The spring meeting of the Vermont Funeral Directors Association will be held at the Killington Grande Hotel in Killington, Vermont on Thursday April 30, 2015. The meeting will begin at 1:00 pm with 3 hours of continuing education being offered by Mathew Binkewicz and will cover death, rituals, and suicide. The business meeting will begin at 4:00 pm. VFDA members are invited to gather for lunch from 11:30am to 1:00 pm prior to the meeting.
Report from NFDA Convention
The 2013 NFDA National Convention in Austin Texas this October had a very important “theme” present. The “message” started with the Opening General Session titled “The Good Funeral”, presented by Dr. Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, and Thomas Lynch, Writer and Funeral Director, Milford, Michigan. Their presentation centered on their recently published book and was a positive message to all funeral professionals.
NFDA continued their “theme” with a great presentation that was webcasted titled “End of Life Care: From One Set of Caring Arms to Another” with Panelists: Robert Friedman, MD, FAAHPM, the chief medical officer at Hospice Austin and has more than 17 years of experience in end-of-life care. Dr. Thomas G. Long, the Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. Thomas Lynch is a writer and NFDA-member funeral director from Milford, Michigan. Dr. Alan Wolfelt an author, educator and grief counselor, known across North America for his inspirational teaching gifts and his commitment to helping people mourn well so they can live well and love well. A great discussion took place displaying the importance of working with other death care partners and how pooling our efforts is a win win for all partners and the families we serve.
An additional home run presentation was titled “Why Funerals Matter”, led by Dr. Thomas G. Long, and Thomas Lynch. This pair of presenters did a wonderful job connecting the importance of ceremony and the enormous benefit it has to the healing process.
All three of these programs are available as videos on the NFDA website and are worth watching. The themes of Teamwork and ceremony combined with the promotion of the “Have a Talk of a Lifetime” Campaign made the 2013 convention a positive experience and a great display of the direction that our national association is taking in helping and promoting our profession.
True Value of the Funeral Professional
In his 1884 novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain summed up the role of a funeral director. He wrote, “The undertaker, he slid around in his black gloves with his softly, soothering ways, putting on the last touches, and getting people and things all ship-shape and comfortable, and making no more sound than a cat. He never spoke: he moved people around, he squeezed in the late ones, he opened up passageways, and done it all with nods and signs with his hands. Then he took his place over against the wall. He was the softest, glidingest, stealthiest man I ever see, and there weren’t no more smile to him than there is to a ham.”
Twain was always known for his wit and satire but he also illustrated in another passage the role of a funeral director in the most sincere and candid way possible. He noted the professionalism, the deft integrity and the lengths one funeral director goes to serve his community. But more importantly, Twain explained how the funeral director, while indispensable, was also disregarded.
Over the years a funeral director has sometimes been bestowed the moniker of an emotionless, anti-hero type of character. But for those who have experienced the exemplary service of a funeral director in their time of need, they know that these professionals are actually unsung heroes and caregivers who have earned the respect from the families they serve.
Perhaps this incorrect stereotyping of funeral practitioners is because there has been little information presented to the general public of the true value of a funeral director â€“ a value that extends far beyond just the listed price of service transactions. As a result, few people understand the full spectrum of services and benefits that funeral directors provide and because of this, some people mistakenly view the funeral process as just another service and commodity.
But for those who recognize the full range of compassionate services that a funeral director provides, they understand these death care professionals are individuals who should be respected.
It is the funeral director who answers the call of duty in the darkest moment of a family’s life and steps up ready to guide a family through the emotional roller coaster of saying good-bye to a loved one, all performed in a few short days. Few other professions work under these challenges.
The intrinsic value of the funeral profession are hidden within the intangible services that licensed funeral directors provide families. Their experience in understanding and navigating through the turmoil that death delivers to a family is part of the unwritten services they provide and these compassionate services are not shown on a funeral service contract.
