Fifteen Years of Exceptional Customer Service!

Director on Call has once again achieved the Outstanding Award of Excellence from ATSI. This is the 15th consecutive year that we have maintained our professional standards, ensuring a focus on every interaction we have on behalf of the clients and families we serve. 

"The ATSI Award of Excellence is one of the many ways businesses in our industry can measure their customer service levels as it relates to agent performance. Agents are evaluated on how they interact with callers based on established call handling criteria. The program gives participating companies bragging rights- and with good reason!" says ATSI President Josue Leon, "it is an honor to know of companies who earn this distinction year over year." 

 

 

Four Simple Tips for Managing Your Busy Day

 Wooden blocks showing symbols for telephone, email, internet and cell phone.

You know the feeling. You arrive at work early in the morning and instantly feel overwhelmed by everything you have to tackle that day. You spend all day running around, barely feeling like you make any progress, and then you come back the next day and start over again! Busy days can get the best of you if you're not proactive about managing your time and to-do list. Here are four simple tips to help you better manage your busy days.  

  1. Create Time Blocks for Each Task

If you have several different categories of tasks to focus on, such as billing, phone calls, and accounting, try planning your day in blocks. For example, you could plan on working on billing from 8:00 - 10:00, accounting from 10:00 - 12:00, and phone calls from 12:00 - 1:00. This scheduling strategy helps ensure you don't accidentally get too absorbed in one category of tasks and end up completely neglecting your other responsibilities.

2. Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management strategy that helps keep you focused and productive. Basically, you work on tasks for small intervals, taking a quick break between intervals to recharge your brain. You could, for example, work for 20 minutes, take a 2-minute break, and then work for another 20 minutes throughout the day. Set a timer to keep yourself on-task. Some things you can do during your breaks include getting a drink of water, stretching, or checking social media.

3. Exercise First Thing in the Morning

Exercise has the amazing ability to leave you feeling more focused and energized. When most people get busy, they skip their workout for the day. But fitting in that workout first thing in the morning may actually help you stay focused and get more done throughout the rest of the day.

4. Get Rid of Distractions

The next day you work, pay attention to the things that distract you. Every time something distracts you, do something to get rid of that distraction. For example, if you find yourself distracted by social media apps on your phone, consider deleting them. You can still access the accounts on your computer, but that tends to be less tempting. You'll get more done without distractions all around you.

Super busy work days don't have to feel overwhelming. With the tips above, you'll tackle your to-do list and end the day feeling accomplished.

Three Timeless Ways to De-stress at the End of the Day

 THe word stress written in sand being washed away by waves.

At the end of a long work day, it's all too easy to bring your stress home with you. That lingering stress and pressure can make it tough to enjoy your time at home with your family, let alone sleep! Thankfully, there are a few tried and true ways you can encourage that stress to melt away after a trying day at work.

1. Exercise

Working out as soon as you're finished with work will help ease your stress away so you can relax more easily during your off-work hours. Exercise encourages your body to release endorphins, which make you feel re-energized and less stressed. Often, thoughts that are plaguing you at the beginning of an exercise session will have passed by the end of the session.

You don't have to run 5 miles or cycle to the next town to enjoy the stress-relieving benefits of exercise, either. Try doing something you enjoy, whether that is participating in an aerobics class at the gym or hiking down a local path. The important thing is that you get your heart rate up and spend at least 30 minutes out there. Make exercise a part of your routine, and you will start looking forward to it at the end of the day.

2. Talk to Someone

Often, your stress can be tied to a specific problem or problems at work. Talking about your problems can help stop them from continuing to flow through your head. Do you have a spouse, a partner, or even a good friend who is willing to listen? Get coffee or tea with this person once a week after work, and make it a point to talk about your sources of stress. By the time you leave, you won't feel so stressed out.

