Obituaries

Steven Gyoker
B: 1944-07-28
D: 2017-10-15
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Gyoker, Steven
Tammy Nolte
B: 1970-08-14
D: 2017-10-13
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Nolte, Tammy
Gerald Ruggles
B: 1944-07-28
D: 2017-10-13
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Ruggles, Gerald
LiAnne Penland
B: 1977-05-01
D: 2017-10-13
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Penland, LiAnne
Otto Stroud
B: 1966-08-02
D: 2017-10-11
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Stroud, Otto
Linda Castaneda
B: 1955-03-12
D: 2017-10-10
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Castaneda, Linda
Joseph Bradbury
B: 1930-03-08
D: 2017-10-10
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Bradbury, Joseph
Gregory Myers
B: 1955-11-05
D: 2017-10-10
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Myers, Gregory
Mary Atkins
B: 1929-02-23
D: 2017-10-08
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Atkins, Mary
Richard Phelps
B: 1927-11-03
D: 2017-10-08
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Phelps, Richard
Johnnie James
B: 1960-06-19
D: 2017-10-06
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James, Johnnie
Virginia Rhind
B: 1929-12-07
D: 2017-10-04
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Rhind, Virginia
Karen Markham
B: 1937-10-12
D: 2017-10-04
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Markham, Karen
Robert Harwell
B: 1923-10-09
D: 2017-09-28
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Harwell, Robert
Donald Zampi
B: 1933-01-26
D: 2017-09-21
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Zampi, Donald
Frances Callahan
B: 1921-09-08
D: 2017-09-18
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Callahan, Frances
Linda Plemmons
B: 1947-07-26
D: 2017-09-17
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Plemmons, Linda
John Gamble
B: 1952-11-16
D: 2017-09-14
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Gamble, John
Eula Compton
B: 1955-01-25
D: 2017-09-14
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Compton, Eula
James Potter
B: 1942-06-10
D: 2017-09-11
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Potter, James
Ronald Brannan, II
B: 1964-05-17
D: 2017-08-24
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Brannan, II, Ronald

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Blog / Funeral News

Comforting Others in their GriefJanuary 1, 2014, 4:56 pm by Steve Zittle

Being a funeral director gives me a unique laboratory to study human nature. We in the business are passionate about telling the life story of the deceased. We use buzz words like, “Celebration,” and “Tribute.” We encourage brining food and posting family photos on video tributes. Sounds like it should be something for the public to look forward to, and yet they don’t. Ever wonder why funerals and visitations are dreaded so much in our society? The obvious reason is that there has been a loss, and that loss leads us to confront several uncomfortable truths.

One is our own mortality. We are inherently reminded by seeing someone else’s casket (or urn, or photo) that we too will travel a similar road. While many of us have varying amounts of faith in what comes after this life, the truth is that none of us have proven that faith. We prefer things we can see, touch, feel, and experience. Not many of us are adept at walking blindly into new experiences. So unless your faith is rock-solid, facing the after-life might give you pause.

Another uncomfortable truth is that our society is extremely inept when it comes to grieving. In general, we’ve been conditioned through advertising that we can “have it all.” If you don’t like your car, get another one. If you don’t like the way you look, just lose weight, get some plastic surgery, and viola! A whole new you. Feeling down? Here’s some medicine for that. And so on. But grief is something that you can’t just wipe away with a new and improved magic cloth. Grief is hard. And we don’t like hard things. In fact, we generally avoid hard things like the plague. I know I do.

So we as a society have not been taught how to process our own grief. I believe that this fact has caused the cremation rate in our country to grow significantly over the past twenty years. We’ve been conditioned that if we skip the viewing and funeral and “just cremate” without any ceremony – we will somehow avoid the difficulty of grieving. I’m afraid this is not the case. Grief is not avoided – only delayed and/or complicated.