For a funeral director, their tireless services are often called on in the middle of the night, because a family who has experienced the loss of a loved one requires immediate assistance that often cannot wait until the next morning.
Their confidence, calming presence and comforting words help families wade through the fog of death working as a guide who has walked the path countless times before. They listen to grieving families and encourage the sharing of memories of the deceased. They often provide a shoulder to cry on. They help with advice and take care of the smallest of details that the emotionally frail overlook. They provide options and help plan and organize a respectful funeral service based on the needs and wishes of the family.
They guide and direct families towards a path of emotional recovery by letting them know that it is normal and healthy to express their grief through mourning. They help build a supportive network that includes organizing the gathering of family and friends to ensure that the bonds of friendship and family are extended to others who also share their loss.
These services provided by a funeral professional are rarely seen by the public who show up at the funeral home to pay their respects and only see the results of the funeral professional’s diligent efforts to please their families.
It has been said that being a funeral director is a calling and a lifelong commitment and they are very often descendants of multi-generational experience. Attention to detail and excellent communication and listening skills are imperative.
Funeral professionals are composed and sympathetic and they act as confidants and accommodate the opinions of others. At times, they must act as a calm voice of reason during emotional disputes that arise between family members. They are proactive and prepared to attend to the needs of the grieving. The extent funeral directors will go to serve a family is nearly unlimited.
What a funeral director does is provide an unwavering commitment to see a family through a turbulent time. They are the practitioners of commemorating the dead through the combination of multiple traditions, rituals and religious doctrines. They are seen as promoters of positive emotional healing and with their funeral homes they’ve created a private, safe haven for families to find comfort in their grief and share their loss, free of judgment from outsiders.
Even in a day and age where cremation has become an alternative option for families, the role of the professional funeral director remains unchanged: To serve the needs of their families and help reinforce the significance of a life lived by bringing together a collective group that helps promote the required healing through an organized showing of support and love. Through this all, it is the funeral director who ultimately bears the responsibility of making this happen.
As Twain explained about the undertakers of his generation, “they do it without praise, without complaint and without criticism” and today’s modern funeral director understands that their purpose remains unchanged from Mark Twain’s time: to help guide families through their dark times by creating a meaningful and respectful goodbye built on the foundation of integrity, dignity and respect.
Seven Days Obituaries
Seven Days Newspaper has launched an obituary section to their publication. Your contact to get information about placing obituaries in Seven Days is Ashley Cleare. You can reach Ashley at 802-865-1020 ext37 or by email at Ashley@sevendaysvt.com
New Obituary Website
www.VermontObits.org posts obituaries totally free of charge. A Funeral Director can easily log in and very easily post the obituary himself, or obituaries can simply be emailed to email@example.com, and up to 4 photos can be attached to the email. If an obituary is emailed to a newspaper, you can simply add firstname.lastname@example.org as an additional recipient. VermontObits.org is committed to keeping the website respectful and tasteful, and aims to become the primary method for viewing obituaries in Vermont.
A Message from the VFDA Board "Growth"
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what to write about in my edition of “From Your VFDA Board.” I thought about stressing the need for us to provide service to families or what your association has been doing to provide more value to our members, but I wanted to talk about something that isn’t mentioned much â€“ growth.
In February of 2014 I will have been in funeral service for 5 years. In that time frame I’ve worked as a part-timer, attended and graduated from mortuary school, worked as a dress man in the Boston area, became a licensed Funeral Director and Embalmer and am now sharing on-call responsibilities at my hometown funeral home. In that short period of time it’s easy to notice my growth; both personally and professionally. I figured eventually my growth will slow to a rate that is hardly noticeable over that period of time as my career evolves. But, recently I’ve been asking myself: Why does it have to, and how can I be successful if it does?
With that being said I want to challenge each of you to start a professional journal like I am in 2014. In this journal, I’m going to record my goals, thoughts and experiences relating to funeral service. You can keep this journal private for your own benefit or you can share ideas and experiences with others, but it’s essential to have something to work towards accomplishing.