3. Listen to Music

It's amazing how music can transform your mood. The right song can take you from completely stressed out to totally relaxed in under three minutes. Classical music, especially, has this effect on many people. Spend some time compiling a play list of songs that make you feel relaxed and at-ease. Play this list of tunes on your ride home, and by the time you arrive home, the stress of the day will have been erased.

Stress is a part of life, especially when you're at work. However, with the strategies above, you can shed stress at the end of the workday.

Trailblazing Women in Telecommunications

There is no better day than International Women’s Day to focus on some of the inventors that have changed telephony and the technology behind it over the past 50+ years. These women are a few of many who helped move telecommunications forward to the systems and Smartphones we have today. Meet some of the trailblazers that have worked to ensure we’re always connected.

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Hedy Lamarr

Hedy was not only a famous actress, she also invented a “frequency hopping” program during World War Two. This program was used to ensure communication during German frequency jamming. She also worked on “Spread Spectrum” in which signals are broadcast more broadly then the original. This is now the basis for Wi-Fi and GPS applications. Although she was a creator, she was quite often overlooked in her accomplishments in technology. When she was finally recognized in 1998 by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, she is quoted as saying “Its about time.”

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Shirley A. Jackson

Dr. Shirley A. Jackson was the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from MIT. Her work in telecommunications research and theoretical physics set out the foundation for the following inventions: the fax machine, the touch-tone telephone, call waiting and caller ID. She has also served as the President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was part of Barack Obama’s President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology.

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Erna Schneider Hoover

Dr. Erna Schneider Hoover is lauded as the creator of the “telephone switching network” which prevented system overloads by monitoring call centre traffic and prioritizing tasks, changing the telecommunications landscape, and fundamentally shifting the telephony industry. She was awarded one of the first software patents ever issued. Erna also came up with the idea for the system as Bell Laboratories wanted to upgrade their current process, and she was in hospital giving birth.

As we take today to celebrate the accomplishments of women, may we remember that “Technology Connects Us. Technology Unites Us. Technology Amblifies Our Power.”- Vivienne Harr

Three Ways to Manage Stress on the Job

 A man frustrated with images of clocks and watches over his head.

Do you often feel stressed-out and overwhelmed in your job? Many industries are stressful, and working in the funeral business brings its own list of challenges and stressors. Keeping yourself relaxed and at-ease is not always easy, but there are a few strategies you can employ.

  1. Delegate Tasks

Sometimes, stress comes from trying to do everything yourself. If you can unload some of your responsibilities, your obligations will feel more manageable and your stress levels will decrease. Sit down and make a list of everything you need to do, and then put check marks next to those items you can delegate to someone else. Assign those tasks to other people, and then don't worry about them.

Also explore ways to delegate certain tasks on a more permanent basis. For example, consider hiring a funeral home answering service to handle some of your after-hours calls. Hire a cleaning service to clean your offices rather than staying late to do so yourself once a week.

2. Work Out

When you get busy at work, chances are, your workout routine suffers. But since exercise is such a great stress reliever, it's one of the things you need most when your job gets busy and stress-inducing. When you get home after a long day, you may not feel like hitting the gym, but what if you make a habit of working out at lunch time? This will give you a chance to regroup in the middle of the day. It breaks up your schedule and releases some endorphins to help keep you sane through the rest of the day.

Your mid-day workout does not have to be strenuous, either. If you don't want to get all sweaty and fatigued, take a walk around the block.

3. Make Checklists

The act of checking something off the list can make you feel accomplished, and seeing your progress on paper will help keep your stress levels down. So at the beginning of each day, make a list of tasks you need to complete that day. Break each big project down into smaller, manageable tasks that take an hour or less. Check them off as you finish them, and watch your stress levels drop.

By partnering with a funeral home answering service, delegating, making checklists, and making time for exercise, you can better manage your stress and navigate your workday with ease.

Why Self-Care is So Important in the Funeral Business

 Man meditating in lotus pose, wearing a blue suit on his office desk.

