What would we do without a pause now and then to catch our breath, rest our feet, evaluate the past, and think toward the future? In funeral service, circumstances rather than convenience often dictate the pace. Pauses to renew our spirits and resources and to catch up are necessary and welcome. Through it all, thoughtful care for those we serve—with each family given our undivided attention at the time of service—has been our aim.
Although it has been nine years since I have been at the Funeral Home on a daily basis, I still get caught up in the rhythm of things there and I still maintain touch with the daily flow of activities—more so now that we are home again from Jackson.
One way I have kept involved is through this newsletter. Begun in the Summer of 1984, we have mailed four issues each year since except in 1994 when The Ice Storm intervened. Our objectives have been to share useful information relative to the Funeral Home, to provide a tribute to recently deceased people whose family we have served, to provide some appropriate inspirational thoughts, and to promote communication and goodwill with our patrons/friends. By sharing my own personal experiences and thoughts, I have sought to help others to remember and to accept the inevitable joys and sorrows of life.
An unplanned benefit has been a printed record of our operation. Looking back through the newsletters is a look back in time. Of most importance are the memorial lists. On them I find the names of dear friends, neighbors, and loved ones. We miss them and we honor their memories. We praise God for the great range of individual personalities with which our lives and land has been blessed.
The newsletters chronicle changes at the funeral home. Staff turnover has been reported. Bob Rosson and Bobby Phelps were pictured in the Summer 1984 issue and they remain. Other faithful staff members including Sid Wolfe and Robbie Ash are no longer with us, and Trish Cousley and John Tatum are now on board. All have been pictured in newsletters. We are extremely proud of the commitment and compassion Beth and Bob have developed in the service. They have carried forward in the tradition we sought to establish—our family—including all our staff members—serving each family has been our plan. In this day when many funeral homes have been taken over by large corporations, we are proud to maintain our close, homelike organization and atmosphere.
The newsletters show changes that have been made in our facilities. We are especially proud of the addition and remodeling done in 1993. The offices, the arrangements space, and the display area for caskets and other supplies were much improved. Other important additions have been our new organ and sound system and new van and coach. Improvements in the parking lot and lighting have been made. Constant attention to housekeeping and occasional attention to decorating have been our practice.
We reported the purchase of Oxford Thomas Funeral Home in 1987 and the purchase of Oak Grove Memorial Garden (now Eastover Memorial Cemetery) in that same year. The new insurance office was built in 1989 and opened in January of
One subject to which we have returned continually is Pre-arrangement. Our feeling is that, because of how helpful we have seen this to be to families, we cannot overemphasize the advantages of making funeral plans prior to death. We have also tried to inform our readers about funeral practices and about available merchandise and services. In an effort to pass on information and to stimulate thoughtful consideration of issues, we have several times included a Forum of frequently asked questions and answers about funeral service.
We have carried information about grief support groups and about hospice care. More about hospice care is included in this issue. We have several times included suggestions on how to help others suffering from the loss of loved ones and another of these lists of suggestions is included in this issue.
Book suggestions and reviews have been included. Also included have been listings from our Resource Center of grief helps and inspirational materials which we enthusiastically gathered. We have been disappointed that these resources are not being used. We still urge you to look them over and borrow what is available.
Articles and references have been made to people who have been very special to me—my parents and all of our family, "Miss Emma," Don’s sister Mildred, and others. I have passed on scriptures, hymns, poems and short prose which I have found especially meaningful—often with my comments.
What has kept us going with the newsletter through these 53 issues is the feedback we have had from you. We reported some of your responses in the Winter 1995 issue. We appreciate your openness in appreciating the successes and overlooking the mistakes we have made in our communication with you. (One mistake never retracted but always remembered was in the Winter 1990 issue when a typographical error in my recalling 2 of favorite scriptures asserted that I could recite much of Psalm 119-176 verses— when Psalm 19-14 verses—was the intended reference.) As long as mind and body permit, I plan to continue the newsletter. Your comments are always appreciated.
We will continue at the funeral home to serve you with the love and respect we feel for families suffering the loss of loved ones. We pledge to be ever mindful of ways our service and facilities can be improved. We are proud to be a part of this community!
Bob Rosson was recently elected secretary-treasurer of the Mississippi Funeral Directors Association.
Bob’s election will mean he will serve as president of the statewide organization in 2001-2002. He has served as District Governor on the association’s board of directors farther past five years. He was instrumental in establishing a master trust for pre-need funeral funds for the association.
As District Governor, Bob represented DeSoto, Marshall, Benton, Tunica, Tate, Coahoma, Quitman, Panola, Lafayette, Bolivar, Tallahatchie, Yalobusha, Calhoun, and Grenada counties.
The association, organized in 1906, represents the state’s funeral service industry.
