Due to the fact that we operate Martin Oaks Cemetery & Crematory in Lewisville, Texas, clients often ask us about how we, personally, deal with the loss of a loved one. Just because death is an everyday reality for us, we are not immune to the exact same emotions/reactions that everyone else endures.
Today is my mother’s birthday – had she lived she would be 97 years old. Unfortunately, she passed away at the age of 93. Let me share a few experiences I had around her passing, they may give you some guidance about ways to handle the difficult processes that are involved.
My mother had a long, joyful life, one filled with family and friends — she truly wanted this celebrated upon her passing. Toward that end, she prepared diligently: most important, all funeral arrangements were selected well in advance.
If there is one piece of advice that I could give to anyone who is about to experience a loss, it is get all affairs in order, especially funeral plans. Families we deal with who have not pre-planned often make choices, under stress, that they later regret. My mother eliminated these issues completely, which made a very seriously sad occasion much less stressful.
There was no detail of the funeral about which she didn’t have input. This included prayers, eulogies, photos and even the music. She left room for family and friends to work within her parameters, but those parameters were ones with which she set.
For example, I knew exactly which hymns were her favorites, but friends and other family members had input on this as well. The same goes for her specific spiritual requests: a rosary was held the night before the funeral and her most cherished prayers were incorporated into the ceremony.
One of the most meaningful features of a funeral can often be the eulogy. As her physical conditions deteriorated in the final months of her life, my mother and I had very frank conversations about what she wanted me to say in my eulogy. She had three or four specific stories which she wanted related, and most of all, she wanted her family well remembered. The above photo of my mother with her two brothers, seven sisters and her own mother expresses the theme of her life. Consequently, she asked me to read all of their names as well as the order of their birth.
One other note on eulogies
I have now delivered six in my life and have found that in addition to expressing my own feelings, the best eulogies reflect the feelings of the person who has passed. Whether it be a special event in their lives, an overarching goal in their journey, or merely a summary of their ethos, it is best to find a central peg which connects the unique character of the deceased. Again, in my mother’s case, it was her experiences with her family which formed that central tapestry.
My mother was also very specific about the pictures which were to be used in the slideshows during the visitation. She wanted personal moments captured. Above she is pictured with my wife and with her sister, Dawn, two photos she particularly liked.
As a comfort to the family, through the years, I have discovered these slideshows, if selected carefully, really set the appropriate mood.
One last note: I would advise special care to be put into the printed obituary. In this case, it just so happened that I wrote my mother’s obituary myself because, when I was in college, I wrote obituaries for this very newspaper; I knew the formula. The cathartic effect was overwhelming. My advice is that if you are not able to deliver the eulogy or write the obituary yourself, please take part in the composition. It gives you the chance for a singularly important goodbye.
Even with all of this in mind, there is no short circuiting the grief process. More about this at another time.
At any rate, Happy Birthday Mom, may you rest in peace.
In the meantime, should you have any questions or concerns, please contact the staff at Martin Oaks at (469) 605-7215, 24/7.