Caregiver fatigue and exhaustion are common, and when you're exhausted, you can't do the best job of continuing to care for others or for yourself. Self care for carers is of the utmost importance, especially in the funeral business.

Why is self care for carers so important?

Caregiver fatigue is like a downward spiraling ladder. You end the day feeling emotionally and mentally drained. You don't quite recover overnight, so the next day, you feel even worse. Before long, you are going through your day like a robot.

Connecting with the families you care for becomes harder, and you start trying to avoid feeling that emotional connection because it's almost too painful and draining to do so. You feel like a shell of yourself, and the families you care for can feel that you're not quite connected and engaged. Some funeral business workers become so exhausted that they must leave the business.

Thankfully, by practicing some good self care techniques, you can keep yourself stronger, mentally and emotionally, and continue to have the capacity to connect with your families and give them the support they need. You'll be able to really feel what they need and what they are going through without having to consciously compartmentalize their feelings. This makes for happier families and a more rewarding career for you, too.

There are a few ways to take better care of yourself as a carer:

Delegate Tasks

See if there are some tasks you can delegate to other employees in order to lighten your load a bit. The less there is on your plate, the less stressed out you will feel after a long day.

Choose a Hobby

Look for a hobby you love that does not require much engagement with other people. This will give you some alone time to focus on something else without having to worry about others' burdens. Running, swimming, cycling, and knitting are some examples.

Set Your Hours

Working in a funeral home does not have to be a 24-hour job. Contract with an answering service to handle after-hours calls so you can take time for yourself each evening.

Taking better care of your families starts with taking better care of yourself.

How To Stay Focused When You Wear Multiple Hats

While dealing with their grief, families depend on funeral directors to guide their decisions with patience, empathy, and dependability. Every detail, from the wording on the gravestone to the menu at the reception, needs to be designed to allow celebrants to heal while finding joy in their loved one’s legacy. With so many details to attend to, how can a director stay focused during their busy day?

Delegate

Funeral homes don’t usually have a large staff. Supplement your manpower with temporary workers and creative labor solutions.

  • Hire temporary workers through a staffing agency. They can help set up chairs, clean the grounds after an event, or even park cars during large services.

  • Contract with an answering service to field incoming phone calls. Compassionate and professional customer service representatives can answer simple questions, take messages, or forward calls to someone who can help.

  • Partner with local florists, caterers, and stylists. Offer advertising space or other perks to help families select the right elements for their occasion.

Simplify

Making big decisions while grieving is tough. Simplify choices to reduce strain on families and staff.

  • Create comprehensive, pre-made packages. Include the price of burial or cremation, final resting container, floral arrangements, displays, and room use. Use different price points. This will make it easier for families to select the services they want.

  • Reduce the number of services you offer. Instead of arranging things like transportation, obituaries, and receptions, offer families a list of trusted local businesses that can help them with these things.

  • Define staff roles. When everyone knows exactly what their responsibilities are, your business will run more smoothly.

Organize

Organize your office space to reduce the time you spend looking for information and supplies.

  • Keep a menu with up-to-date pricing. Update your list once a month.

  • Check your inventory often. Place frequently used items, like paper products, on auto shipment.

  • Invest in a scanner. Your paperwork will be organized and accessible without adding stress-inducing clutter.

It is an honor to help others celebrate the lives of deceased loved ones. With a little help, planning, and some regular maintenance, you can enjoy your important work without wearing yourself out.

Middle Eastern Funeral Rites Today

 A lone person stands in a the desert sand dunes at sunset.

Funeral rites and rituals show great variation around the world. In the Middle East, most funeral rituals stem from the Islamic belief that the deceased will remain in their tombs until the Last Day, upon which they will be sent either to paradise or to hell. Here is a closer look at how modern families and loved ones mourn and honor the deceased in the Middle East.

Prior To Death

The time leading up to death is a special time to Middle Eastern families. They gather around the family member who is about to pass on, offering them comfort and religious prayer. When the person passes, family members close their eyes and cover the body with a sheet.

