Fairhaven Blog

Things of interest around Fairhaven.

Touching Lives

Marla Noel - Friday, October 10, 2014

Last week, in my Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) meeting, we had the opportunity to tour the Make-A-Wish Foundation office in Irvine. During our tour, one of my fellow members noticed I was very quiet and asked me if I felt okay. I didn’t know how to react but then realized I had very conflicting feelings about the work this organization does.

As a mortuary, one of the saddest situations we witness is the loss of a child. It’s heartbreaking for all of our staff and I can’t imagine how the parents must feel. I guess this is what I was thinking as we toured the office of an organization whose purpose is to provide enrichment to a life that may end soon. People frequently ask me how I’m able to work in a mortuary – after my tour, I wondered how a person can sit with a child who may have months to live and figure out how to grant a wish. My job is easy in comparison; I don’t know how I would handle helping so many little ones face the reality of death.

There are many angels out there; those who work with sickness, those who work in hospice, and those who work in organizations like Make-A-Wish. We’re lucky there are people among us who have found their calling. I feel fortunate to know about the angels who work at the Make-A-Wish Foundation – they add so much hope, strength and joy to such young lives.

Celebrating Our Melting Pot

Marla Noel - Thursday, September 18, 2014

“Death is a part of all our lives. Whether we like it or not, it is bound to happen. Instead of avoiding thinking about it, it is better to understand its meaning. If from the beginning your attitude is 'Yes, death is part of our lives,' then it may be easier to face.” – Dalai Lama

As president of Fairhaven, I have the opportunity to witness funeral rituals from all around the world. Recently, one of our families held a Buddhist funeral here that touched me. I’d like to share my experience with you, to show how important it is for every family to celebrate a loved one in their own way.

It was a warm summer day and family members dressed in beautiful white cloth – symbolizing grief and seriousness – gathered around the body of their loved one. Guests dressed in black joined in to pay their respect. The family invited a monk who chanted to encourage the good energy to be released from the deceased, to allow the soul to detach itself from this life. The room filled with positive energy and a moving feeling of love. The family expressed their gratitude to guests in attendance with a red envelope containing a gift.

Although I’m not Buddhist, this experience stayed with me, as do many others. Families come to Fairhaven with heritages from a variety of cultures and religions with Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist and Hindu the most frequent. All of us at Fairhaven have learned about the beliefs of each culture and religion as this helps us serve each family with sensitivity during a very stressful time.

 

No matter what culture or religion a person associates with, I can see from first-hand observations here how important it is to memorialize a loved one and honor the life they’ve lived. Expressing grief is a difficult process, but doing so in your own way can help you and your loved ones find comfort in the rituals and traditions of your culture. I do appreciate the cultural melting pot we see here at Fairhaven and I’m honored I get to observe so many interesting and loving tributes.

No Regrets, Please

Marla Noel - Friday, June 20, 2014

Regret. It’s one of life’s most uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, emotions. When we wish we had done something differently, but can’t go back and change it, we are likely to feel regret. In my position here at Fairhaven, I frequently encounter people that feel regretful. Perhaps most common is the feeling that they have not spent enough time with a loved one.

But another whole category of regret involves decisions people wish they had made earlier in life. For example, I encounter widows who wish they had taken time to understand their finances before their husbands passed away. I meet widowers who regret putting off trips they always talked about, but never found time to take before their wives became ill.  For some, the regret involves not moving to a retirement community, or just downsizing into a smaller, more manageable home. The list goes on and on.

The lesson learned here is that we should not wait too long to make decisions that will shape the last years of our lives. Perhaps the best time to evaluate these decisions is when retirement is looming. This is the time when questions need to be raised about what you -- as a couple or an individual -- want to do in the years ahead. Where will you live? Is your estate plan set? Will your heirs have a huge tax burden because you didn’t do enough estate planning? Are there trips on your bucket list? Are you working with advisors to guide your decisions -- an attorney, CPA and financial advisor?

Of course, I also hear regret related to not planning ahead for funerals.  People who take the time to talk among themselves, including with their adult children, are usually much less stressed when the time comes for the arrangements. Naturally, they are grieving, but much of the stress is gone.

Many people find it difficult to talk about death, especially their own. I’ve found that conversations about funeral pre-planning are naturally prompted by attending a funeral. Actually, any ceremony, even a wedding, can lead to these kinds of conversations. And these conversations are so useful, resolving issues such as do I want to have a ground burial, entombment or cremation? Do I want a large or intimate ceremony? Do I have a passion or hobby that can be added to the arrangements that fits my own personality? For example, I have a collection of fine wines and I’ve made it known I’d like the collection to be opened and enjoyed at my funeral. Without my planning in advance, I doubt anyone would know this was my intention. But now that I’ve planned, I’m sure my farewell will be the kind of party that I, personally, would enjoy – with friends and family swapping stories and fabulous wines  flowing. 

