Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Everyone deserves a final goodbye

Donna Darby-Walthall,
Chief Financial Officer
The reaction I get from people after telling them what I do never ceases to amaze me. It either totally stops or starts the conversation. Some people are very uncomfortable with the topic. Most people are intrigued and start to ask questions. I love when others find the funeral profession interesting, because it allows me to tell my story. I get to tell them how we help families at the most difficult times of their lives.

One way that Trigard helps families honor and celebrate their loved ones' lives is with the Healing Tree®. I love this product because it makes the graveside service more personable and allows families to participate in the ceremony. Everyone gets to take home a Memory Ring® as a keepsake in remembrance of their loved one. It is a very powerful service.

This is just one way to help families remember and there are so many more. Everyone deserves a final goodbye. Let's do it the best way we know how.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I'll take traditional anytime

Rich Darby,
Chief Operating Officer
On July 26, I watched a beautiful young bride walk down the aisle of a church with every pew jam-packed. This young lady didn't choose a destination wedding. She chose a more traditional path. She chose to get married the way it has been done for many generations. 

This bride told her future husband to spend the night in a far off location to ensure that they didn't see each other before the ceremony. This bride chose to have seven bridesmaids, seven groomsmen, two junior groomsmen, a flower girl and a ring bearer. In my opinion, she did it right.

The ceremony was short, elegant and personalized. The event was customized to suit the personalities of both the bride and groom. It was an occasion that left everyone who attended walking out with a smile. There were no shortcuts, and there was nothing left out. Months and months of hard work and preparation went into this beautiful exchange of vows. This wedding was something that every little girl dreams about as she plays dress up in her room at five years old. It was a beautiful, traditional occasion.


Mr & Mrs. Ethan and
Keri Darby
As this bride, who is now my daughter-in-law, walked down the aisle towards my oldest son Ethan, his face lit up with love, joy and excitement. This day had finally come. As a proud father and as a person so engrained in funeral service, I walked out of that church on that afternoon and thought to myself, I will take traditional anytime! 






This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Monday, August 18, 2014

A funeral director's take on cremation memorialization

This article originally appeared in the June issue of American Funeral Director.

Imagine you are helping a family celebrate the life of their matriarch. Grandma wanted to be cremated, but the family didn’t want a direct cremation. Instead, they had a visitation and memorial service. You created a powerful photo collage and video for them to help celebrate the life of their loved one.

The family picked out a beautiful urn for their loved one’s cremated remains. The daughter tells you she’ll be the one taking it home. She thinks she’ll place it on her family’s mantle with a picture of her mother. 


When the family leaves, each one of them hugs you. They thank you repeatedly for outstanding service. You anticipate glowing comments on their follow-up survey. You feel like you have done your job well. But have you really? 


Stop and consider your funeral home’s cremation rate? And of those families, how many go home with an urn, but without a plan? Is an urn on a mantle enough? Are you explaining the importance of memorialization and all of the options to every family?

Educate about scattering

When a family thinks about cremation, they aren’t usually thinking about a long-term plan for the cremated remains. We all know that too many urns intended for the fireplace mantle end up in a closet. 


If the family comes to you with any kind of plan, it often involves scattering. As you know, many families have a romanticized idea about scattering. They may have seen “Bridges of Madison County” many times and dreamed of releasing cremated remains from their own favorite covered bridge. But, let’s say ten years down the road, the family reunites at their loved one’s resting place and it has been turned into a subdivision or a supermarket. What do they do? Their special, sacred place is now commercial property. They no longer have a place to share memories and honor their loved one’s life. 


We need to be bold and educate the families we serve. Families need to understand why it is so important to memorialize their loved ones. Most families don’t lose a loved one every day. They often don’t understand how important it is to have a special, permanent place to share memories. It is our job to educate them. It is our job to help them understand.

Encourage permanent memorialization

When you let families walk out the door without understanding all of their cremation memorialization options, are you really doing your entire job? Of course it is our job to honor the family’s wishes, but we also need to teach them what they don’t know. 


Where do you start? Tell them about other families that have learned the importance of cremation memorialization. Share the regrets of a family who chose to scatter and now doesn’t have a special place to leave flowers on their loved one’s birthday. If you don’t have your own story to share, you are welcome to use one of mine. Email me, and I’ll send you a copy of a video called “Blake’s Story.” It’s a few years old, and I look a little different, but the message is the same: even after scattering, it’s vital to have a permanent place of honor.

Give families options
Once a family understands the importance of memorialization, explain their options. Tell them about the unique characteristics of a memorial rock that can hold cremated remains. Explain the benefits of a space in a niche tower. Talk about in-ground interment options. Show them a memorial bench in a cemetery or a bronze plaque on a memorial wall.


Does it feel overwhelming to have to know about more products, even on top of everything you already need to take care of? As a funeral director, it can feel like you always need to have all of the answers. While you are the family’s primary resource, you can – and should – rely on your business partners to give you the information you need. Ask your local cemetery what their most popular cremation memorialization options are. Ask your supplier for talking points when you meet with families who plan to scatter. You must also do your own research. I encourage you to go to conventions and read industry publications.

Believe in it
Offering an exciting variety of cremation memorialization products isn’t enough. The bottom line is that you have to believe in what you are doing. Do you believe that every person deserves a permanent place to honor their life – including those who choose cremation? Do you believe that a memorial helps the family heal? If we want to be effective educators and teach the families we serve about permanent cremation memorialization, we have to firmly believe that it is not okay for a family to walk out the door without a memorialization plan in place.
____________________________________________________

Rich Darby is Chief Operating Officer for Trigard and Trigard Memorials. He earned his funeral directors license from Southern Illinois University in 1987, and is licensed in Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. His family owns and operates Trigard, Trigard Memorials, seven funeral homes and a memorial park across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. Email him at richd@trigard.com.