Funeral Preparations

In the Muslim faith, which is predominant throughout the Middle East, it is traditional to begin funeral preparations as soon as the family member has passed on. Local organizations may assist the family in planning a funeral service, which often takes place at the mosque.

Embalming is not routinely practiced in the Middle East, and the deceased is usually left "natural" rather than being decorated with cosmetics. Instead, the body is washed and shrouded by close family members. White sheets are carefully folded around the body in a specific pattern, and the shroud is secured with ropes.

The Funeral

Since Muslims believe in burying the body as soon as possible, wakes are not common in Middle Eastern countries. Instead, the prepared body is taken directly to the mosque. During the funeral service, members of the community enter a special prayer room, face mecca, and recite prayers. Then, the body is transported to the grave site. In some countries, only men are allowed at the grave site; others allow women and children to attend.

A grave is dug, and the body is placed on its right side within the grave. The deceased's head always faces mecca. A layer of stones or bricks are placed on top of the body to prevent direct contact with the soil, and then mourners each add three handfuls of soil to the grave as they pass. The grave may be denoted with a small marker. Following the funeral, the family remains in mourning for 40 days, during which friends bring them food and comfort.

Middle Eastern funerals are steeped in years of religious tradition. They are not ornate occasions, but rather an opportunity for prayer and mourning.

The History Of African Tribal Funerals

 Tribal Hut with drum outside of entrance

Throughout the world, there is so much variety in funeral and burial practices. Africa is one region with a very unique history and culture surrounding death and mourning. Most practices are influenced by Africans' traditional belief in the afterlife, and Christianity has also played a key role in shaping the practices over the years. Here's a closer look at African tribal funeral traditions.

Home Rituals

The burial process in most African tribes often begins several days before the funeral itself. Family members gather to delegate funeral-related tasks and to prepare the home for the state of mourning. The deceased family member's bed is typically removed from the home, and the windows are covered. It is though that by covering the windows, they prevent the dead from seeing their own reflection. This is all done before the body is removed from the home.

Transporting the Body

Africans feel that the spirit of a person is still present and aware until the body is properly buried. Much of their ritual has the goal of ensuring the spirit is allowed to move on, and particular attention is paid to how the body is transported from the home to the burial site. Some tribes remove the body from the home through a hole in the wall; they then patch the hole. This is done to prevent the spirit from re-entering and haunting the home. Other tribes take a zig-zag path from the home to the burial site for the same reason.

Burying the Body

Typically, what westerners think of as a funeral is held at the burial site in Africa. The body is wrapped in clothing or a special linen shroud, and it is buried along with items like food, spears, and shields that are though to help the spirit as it travels to its new home in the afterlife. Family and community members are present during the burial, but it is a silent affair. Children don't typically attend; unmarried people are also banned in some tribes.

Following the burial, African families often observe a period of mourning. During this time, they keep their voices low, avoid socializing outside the home, and wear black clothing.

African tribal traditions are still followed in many areas, and African families living abroad sometimes wish to integrate aspects of this culture into their burial practices. These are rituals that date back thousands of years and have great meaning.

Egyptian Funerals: From Pharaohs To Modern Day

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It's always interesting to look at how funeral practices in a region change over time. Nowhere is the change more significant than in Egypt, a country known for its ancient practice of mummification. Indeed, Egyptian funerals have changed drastically over the centuries, but it has been a slow, progressive transformation. Prehistoric Funerals

Before the days of pharaohs and elaborate tombs, prehistoric Egyptians buried their dead in simple, round graves. The body was not carefully prepared. Rather, it was placed in a large pot and covered with earth. Little is known about the cultural and religious beliefs during this time period since few graves have been found.

Old Kingdom Funerals (2600 - 2100 BC)

As kings came to power, burial practices evolved to include elaborate tombs, shaped as pyramids, for kings and other elite members of society. Mummification, the practice of preserving the body and wrapping it in linen bandages, began during this time. This practice is thought to have evolved out of a growing belief in the afterlife.

