Friday, April 29, 2016

What does it take to be a multicultural provider?

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Canadian Funeral News

by Ethan Darby, Director of Business Development

When is the last time you served a family from a different culture than your own? Or who have different religious beliefs? We live in a multicultural society that continues to change and evolve over time. In fact, did you know that over half of the population of Canada was born outside of the country?

Last year, I visited Toronto for the first time. And, while I was there, I didn’t notice much of a cultural difference in daily life compared to my hometown in the States. Eating in restaurants, checking into a hotel and traveling didn't look that much different from life in Illinois. But once I started visiting funeral homes and learning about their daily operations, I started seeing big differences. And I started learning a lot.

It got me thinking about the opportunities we have to express our beliefs and carry on traditions. Two of the most significant events I can think of are weddings and funerals. These are the times that even less religious people tend to want to honor their family's traditions. It can provide comfort and help us feel connected to our history. That’s why it is so important to understand different cultures when working in the death care industry.

My family owns a few funeral homes in the United States. It gives us a really unique perspective as a supplier. We get to use our own products every day and really understand what funeral directors need. We've had the privilege of honoring the loved ones of families with traditions and religions very different from our own.

One family brought incense to burn during the service. They placed it next to a bowl of fruit and a picture of their loved one. They were delighted to find an arrangement of lit candles in our lobby that happened to be lit for a remembrance service later that day.

Another family wanted to be present as their loved one was cremated. Per their request, they helped place the body in the crematory and stayed for the entire time.

Yet another family prepared the body of their loved one for burial themselves. All of the towels used had to be buried as well.

I wasn't familiar with any of these customs before. Even though I had to learn about the specific rituals, it's not hard to understand their significance as the families said goodbye. Understanding is the first step in becoming a more multicultural funeral provider. But what's next?

Whenever possible, say yes.
When a Jewish family explained to our director that someone would be here with the body of their loved one at all times, we didn't hesitate to figure out how to make that happen. It's not always easy to do things that are outside of your typical daily operations, but if it's important to the family and their traditions, I believe it's worth it. They only get one chance to honor the life of their loved one, and it's our job to help them do it their way.

Let the family lead.
It's been our experience that the family usually starts the conversation about the specifics of their traditions. While there's some benefit in doing a little research ahead of the arrangement, this is one time that it's absolutely okay to not be the expert. In fact, it might even be better to be in the role of student.

Of course your experience as a funeral professional has great value. You help families through the hardest days of their lives all year. But families will want to carry on their traditions their way. Your first job is to listen carefully, then to incorporate their requests along with the things that you know lead to healthy healing.

Pay attention to every detail. 
As funeral providers, we know that the details make all of the difference. Having a fresh pot of coffee ready when the family comes to meet with you for the first time makes them feel welcome. No matter if you are working with a family from an Islamic culture or a Jewish religion, you should know every detail from what their loved one is wearing to the direction the body should be facing. But, the most important thing to remember is to give the family what they want. They have the final say as to what customs and traditions they want to include.

Every family is unique. 
No matter where a family is from or what religion they practice, their loved one’s life mattered. The special effort and attention you give a family with traditions different from your own will also benefit a family who shares your background. Their loved one was just as unique, and their family's traditions are just as special. The bottom line is that if you're giving each family individualized service and listening to their requests, you know you'll be serving them well.

Ethan Darby is the Director of Business Development for Trigard and Trigard Memorials and is a member of the Darby family’s fourth generation. His family owns Trigard, Trigard Memorials, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Do families care about what we do?

Rich Darby,
Chief Operating Officer
As a funeral professional, I often ask myself, “Have I made an impact on the families I serve?” That question was answered just a few weeks ago.

It was a normal day in the office when I received a call from a lady named Teresa. It was the 15 year anniversary to when I helped make her mother's funeral arrangements. She had been thinking about her mother's service that day and wanted to thank me for taking care of her mother all those years ago. She remembered so much about the service and the planning of her mother's life celebration. She remembered every detail, including the time we spent at her home writing the obituary, picking out her mother's outfit for burial and going through family pictures. She ended the call by thanking me for the rose I laid on her mother’s bed after we took her body into our care. She still has the rose, and it means so much to her. She remembers dreading going back into her mother’s room that day to see an empty bed but was pleasantly surprised when she saw that simple sign of love. It brought tears of joy to her eyes.

