Not too long ago, the world celebrated the life of Nelson Mandela. The entire world watched on national television a “Memorial Service” where dignitaries from all over the globe set aside their differences and gathered together to share stories, reflect, and honor a man who was not just an advocate of change and humanitarian, but also just a regular guy who loved his family and friends. The natives of Mandela’s country were not sad nor were they moping -- they were dancing, singing, chanting and full of smiles. They were not “mourning” they were “celebrating” or “paying tribute” to the life that he lived and his accomplishments made during his lifetime.
Truth be told, the world could learn one more lesson from Nelson Mandela -- and that is not to mourn, but to celebrate, gather together and share the stories that heal the heart.
The culture in the United States is not one of embracing death in a celebratory fashion. Norms for funerals in the states have been more ceremonial, ritualistic and very somber. The vast majority of our culture does not “celebrate,” they mourn. In my opinion, as a whole, we have turned into a death adverse society. We have accepted that death is a fact of life, but in a few very short decades we have become very reluctant to adhere to the previous funeral norms that our parents and grandparents adhered to. The baby boomer generation is once again changing the look and feel of a funeral, just like they did the school systems, cars, child birth, etc.
My husband, son, and myself are all in the funeral profession. Dale and I are boomers and my son is a Gen Xer. Maybe it’s time we, as a profession, provide a solution for our cohorts instead of lamenting for the funerals of day’s past. It’s time we stop pontificating about “educating” the consumer like Tom Lynch (New York Times best selling author and licensed funeral director and funeral home owner) recommends and listen to the voice of the family.
There is no longer a cookie cutter approach to honoring one’s life.
Traditional ritualistic venues may work for a segment of our families -- but what about the others? Maybe, just maybe, we can show families that we (the majority of funeral home professionals and funeral home owners) get it. It’s evident that we are our own problem and need to get out of our own way and change our verbiage, our clothing, our decor, and possibly our employee base.
If the general public can begin to perceive us as “regular” people, and not how the media has portrayed our profession to be, as uptight, money hungry, and frankly quite “odd” (due to our nature of business), the general public just may want to call on us, enter our facilities, allow us to wait on them and know that when they step through our front door, they, too, can pay tribute in a celebratory or even non-celebratory fashion that is comfortable for them, and not just go through the paces because we tell them what to do.
Families may not end up dancing in the streets like they were for Mandela, but there is no harm in them choreographing their own dance with our guidance.
What are your thoughts? I'd love for you to continue this dialogue with me! Please share your thoughts by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or my blog www.jodiclock.com. To purchase my recently authored book, “Navigating the Elder Care Journey…Without Going Broke!” go to Amazon.com..