Middle Kingdom Funerals (2100 - 1650 BC)

The dynastic pharaohs of Egypt hailed from Thebes, so it was tradition to return their bodies to this region and bury them in the sides of mountains. For lower-ranking officials, however, burial in a plain wooden coffin was common. Mummification was still common, but bodies were now placed on their backs rather than their sides. Most tombs became family tombs, housing the dead from multiple generations.

New Kingdom and Late Period Burials (1650 BC - 30 BC)

During this period, tombs grew into multi-room chambers cut into rock. Pyramids were no longer commonplace, and tombs of officials were fitted with furniture, clothing, jewelry, and other items needed in the afterlife. Later on, temple-like tombs became an option even for the non-elite.

Roman Period to the Arab Conquest (30 BC - 600 AD)

As the Romans gained influence, Egyptian burials began taking on Roman traditions, such as adding Roman-style masks to mummies and covering the feet with a shroud. Roman-style portraits of the deceased were often made and placed in the tombs.

Modern Burials

Today, most Egyptians are of the Islamic faith and follow traditional Islamic burial practices including burying the deceased as quickly as possible, covered in simple white linen. Cremation is forbidden, and funerals are a community affair.

From pots, to mummies, to simple linen, Egyptian burial practices have really come full circle over the nation's history.

Creative Post-Memorial Gathering Ideas

 Turquoise plates holding food while people join together to eat a meal.

Once the memorial service is over, many families like to gather and spend more time together in a laid back setting. Many post-memorial gatherings are low-key events where a few dishes are passed and stories are shared. However, there is plenty of room to get creative with the post-memorial gathering. Here are a few ideas to share with families looking to do something a bit out of the ordinary.

Watch the deceased loved one's favorite movie.

This idea works best with smaller groups. Everyone can gather around the television and watch their deceased loved one's favorite movie. They may reminisce about times they viewed that same movie with their loved one or chat about everyone's favorite scenes. 

Play music that the deceased enjoyed.

Did the deceased loved one have a favorite band or a genre of music that they really enjoyed? Families can play that music in the background as they engage in whatever activities they desire at the post-memorial gathering. For a more formal affair, everyone can observe a moment of silence as they listen to the loved one's favorite song.

Serve their favorite foods.

A post-memorial gathering during which the loved one's favorite foods are served is a nice final goodbye. The family can also serve their favorite cocktail or wine if alcohol is to be served. From that day on, whenever anyone in the family orders or makes those favorite foods, it will remind them of their loved one and the beautiful memorial service.

Play a game they loved.

If the deceased loved a certain board game, or perhaps even a lawn game, their family can spend a little time together playing that game. This is sure to inspire memories of playing the game with the loved one who has passed. They may even want to use the loved one's game set to make the experience even more personalized.

Watch home movies.

If there are any home movies of the loved one who has passed, gathering everyone together to view some of them is a good way to end the day of the memorial service. Family members will enjoy recalling times passed when the deceased was younger and vibrant.

Recommend these creative additions to families who want to honor their loved one with a post-memorial gathering. Each one has its own unique twist but will end the day on a positive, loving note. 

How Did Native Americans Honor Their Dead?

 Person wearing a traditional Native headdress looking at the sunrise with a bird flying overhead.

Every culture honors life events differently. Ceremonies for births, marriages, and deaths figure largely as significant events, and are symbolized using specific observances. In the Native American culture, rituals play an especially significant part of their beliefs and who they are. Understanding the various Native American funeral rites and how they honored their dead can help you support and comfort families grieving their lost loved one.

Over the years, the practices performed for Native American funerals have evolved. Death ceremonies to honor loved ones were both spiritually and personally significant. Many tribes believed that the passage of death was simply a journey to the spirit world, and the rituals were conducted to make that journey successful. As part of that unseen world, their loved ones and ancestors became part of the spiritual influences that impacted the lives of the living. Other tribes believed in two separate souls; one that died when the body died, and another that lived on, but may ultimately die.  