Whenever you are ready to consider funeral pre-planning, feel free to visit our website for a little help: http://www.fairhavenmemorial.com/learn/advance-planning.htm 

Beyond The Casket: Why Mass-Market Planning May Not Be the Best Option

Marla Noel - Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When the time comes to say goodbye and honor a loved one, it’s never easy, especially when a death is unexpected. In such situations, families are often thrust into the harsh reality of having to make arrangements while still overwhelmed with the grief and sadness that accompany mourning the loss of a loved one.

At times, the emotional stress family members feel can be virtually unbearable, and the search for peace can be challenging. I’ve been in the funeral business for many years, and remain convinced that grief is a process people go through at various rates. It’s my belief that the grieving process is not something that can be sped up, but it can be eased, allowing the therapeutic effects of real healing to emerge with greater impact.

One way to deal with grief is to allow it to run its natural course. Family members should be fair to themselves and to one another.  They should allow for mourning. Far too often, however, I’ve seen families scurrying to make burial and other arrangements – logistical concerns that may be necessary and understandable, but don’t allow for much in the way of needed time for healing.

It may be wise to give some thought to funeral planning before the immediate need arises. Not only will you be able to address a challenging topic with great sensitivity, but you’ll do so free of the emotional turmoil that so often permeates the death of a loved one.

Clearly, planning a funeral is a complicated process – but it doesn’t have to be. Mortuaries strive to help families with the decisions and arrangements that make for a unique and meaningful remembrance. Every family’s budget and cultural traditions are different, and a trustworthy and reputable professional will make a world of difference during the grieving process. Be open with and trust your funeral director to help you make the right choice for your family, so you can focus on what’s important: reflecting and honoring the life of a loved one – as well as your own healing.

One of the many ways to honor a loved one is with an appropriate casket. I’ve noticed that some “big box” stores are suggesting the separation of a casket purchase from the rest of the funeral planning. They advertise this as some kind of cost-saver but it may actually complicate the funeral planning process. 

The casket is just one piece of a delicate puzzle and when chosen in isolation, it’s rarely a smart decision. And, contrary to the opinions of some, it’s not a more cost-effective option.

The biggest problem in buying a casket from a retail store is that the seller is not a funeral director knowledgeable about the care, preparation and burial or cremation of the deceased. He/she likely is not experienced in working with families to create the overall funeral experience. Often, retailers are not licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, which means less consumer protection for the purchase of these caskets.

I caution families about “ordering” funerals from a la carte menus. Each part of the process – from the casket and preparation, to the service and burial or cremation – needs to be developed together. It’s ideal when the process is pre-planned. But even families who must make decisions suddenly and quickly will do best by viewing the process holistically, not individual components to piece together.

In the end, saying goodbye is never easy. A meaningful service can help bring closure and comfort to a grieving family. Seek a warm and caring funeral director to help you create a perfect service. He or she understands the complexities of the funeral-planning process, which, when done correctly, can allow family and friends to celebrate and honor a loved one’s life.

Now Serving...Compassion

Charity Gallardo - Friday, March 30, 2012

Today's post is by Fairhaven Service Director Kristina Kindred. Every day, Kristina is on the front lines assisting families with their services and helping them within that context with whatever they may need to ease the loss of their loved one. She sees firsthand how grief affects people and how what we do at Fairhaven helps them through a difficult time. She truly understands and exemplifies Fairhaven's core values of integrity, fairness, compassion and excellence and applies them when working with families every day. ~ Charity Gallardo, Blog Coordinator

In the almost eleven years that I have been a licensed Embalmer and Funeral Service Director with Fairhaven Memorial Park and Mortuary, I have met hundreds of people at a very difficult transitional time in their lives. Through these experiences, I developed my own personal mission statement when working with grieving families. As a Service Director, I strive to bring comfort and closure to my families by facilitating the funeral ceremony in a professional and thorough manner. I do this through coordinating and accommodating all types of funeral traditions with a heart and attitude of service.

Amongst the Directors, we have a saying, “Funerals are just like weddings… we only have one opportunity to make it perfect." In reality, we can get married many times, but usually we are only buried once as funerals are a one time affair. Creating the perfect service entails a few key areas that the Service Director must be diligent about.

