This week, in honor of Thanksgiving, our staff is sharing stories of gratitude and thanks. This post is written by Casey Coghlan, Manger/Funeral Director for Horan & McConaty Funeral Homes.
When we talk about funerals and memorializing someone’s life, we often default to describing situations about the deceased or the family of the deceased. Not too much is mentioned about the guests in attendance. I would like to take a moment to talk about the people who are kind enough to come and honor a life or support a friend who just lost a loved one.
A unique vantage point belongs to funeral directors the day of the funeral or memorial service. That sentence alone makes me very grateful. However, there are some common denominators the staff of the funeral home has with the guests who attend services. The two most important ones are honoring a life lived and making sure the needs of the family are met. Spiritually, emotionally. Whatever the “comfort zone” is, we have to find it.
Something that has always been very interesting to me is to watching a guests as they prepare to enter the funeral home. The majority of guests arrive within 10 to 15 minutes of the service. I know many of us, professionally and personally, have our time allotted from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed at night. How we fill that time is our own choice, but I don’t know many people lamenting about having “too much time”. Even with time being so very precious, I am a believer that people arrive in such close time to the service starting is because people are not comfortable in a funeral home. There are many statistics about the frequency in which people visit a funeral home in the course of their life. I can’t exactly give you those number, but I can generalize with accuracy and say they are very low.
I have worked many funerals and have witnessed probably thousands of guests as they prepare to enter the funeral home. Sometimes, you can see a couple get out of their car and head toward the building or church. Their body language changes. They get nervous. Many times, their conversation stops. Often times a couple will join hands or pull each other close as they head closer to the unknown. I have seen polished business professionals who I know would have zero problem in any social situation take a deep breath of trepidation as they enter through the doors. No one wants to walk in and be deemed inappropriate. No one wants to “make an entrance” at a funeral.
These guest enter and immediately look for instruction. Their nerves are palpable. People’s eyes are filled with the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. It’s not an easy path for the guests at the funeral, either. Everyone is emotionally heightened and though it all comes from a very good place, it can be unnerving.
What I am thankful for is that people put all of their fears aside and DO walk through the doors. In today’s world, the options to communicate are almost too many. People can escape something difficult through an email, a text, a Facebook message, or an online condolence. People can very easily use an excuse and say they were too busy or got caught up at work. While that can be legitimate and have truth to it, but it can also be a default get out of jail free card to avoid a situation that causes discomfort.
I am proud of the friends, work associates and neighbors who choose to walk through the doors and take time out their busy day to show the family that the greatest gift they can give them is their time. And by doing that, it makes the path seem less frightening and lonely. At the end of the day, the support group around the family is facing a big fear, too. As a funeral director, there is nothing more gratifying than watching people come together, put whatever fears aside, and walk down a difficult road that would be deemed impossible if it had to be done alone.