Funeral Speak: Personalization

Pervasive in the funeral industry is a vocabulary unique to the trade. There are business words, buzzwords, embalming words, merchandising words, cemetery words, etc. in which the general public is not well versed. To present you with a list of such words would be oh so boring and uninformative, so I plan to cover one on this blog every once in a while.

Today’s word is personalization.
In layman’s terms, personalization is a noun meaning “individualization” or “uniqueness.” Turns out, it means the same thing in the funeral world, but with a bit of a twist. To personalize a funeral is to plan it so that it honors an individual in a special way. Having said that, it is important to note the broad spectrum of personalization…. There may be a favorite song to be sung or a favorite dress to be worn. There may be pictures to display or a flag to be folded or refreshments to be served. There may even be something outlandish such as we see on television shows like TLC’s “Best Funeral Ever,” where anything goes…. from professional mourners to a Christmas sleigh used for transporting a casket.
It is our job as funeral directors to oversee the process and attend to details that will make the ‘personalized’ funeral a (favorably) memorable experience. Sometimes it takes considerable creativity to pull everything off without a hitch. Sometimes it takes last-minute scrambling to deal with hiccups in the plan. Whatever it takes, personalization can be a great thing. In fact, it is my belief that personalized funerals/caskets/displays/urns/etc. are the wave of the future for the funeral industry. The deathcare business as many of us think of it is a product of American culture, with all of its materialism and individualism thrown in for better or worse. Personalized touches are therefore becoming increasingly invaluable to the industry, and I think it is important to incorporate them in unique ways which serve to honor the life lived.
One shining example of a personalized funeral comes from a service that is close to my heart. My maternal grandfather passed away a year ago today, and his funeral stands as one of the most unique services I have attended to date. You see, my grandpa, Pop, was a fireman.

He was a pillar in the community and he was known by everyone as the “old man.” He was the best BBQ cook around and he would give you the shirt off his back plus $100 to get you where you were going. He loved serving people and many of those people in the community banded together to honor him at his funeral.

His casket was transported to the church on the back of a firetruck followed by even more firetrucks from many neighboring counties. The funeral procession traveled down a main highway, where policemen and other emergency responders lined the road. At the graveside, there was a ‘last-call’ over the radio…. and sitting there, even in the sweltering May heat, I will always remember the warmth I felt from knowing he was laid to rest well. The community he loved and the family he loved came together to make his funeral one to remember. I very much look forward to being a part of other such services as I work in this field.

Thinking of Pop today, and remembering him well…..

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