Scattered remains today... supermarket tomorrow

This article originally appeared in the June issue of Canadian Funeral News.


It is a beautiful fall afternoon. The leaves are turning, and you can smell the crisp, autumn air. You are driving back to your childhood home to visit with some old friends. On your way, you decide to stop by your mom’s favorite meadow just outside of town. Before she died, she told you that she wanted to keep her funeral simple. She wanted to be cremated and scattered in her favorite meadow.
 

You can remember scattering her cremated remains as if it were yesterday. The smell of fresh flowers and how it felt like she was standing right next to you while walking through the tall grass. The flood of memories brings a smile to your face.

As you drive, you notice bright, fluorescent lights beaming into the sky where the meadow should be. The lights get closer and you realize that the meadow has been replaced with a supermarket. The beautiful flowers no longer bloom. It is now just a place to get your milk and bread built on top of where you scattered her remains.

Tell families what they need to know

Scattering seems like a simple solution to families, but do they understand all of the implications? Do they know the very real risk of their resting place being replaced with a gas station or supermarket? We need to be bold and educate our families and help them understand all of their options. Instead of telling them what they want to hear, consider telling them what they need to hear.


Families need to hear why it is so important to memorialize our loved ones. Most families don’t lose a loved one every day. They don’t understand how important it is to have a special, permanent place to share memories. It is our job to educate them. It is our job to help them understand.

Alternatives to scattering
Some families may not realize that scattering isn’t their only option after cremation. A family might be delighted to hear that the cremated remains of their grandmother can be buried in an urn vault inside a grave next to their grandfather’s grave. Maybe the family has never seen a niche tower, a cremation memorial or a memorial rock. Take them on a tour of their cemetery of choice to see their options in person. It’s one thing to look at a picture of a memorial rock in a booklet, but another thing to touch and feel one nestled under a tree in a beautifully landscaped cemetery.

A permanent place to share memories

If the family is set on scattering, I encourage you to be bold enough to introduce the idea of scattering only portion of the cremated remains. The rest could be safely stored in a niche tower, memorial rock or even in an urn on the family’s mantle. If the family can’t agree on a single location, you can suggest cremation jewelry or keepsakes so that everyone can honor their loved one in the way that feels right to them.


However, some families are not comfortable dividing the remains. They may have seen “Bridges of Madison County” many times and dreamed of replicating the scattering scene from the movie on their own covered bridge. This is when we, as funeral professionals, need to be the most bold. It is our job to honor the family’s wishes, but to encourage them to add a place of permanent memorialization. Whether it is a bench in a cemetery or a bronze plaque on a memorial wall, we need to tell them the story of the supermarket from the beginning of this article. We need to tell them about other families that have learned the importance of memorialization first-hand. The options for permanent memorialization are endless, limited only by the imagination and wishes of the heart. It is our job to know the options. If you attend any funeral service convention, you’ll find many suppliers offering cremation products. Companies around the globe are coming up with unique ways to memorialize. It’s a lot of information to take in. But if you’re overwhelmed by the options, imagine how the families you serve feel.


As a resource for families, we have to be committed to providing a variety of options. We have to be bold enough to educate the families we serve and offer suggestions. What is the worst that can happen if you make a suggestion? They say no?

Remember and be remembered

It’s been said that we all have two basic desires – to remember and to be remembered. Much like a book, a memorial can tell the story of someone’s life. We want our story to live on, and we want to make sure the story of our loved ones live on as well. 


I encourage you to resolve to educate yourself about more cremation options. Go to conventions, read industry publications and ask your suppliers for more ideas. And the next time you’re with a family who plans to scatter, be bold enough to tell them what they need to know.
___________________________________________________________________________
Linda Darby is Chief Executive Officer for Trigard, Trigard Memorials, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across the United States. Her family has been in the funeral industry for four generations, helping families remember, celebrate and heal. Learn more at www.trigard.com.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Are your customers getting what they need?

Julia Sullivan,
Creative Director
Last week, we exhibited at the NFDMA Convention and Expo in Dallas. It was our first time at the expo, and we were made to feel so welcome. We had a lot of great conversations with so many other funeral professionals.

But what surprised me was how many people said they had a Trigard dealer, but had never heard of some of the products we were showcasing in our booth. For some, it was the Healing Tree®. For others, it was custom Appliqu├ęs. No matter your role in our industry, we all need to work together to get the best options to the families we collectively serve.

As a funeral home, if you see something in a newsletter, magazine or online that you would like to offer, be bold and reach out to your dealer. And if they aren't as enthusiastic as you are about it, reach out to the supplier directly. If it's a Trigard product, we can work with you and your dealer to get you what you need.

As a vault dealer, are you telling your customers what's new? I know we send you a lot of information. If you don't have a plan to get this information to your funeral home and cemetery customers, let us know. We'll gladly help you.

Contact us at 800.637.1992 to get the conversation started.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How to stay positive in a negative world

Linda Darby,
Chief Executive Officer
Recently, my father gave me a book to read called "Becoming a Person of Influence," by John C. Maxwell and Jim Dornan. In one of the chapters, the authors discuss perspective. They state that when we receive negative comments or criticism from people, we have the tendency to lose sight of our own value.

This information got me thinking about how this relates to our attitudes in the business world. Often times we are consumed by one negative comment that we receive from an unhappy family and ignore the 10 positive comments we received earlier that day. We tend to focus on what went wrong during a meeting, rather than all of the things that went right. We all do this. In order to fight off these feelings, it's important to surround ourselves with people who believe in what we do and believe in our industry.

Thank you for all you do for our profession. We are honored to work with such outstanding individuals. 


This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at http://www.trigard.com/tuesdays.