Meeting with the Family Service Counselor to go over the families’ expectations and basic service details in regards to the funeral arrangement is always our first priority. We often discuss such aspects as the proper religious affiliation and funeral set-up, musical selections for preludes and postludes, whether there will be live music or pre-recorded cd, soloists or bagpipers. Will there be a DVD memorial presentation or video taping of the ceremony? Other important details that impact the flow of the service are Military Honors, memorabilia displays, guest speakers, reception invitations and processionals. All these things must be managed and coordinated in order for the service to run smoothly. Then there are the minute details of visiting the gravesite prior to the service to determine the best route and proper placement of floral tributes.

Each of these things may seem insignificant by themselves, but if you don’t properly identify ALL of the aspects of each service, and any single detail is out of whack, the family may be unintentionally dismayed. In this respect, all my efforts come down to making certain that each of my families are pleased with the ceremony that they have designed to honor their loved one and in turn helping them along their grief process.

Upon my first meeting with the family, I try to express my concern and offer my support. It’s common to feel awkward when trying to comfort those who are grieving. Many times it is difficult to find the right words, even in my position. I have often been asked by guests attending a funeral, “What is the right thing to say to the family?” I’ve learned that there is nothing we can say to make it all better; we can only be present to offer our support, a kind word or a sweet memory.

Not knowing the deceased or the family personally may seem problematic at first look but in all honesty, I feel as though it has been much more difficult to keep up professional appearances when directing a service for someone I know. We are not robots and on many occasions I have shed a tear during services for those that I have not known. My goal is always to make my family comfortable and I have found that the best way to accomplish this is by going over the order of service with the main family contact before the guests begin arriving. This way, I can make any necessary changes and put our family at ease. Knowing the series of events and how they are going to happen is the best way to relieve the stress associated with the planning and execution of the funeral ceremony.

After quickly breaking down the service it is important to ask the family if there is anything else we can do for them. I offer simple things like a bottle of water, a box of tissues or give out the location of the restroom facilities. These simple gestures can easily make an enormous difference to someone experiencing the rollercoaster of emotions associated with the grief process.

 Helping our families to arrange the memorabilia displays that have become so popular in the last few years is probably the highlight of my work. Looking through the photo collages and memorial DVD presentations along with the particular items that the family has selected to memorialize their beloved helps us to get to know our guest of honor in a small way. On occasion, these items have been unusual and extremely large. We have displayed giant 10 foot tall framed collage of decades old love letters from the World War I era. I’ve helped to guide a top fuel dragster through the side doors of our chapel to display in front of the casket. But the largest and most memorable item I have personally assisted in displaying had to be an entire life size hang glider inside of our Waverley Chapel. The hang glider was the epitome of their loved one’s adventurous life. It was very important for it to be present at the service so measurements were taken, logistics discussed and a team of friends carried in and re-built the hang glider inside our chapel. All of the guests were shocked and amazed to see the actual glider in all of its glory right in front of them.

At the conclusion of this service, as the Director, I had to go forward to the podium to make several important announcements and begin the dismissal. The wing of the glider protruded into the sound booth and essentially blockaded me inside this area. There was no way around it as I needed to operate the DVD system to show a memorial video which included wonderful home videos of the adventurer and hang glider in flight.

When the time came to make the necessary announcements, in front of an overflowing crowd of more than two hundred attendees, I got down on my hands and knees and crawled underneath the wing of the hang glider with as much dignity as I could muster. I stood up and paused to re-adjust my jacket and unexpectedly received a raucous round of applause for my efforts. During the dismissal, many of the guests sought me out to express their appreciation and how much it meant to them to be a part of such an unforgettable memorial service for their friend and loved one. After the glider had been taken apart and hauled away, and all the guests had departed, the family expressed to me how pleased they were with all that we had done for them and thanked me with hugs all around.

Sometimes I still gauge the satisfaction of my families on whether they want to hug me or not. I know not all folks are huggers and many of my friends will tell you that I am not considered a “hugger”, but in our line of work, often a hug is the simplest expression of support or gratitude. Essentially, doing my job to the best of my abilities by creating the perfect service is the way I can make an impact in the lives of our families and help them along their journey through the grief process.

Taking Back the Holidays -by Cynthia Adair

Marla Noel - Friday, November 25, 2011

The first year after the loss of a loved one is the most difficult…it is a year of “firsts”…the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first birthday, without that person.

The first year after the loss of my mother we struggled to maintain family traditions…my sister and I tried our best to recreate the holidays that my mother loved so much…but without her there, they seemed lacking.

