The 7 "F-Words" of Funeral Service

Date Published: 
May, 2006
Original Author: 
Justin Zabor
Zabor Funeral Home, Cleveland, OH
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, May 2006

F-word Number 2 is "flexibility." How many of you think it's important to be flexible in dealing with grieving families? How many of you are flexible when you're dealing with grieving families?

When you let your families rearrange and restructure and recustomize, you're showing them that you're being flexible.

Also, you may already do this, but if you don't, you should start using what I like to call "flexibility phrases."

Some of the most flexible phrases in funeral and cemetery service are:

"I'll try my best to do that."
"I'll look into that for you."
"I think that's a great idea."

Use flexibility phrases, because when we use these, we underpromise and we overdeliver. That's always better than overpromising and underdelivering. I use flexibility with my families and set them up to not be disappointed, and set me up to exceed their expectations.

A few months ago, I was making funeral arrangements for a middle-aged British widow. She told me she wanted both the limousine and the hearse to pick up her and the immediate family at their house before the funeral service. It's not part of our normal procedure to have the hearse go to the house, so I used a flexibility phrase and said, "I'll try my best to do that."

She says, "Splendid," then adds, "Now, Justin, of course we're going to need a walker."
I'm thinking she means one of those rolling aluminum walkers for her elderly parents, but she says no, that's not it.

She explains that it's English custom to have someone literally walk in front of the hearse and lead the deceased and mourners out of the driveway of the residence toward the church for the funeral service. Remember when Princess Diana passed away? The boys, Prince Henry and Prince William, walked in front of the hearse.

Again, that's not part of our normal procedure. So I used a flexibility phrase and said, "I'll try my best to do that."

When the day came, there I was, literally walking in front of the hearse, showing the entire neighborhood how flexible I can be.

So I guess the moral of this f-word, flexibility, is that if you truly are going to be flexible, you must not only talk the talk, you've also got to walk the walk.


This article compiled from an address presented by the author at the 2006 ICFA Annual Convention