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I received this email last week (I removed the last name of the deceased and replaced with an initial):


Today at our Grant Chapel we had a funeral service for Violet C., and the family had talked about how she and her husband, Dominic, were great dancers. This was also part of their DVD that H&M prepared to show at the service.

The last song to be played was “The Dance” by Garth Brooks. After the song was over, the minister came down from the lecturn. He approached Dominic and asked him if he would dance with his daughter and granddaughter to the song. Dominic said, “Yes, I would like that.”

The minister asked me to play the song again and Dominic and his daughter, Kathy, danced to the song. After the song was over, the hundred or so who attended the service gave them a standing ovation. This was totally unrehearsed, and off the cuff. The family was so overwhelmed with emotion, and couldn’t say enough about what a wonderful service we had provided for their family. It just brought to mind, once again, why we do what we do!

The minister was Richard Brest!


Some things can be trained. Some things cannot. The creative thought, the compassion, the courage of this minister to take this “detour” in the funeral made a huge difference to this family and to their friends. I’m proud to say Rev. Richard Brest was one of our funeral directors for many years after he retired from full-time ministry.

I share this with you because it strikes me that Rev. Brest did not take the path of least resistance and just proceed as had been planned. Rather, he took a moment to follow his instinct and have a private word with Dominic, the husband of Violet. That showed compassion, courage and wisdom.

Kevin Kassner, our funeral director, has been arranging and directing services for 45+ years. Kevin was my boss when I was just a kid who cut the mortuary’s lawn, vacuumed and did other maintenance work. As I grew older, Kevin became a great trainer and mentor for me and, I should add, many others. After all these years, it’s gratifying to see Kevin excited about what he does.

People ask me how we can do this work and keep good mental health. The next time I get that question, I will ask the person to read Kevin’s message to me – a message reinforcing the fact that we get one chance to do our work well and, when we do, we can help make an important difference in someone’s life. As Kevin said, it’s why we do what we do.

by John Horan


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