Coming to you …not live… from Ohio!

This past week I had the opportunity to present at the Ohio Funeral Directors Association annual convention in Columbus! This was my first big speaking event, and it was an honor to interact with mortuary students and young funeral directors at the unique venue for the presentation: Easton’s Funny Bone comedy club. If you’re interested in what I had to say, check out the audio recording while you’re on the go (click to play below). If you have more time on your hands than you know what to do with, I am also including the full length PowerPoint recording to download for your viewing pleasure…


The Beginning of the End- Starting out in Funeral Service


The three of them storm into the office a little after 4:00 in the afternoon. A gust of wind slams the door behind them, and they all but cower under the fluorescent lights. I introduce myself to each of them, shaking their hands, willing them to be somewhat easy to get to know. None of the three even tells me their name.

I assume one of the women is a sister because I have talked with her on the phone. She called about twenty minutes ago to say she was leaving the hospital and needed to have her brother cremated.

I am trying to meet them where they are. They have never done this before, and I cannot blame them for lack of trust or even lack of basic formalities, such as telling me their names.

My words land slowly but deliberately to fill the awkward silence. Instead of hustling them away into the conference room, I decide to stay standing in the entryway for a moment longer. My eyes glance toward the floor as I extend my condolences for their loss. They do not respond verbally, but the man’s eyes begin to look away from his cellphone. Progress.

I explain that we will go over some paperwork for the death certificate and for the cremation. They follow me into the arrangement room. We discuss the particulars for a while, and I hand the sister a form to sign. She has been taking notes so I do not offer her my pen. She signs the form with her pen and I step out of the room to make a photocopy. When I walk back in I overhear the man asking for the pen she has been using. She passes it to him and he makes a few notes. I eyeball the container of pens in the middle of the table just to check that it is well stocked. There are plenty to go around so I don’t force the issue.

As we talk I notice their tensions begin to soften. They ask some great questions, and I fill in as many gaps as I can. I learn they are all siblings of the deceased. They are from a different state and are leaving in the morning.

Our meeting draws to a close. As the brother walks out the door, I call after him by name when I see his cellphone still sitting on the table. I rush to return it to him, and he thanks me.

After they are gone I notice the pen the siblings shared is still sitting on the table. I pick it up to find the name of a hotel emblazoned on the side.
Tonight will be their last night to stay in that unfamiliar room. They will head home tomorrow to a place where they will all be greeted by name. Their homecoming, however, will be without their brother, and they will continue living without his familiar presence. I slip the hotel pen into my pocket. I am sure they left it behind accidentally, and it will be quickly forgotten.

Our time together today was brief, but it was part of a story they will not soon forget. I hope they left here today with more than a disposable pen. I hope the unfamiliar they encountered here became the slightest bit more bearable, if only for a moment.

One Word

One Word

The sun rose red over the palmetto trees this morning as I pointed my car toward the office. This last dawn of the year coasted into day while the waters of the Charleston rivers rested still in their beds. The morning stretched quietly before me. It was a reminder to me of the beginning. … Not the beginning as in a small time notion of a new calendar year, but The Beginning as in when light was separated from the darkness and the Spirit of God breathed eternal life into a formless void.

A movement which spreads from a few pockets in the online/blogging community is to choose a theme word at the start of a new year. Part of the idea is to pick a word to focus on instead of setting New Years resolutions. I have enjoyed participating in this challenge for the past few years, and can honestly speak to the ways I have witnessed the Lord shaping my thoughts and experiences around a particular concept. One year, my word was “embrace.” Another time it was, “new.” One year I waffled back and forth between “believe” and “know,” and I concluded they were definitely not one and the same.

This year, I am centering in on “wide.” Immediately as I type this, the children’s sing-a-long, “Deep and Wide,” begins to echo in my mind. Those lyrics are not a bad way to start off in my opinion. I certainly hope my waistline doesn’t get carried away with this theme, but I do want to spend some time thinking through the many facets of this word in the coming days. Widening one’s reach, widening perspective, wide arms of hospitality, wide eyes of wonder…

Here are some links to some sources of my inspiration:

One Word 365

Sarah Bessey: My #OneWord365 for 2017

What is your one word?