The next year was a little better…as we began to combine the best of my mother’s customs with some of our own…this was the year we added Blue cheese and bacon to the Thanksgiving mash potatoes and had Mimosas on Christmas morning.

This past year we were able to find humor in remembering things my mother did…her 4th of July themed tables and the jars of peanuts she put in our stockings. My sister and I can now laugh at each other as we are “becoming our mother”…I show up at her house with dessert and always bring holiday plates and napkins even though I know she has a stockpile of them from years past and she puts labels in the dishes on the Thanksgiving table so we know what to put where…and both of these things are exactly what my mother did.

I know that there are things that we will always do…things just like our mother did…but now the holidays are once again a time to celebrate as well as to remember.

This year as my family gets together…we will be embracing our old traditions and incorporating some new ones…there will be good food, family, and lots of laughter…as those are the things my mother loved best about the holidays!

The Hummingbird by Cynthia Adair

Marla Noel - Wednesday, November 02, 2011

It must have been a couple of weeks after my mother passed away when I first saw a Hummingbird. It hovered in my backyard, not just passing through but staying there for quite some time.

 

A few days later, I was taking a walk and along the way a hummingbird was once again there to keep me company.  I should at this point mention, along with Straus Waltzes, hydrangeas, club sandwiches, and the color purple, hummingbirds were among the list of my mother’s favorite things. Needless to say these first few hummingbird sightings were the beginning of many more to come. There were times when I would be outside and actually thinking about her when a hummingbird would appear out of nowhere and stay for a while.  After about a year of this, I finally confessed the hummingbird visits to my siblings, who both shared similar stories.

 

It’s now been 4 years since the loss of my mother, but because of these experiences, I think of her every time I see a hummingbird and it always makes me smile. Although missing her is now a permanent part of who I am, I feel especially close to her when I see a hummingbird. I would like to think it may be her way of visiting and letting me know she was thinking of me.

 

 

Funeral Planning, Your Budget, and You

Marla Noel - Tuesday, August 23, 2011

For many families, the need to plan a funeral comes unexpectedly. Complex decisions must be made at a most difficult time, and the cost of funeral services plays a large role in the planning process. Not surprisingly, most people are under the impression that funeral services cost more than they really do.

How much does a funeral actually cost?  What is a reasonable price range for a dignified, appropriate tribute for the person who has died?

No two funerals are alike, and your personal preferences might make the cost higher (or lower) than average. Overall, your final cost will be determined by three important considerations:

1. The services you select

2. The cost of caskets, vaults, urns and other items

3. Clergy, honorarium, obituary costs, flowers and other incidentals that can add to the services.

We offer many services that help make a funeral a personalized, dignified and healing experience. Some families choose one or two of these, while others choose more. You might prefer a traditional funeral, or an alternative type of service. Memorial services are available at our funeral home, or at a place that has special meaning. There are choices concerning burial or other forms of interment, including cremation. Your decisions will determine the final cost, but you may be assured that we will give you detailed estimates for any of the options you choose.

The funeral products we make available give you a wide range of choices in style, and in price. Your tastes may lean toward simplicity, or something more elaborate. For example, if you choose a traditional funeral with interment, you will need to purchase a burial vault and casket.  Families who prefer cremation will usually purchase an urn to hold the cremated remains. These may then be retained, interred, scattered, or placed in a columbarium niche. Various costs are associated with each of these options.

If you have preplanned the funeral, the choices we have discussed above will already be made, and you will have received a complete list of all costs involved. For this reason, we encourage families to consider funeral preplanning, because you will make these important decisions at your leisure, when you have time to reflect on just the kind of funeral you want, and just how much you wish to pay. Prepaying the funeral service also protects your family from those unanticipated expenses we mentioned earlier.

How much does a funeral really cost? To assist in your planning, we can provide a list of prices for many of the basic services that most families select. Please be assured that we welcome your questions about our services and prices. Do not hesitate to discuss funeral costs with us. We believe you have a right to know exactly what costs are involved in the services you choose.

What Would Your Funeral Look Like

Marla Noel - Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I know that people tend to plan their funeral in advance when they have been to a good funeral or a very bad funeral. Yes, there is such a thing as a bad funeral. Not the right things done, said, planned.

I remember sitting with a family once and the minister asked if the family had any words they wanted to say about their loved one. No one had planned what to say and therefore no one got up to speak. I knew that there was much to say about this man who had lived a full life and was deeply loved by his family. His death was unexpected and they were not prepared. They did not know what he wanted for a funeral.