In most Native American funerals, the family was responsible for transporting, arranging, and burying. Making family an integral factor in the observance. Because burial customs varied extensively from tribe to tribe, the following examples explore some of the most common rites performed.

  • The ancient Hopewell tribes built lavishly furnished tombs.

  • Coastal tribes in the Northwest placed family members in canoes or in dedicated mortuary cabins.

  • Some tribes in Southern California practiced cremation.

  • Western Mountain tribes used caves or rock fissures for burial.

  • Like ancient Egyptians, South American tribes practiced embalming and mummification techniques.

Regardless of the method of burial, many Native American funerals included specific rites. These were designed to not only comfort the family by their tradition, but to also ease the loved one’s passage into the afterlife. In addition to songs, prayers, and a dedicated length of mourning time, some funerals included:

  • Restrictions on the activities bereaved family members may do, and what they may eat.

  • Leaving food and possessions either in, or near the gravesite.

  • Widows would often cut their hair as a sign of mourning.

  • Blackening of the face to honor the dead.

  • Rituals performed on the anniversary of the death.

Understanding the various methods used in ancient Native American funerals can help comfort families who are grieving today by providing a connection to the past.

Celtic Burial Rites: Traditions That We Still Use

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The ancients Celts were a preliterate society. With no written record, modern researchers rely heavily on archaeology to understand their lives and the Celtic burial rites that still influence modern funerals and how we memorialize those who pass away. The religious views held by the Celts undoubtedly influenced their opinions of death and how the remains of the deceased should be handled. There is not a lot known about the funeral ceremonies, but a lot of information has been gathered from excavation and analysis of Celtic burial sites.

Elaborate funeral rituals and trappings

Some Celts had relatively simple burials in accordance with their social class. As their social status increased, their funerals were more elaborate. A chieftain would be buried with trappings of his wealth. The most elaborate tomb of a known Celtic woman is that of the Lady at Vix. She was buried with her funeral wagon, jewelry, mirrors, and a food service for nine people. Modern funerals for heads of state and famous people tend to be elaborate affairs to accommodate the thousands of people who wish to pay their last respects.

A comfortable resting place

The deceased were often placed on large burial coaches in spacious tombs that included items that could be of use to the person as they crossed over to the next life. Modern coffins include pillows and padded sides. Friends and family members will often place items inside the coffin such as a favorite candy or small personal item that had special significance to their loved one.

Full body burial

Previous cultures would typically cremate the dead and then bury the ashes in urns. They are referred to as the Urnfield culture. This practice continued from approximately 1300 BCE to 750 BCE until it was succeeded by the Hallstatt culture of the 8th to 6th centuries BC. One of the most widely noted Celtic burial rites was the practice of inhumation, also referred to as full body burial.

Many Celtic burial rites developed based on their belief in an afterlife and their respect for the person who died. It takes time for loved ones to accept that a cherished person has passed away. Regardless of faith or view on life after death, people still want their deceased loved one treated respectfully and with care.

5 Interesting Facts about Colonial Funerals

 Dram of whisky

Funeral rites and rituals have certainly changed over the years, but many modern funeral traditions do trace back to the Colonial era. Funerals were very large, public events at this time, and the Colonial Americans paid a lot of attention to death and the rituals surrounding it. Here are five intriguing facts about Colonial funeral rites.

Pallbearers carried the casket a long distance.

Today, pallbearers sometimes carry the casket a short distance to the grave site, but during Colonial times, pallbearing was a much larger commitment as it involved carrying the casket all of the way from the funeral service to the grave. Sometimes they would set the casket down to rest for a few minutes. Younger men would hold the poles that supported the casket itself, while older men carried the drape that covered the casket.

Family members wore commemorative rings.

