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Hospice worker holding elderly man s hand UKI was recently visiting one of our funeral home locations when the firm received a death call.  There was quite a bit of activity already going on, so I volunteered to assist on the home removal.  The opportunity to participate in what I consider one of the most delicate actions taken by our profession, is actually a privilege.

The transfer and removal of a person that dies at home is quite an interesting part of the funeral profession.  When developing our funeral home, I spent time with hospice care workers and owners inquiring about what they do, how they do it, and how funeral homes are perceived from their point of view.  I asked several times “what don’t you like about funeral directors?”  The resounding first answer was the way many funeral homes conduct home removals.  “Funeral homes take too long to respond…from the time we call, many times to an answering service, then a funeral director finally calls back, and waiting for the people to get there often takes a long time.”  The problem they shared, was that the family now had a deceased loved one in their midst…and families are often worn out and uncomfortable waiting.  “When the funeral home people finally show up, it’s often really impersonal.”  Meaning, the transfer staff/people generally were there just to get the job done and leave some information for the family to read until contacted by the funeral home.

So, when we developed the Family Choice brand and it’s operating platform of TouchPoints, transfer/home, home removal was a big deal.  Such a big deal, that there are 59 specific steps of how to perform this process.  I happened to be with our Executive VP of Operations, which basically meant that I was certain the process should be flawless.

Upon arrival we were met by the hospice nurse, one that apparently was not familiar with us, nor us with her.  She met us outside prior to beginning our process at the removal vehicle.  After introducing our selves, she stated “well, I haven’t worked with you and I guess you’re just like everyone else.”  That’s when the pro (our VP) took over.  He shared how we are different…not the old “we care more speech or we’ve been here since Sherman burnt down the South” rhetoric.  And then, he asked her “how long did you serve this family and  would you share with me your experience with them?”

She told us that the woman suffered from cancer and that she was on home hospice 4 months. The hospice nurse went on to share how sweet family is and how they cared for her at home.  Additionally, and most important to me sharing this with you, she said “and I am going to miss her (the deceased), she was like family to me.”  That’s when the pro, our VP reached in his pocket and took out a white Mourningcross Bereavement Pin and asked the hospice nurse if he could give it to her and pin it on her collar.  Being a bit stunned, she allowed him to do so.

He shared with her that although her chosen profession is a job and that’s how she makes a living, she also develops relationships and mourns for the loss of her patients…because she is human.  “So this pin is to remind you of your relationship with the deceased and to publicly show that you are grieving the loss.  When people ask or notice this pin, share with them the story of your patient, or in this case, your friend.”

After wiping some tears away, the hospice nurse stayed with us to observe our process of caring for this family, and “the last time she leaves home.”  Needless to say, we have a new friend that cares for others.  Just remember, hospice and senior care workers mourn too…

Earlier this week, I contemplated expressing my thoughts about receiving news that stuns…words that come to us that we never forget.  Unexpected news that alters the path of life we were traveling, perhaps changing us forever.  My friend and Pastor, Quigg Lawrence recently received news that his oldest daughter Annie, a young woman in her early 20’s had a massive cancerous tumor.  Aside from the obvious, my thoughts were how such a man that is in continuous support mode of others, is now in need of the blessings he has brought to so many.

However, I was prompted to write this morning because last night, my wife received the news that her father, who lives several hours away, had a stroke.  As with other times in our lives when we have received such news, we are temporarily stunned.

Everyone at some point in their life will receive news that stuns.  What follows the stunning news is a myriad of emotions, and then reality starts to settle.  We never forget the words delivered, the location we were at the time, and often the look on the face of the person delivering the news.  Several years ago my wife received a phone call that she had Melanoma and was scheduled for immediate surgery.  I vividly remember her face delivering the news and in my mind searching for words to comfort her.  Even further back in time, during the Thanksgiving holiday, my wife and I delivered the happy news to our families that we were going to have our first child.  In a matter of a few minutes of delivering the happy news, I received a phone call:  Deployment for Desert Shield/Storm overseas, going to a foreign land for war.

When we receive the news that stuns and reality begins to set in, it is human nature to envision the worst of outcomes.   But I have learned by experiencing such events that the best immediate reaction is   “keep calm and pray.”  I personally believe that once we receive the news that stuns, the event has already taken place, we can’t change what happened.  But what we can do is reach beyond our own understanding and have faith…In God, in our family, in our friends and in those people such as doctors, our leaders and decision makers.

In many of the events when we receive the news that stuns us, we don’t always envision positive endings.  In the personal examples above, Annie had the cancerous tumor removed and is diagnosed now as cancer free.  My wife, Jacque survived the Melanoma surgery and is cancer free.  My oldest son is 22 and, 21 years later, I am a Veteran of Desert Shield/Storm and all of the soldiers that deployed with me came home alive after a successful mission.  Yet, this morning, we are headed to a hospital with a relative in serious distress…but I have faith.

So, I solicit your thoughts, experiences and outcomes when you received the news that stuns.  After all, it’s the season for sharing and giving.

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