The vis­i­ta­tion is all about shar­ing mem­o­ries

Record Observer - - Senior Satellite -

Grow­ing up in the fu­neral in­dus­try, one can only imag­ine the things seen and heard within the walls of a fu­neral home.

How­ever, in all the years my fam­ily has been in it, not one of us has seen a per­son en­ter one of our fu­neral homes jump­ing for joy that they are at­tend­ing a fu­neral or vis­i­ta­tion. No one has fist pumped the air with a huge grin say­ing what a blast it was giv­ing the eu­logy of their late fa­ther, nor have we seen any­one rush to be the first in line at a vis­i­ta­tion.

The fact is, we as in­di­vid­u­als do not like fu­ner­als or vis­i­ta­tions. It is typ­i­cally a time of sad­ness, mourn­ing and much awk­ward­ness felt by both the fam­ily and dis­tant rel­a­tives and friends all jum­bled to­gether in one room.

So then why go to a fu­neral or vis­i­ta­tion? Bet­ter yet, what are we to do when we get there??

This is ac­tu­ally a very com­mon ques­tion. Per­haps you have asked this to a friend or rel­a­tive – “are you go­ing to her/his vis­i­ta­tion tomorrow night …” We ask this for the sim­ple rea­son that al­though we want to go to show our love and sup­port, we truly don’t want to be there – as goes for any­one in the sit­u­a­tion of a loss. If there was a way to avoid this all to­gether, nearly all of us would likely opt out. So then why do we go to a vis­i­ta­tion and/or fu­neral?

A com­mon rea­son is that we want to be of as­sis­tance to the sur­vivors, let them know we are here for them in their time of dif­fi­culty and ul­ti­mately make them aware that we care. While very im­por­tant, it is also the same rea­son why ev­ery­one else is there; and this can be­come quite over­whelm­ing to the be­reaved.

In ad­di­tion, it shouldn’t be so much about let­ting them know how we feel, rather we should let the fam­ily know how their loved one im­pacted our life and how they will never be for­got­ten for it. Per­haps the an­swer is to come to the fu­neral or vis­i­ta­tion was his fa­vorite course in this area?” or “I see Christ­mas was an im­por­tant time to your wife, what mem­ory stands out the most dur­ing this time of year?” This mem­o­ra­bilia al­lows the be­reaved to gain a per­sonal con­nec­tion through shar­ing mem­o­ries with each of us that at­tends, rather than a nod and a hand­shake along with that oh so com­mon state­ment — “I’m sorry for your loss.”

It is not al­ways about the sense of sight that can pro­vide us with ar­eas of dis­cus­sion while at­tend­ing a vis­i­ta­tion or fu­neral. To­day, it is com­mon to see things such as wine bars, ice cream sun­dae sta­tions, steel drum mu­sic in the back­ground to home style set­tings and scents. This is be­com­ing com­mon in most fu­neral homes in or­der to elim­i­nate the stereo­typ­i­cal mor­bid dark “fu­neral” feel and in­stead pro­vide a com­fort­able home like en­vi­ron­ment for fam­ily and friends to share in the mem­o­ries of a life lived. Shar­ing with a be­reaved fam­ily that the type of wine be­ing served, hot fudge top­ping on our ice cream, a par­tic­u­lar is­land song play­ing or a sim­ple home style at­mos­phere re­minds us of a mem­ory of the one they lost is all that is nec­es­sary when at­tend­ing a fu­neral or vis­i­ta­tion.

While we have not yet seen the ex­cite­ment from an in­di­vid­ual en­ter­ing a fu­neral home that one might see from a young child on Christ­mas Day, we have seen peo­ple walk out of a fu­neral home with a tear in their eye and a smile on their face, all at the same time.

While the loss of a loved one is not easy for any­one, we, the dis­tant rel­a­tives and friends, must be there to help the fam­ily in their time of need. Shar­ing mem­o­ries is a won­der­ful way to let a friend in need know that they are be­ing sup­ported. The goal of ev­ery fu­neral pro­fes­sional should be to pro­vide an out­let for friends and fam­ily to walk through that per­son’s life and ex­pe­ri­ence laugh­ter and sad­ness within sec­onds of each other.

Shar­ing mem­o­ries is ul­ti­mately the key be­hind why we should at­tend a vis­i­ta­tion or fu­neral and what we should be do­ing while present. That in it­self says it all.

Reprinted from Sept. 23, 2015.

RYAN HELFENBEIN

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