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AZ Post 2

What was once an easy function is now menacing.

Recently relatives visited us just to get together. Ordinarily such an event is simply part of what families do, but this visit was very different for me making yet another impression about how fragile life really is. Hosting the visiting family at our home, we took a ride around the Blue Ridge Mountains. If you have never visited this part of Virginia, the scenery is fantastic, so the day trip was enjoyable with warm springlike weather. Of course I can tell that I am getting older because I actually pay attention to all the landscape and mountains.

One of our relatives visiting has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease for a few years; however because of the distance of the miles between us, we have not spent time with him lately.  This man is a well-respected individual with a meager start, serving at the highest pinnacles of his profession, finally retiring a few years back.  I always admired his thirst for reading with a library of books spanning a wide variety of subjects. Like many of us, he lived his life working for the days that he could relax, travel and spend time on his terms rather than endure the hectic schedules in our busy work lives.

But along the way, the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s came, disrupting an otherwise fantastic life. The man that took both of my sons on trips, came to ball games, and cared for them as his own children now is in need of care himself. I was struck by his bewilderment at times, his silence during conversations and, moreover, by his private struggle of discomfort. Here, a man that at one time had tremendous responsibility over thousands is struggling with simple basics like whereabouts.

The moment that “took me under” was just prior to their departure. His wife brought me a bag of neck ties and she asked if I would tie them for her.  I gladly accepted because I actually enjoy this particular part of being a man and frankly, I do a pretty good job.  While looking in the mirror as I customarily do during the process, I became overwhelmed with emotion. This simple act that he performed for over 60 years of his life was now something menacing.  I stood there looking at myself with his tie wrapped around my neck thinking of all the wonderful times I had spent with him, a man that had done so much for others, including me, could not tie his own tie because of this retched disease.

Although we all pitched in to assist his wife over the weekend with simple movements from place to place, this moment really got to me.  I was honored to tie his ties, but also reminded that we only have today.  If we are healthy, we enjoy a carefree luxury that at some point in our lives may turn into a burden. Not just for ourselves, but for those that love and care for us. I have a renewed respect and empathy for those caring for others, it’s just plain exasperating and exhausting.  Literally everything that was once simple is now a challenge.

Upon completion of getting all the ties tied, I returned them to his wife.  As I handed them to her, I knew that another task was taken off her huge caretaker list. But doing this was more than a help for her, it was a lesson for me. Be grateful for today and those that love you. Have compassion for others that love someone else enough to dedicate their life to making life better for the person they love.  In the end, there is an end.  Enjoy what you have now, it doesn’t last forever.  From the Command Post, Cheers y’all.  #thefuneralcommander

 

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.

HMA 1

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

Fathers Day 2015

It’s early morning Father’s Day, like 5:15 am early in the morning.  It’s not unusual for me to be awake and I have the unfortunate disposition of when my eyes open, that’s the end of sleeping because my mind begins to work.  My mind this morning is reflective of Father’s Day and the title of Father. Obviously I think of my two sons and the years that I have held this position; the only position I have held longer is Husband.

I am one to measure most everything by success or failure, either is works or it doesn’t, and no one is a harsher critic of me than the guy that stares back at me in the mirror.  What is a successful Father and on self evaluation, how do I measure up?  If providing myself a realistic and true evaluation, this is a tough question for me to ponder.

When I found out that  I was going to earn the Father title, I was excited and scared to death.  Excited by the possibilities and scared because I was really in all honesty, not prepared for what was ahead of me…but is anyone really?  I did all the things expected of a Father which from my point of view is to love my children, provide for them and to do what I could for them to have a life far better than I.  In many aspects, I believe that I have success in these three areas, but a deeper look, I admittedly failed miserably along the way.  My personality “wiring” is pretty much all or nothing, leave nothing on the table, first one in/last one out and do it right the first time, or don’t bother.  For many segments of life these traits are admired and often revered with such accolades of “leader,” “winner,” and such.  But in the title of Father, such is not necessarily positive or productive.