What I didn’t realize 15 years ago, when I was just “doing my job,” was that my normal daily activities were something very special to Teresa and they would stick with her forever. All of those little extras are what stuck in her mind. They stuck so strongly that it initiated a phone call to me 15 years later. I cannot tell you how humbled and honored I was to receive her call. Often times in this profession, we may feel taken for granted. But, we couldn’t be more wrong. It is our job to care for these families during one the hardest times of their life. We have to keep doing all those extra special things that we do because it will last a lifetime.

So for all of you reading this article, thank you for being the professionals that you are. Each and every day you make a difference in someone’s life. I only hope and pray that you receive a call 15 years later. It warmed my heart.  

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Can you guess our favorite part of the ICCFA Convention?

Every expo that we attend is another opportunity for our Marketing team to shine. Our job is to design a booth experience that attracts attendees and provides points of conversation for people to learn - or learn more - about what we do and how we can help them grow. Each booth is special and memorable, but this year's ICCFA Convention and Expo booth was one for the books.

We had the very special opportunity to use the booth space to tell the story of the Darby family business to help celebrate Big Jim receiving the ICCFA Educational Foundation's Lasting Impact Award this year. Each ICCFA attendee received a digital copy of Big Jim's book, "No one looks up to a grave digger: a memoir." (You can download your own copy here.)

But the best way to sum up the experience is to hear it in Big Jim's own words. Click the picture below to watch his rousing acceptance speech.

Please help us congratulate Big Jim on receiving the award by posting some kind words on our Facebook page.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Friday, April 8, 2016

Are you stepping outside your comfort zone?

Erin Brodbeck, LCSW, CT,
Director of Grief Services,
Center for Loss & Healing
When you think about your life and who inspired you and helped shape who you are, is there one person that stands out? For me, that person is my grandfather, James “Big Jim” Darby. He is one of the most innovative people I know. He, along with my parents, have been amazing teachers in the value of hard work and perseverance. I am who I am because of them, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

My grandpa is a very hard working man. And, if you didn’t know already, he is being honored with the 2016 ICCFA Lasting Impact Award at this year’s ICCFA Convention and Expo in New Orleans on Thursday, April 14. It truly amazes me to think about how he got where he is today. He literally started from the ground up. He constantly fought and struggled, and was forced to step outside of his comfort zone. But, eventually, he created something amazing.

As a vault dealer, funeral home and cemetery, you have to believe in what you do and force yourself to step outside your comfort zone to really make a difference. You have to push, struggle and fight to get anywhere that is worth going. You can make a difference just like my grandfather has, you just have to push yourself and find a way to make yourself heard. Stop telling yourself that you can’t, and just do it. Your only limitation is your own imagination.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at

Monday, April 4, 2016

What are you doing to make a change?

Linda Darby-Dowers,
Chief Executive Officer
"There was a young man walking down the street who happened to see an old man sitting on his porch. Next to the old man was his dog, who was whining and whimpering. The young man asked the old man, “What’s wrong with your dog?” The old man said, “He’s lying on a nail.” The young man asked, “Laying on a nail? Well, why doesn’t he get up?” The old man then replied, “It’s not hurting him bad enough.””

I recently came across this story by Les Brown, professional speaker and author of Live Your Dreams, and it really got me thinking. How often do we talk about wanting to change, but continue to do the same thing over and over again? The same applies to a majority of us in the funeral industry. We know there are ways we can improve our companies, but we are so comfortable in the way we have always done things, we don’t want to change.

The dog in this story preferred to whimper and whine about the nail being stuck in his side, rather than moving and being more comfortable. When you are faced with a problem that needs fixing, are you going to moan, groan and complain? Or are you going to wake up, get up and make a change? It’s your choice, do something about it.

This article originally appeared in Trigard Tuesdays, our weekly electronic newsletter featuring information for the funeral industry. Sign up for your free subscription at