Traditions and Rituals are Comforting ~ Create Your Own

by Debra Kranz
Kranz Funeral Home

Debra Kranz

In this ever-changing world, it is nice to see that tradition and respect of old-time values are still around and that they can be a comfort to people. I was reminded of this recently as our funeral procession passed the police officer who was stopping traffic for us. He removed his hat and placed it over his heart as the funeral coach passed him.

As a young girl, when riding in the car with my Grandpa, I remember him doing the same. If we met a funeral procession, he would pull the car to the side of the road and remove his hat and place it over his heart. I’m sure this would not mean anything to many of the people in our procession, but to some older folks this is respect. A sign of respect for the dead. Respect for the family and friends who now have an empty space in their lives.

Some would say the business of providing funerals is a very traditional business and not affected by change. But we have seen many changes also. One thing that hasn’t changed regarding death is the pain and emptiness following the death of a loved one and the need for comfort. How people get that comfort and what comforts them has changed. I have said many times what we do in funeral service is mainly about the little things. I have had many, many families say to me “I never realized there was so much to this.” Or, “I never realized you did so much”. I think this is a sign that we are doing our jobs well. If we can do all the things we do without the family realizing it, we have made a smooth transition for them to move on to the next step in their lives.

It is our job as funeral directors to help the families who choose us find what will offer them comfort at the time of the death. There are so many options to make a meaningful service and remembering time for family and friends. Clergy and celebrants should be working closely with family and friends before the service to make the remembering time and service a time where people may laugh, shed tears and truly miss and appreciate the person who died. A time of remembering, a time of sharing, a time to say goodbye… A Good Funeral.

The family has so much input into the remembering time. They can choose readings, music, participants, remembrances to take home. The choices to make this time personal and meaningful for each in attendance are endless. Never should you walk out of a funeral and wonder who it was for. A family can decide to “adopt” out all Mom’s teddy bear collection giving adoption certificates with each bear. They can have local musicians come and play Dad’s favorite songs. The family of a cement contractor may choose to have his casket placed on cement blocks in the funeral home rather than on the traditional wooden casket bier. If Grandma made the best chocolate chip cookies someone can use her recipe and have them made to pass out during the visitation. Everyone can sprinkle dirt around the grave of a farmer, dirt from his farm or birdseed around the grave of a bird lover.

More and more I find people want to participate, especially younger people. Not everyone is going to get up in front of people and speak, although that is one of the most comforting things you can do for the family when attending the service of a friend or relative. But many people would be comfortable simply placing a flower on top of the casket as they leave. Or perhaps putting a playing card from the deceased’s euchre deck in the casket as they pay their last respects. Doing something is comforting. It is memorable. It is a way to be part of the sharing and the last goodbye.

Death is painful. It is okay for it to be painful. It should be painful. We can not avoid that and we should not try to avoid that pain. But there are healthy ways to get through that pain. The funeral should be the beginning of the healing process for family and friends to move to the next step of life without the deceased person. Talk to your funeral director. If you have an idea, chances are they can make it happen. If you are looking for an idea, chances are they have several. This is not just for family members but for friends also. We do not want to leave out friends who sometimes feel the loss as much as the family. Allow the funeral to help you begin to heal. Allow the funeral to help you remember and allow the funeral to help you say goodbye. A Good Funeral.

About the Author: Debra Kranz graduated from Wayne State University’s Department of Mortuary Science in 1987. She began her career with Karrer Simpson Funeral Home in Port Huron (MI) before purchasing her own small funeral home in Kingston, Michigan and reopening it in 1991. In 1994, Debra and her husband, Jim bought the Little Funeral Home in Cass City. While building a relationship with area families by providing compassionate, gentle care of each who chose Kranz Funeral Home to serve them, Debra and Jim began the process of building a larger, new facility in Cass City. This facility was opened in 1998 and continues to serve the community in Cass City and surrounding areas. Debra and Jim enjoy visiting their son, Adam who studies Environmental Science at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI and spending time with their daughter, Angela and her husband, Stuart and grandchildren six-year-old Grace and twin 18 month olds, Jack and Owen. Debra enjoys scrapbooking, attending theatre and concerts and traveling.