It’s personal. Grief, Grace & Gratitude..

Happy 3

This is not my typical blog post because it’s deeply personal pouring into words grief, grace, and gratitude.  If you read this in its entirety, you’ll not see my regular content but real, raw life…and death.

As parents our single greatest fear is the loss of our child, no matter their age.  In the funeral home business, we frequently serve such painful and tragic services for the survivors that grieve an early death.  I personally know two funeral industry professionals that lost sons this year.  I had conversation with the parents of one and I was deeply moved as they shared with me about their son along with the anguish they are suffering.

This past Wednesday a young friend, team mate and fellow Military Academy mate of my oldest son Hunter died.  Graduation and life had separated them along with all the other young men that shared their unique educational experience. However, news of the loss spread nationwide among this group of young men that would bring them together once again.

Such an event causes deep introspection and I was moved by the discussions I had with Hunter about life, death but most importantly his personal foundation as a man.  In the midst of tragedy sometimes there is an emergence of realization for things we just cast aside yet now become vividly important.  Listening to him my heart was filled with pain for his loss, pride for his expressed thoughts and emotions along with my inability to slow the steady stream of tears…my own emotions.  He and I are close, but such deep conversations are rare for any men which makes me grateful for our discussions.

Young men trekked from across the country to pay their respects and gather in support of each other as well as the young man’s parents.  But this story gets worse; another young man from this same group died the night before the visitation.  My wife had found a photo of Hunter and the first deceased young man along with a third baseball team mate and fellow student.  I posted the photo below on my Facebook page sharing my grief and prayerful thoughts for all that were suffering from the first loss…and now we are left with only one.


This post is to publicly share my own grief for the loss of two young men, offer condolences to their loved ones and friends.  I also want to share my gratitude that God has blessed me immensely with two sons that I’ll be able to wrap my arms around this week and express my love to them. Only by grace are we all not in such a period of grief that others may experiencing this week from the loss of a child this past year.

I have gratitude that God has provided me a platform to share this along with other experiences globally.  As this is being written, I’d deeply aware of true thankfulness for being loved and respected by those that mean the most to me.  As I get older, the things that I want most cannot be purchased and I truly seek what I admittedly took for granted earlier in my life.

This week of Thanksgiving is different for me because I know of four chairs around family tables that are empty this year because the tragic loss of four young men.  I’m not going to ask the typical “what are you thankful for this week” question.  I’m ask that you to reflect on the true life stories I have shared with you and simply challenge you to express love to those most important to you right now.  There will be empty chairs at someone’s table this time next year…

Normally I conclude with my cigar ablaze and a cheeky good bye.  But today, I close this with tears flowing and earnest thoughts of grief, grace and gratitude.  #thefuneralcommander

  1. Well, I’m glad you warned me yesterday about this post. Our career gives us a unique vantage point on these things, and hopefully, some vaulable insights. I do not fear dying, but the thought of one of my daughters dying is really the only thing I fear in life. I will add that I hope I don’t check out before my parents, who are in their mid-80’s, because, well, it would kill them. Back when my now college Junior was in 5th grade, one of her classmates died in a somewhat bizzare accident. I had to share the pain at that level, and even I was at a loss for words. Let us pause today to be thankful for our blessings and friendship. To be Re-Blogged at A Simple Village Undertaker.


  2. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Thank you for your heart and sharing real life with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this post. A true blessing is when a family does not have to grieve over empty chairs.


  4. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Thank you for reading and offering your thoughts! Jeff

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful and truthful words. It is a sorrow like no other. I host a suicide bereavement group and often struggle in hearing the stories. I am always reminded of the possibility of loss. My son is home on Thanksgiving break and has had baseball buddies around all week. I’ll see them tomorrow and will say a prayer of gratitude. Praying for your son in this loss and for you as you see his struggle. Glad I’m friends with Ray so that I discovered your wisdom.


  6. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Thank you Lisanne…Jeff

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Joy Hollar said:

    Thank you for posting this….tears flow & honest heart wrenching continues as we mourn these fine young men. May God comfort these families and wrap them in his love. I was at the visitation when word came about the second loss…what a devastation for these two families.


  8. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Joy, I am grateful that you took time to read this and I appreciate your kind words. jeff


  9. Graham Burton said:

    Special words from the heart ,always remember “Memories live longer than dreams”
    May God Bless You


  10. Jeff Harbeson said:

    Thank you for reading and response. Jeff


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: