is just sleeping." or "We lost Grandpa" can cause fear in a young child that they too might get lost or go down for a nap and never wake up. Or worse yet, as four-year-old Clayton asked, "What if I went to sleep and woke up in a casket like my grandpa?"
When someone tells me that a 2-year-old is too young to understand what’s going on or to be involved in the funeral process, I tell the story of Danielle. Within six weeks, two-and-a-half-year-old Danielle had experienced the death of her grandmother and then her grandfather. When she bravely announced that her grandparents had died, she quickly added, "But my mommy didn’t die." What was on her little mind? "Is my mommy next?"
Our first instinct is to reassure a young child not to worry about it, that everything will be OK. But this little one knows better. Loved people do die and "go away." We would lose our credibility if we made a statement like that.
Focusing on the here and now is easiest for children to understand. Today, you and your family are alive and together. Your grandparent, parent, sibling, friend, etc. died, but there are other people who love you and will care for you. We can remind them that there are others in their lives who work hard to keep them and their families safe and healthy: parents, grandparents, teachers, clergy, police officers and fire fighters, doctors and nurses.
Very young children may not be able to fully comprehend the complexities, but they are aware that this death thing can upset their world. It can cause normally strong, competent, rational, adults to become preoccupied and unglued. They have seen them cry or act strangely and depressed. They sometimes feel neglected, invisible and helpless to control their world. They exist in the chaos around them, sometimes alone. They are also left out of the arrangements, planning and decision making about the final rites of their loved one.
Josh, age 6: Three days before, Josh’s mother had tucked him into bed and asked him, "Did you have a good birthday today, son?" She kissed him after his bedtime story and evening prayers. All was right with his world.
Sometime during the night she had an asthma attack. Returning home from a late night shift, her husband found her on the bathroom floor, apparently reaching for her inhaler. This loving, young mother was dead.
Quietly, no sirens, no flashing lights, her body was removed from the house and immediately cremated. In the morning when Josh woke up, mommy wasn’t there. Mommy wasn’t anywhere.
His dad thought it would be easier that way. Easier for whom? If a child isn’t given honest, reasonable explanations for the changes occurring around them, they will make them up. To maintain order in their lives, kids will draw on their own sense of magical thinking or immature logic. They may even blame themselves.
I have heard countless stories from adults who were not allowed to attend the funeral for a close family member or friend. They mourn not only the loss of a loved one, but the loss of the opportunity to say goodbye. A void is left, a black hole filled with anger and rage, mystery and regret.
"You know, my mother never let me go to my sister’s funeral." These words were spoken by my father: "It was back in the summer of 1934, I was 8 years old. My sister, Mildred, was upstairs in the bedroom, ironing... a blue dress with flowers on it... she was 16... a secret marriage.., a jealous boyfriend... he killed her. The last memory I have in my mind is of her lying on a stretcher being taken out of the house. There was blood everywhere and her throat was cut from ear to ear. I think she was still alive, but they said she never made it to the hospital. I don’t know why they didn’t let me go. I hate them for that." Still. Sixty years later.
The common factor in many of the decisions concerning a child’s non-involvement in the services for a loved one is fear.
Fear of the normal reaction to death— shock, tears, grief. Fear of losing control. By avoiding the reality that a loved person has died, a long lasting need occurs—a need to believe by seeing, touching, saying goodbye for the last time. A need to make the death real. These children were denied this privilege.
There are rare instances when viewing may not be an option for a child. But, for the majority of cases, children do well with honest, straightforward explanations about death and the events surrounding the funeral.
As the children and I gather at the casket after a STAR class, we are joined by their parents and other relatives. The adults watch in awe as each child "chooses" to approach the casket, place his or her STAR message in with the deceased, and touch the hand of their loved one who died. Children then have an opportunity to ask questions and make comments about what they are experiencing. I invite the children to return to the casket as often as they wish.
Manyara, 8, approached the casket with her STAR message. She stopped for a moment and looked closely at her grandmother’s body. As she stepped up even closer, she reached out with one finger. Lightly she touched her grandmother’s hand, then with her whole hand she stroked it. "Ooh. It does feel cold. It feels fake. But it’s supposed to do that, right?" I agreed, "Yes, It’s supposed to do that." "Oh, okay, I thought so."
Remember little Katie who attended the visitation for her mother who died? After the STAR class she did go with me to view her mother’s body. She cautiously approached the casket, clinging to her father’s leg. She looked carefully at the body of her mother. When I asked her if she wanted to put her STAR in the casket, she shyly shook her head and looked away. "Would you like me to put it in for you?" I asked, kneeling down at eye level. Without turning her head, she stretched out her little hand. As I placed the STAR in the casket, I could see her watching me out of the corner of her eye. Her father picked her up and she looked on from his arms. Mommy’s body can’t move, can it?" she stated. "Her body doesn’t work anymore, huh?" "That’s right, Katie, her body has died." Katie returned to the casket many times that evening. Although she didn’t touch her mother, she seemed to become less tense with each visit. Her father and family members were pleased that she had an opportunity to say goodbye.