When a loved one passed, their family members would often create commemorative rings and distribute them to friends, the minister, and other extended family. Sayings such as "Death Conquers All" were sometimes engraved into the rings, which the recipients would wear and then pass down to their children.

Drinking was prevalent.

Attending a funeral completely sober was not a common occurrence during Colonial times. It was customary for visitors to visit the body and then move on to a table where they'd be served the liquor of their choice. This practice slowly petered out throughout the 1800s, but light drinking at funerals is something that has slowly come back into vogue.

Decorations and pictures were draped in black.

Black is still seen as the color of mourning, and funeral goers often still drape themselves in black to show respect for the deceased. But Colonial Americans took black draping even more seriously. They covered pictures and other decorations in their home with black cloth for up to a year after a loved one's passing.

Funerals were held at home.

Funerals were usually held in the home of the deceased rather than in a church. Similarly, many families had a "family burying ground" rather than placing their loved ones in a public cemetery. The funeral itself was often a public event, whereas the burial was more private.

Some of these Colonial funeral rites developed into modern traditions, while others faded away. One thing remains true: funerals are a time to honor a loved one's life, not just mourn their loss.

5 of the Most Interesting Burial Rites From Different Cultures

Every culture has its own way of showing love and respect after a loved one's passing. Some cultures observe a period of somber mourning, while others observe funerals as a celebration of the deceased's life. From exhumations to sky burials, here's a look at five of the most interesting funeral customs around the world.

Tibet: Sky Burials

The Vajrayana Buddhists of Tibet believe that after death, the soul moves on from the body and finds a new home. In order to encourage this process, they section the body into pieces and leave it at the top of a mountain. This still-popular practice, it is believed, gives the spirit easier access to the sky.

Bali: Cremation Celebrations

Cremation is increasing in popularity around the world, but rarely is it performed with such pomp and circumstance as in Bali. The Balinese honor the deceased by assembling a large, lavish party. During the event, the body is placed in a float-like creation, sometimes shaped like a dragon or bull, and carried into the fire as loved ones stand witness.

Madagascar: Turning of the Bones

In Madagascar, most people are buried in large family crypts. Every five years or so, the family will visit the bodies of the deceased, which have been wrapped in cloth and placed in separate chambers. The bodies are exhumed, and the bones are sprayed with wine or perfume before being returned to the chambers. Often, this is done amidst live music and celebration, providing families time to share stories and remember the deceased once again.

Ghana: Fantasy Coffins

In the United States, most coffins are lavish, rectangular cases--but in Ghana, they can take on most any shape imaginable. It's popular for people to be buried in a case that represents something they loved or strove for in life. For example, there have been people buried in coffins shaped like their sports cars, fish, and Bibles.

Philippines: Tree Burials

The Caviteño are an ethnic group in the Philippines who bury their loved ones's bodies inside hollowed-out trees. Often, when death is imminent, the family will begin searching for the perfect tree for their loved one's burial. It's not unheard of for someone to select their own tree when facing a terminal illness, either.

These funeral customs around the world vary widely, but they all share one common theme: death is a time to honor the deceased and comfort the family.

Incorporating Interesting Ways from the Past to Honor Those Who Have Passed

A funeral is more than the mark of someone's passing. It's a way to honor the deceased and provide the family a way to mourn, and memorialize the loved one who has passed. Over the years, funeral traditions have changed significantly. However, sometimes looking to the past is the best way to bring a unique and meaningful touch to a funeral service or viewing. Here are four time-honored funeral elements to consider incorporating into your services.

Stopped Clocks

During the Victorian era, viewings were generally held in the family's home. Curtains were closed, and clocks throughout the home would be stopped at the time that the loved one passed. This is a meaningful tradition to bring into a modern funeral service or viewing. The family could provide several clocks--perhaps from their loved one's home or bedroom--and you could display them throughout the viewing area, set to the time of passing.