HOSPICE: A Special Kind of Caring
Deaths in the family home were commonplace in earlier times. With developments of modern medicine, more and more the hospital became the setting for the last moments of life. While acknowledging the many benefits of modern medicine, a group of clergy, healthcare workers, and others began wondering in the 1970’s if the natural process of dying had been robbed of its dignity by turning over much of the care of dying persons to medical personnel and the hospital environment. From their concern, hospice care was born in the United States. Now nearly 2,500 hospices serve people in every state. According to the National Hospice Organization, more than a million patients have utilized the services of hospice.
The National Hospice Organization defines hospice as "a special kind of care for dying people, their families, and their caregivers that: treats the physical needs of patients and their emotional and spiritual needs; takes place in the patient’s home, or in a homelike setting; concentrates on making patients as free of pain and as comfortable as they want to be so they can make the most of the time that remains to them; considers helping family members an essential part of its mission; and believes the quality of life to be as important as the length of life."
The Hospice Association believes no job is too big or too small for the hospice team. The team helps in every way it can. This help may include: pain relief through medication; back rubs and foot massages; matters of personal cleanliness and coordination of necessary medical equipment; "being there"—to let the patient know he or she is not alone; talking openly about feelings; assisting with household chores and helping to put financial matters in order; providing favorite foods or music; joining in favorite pastimes.
Hospice also offers a comprehensive bereavement program for family members following the patient’s death. Professionals and volunteers maintain contact with the family, offer grief counseling and referrals, and maintain grief support groups.
Melissa Kelly in "Using Hospice Care When a Loved One Is Terminally III" (Care Notes, Abbey Press) says: "Watching the person you love die is never easy. But knowing that your loved one can live those last days in dignity and comfort, and that you will be able to care compassionately for your loved one within the circle of your family will be a great solace to you."
Baptist Memorial Home Care/Hospice Division, a hospital-based agency which is owned by Baptist Memorial Health Care Development Corporation, operates in this area. Information about availability of hospice can be obtained by contacting the Hospice office between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Their telephone number is 234-8553.
PLEASE DON’T SHOOT THE PIANIST!
Oscar Wilde told of a century-old Leadville, Colorado, saloon with a posted sign: "Please don’t shoot the pianist. He is doing his best."
There are days when all of us feel like the hard-pressed pianist. We try, oh, so hard but still we attract the bullets. A pastor friend was called out on Saturday night to counsel with teenagers. He was up most of the night and was not at his best on Sunday. The critics didn’t ask questions but began firing.
A mother tried to balance a full-time job. making a home for the kids and her husband, plus church and school responsibilities. She tried, ever so much, but the bullets struck home as her husband ran away with a more "in tune" woman.
The teenager was trying to live a Christian life and remain chaste but his peers were unmerciful as they subjected him to the firing line.
In The Spirituality of Imperfection, Ernest Kurtz quotes Commissioner of Baseball, Francis T. Vincent: "Baseball teaches us, or has taught most of us, how to deal with failure. We learn at a very young age that failure is the norm in baseball and, precisely because we have failed, we hold in high regard those who fail less often. I also find it fascinating that baseball, alone in sports, considers errors to be part of the game, part of its rigorous truth."
Try to remember that the next time you are trying your best at the piano and the bullets begin to fly.
—from The Baptist Record, June 3,1993.
WAYS TO HELP THE GRIEVING
Many people feel inadequate when there is a death. Here are some suggestions to help better comfort the grieving.
Respond immediately. As soon as you learn there has been a death, call expressing sympathy. "I’m so sorry" is sufficient. Ask if you can do anything practical—shop, drive, provide child care, etc.
Refrain from giving advice. Don’t give advice unless it is specifically requested.
Respect personal grieving styles. Some individuals welcome companions who will come to the house to sit with them or even spend the night. Others, however, need more space and distance, preferring to be alone.
Avoid platitudes. Never say, "I know how you feel," unless you too have experienced a loss to death. Even them, clarify that statement by saying, "I know how you feel because my sister died three years ago." Other platitudes that are not helpful include: He’s out of his misery now; she’s in a better place; it’s a blessing this happened; he had a long life; at least she didn’t suffer; or time heals all wounds.
A simple, "I’m sorry" or a hand-shake or embrace convey more loving concern than empty platitudes.
Listen with your heart. Let the griever do most of the talking. Ask the griever how he/she feels. Then listen attentively. Don’t be intimidated by tears. Listening and sharing the pain shows you care.
Mention the name of the deceased. Survivors want to talk about their loved one. Using the name tells a survivor you are open to hearing more about him or her.
Don’t mention remarriage or replacement. Never tell a younger widow or widower: "You can get married again." Similarly, never tell grieving parents: "You can have other children." While both statements may be true, they are statements that discount the loss for the grieving.