Start off with your goals, both short and long term. These will be different for everyone; some may want to educate themselves on a subject they’re not familiar with and some may want to form a succession plan. Monitoring progress is key, look at your goals either monthly or quarterly, and make sure you are on track. If you notice you’re falling behind then make the adjustments necessary. Lastly, analyze your results to see if you’ve reached your goals; were they too easy or too hard? Once you’ve completed the above steps, it’s time to start all over and set new goals. Be sure to always push yourself so you can be sure growth is taking place.
Writing down your thoughts and experiences is the other part of this journal. I’ve heard several times before “If I wrote down all of the things I’ve seen over my career I could write a book.” So let’s do just that, keep track of the good and the bad experiences you go through. It will also benefit you to keep track of how an experience made you feel: good, bad, happy or sad. In my short career I have experienced a lot of “firsts” from my first removal to my first arrangement; and as I become more comfortable I don’t necessarily remember how I felt during them; I’m sure you’ve had the same experiences over your career. I don’t think this “comfortable” feeling is beneficial for growth. I want to be able to look back at this journal, years down the road, and be reminded of what it’s like to be inexperienced and really see how much I’ve grown over time.
In closing I want to encourage you to start a professional journal with me in January, if you want help or need some motivation to get started get in touch with me. I also want to reiterate the fact that we all grow over time; professionally, personally and for most of us, physically. When we look at ourselves in the mirror each day we don’t notice the constant change, some good and some bad, that occurs. A photo from the past can show how much you’ve changed physically, but there’s no way to show the change that’s taken place both professionally and personally. That’s what I hope to accomplish by keeping this professional journal. I want something to measure and record my growth over time and make sure I’m on the path to becoming who I set out to be. I had a coach in high school who used to tell us in practice “Every day you either get better or worse, you never stay the same.” Which are you doing?
Talk of a Lifetime
This summer the Funeral and Memorial Information Council (FAMIC) launched the Have the Talk of a Lifetime campaign, a national, grassroots public awareness campaign aimed at motivating families to have conversations about life, what matters to them and what they value most. These discussions can help families make important decisions about how they wish to remember and honor the lives of their loved ones through the most meaningful memorialization.
FAMIC, which is comprised of 10 organizations representing nearly all areas of death care, developed this campaign to help remind funeral consumers that the people in their life who matter most have unique life stories. Through meaningful memorialization â€“ that is, taking time to reflect on the unique lives of a loved one and remember the difference they made â€“ funeral consumers take an important step in the journey toward healing after the death of a loved one.
“I cannot ever remember a time in my professional career in which a group of key funeral service organizations have united around a common goal and developed a campaign of this nature,” said Linda Darby, the National Concrete Burial Vault Association’s voting representative to FAMIC. “I am thrilled to be a part of this grassroots effort and ask my funeral service colleagues to join me in making this campaign a success. The families we serve are worth it.”
The first phase of the Have the Talk of a Lifetime campaign is a grassroots effort. Funeral homes and suppliers that are members of FAMIC organizations will be able to join in this national initiative by using campaign materials to help funeral consumers in their community better understand the importance of memorializing a life well lived.
The campaign materials are available at no cost and are easily customizable with a funeral home or business logo. The free materials may only be accessed through www.famic.org or through the websites of the 10 FAMIC organizations.
“It is critical that every funeral home and supplier that is a member of a FAMIC organization get involved; your involvement will be what helps us begin to change consumer opinions and attitudes toward memorialization,” said Jim Kepner, FAMIC president and the voting representative of Selected Independent Funeral Homes. “For years, people who work in funeral service have been asking for a national campaign to educate the public about the value of memorialization. Have the Talk of a Lifetime is our profession’s very best effort to launch such a campaign and we are relying on funeral directors and suppliers to help us make this campaign a success.”
The Have a Talk of a Lifetime video is currently on the VFDA and the NFDA website and we strongly encourage members to add it to their website.