More significantly, we have not been taught how to grieve with others. This fact is on display in my world almost constantly. Recently, we served a young couple who lost a baby. (Now don’t get me wrong – dealing with the loss of a baby is simply the hardest thing we as funeral directors do. My wife and I have walked a similar road. We lost twins who were born premature over seven years ago. It still hurts.) The mother of the infant is usually the person who takes the most active role in planning the arrangements, and this mother was no different. She was extremely organized, and was willing to face her grief head-on. Rather than avoiding it, she confronted it and planned a service that beautifully honored her son and embraced the limited time she had with him.

But a sad thing happened. Those around her resisted allowing her to experience the grief. If she broke down, they ran to her side to try to “cheer her up,” or change the subject to take her mind off of things. People said things like, “I know how you feel.” I guarantee not one of them did, and she knew it. Rather than having the desired effect, it only made her feel more isolated. It came to the point where I offered to let her come to the funeral home and just be by herself. She almost took me up on it.

I counsel parents of young children to be prepared for the dreaded, “I know how you feel” line. Why we think that helps, I don’t know. I wish we could stop using that phrase when it comes to dying and grief. But that paled in comparison to what happened at the service.

The mom had requested that, after letting go of some helium-filled balloons, I dismiss the crowd and her immediate family would stay behind for a few private moments with the casket before she had to walk away from her son for the last time. I did what she asked. I thanked the crowd of her closest friends and family for being there to show their support, and that she and her husband and three other young children wanted to have a few private moments alone. I directed them to go to their cars and to take the opportunity over the next few weeks to reach out to the family.

And no one moved. They were frozen with confusion, not knowing how to react. As I tried to escort the mom and dad back to the casket, individuals stepped in to hug the mom. “I’m so sorry. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do.” Over and over again. Eventually, the mom and dad became separated, each swept out to sea by wave upon wave of, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do,” each person trying to out-comfort the previous one. And it hit me. These people aren’t doing this for her. They were doing it for themselves. Somehow ignoring the mom and dad’s wishes so that they could interrupt a beautiful moment with their sentiments (which sounded like everyone else’s) was their way of helping and supporting the parents.

In our ignorance and discomfort, we’ve become convinced that to support a grieving family is to insert ourselves at any particular moment, hug, and recite the “I’m so sorry, please let me know if there’s anything I can do” line. Beyond that, we’re clueless. I’m reminded of the book of Job, where Job’s friends came to visit him in his grief. They sat with him for seven days on the ground. They wept, but didn’t speak. Job knew they were there. He felt their support. The Bible says they didn’t speak because they saw that his grief was very great.” Oh that we could learn a lesson from Job’s friends.

How do you help others grieve?  A grieving friend or co-worker doesn’t need your words of wisdom. He or she doesn’t need you to out-comfort the others at the service. Just being there is enough.  Being there in the weeks and months to follow is even better.  But that is hard, and that is why most people don't do it.

We've made a lot of articles on grief, written by leading experts, available to you at www.educatedfuneralconsumer.com.  Please take advantage of them and learn how you can effectively help others in their grief.


Today was a Good DayDecember 23, 2013, 9:10 pm by Steve Zittle

Not all days are going to be good days.  Life is full of ups and downs and days themselves can become microcosms of the roller coaster that is our brief time on Earth.  It was the Shirelles who sang, "Mama Said (There'd be Days Like This)," and all of us can relate to that set of lyrics.

But today was a good day.  Yes, I'm a funeral director.  Yes, I deal with people in the worst times of their lives.  People often tell me that they, "couldn't do what I do."  There is a certain satisfaction to my ego when I hear that.  To an extent, I agree with them.  God has enabled me to have a certain sensitivity - to walk the tightrope between tender compassion and confident guidance.  To experience deep sadness as I walk with a family – and yet be removed emotionally enough to shepherd them through the experience.  I’m not alone.  There are many professionals like me.  I work with some of the best ones every day.