Remember that family members grieve differently. Respect the fact that family members, suffering the same loss, mourn different. A man whose father died suddenly recalls his surprise at the grieving patterns of family members: "One of my brothers, the proverbial strong-but-silent type, was weeping openly and often, while one of my sisters, whose emotions are usually right on the surface, was with dry-eyed efficiency coordinating the funeral arrangements, handling the phone calls." The lesson: different personalities have different grieving styles. All should be respected.
Spread out your support. While the family’s greatest need for practical help is right after the death, their greatest need for emotional support may be much later, particularly on special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. The lesson: be there early with practical help—bringing food, running errands or providing child care—but continue to provide emotional support over the next 12-24 months.
Never say, "Don’t cry." Tears bring healing, both physically and emotionally. When someone we love dies, it is quite natural to cry. Get comfortable with tears, both from the bereaved and from yourself.
Don’t second-guess God. Saying that a tragic death was "the will of God" can be both cruel and untrue. Avoid trying to give theological explanations for why someone died. Just quietly be with your friend and let him or her express their feelings freely. God does not need our defenses nor should God be assigned blame and responsibility for a tragedy.
Discourage the making of major changes. This is a good rule for the bereaved: whatever changes can wait, should wait. Most grief counselors recommend avoiding making any changes for at least one full year following a death.
Write out a memory of the deceased and mail it to the griever. Put down on paper an event you shared with the deceased or how you felt about the person or something you recall the deceased doing which impressed you. Then mail it to the survivor.
Educate yourself about grief issues. Many people who try to comfort a traumatized person fail because they lack experience and information. When someone you know experiences a death, go to a library or bookstore [Editor’s note: or funeral home] and get some books on grief. Read them carefully so that you will be better equipped to help your friend.
Be patient with the grieving. People heal and recover from grief but it always takes longer than most people expect. A recovery time of three to five years is not unusual, so be very patient with the bereaved. Never rush the grieving or try to force them to "get over it." That pressure usually comes from family and friends who have their own discomfort about the bereaved’s naturally depressing feelings.
—Selected from 19 Ways to Help the Grieving by Victor M. Parachin
Reprinted with the permission of the National Funeral Directors Association, The Director, NFDA Publication, Inc., June 1997.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope: where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
We dedicate this issue of Seasons to those who died and whose families we served from May 8, 1997, through August 19, 1997.
Mrs. Bessie Furr Sumners 5/8/97
Mrs. Fannie Mae Callicoat 5/14/97
Mr. Robert Leroy Rikard 5/17/97
Mr. Lyndon Reed James 5/19/97
Mrs. Grace Alvis Garrison 5/28/97
Mr. Samuel Clay Hughes 5/30/97
Mrs. Addie Louise "Pat" Brewer 6/3/97
Mr. Randy Thomas Renfrow 6/4/97
Mrs. Charlotte Martin Wilson 6/7/97
Mr. Harold Francis Pool 6/8/97
Mr. Virgil Abbie "V.A." Franklin 6/14/97
Mrs. Atha Peeples White 6/16/97
Mr. James C. "J.C." Woods 6/16/97
Mr. William Harper "Bill" Moss 6/16/97
Mrs. Helen Clara Feller 7/1/97
Mrs. Nona Ferguson McCarver 7/1/97
Mr. George Wayne Hollowell 7/3/97
Mrs. Susie Hollandsworth Hadaway 7/3/97
Mrs. Sydney Good Barnes 7/3/97
Mr. Walter Allen Langham 7/9/97
Mr. John William White 7/18/97
Mr. William Carl Hiatt 7/21/97
Mr. Joseph C. Franklin 7/22/97
Mr. Albert Ashley Grantham 7/23/97
Rebecca Leigh Sparks 7/23/97
Mr. James Larry Bumgardner 7/24/97
Mr. Elmer Wallace Lowe 7/26/97
Mrs. Maggie Russell Nelson 7/29/97
Mr. James Leenard Ragland 7/30/97
Mrs. Grace Doud Lee 8/3/97
Cdr. Ralph Jacobs, Jr. 8/7/97
Mrs. Ida Mae Roberts Pennington 8/8/97
Mrs. Jean Johnston George 8/9/97
Mr. William Taylor 8/10/97
Mrs. Marie Graham Williford 8/13/97
Mrs. Lila Jewell Hipp Vines 8/13/97
Mr. William Riley Hall 8/15/97
James Samuel Bonds 8/15/97
Mr. Gary Wesley Jones 8/16/97
Mrs. Frances Holloway Tallant 8/17/97
Mr. Robert Eugene Whitehead 8/18/97
Dr. John Avery Hancock 8/19/97