Funeral Biscuits

Also popular during the Victorian era, funeral biscuits were small cakes that were wrapped in white paper and given to guests as favors after the viewing. With all of the stress on the family and guests, meals sometimes get skipped and delayed on the day of a funeral or viewing. So, this could be a nice tradition to bring into the modern era. As they leave the funeral home, you could give the guests a simple snack, such as a packet of crackers or some cookies, wrapped up nicely and tied with a bow.

Toll of the Bell

Years ago, when someone in the community passed on, the family would notify the local church, and a bell would be rung in honor of the deceased. Often, the bell would be rung one time for each year that the deceased lived. This tradition can easily be carried out today as a part of the funeral service. Guests can observe a moment of silence as a bell is rung in memorial and honor.

Covered Mirrors

In years past when funerals were held in homes, mirrors were often covered in sheets throughout the event. This tradition can be carried on today as a way to remind attendees that the focus of the day should be on the deceased and their family--not on outward looks.

Incorporating one or more of these time-honored funeral elements is a good way to give your funeral services and viewings a unique and thoughtful character. 

The History of Floral Arrangements at Funerals

Flower arrangements help people express their love, respect, and appreciation for someone who has passed away. It is often difficult to find the right words to express feelings during a very difficult time. Many phrases and expressions of grief have been used so often that they begin to sound cliche. Funerary floral arrangements are a beautiful way to let a grieving family know their loved one will be missed by many.

Unique flower arrangements, designed at the request of someone far away and unable to attend the funeral, can be delivered the same day. Bringing or sending flowers to a funeral is a burial rite that archaeologists believe began thousands of years ago.

Ancient burial sites

Burial sites dating back to at least 60,000 BC have been found with flowers around the human remains. Smithsonian anthropologist Ralph Solecki found fragments of flowers while excavating the burial sites of adult and infant Neanderthals in Northern Iraq. Dr. Solecki's research of the Shandir Cave in 1951 changed the perception modern scientists have of Neanderthals. These ancient burials are believed to be the first time flowers were used in such manner.

They also served a practical purpose

Prior to the development of modern embalming methods, funerary floral arrangements placed around the deceased helped mask the smell of decomposition. Though bringing flowers to burial services may have begun for a purpose of which they are no longer needed, the tradition has continued for thousands of years because they eloquently make a powerful statement of sympathy, love, and support.

Used by people around the world

The Egyptians decorated tombs with flowers in 2500 BC and the Roman politician and lawyer, Cicero, (106 BC - 43 BC) said the tradition of planting flowers at tombs was to purify the ground and help the deceased rest. Funerary floral arrangements are used in both religious and non-religious ceremonies. Flowers are typically not sent to grieving Jewish families because flowers are considered a reminder of the life now ended.

The tradition of sending flowers is likely to continue for many more years. The phrase "in lieu of flowers..." discourages any gifts or flowers. To simply offer more options, "Flowers welcome or contributions may be made to..." is more appropriate wording for announcements.

After The Funeral - When Is The Service Really Over?

Families often look toward a funeral service director before, during and even after a service for comfort, empathy, and understanding. Creating a strong aftercare service for your Funeral Home is a wonderful way to reach out to your community, provide a valuable service, and increase awareness of the type of services you offer.

Four Ideas For Unique Aftercare Services

  • A Holiday Memorial Service For Loved Ones
    Holding an annual memorial service for all of your families around the holiday season is a wonderful way to reconnect with your families, and to provide ongoing support.

  • Grief Counseling
    Seek out local grief therapists, and invite them to meet with your families. Hold a monthly group session at your home to help support the bereaved members in your community.

  • A Lending Library
    Offer access to a library of self-help books on how to deal with loss and overcome grief. Encourage your families to borrow material to help to learn the best ways to cope.

  • Sponsor Social Events
    After a loss relatives and friends of the deceased may find it difficult to engage in social interaction. Encourage them by hosting a variety of social events throughout the year.

Starting these aftercare programs in your Funeral Home can help a funeral service director better serve the community with compassion, while promoting your Funeral Home.