Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Lessons At The Funeral Home

For five months in 2013, I worked part-time at a funeral home.  You know what?  I loved that job.  It was a total pleasure for me to be there.  I got to learn first-hand what goes on with that kind of work as I helped out in a few different roles.

Here are some lessons I learned at the funeral home...

(1).  Treat people with respect.  Obviously, we were working with the remains of those who had passed away.  We made sure to handle them with care.  We knew that the person being prepared for burial was somebody's child, sibling, spouse, parent, or friend.  And we knew the surviving family wanted their deceased one to be treated right.  So that is what we did.  Privately and publically, we were respectful in what we said and how we acted towards those who had passed away.  That's an important part of the job, and they modeled that for me perfectly.

It got me thinking this:  If we treated the deceased that way, shouldn't we also treat the living with respect?  Everyone is valuable and unique because they are created and loved by God.  That is reason enough to be careful with how we speak and act towards others.  The awesome God of the universe wants His living children to be treated with care and handled the right way.  So let's make sure we do that.  The behavior of people is not always respectable; however, what should be respected is the worth of every life and soul we encounter.

(2).  Allow people to grieve in their own way.  I was around families who had recently lost loved ones.  They were going through one of the worst days (if not THE worst day) of their lives.  Some people were quiet, while others were talkative.  Some cried, others smiled, and a few showed no emotion.  I saw one individual cuss and hit a wall.  I watched a son and daughter lovingly and quietly place meaningful objects in a casket with their deceased father.  Throughout all of this, we stood back and patiently let people work through their feelings in their own way.  We did not judge or criticize them at all.  We understand there was (and still is) no textbook way to grieve.

The point is this:  Everyone is wired a little different.  And they should be allowed to express their grief in their own unique way.  Be patient with someone who is hurting.  Give them some time and space to work through it.  Maybe they don't respond to emotional pain the same way you or I do, but that does not mean they are wrong.  It just means each individual has his or her own way of handling grief.

(3).  Live in the present how you want to be remembered in the future.  I watched ministers give sermons and loved ones give eulogies at funeral services.  All of them took the time to reflect on the life of the one we were burying.  The overall character and special qualities of the deceased were lifted up and acknowledged in churches and cemeteries.  More than once, it made me think that one day at my funeral, my life will be reflected upon and summarized.

The deal is this:  The choices we make during our life will determine how people think of us when our time ends on this Earth.  How do we want to be remembered at our funeral services?  When the minister or loved one stands behind that pulpit and talks about us, what will they say?  Let's live good lives now, so that others will have good memories of us later.

Thanks to Bobby and the rest of the crew for letting me join their team for a few brief months.  I really enjoyed working there.  It was one of the most satisfying things I've ever been a part of in my life.  And I'm glad to make some new friendships that really are a blessing.

I'll always be thankful for the lessons I learned at the funeral home.

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