Our funeral home was rather busy today – two services, a new family to make arrangements, and lots of paperwork to catch up on from over the weekend.  I got a call early this morning, asking me to make a memorial candle for a friend, whose church is going to commemorate the life of a young man in his church who died this year.  Today I got to do the mundane things that I’m required to do:  Payroll, updating our funeral homes’ cremation authorization to include new language about DNA retrieval, signing a death certificate.  My ever-growing “to-do” list sat quietly, knowing that it would go unnoticed for another day.  We had a social worker call from a local nursing home, asking if one of us could come and discuss pre-arrangements with two different residents today.  I volunteered.

Driving to the nursing home, I found a few minutes to talk with my mentor and business partner.  He is a “visionary,” meaning that in the space of five minutes, he can rattle off eight or nine new, exciting ideas, which translated into my “practical” mind sometimes translates to pages of new items to add to the “to-do” list.  However today we reflected on where we are and where we’ve come from.  In four short years we’ve literally taken an idea from the back of a paper towel and created a stable and profitable, multi-location funeral business that is helping to re-define an industry that resists change in a way no other industry does.  Through our efforts (and the efforts of other dedicated individuals in our organization), we’ve been able to directly impact hundreds of families over the past four years – some families more than once.  Our work has great meaning.  Not many people can say as much.

It was at that moment that I realized, I don’t have to make two sets of prearrangements in this nursing home.  I have the opportunity to meet two individuals.  To learn about their lives and get to know them as people.  I have the ability to tell their story, for my job is primarily to do just that.  It is a privilege to serve these folks.  A calling of the highest nature.  Everything I do, from making a simple candle, to re-wording a simple document, to starting a simple blog (who wants to read what I think?), has the potential to bring about positive change.  Whether it is to push stubborn funeral directors into considering new ideas or to hold the hand of a grieving widow – I am a fortunate man.  Most days, I don’t take the time to realize that.  Today I did.

And that’s what made today a good day.


When You Get the News that Stuns...December 4, 2013, 12:38 pm by Jeff Harbeson

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Earlier this week, I contemplated expressing my thoughts about receiving news that stuns…words that come to us that we never forget.  Unexpected news that alters the path of life we were traveling, perhaps changing us forever.  My friend and Pastor, Quigg Lawrence recently received news that his oldest daughter Annie, a young woman in her early 20’s had a massive cancerous tumor.  Aside from the obvious, my thoughts were how such a man that is in continuous support mode of others, is now in need of the blessings he has brought to so many.

However, I was prompted to write this morning because last night, my wife received the news that her father, who lives several hours away, had a stroke.  As with other times in our lives when we have received such news, we are temporarily stunned.

Everyone at some point in their life will receive news that stuns.  What follows the stunning news is a myriad of emotions, and then reality starts to settle.  We never forget the words delivered, the location we were at the time, and often the look on the face of the person delivering the news.  Several years ago my wife received a phone call that she had Melanoma and was scheduled for immediate surgery.  I vividly remember her face delivering the news and in my mind searching for words to comfort her.  Even further back in time, during the Thanksgiving holiday, my wife and I delivered the happy news to our families that we were going to have our first child.  In a matter of a few minutes of delivering the happy news, I received a phone call:  Deployment for Desert Shield/Storm overseas, going to a foreign land for war.

When we receive the news that stuns and reality begins to set in, it is human nature to envision the worst of outcomes.   But I have learned by experiencing such events that the best immediate reaction is   “keep calm and pray.”  I personally believe that once we receive the news that stuns, the event has already taken place, we can’t change what happened.  But what we can do is reach beyond our own understanding and have faith…In God, in our family, in our friends and in those people such as doctors, our leaders and decision makers.

In many of the events when we receive the news that stuns us, we don’t always envision positive endings.  In the personal examples above, Annie had the cancerous tumor removed and is diagnosed now as cancer free.  My wife, Jacque survived the Melanoma surgery and is cancer free.  My oldest son is 22 and, 21 years later, I am a Veteran of Desert Shield/Storm and all of the soldiers that deployed with me came home alive after a successful mission.  Yet, this morning, we are headed to a hospital with a relative in serious distress…but I have faith.

So, I solicit your thoughts, experiences and outcomes when you received the news that stuns.  After all, it’s the season for sharing and giving.