I was formally trained as a leader, and I had none as a Father.   Expectations of my personal standards are high because as a leader, I have to “have my stuff together” before I could demand that others do the same.  Unfortunately, I have often been wrong in this particular area of parenthood.  The task of being a Father is not to mold a child into a clone; a clone that is better, more driven, or more successful.  The task of being a Father is not to challenge my kids  to reach personal expectations or to make up for the failure in my own life…you know “if I had my time to go over again, I would have” type mentality.

As I write this morning evaluating my position of Father thinking “if I had time to go over again” for last nearly 24 years,  what would I do different?  Love more, correct and expect less.  Let the little and many of the big things go.  As I am told all the time by their Mother (thank God for her), in the end and the big scheme of life, does this incident really matter?  On my deathbed, does cutting the grass too low all the way down to the soil or a dent in the side of my car change the way life will turn out?  No.

What’s most interesting about my position of Father is that my two sons actually have taught me more about life than I thought imaginable.  For all my failed reactions, my high expectations and my demands for excellence on them, all they require of me is to love them for who they are…because that’s what they do for me.  My boys (really men is a better term) love me despite those times when I miserably failed with them.  Of course we have had more happiness and great times than speeding tickets or bad grades; but those times of turbulence place cracks in the foundation of what is built up in the “big scheme of life.”  All the cracks are directly attributed to my handling of situation.

I know and I have witnessed some of my before-mentioned traits that I have passed to both of them, which is necessary in some instances of life, but not all.  Both my son’s love deeply and forgive quickly; their expectations for life are driven to enjoy the moment.  These two cause me to pause, take a step back to realize that I need to be more like them, follow their example.  Yes, I am a successful Father…thanks to my sons providing me unconditional love and becoming better men than I.  That’s all a Father can ask for.  From the desk of The Funeral Commander; Happy Father’s Day Y’all! #thefuneralcommander

What is old and lost, is found and new again.  I am continuing the innovation blog series I started a few weeks ago about people that have created a product or service in the funeral industry that is closely defined, “improve something with a new idea or procedure, or produce a product using a new or better way.”

In many of our cultures and societies of years past, when a death occurred we outwardly displayed our mourning with jewelry, black mourning arm bands or buttons.  Many people also wore black for a period of time. An Irish mother and her three daughters that experienced the loss of so many of their loved one’s has revived this old tradition as a result of a conversation between them. Recalling their own family wake of their father, some visitors had walked past them not realizing that they were daughters and how uncomfortable that felt.  They talked about the embarrassing whispers of people asking who was who and the stories that are lost about him as a result of missed opportunities to share cherished memories.

From their very personal experience, Kate Hamilton along with her very traditional Irish mother and sisters created MourningCross Bereavement Pins www.mourningcross.com as a modern outward display of mourning and in particular to support attendees at visitations wakes and funerals, identity and sympathize with, all of immediate grieving family members.

The MourningCross Bereavement Pins have many applications for not only the families, but for Funeral Professionals:

Identification of Family Members:  At funeral service activities such as visitations, wakes and services, immediate grieving family members are easily identified by wearing MourningCross Bereavement Pins.

Grief Continues After the Services:  A family members mourning does not cease at the conclusion of services.  Much like customs of the past where black arm bands or clothing were worn, wearing a MourningCross Bereavement Pin during the time of mourning is an outward display for the immediate grieving family members to “share the story of the life lived.”

Removal Leave Behind:  Upon removal of the deceased from the place of death, many firms leave a MouringCross Bereavement Pin on the pillow of the deceased.  Hospice, nursing home and hospital workers also experience grief of the people they have cared for.

After Care Groups:  Funeral homes offer or support surviving family member’s aftercare programs in their communities.  MourningCross Bereavement Pins are a perfect symbol for those to identify with each other as they walk through the grief process.

Either provided to the direct survivor, sold individually or offered for sale as part of your funeral home’s packages (register book, memorial folders, acknowledgement cards, etc.), the MourningCross Bereavement Pins will provide the families you are serving with a modern display of a lost tradition…and as Funeral Professional, you will assist the family with their walk through grief.

I have personally talked to a mother that lost her daughter that was a recipient of a MourningCross Bereavement Pin at our funeral home, and purchased additional Pins for her family as a modern outward display of mourning their loss.  Trust me, MourningCross has meaning, significance and is cherished by those that choose to wear them.

mourning dress 3

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