Not many people understand that my grandmother‘s visitation and funeral were happy occasions for my family and I. I mean that in the best way possible–not that we’re happy she died and we no longer have her here on this earth–but we’re happy she’s with her Jesus, singing praises to Him and experiencing the splendors of Heaven with her body completely restored.
“This has been the best Friday night ever,” said my nine year-old little cousin after my grandmother’s four-hour long visitation. She and my other little cousin held the door for visitors all evening long and even asked the funeral director how old you had to be to get a job there. Typical Young.
I was practically raised in the funeral home. If there was a visitation, no matter if they were our family, friends, or just an acquaintance, my family went. I’ve spent many an evening there. The directors know my family by name and go out of their way to come speak to us. Lots of friends my age do not understand this. Some of them have never even been to a funeral (which just blows my mind)! To me, going to the funeral home for one who is saved is a celebration of their life and a celebration of their home-going. Yes, I cried several times…that’s normal, but to see so many friends and family gathered to honor a life well-lived also always makes me smile! Quite honestly, it’s almost like a party.
To the ones who get that, thank you! If you just don’t get it, I hope that you one day will.
When planning my grandmother’s funeral, we were able to joke with most of the staff at Kerr Brothers. That’s exactly what my quick-witted grandmother would’ve wanted, too. They kept me laughing all morning long! After all was said and done, I told the main man who was helping us that they sure did know how to put the “FUN” in “funeral!” And they really do–if you let them!
If I may, I would like to share a few things I have observed and learned throughout this process that will perhaps help you in some way–whether to give you an idea of how to comfort a friend following the death of a loved one or to give you an idea of how to honor your loved one.
My Advice to Funeral Planners
Give people something personal to remember your loved one. We put a basket full of my grandmother’s most-requested apple cake recipe next to the guest book.
Make your loved one’s funeral personal. Play their favorite hymns. Display unique awards. Show the funny pictures. Lay out their Bible for people to flip through.
Make a slideshow. According to countless cousins and their mothers, I need to start a business making slideshows for weddings, birthdays, graduations, and funerals. Windows Movie Maker, people. Add a nice slide transition and people will think you worked really hard. “The only money you’ll be out is the business cards to set out at the funeral home.” Yes, I heard this multiple times.
Wear flats to the visitation. I could kick myself with my heels for not doing this. I knew better.
Take pictures. It’s rare to have so much family gathered all at one time. Make the most of the opportunity and take a picture, even if it annoys all the cousins. You’re sure to treasure it for years to come.
Make sure you have easily accessible tissues during the funeral. I played the prelude with my mom for my grandmother’s funeral and did not get to sit next to my purse as I had previously planned. This left me without any Kleenex…pretty much the worst feeling ever when you’re sitting in the front row bawling your eyes out as your mom sings “Serenaded by Angels.” This scenario led to my older, braver cousin walking out to find Kleenex and returning with a long, endless string of toilet paper for us to share. Hilarious!
To Funeral Goers
If you are looking to take food to a friend whose loved one just passed away, I am going to suggest a breakfast item. (In our case, our church was wonderful about providing food for after the funeral and throughout the week we had this new-found freedom of being able to go out to eat all together, so full-blown meals weren’t exactly necessary.) Our sweet friend Terri brought us a huge, cheery basket of assorted delicious items from Great Harvest Bread Co. that included a loaf of some kind of lemon tea bread, muffins, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. My mom’s sweet coworker brought us two loaves of homemade pumpkin chocolate chip bread which has also come in handy in the mornings.
If you’re looking to buy a casket spray or a gorgeous arrangement of flowers, look no further than E. Stephen Hines Florist. The best bang for your buck. (We also received a lovely afghan and a beautiful windchime, which is a great alternative to flowers for people with brown thumbs like myself.)
One of the sweetest things we have received is money to go out to eat. Some days you just don’t feel like cooking.
Send one. Sign your own name. Add a Bible verse. It really means a lot.
What Not to Say
“Are there any special men in your life?” Surprisingly, out of 197 people speaking to me in one evening, I only got this question about 3 times. There are lots of special men in my life, but I would hope if there were an extra special man in my life, this question would not have to be asked because it would be obvious.
Hugs are always appropriate at funerals! Squeeze the family to pieces.
If God lays it on your heart to do something, just do it. Offer to haul some garbage. Help rearrange furniture. Vacuum the house. Take the food. Oh, the food. If you don’t believe in the sovereignty of God, you should’ve looked in my refrigerator on Friday afternoon. Not only did we have assorted breakfast items, we had a feast that was perfect for lunch on the go and post-visitation eats. My cousin’s daughter decided to make us two huge trays of ham and turkey sandwiches sliced in quarters. Our friend Joyce brought all kinds of canned drinks and bottled water. Our friend Judy dropped by with a big pot of homemade vegetable beef soup. Our friend Tim brought a red velvet cake his wife had made. Our friend Annette brought a large container of coffee. That’s not even everything, but the beautiful thing is none of these people talked to the other and they just dropped by. Amazing! (My two-cents: One thing that would be really helpful to drop off to someone is paper plates and cups. Chips would be something easy but useful as well.)
That’s the best advice I can give. If God lays it on your heart, no matter how odd it seems, DO IT. You will be a blessing.
I’m so thankful God blessed us with happy and humorous memories during this whole experience. His mercies never end! As my mom said to our Red Lobster waiter who asked what we were celebrating when we went out to dinner the night of my grandmother’s death, “We’re celebrating a life well-lived.” May you find ways to celebrate God’s grace even in the sad times.