Sunday, August 5, 2012

In Lieu of Memorials, Please Send Flowers

A director I used to work with always said 'flowers are the bain of the funeral director's existence'. Indeed, we spend a lot of our time arranging flowers at the chapel for visitation, then moving them to church for the service, then, taking some to the grave, some to the home, some to this nursing home and that hospice. In the cold weather we have to wrap and unwrap the flowers and plants with plastic so they don't wither away. Pollen satins our white shirts, petals fall and stinky water spills all over in the vehicles. I almost lost a finger in a flower stand accident!

Often, the family has no idea of what to do with all the flowers and plants they get- who has room for all of this, and do you really want to look at it for a week? In order for the family to be able to write accurate thank-you notes to everyone who sends flowers, the funeral home staff has to make sure there is a description on the back of all the cards of the pieces, and there is almost never a description on the back. Don't even get me started on the giant trees some people send when the family lives in an apartment or nursing home! And then, there's the cost- many families ask 'why not put the money to better use- let's just list a memorial instead.'

Well, I'm all for donating to worthy charities, and I won't mind only moving five pieces of flowers to church tomorrow, but when I die, I'd like my obituary to read 'In lieu of memorials, please send flowers'.
Flowers are a visible expression for a grieving family that their friends and family and neighbors and coworkers care and are thinking of them in their loss. When a family comes in before their visitation, the first thing they do after weeping at the casket is look at all the flowers and say 'isn't that nice, aren't these beautiful, look these are from my job! these are from our neighbor!' When they come into the chapel for the service, again there is the visual reminder of all the people who may not have the words to make things any better, but have shown by their actions that this person and this loss are meaningful. Whatever the cost of the flowers, and whatever is done with them afterwards-they made a difference to that family.

5 comments:

Lenette said...

People today underestimate the healing power of flowers. I'm with you, bring 'em on.

Bryan Chandler said...

Wow great way to express the importance of flowers!!!!

Danielle said...

Well said! I totally agree. People don't get flowers very often, and they forget how beautiful and touching they can be.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you understand the power of flowers, especially if you are willing and prepared to wrap them in cold weather. Flowers speak for the heart and are a much needed form of an expression of sympathy. My hat is off to you, Sir, you are truly and Undertaker, not just some guy in a suit.

Anonymous said...

I agree flowers can be very healing. My mother had wanted donations to a charity and so I followed her wishes. My brother thought she had also said she did not want a casket spray. I did order a pillow with flowers for her casket, because I had been her caregiver for a very long time and wanted something special from me.

When I saw her in her casket before any flowers arrived, it just seemed so sad especially considering how many flowers she had sent to funerals over the years. I started getting anxious and even upset as the time for the start of her visitation came closer. I was so relieved and delighted when they started bringing in some flowers.

She did get several beautiful arrangements from closest family and friends, but still not enough to totally cover her grave once it was closed. It would have been more of a comfort to me if the grave was completely covered when I went back before sunset after her graveside service. I would have also like to have given arrangements to nursing homes and special individuals, but had none to send.

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Funeral service faces a crisis of relevance, and I am passionate about keeping the best traditions of service alive while adapting to the changing needs of families. Feel free to contact me with questions, or to share your thoughts on funeral service, ritual, and memorialization. dailyundertaker@gmail.com

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