I have seen many great funerals where families came together and used what the decedent had planned or had the ability to focus on creating a great funeral. There is no one way to define a great funeral.  A quiet person who does not like parties and does not socialize much would not typically plan a funeral with loud music and a reception afterward. I, on the other hand, would like Led Zeppelin, a bag piper, a dove release, Good and Plenties (my favorite candy) and a reception with a lot of wine at my funeral. And, by the way, I've written some of my Eulogy. Hopefully, there will be much more added.

I encourage everyone to write down their wishes and let their family know what they want. You can pay for the funeral in advance. Typically funeral homes will help you with this and help you put the money in either a trust or funeral insurance. Set aside pictures that you would like people to see at the funeral and let people know what kind of music you want. Planning your funeral will help your family and make difficult choices much easier.

The Funeral Planning Guide by Marla J. Noel

Marla Noel - Monday, June 27, 2011

We recognize the significance of planning a funeral after the loss of a loved one. Someone you love has died. You may be feeling sad, angry, empty or numb. Despite these normal and natural feelings, you are now faced with planning a funeral or gathering that will be meaningful to your family. Our mission is to assist you and your family during this difficult time by providing you with some information, some ideas and some suggestions for ways to create a meaningful final tribute to your loved one.

 

There are three separate parts of a funeral arrangement; The collection of vital statistical information that will be used to complete the death certificate, the creation of the funeral service or gathering and the selection of a final resting place or a lasting memorialization. One of our Family Service Counselors will meet with you during the arrangement conference and guide you through the many decisions that will have to be made. The arrangements typically take two to three hours unless arrangements have been made in advance of need.

 

The California Department of Consumer Affairs has put together a pamphlet regarding funeral and cemetery planning. The pamphlet was designed to help you understand the funeral process and terminology so that you may make informed decisions relating to your funeral arrangements.

 

Funeral ceremonies help us begin to heal. They are the first step in the bereavement process. It is important to recognize that funerals are for the living. The funeral declares that a death has occurred. It commemorates the life that has been lived, and offers family and friends the opportunity to pay tribute to their loved one.

 

A well-planned funeral service captures the living essence of one who has died. We have compiled a list of suggestions that will aid you in focusing on those things that your loved one cherished throughout their life. A review of these items may help you to remember meaningful symbols that can be included to personalize the funeral service in remembrance of your loved one.

 

©  Put together photos of your loved one. This may be done at the visitation or at home at a family gathering. We have a photo board, where those pictures may be placed for the funeral service. If you would like to put photos together permanently, a poster board may be used for this occasion.

©  Play the favorite music of your loved one at the visitation, funeral service or at a family gathering.

© Have your family members write down their fondest memories or the funniest moments, or the most painful memories of your loved one. The memories may be talked about at a family gathering or documented in a memorial folder or a memorial book.

© Write a letter or a poem to your loved one to say goodbye. Place the letter in the casket to be buried or cremated, whichever you have selected.

© If your loved one had a favorite cologne, bring a bottle in for the visitation and spray the cologne on your loved one for final disposition.

 

© If there are young children or grandchildren, have them make farewell cards to place inside the casket.

 © Put together mementos that represent a favorite sport or hobby of your loved one to be placed on a memorial table at the visitation or the service.

© Have a video made from the pictures that you have gathered and have them coordinated with your loved one's favorite music.

© Ask several people to share their memories during the ceremony. This may be done formally by having three or four people speak in succession at the podium - or informally by asking those attending the funeral to stand up and share memories spontaneously.

© For those with a sweet tooth, hand out your loved one's favorite candy at the visitation or the funeral service.

 

These are all suggestions that may help you and your family to say good-bye. We have listed some questions below that should assist you in determining some meaningful additions to a funeral service.

 

Please indicate some of the unique qualities of your loved one.

Favorite Sports Activities or Hobby: __________________________________

Favorite Book: _________________________________________________

Favorite Music: __________________________________________________

Favorite Television Show:___________________________________________

Favorite Movie:_________________________________________________

Favorite Flower:________________________________________________

Is there a saying that your loved one frequently used?  ______________________

Some people have a favorite hat, pair of shoes, jacket, etc. Is there an article of clothing that your loved one was known for wearing or being seen in?

 

 

 

What are your fondest and most cherished memories of your loved one?

Answering these questions will help with the service, with the eulogy, with the obituary and with the way the service is arranged. We hope this helps you. If you have suggestions for others please send them in the comments, so that they may be shared.

 

 


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