A chance to tell the story of a life

Record Observer - - Senior Satellite - By RYAN HELFEN­BEIN

Imag­ine if you will… you en­ter a fa­cil­ity and are im­me­di­ately greeted by a smil­ing face along with per­haps even a light joke about the weather out­side. As you make your way fur­ther into the fa­cil­ity you can’t help but no­tice that your fa­vorite sum­mer va­ca­tion song is play­ing at a level eas­ily heard. Be­fore too long a mar­garita is of­fered to you and just out­side arm’s reach is a ta­ble filled with fresh fruit, gourmet cheeses and home­made cook­ies that are fill­ing the air with their de­li­cious scents. You look around af­ter re­ceiv­ing your glass of wine and no­tice that there are pic­tures dis­played along with a video play­ing that in­cludes pho­tos of you and your friends while va­ca­tion­ing to­gether in the Caribbean a few years back. Fi­nally, as you ap­proach your friends that are gath­ered in a cir­cle talk­ing about last sum­mer, you are blasted by the loud burst of laugh­ter as they ob­vi­ously reached the fi­nal hi­lar­i­ous mo­ment of the story they just shared.

Where do you think you are? A wed­ding re­cep­tion? High school or col­lege re­union? Per­haps even a birth­day party for a good friend? Nope, you have just en­tered the mod­ern day fu­neral home and ex­pe­ri­enced today’s ver­sion of fu­neral ser vice. Yes, you can say good­bye to the low lights and a lonely cas­ket sur­rounded by flow­ers in a dark­ened room with friends and fam­ily hud­dled to­gether whis­per­ing to one an­other while el­e­va­tor mu­sic plays in the back­ground.Today’s un­der­taker has taken on the chal­lenge of telling the story of a life lived and has cre­ated a new means of say­ing good­bye. This mod­ern day method of grief ther­apy has taken the fu­neral in­dus­try by storm.

The con­cept of telling the story of a life lived is noth­ing new. Fam­i­lies have been do­ing it on their own for years by ar­rang­ing for re­cep­tions at lo­cal fa­cil­i­ties af­ter a fu­neral ser­vice.The fu­neral in­dus­try is fi­nally catch­ing up and pro­vid­ing fam­i­lies with a com­fort­ing am­biance with their friends and fam­ily to gather with one an­other and share the sto­ries of the one they lost. We are find­ing in some areas of the US, un­der­tak­ers are pro­vid­ing full ser­vice bars with acous­tic bands to meals that en­com­pass ev­ery­thing from a Star­bucks® cof­fee sta­tion to gourmet ap­pe­tiz­ers.

Now what about those fam­i­lies that want to have the ca­sual gath­er­ing but still want to in­cor­po­rate the tra­di­tional as­pects in a fu­neral cer­e­mony? For­tu­nately, un­der­tak­ers have found ways to in­cor­po­rate both and have de­vel­oped an­swers to this com­mon dilemma. Pro­gres­sive fu­neral homes now of­fer “Trib­ute Spe­cial­ists.” These highly trained in­di­vid­u­als take on the task of ac­tu­ally telling the story of the dece­dent and as­sist the fam­ily in highly per­son­al­iz­ing what is be­ing called a “Time of Shared Mem­o­ries” that is typ­i­cally held at the fu­neral home.

These “Trib­ute Spe­cial­ists” take time to in­ter­view fam­ily mem­bers on what they re­mem­ber most, what spe­cial sto­ries they shared to­gether and what they will miss the most about the one they love. Through this time to­gether, songs are cho­sen, poems are gath­ered and fam­ily mem­bers be­come in­volved with this mod­ern day form of say­ing good­bye.

What is amaz­ing with this mod­ern ser­vice is that peo­ple end up truly ex­pe­ri­enc­ing all lev­els of emo­tion, from laugh­ing to cry­ing; and there­fore it be­comes a form of ther­apy that per­haps nor­mally would not have been there. Most im­por­tantly, it in­volves you! It tells the sto­ries that you were a part of and what you will re­mem­ber about the in­di­vid­ual. Af­ter all, isn’t that what we want to hold on to af­ter we lose a loved one – the happy times?

Yes, mod­ern day un­der­tak­ers are tak­ing a whole new spin on fu­neral ser­vice. They are work­ing with each and ev­ery fam­ily to pro­vide them with a highly per­son­al­ized, one of a kind, ex­clu­sive trib­ute to a life lived. Or as many have shared – pro­gres­sive fu­neral ser­vice providers today are truly pro­vid­ing the op­tion of putting “fun” into fu­neral.

RYAN HELFEN­BEIN

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