After placing their STAR messages in with their grandfather’s body, all four cousins remained at the casket. Some gently patting the deceased’s hand while leaning his elbow on the edge of the casket. One child stroked the smooth velvety pillow. They were engaged in conversation with each other. The widow of the deceased said to me, "Just look at my grandchildren. They are not afraid. I am so thankful they can have this time to pay tribute to him and say goodbye without fear. What a wonderful idea to have a class for the children."
It has been a privilege for me to spend this time with the children of the families we have served. It is my hope that children everywhere will have the opportunity to attend a STAR class before the services of a loved one and that they will learn that a funeral is a Special Time to Always Remember.
— Karen E. Nilsen
The author, Karen Nilsen, a registered nurse and perinatal educator, developed the STAR Class in 1996 and teaches the classes at the Morris Nilsen Funeral Chapel in Richfield, MN 55423. For more information about the STAR Class program, you can contact her at www.thestarclass.com. We appreciate her permission to reprint this article!
EXCERPTS FROM BILLY GRAHAM’S MESSAGE OF FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 14, 2001
We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be.
The Bible says that He is "the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles."
I have been asked hundreds of times in my life why God allows tragedy and suffering. I have to confess that I really do not know the answer totally, even to my own satisfaction. I have to accept, by faith, that God is sovereign, and He is a God of love and mercy and compassion in the midst of suffering.
But now we have a choice: whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation—or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of this struggle, to rebuild on a solid foundation.
And I believe we are in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God. That’s what this service is all about.
This has been a terrible week with many tears, but it has also been a week of great faith. Churches all across the country have called prayer meetings, and today is a day that they are celebrating not only in this country but in many parts of the world.
And in the words of that familiar hymn,
"Fear not, I am with thee; 0 be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand."
My prayer today is that we will feel the loving arms of God wrapped around us, and will know in our hearts that He will never forsake us as we trust in Him. We also know that God is going to give wisdom and courage and strength to the President and those around him. And this is going to be a day that we will remember as a day of victory.
May God bless you all.
We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who died and whose families we served from August 10, 2001, through November 11, 2001.
Dr. Marcus Eugene Morrison August 10, 2001
Mr. Freddy Lavert Brown August 11, 2001
Miss Esther Alma Oelrich August 11, 2001
Mr. Frank James Bishop August 13, 2001
Mrs. Nina Stanphlll Rainey August 13, 2001
Mrs. Holland Williams Heard August 13, 2001
Mrs. Evelyn Saunders Abernethy August 14, 2001
Dr. Stephen Gorove August 21, 2001
Mrs. Irene "Penny" Hunter August 21, 2001
Mrs. June Mackey Kilpatrick August 29, 2001
Mr. Bobby Lynn Long August 30, 2001
Mr. William Floyd James August 31, 2001
Mrs. Crenola Sneed Coleman September 1, 2001
Mrs. Mable Gallegly Roy September 2, 2001
Mr. James Durieff Ledford September 8, 2001
Mr. Joseph Clyde "J.C." Goolsby September 10, 2001
Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Huggins Hilbun September 11, 2001
Mrs. Mary Wimbish Freeman September 12, 2001
Mrs. Beulah Sharp Lyles September 14, 2001
Mrs. Lois Angeline Busby September 16, 2001
Mr. Dewey Edward House, Sr September 16, 2001
Mr. Joseph Benjamin Dees September 17, 2001
Mrs. Mildred Dunscomb Curry September 17, 2001
Mr. Talmadge Larry Dickey September 18, 2001
Mr. Charles Oran Durham September 18, 2001
Mr. George Wesley Clapp September 19, 2001
Miss Rachel V. Petty September 25, 2001
Mrs. Ella Bowland Hurtt September 25, 2001
Mr. John Alfred Gray September 28, 2001
Mr. Thomas Jeffery "Tommy" Tosh September 29, 2001
Mrs. Lavada Bowles Ferguson September 30, 2001
Mrs. Mary Bandizzon Horton October 3, 2001
Mr. Albert Thomas Keasler October 8, 2001
Mrs. Carol Donnelly Brown October 12, 2001
Mr. B. L. Graham October 13, 2001
Mrs. Leona Conner Lewis October 14, 2001
Mr. Richard Neal Lindsey October 20, 2001
Mrs. L. C. Ransom Harris October 22, 2001
Mr. Due T. Phillips October 22, 2001
Mr. William Gamer Beanland October 26, 2001
Mr. Billy Young October 29, 2001
Mr. T. J. Stanford November 1, 2001
Mrs. Morene Whitehead Tarver November 11, 2001