Early in my funeral home owning career, I attended a seminar at our annual New York State Funeral Directors convention whose presenter was another funeral director. I will never forget him saying that there are very few places that you go into, spend a lot of money, often many thousands, and walk out with nothing tangible in your hands. He shared with us a lovely poem titled “May I Go,” and suggested that we give a copy of it and perhaps a flower to families after the arrangement conference. (For those of you unfamiliar with funeral home speak, the arrangement conference is the meeting of the family of the deceased and the funeral director to get the information needed for a death certificate and obituary, to make service plans and to select merchandise.)
From that day forth it has been my custom to give an individually wrapped rose to the major family members who come to do the arrangements. I always give a red rose to the spouse, as it is the symbol of love. I try to give pink when a mother has died, but I am often at the mercy of our one and only wonderful florist, and give whatever color she has that day. Men get a rose as well as the women. I am sure that sometimes it is the first rose that they have ever received!
I keep the roses in a room other than our arrangement/selection room and when the arrangements are completed, right before the family is ready to leave, I excuse myself and return carrying the wrapped roses. It is often a touching moment, for the family and for me. Many of these families I know. I may have cared for other loved ones in my years at our funeral home. Other families were strangers when they came in door. But they are strangers no longer. They have given me their loved one to care for and I am now part of their family. The roses are my way of saying thank you for trusting in me. Thank you for giving me the honor of caring for your loved one.
Now let’s see, 60 families per years, minimum 2 to 4 roses per family, times 17 years—that’s a lot of roses-times $4.00 per rose. Wow, I could have taken a nice trip on that piece of change. But I truly feel that there is no place that I could travel, nothing that I could see that would give me more satisfaction then the connection I experience with the families I serve. Thank you to all of them.
And on a lighter note—Come to Cambridge, New York. It’s a great little village—home to Bedlam Farm and the famous Jon Katz and Maria Wolfe. We have Athena Burke’s Music Sanctuary and Mandy Hill’s Stairway Healing arts. And besides all that—it’s a wonderful place to die! I just couldn’t resist a little “grave humor”.