Category Archives: Special Memorials

Selecting Funeral Clergy or Eulogist

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So you’ve basically completed your own funeral plan. You’ve taken out a funeral insurance policy to cover the funeral costs and funeral expenses that your estate is likely to incur, you’ve selected an obituary writer and drawn up an outline of what you want covered, and you’ve even addressed other funeral needs. But now you are faced with a problem. You are not sure about the funeral clergy requirement and what you want said.

Maybe you’ve had a bad experience at a particular church or maybe you even doubt the existence of a Higher Being. Perhaps you’ve been to a funeral where you thought the comments were not inclusive or they contradicted your point of view. Or maybe it means you have personal decisions about your faith and beliefs that need to be made. Whatever the reason, determining who will officiate at your funeral is important since it will determine how your life is presented to your loved ones and friends as a means of remembrance. Clearing the air, thinking through your thoughts and reaching an answer not only makes it easier for you to finalize your plans, it can also open your eyes and dramatically change your life.

Uncertainty is a common problem for many today. With the nuclear family and the constant relocation of household units during a life’s career, it is more difficult than ever before. Back in the old days, when many Americans grew up and lived their lives within a small geographic area, it was not uncommon for a family to attend the same church with a limited number of different ministers throughout their life. Today, the changes in life have also brought with them the likelihood of attendance at many different churches, often of different denomination or doctrine, and it can be difficult to decide what specific clergyman or woman matches up with you and your beliefs. And if you are not a church goer or are unsure of your beliefs, you need to think very carefully about what you want said at your final ceremony ending life. It can be very confusing and even troubling.

From my personal viewpoint it is sad that there are so many of us today who don’t have a strong basis for our own lives based upon faith in a loving God, a God who gives us hope for the future through His love and grace. But if we don’t, and since our decisions are based upon our free will, shouldn’t we at least ponder the possibility? It doesn’t cost anything and while for some of us it will make no difference, for others it could totally change the direction of your life. It’s never too late for that.

For those of you who are unsure and questioning about your beliefs, I am providing a series of questions about faith which I hope will be helpful to you in really knowing who you are. It will also help you decide whether or not you want a funeral clergyman or just an official with no religious significance. Even if you think you are set in your way, it can do no harm to consider these questions for, remember, the answers are entirely up to you and only you will know what you think about them unless you desire to share the information.

1. Do you believe in God as the Creator of all Life? If so is your belief Christian, Jewish, other? These questions are designed to determine what your actual religious beliefs entail from the perspective of a Creator. It should start you thinking about your place in the Creation.

2. Do you believe in the tenets of the Holy Bible or some other religious doctrinal foundation? Here we begin to explore the documentation with which your beliefs were developed and what they mean to you. This is your foundation for what you believe.

3. Do you believe in Heaven and Hell? If so, what do you see as the differentiation between the two and do you believe in Life after Death? The questions of the purpose of life enter here and the resultant consequences for the way you live your life. You have free will but you must understand that the decisions you make will impact you directly, be it good or bad.

4. If no to the above, do you have a different context of a religion or do you have no religious beliefs? Here those who have another concept of religion will have the opportunity to focus on what really provides meaning in their life. If the resultant finding is a void it will open them up to deep self- scrutiny. Sometimes we can find that we are truly searching for meaning and haven’t found it yet.

5. Do you want a religious ceremony? If not, do you want a secular ceremony with a memorial presentation of your life? Eulogies by family and/or friends? This will clearly separate those who want the religious connotations foremost in their final rites or not. The impact of the family is considered here because the funeral actually benefits the living that are in attendance and, because of this, it may change the way you look at your presentation to others. Example, your wife is very religious yet you aren’t. What kind of conflict does this create and do you accept that or you may even want to change things.

6. Do you have an idea of who you want to officiate or, if not, do you know if qualified persons are available near your location? You may want an officiant, or religious official or clergy, which requires specific religious qualifications or someone instead to officiate which can be anyone you desire.

7. If you are a non-believer, what kind of official do you want and what kind of background do you want presented? This question, after the buildup in prior questions, begs the cold, hard option of non-belief. You may very well find that by this point in the questionnaire your feelings of non-belief have disappeared and you find yourself to be a believer, just uncertain of your specific beliefs. Introspection frequently does this.

8. What part does your family play in this decision? Again, as alluded to earlier, most people want their family to be proud of them and if your non-religious option causes heartache and sadness from those you love, you may want to look inward and address the cause.

9. Are you still considering where you really stand on your beliefs and do you need help and guidance in addressing your needs? If you are now in turmoil because of the earlier questions, that is a healthy sign that you really aren’t sure where you stand. As long as you are alive it is never too late to open your heart and soul to love. As for help; there are many good people available who will help you find yourself and your place.

10. Finally, what kind of image of yourself do you want to project to be remembered by? Bingo, the image you want to reflect, once you fully realize what it is, is what you truly want to be. And that’s the purpose of the questionnaire, to help you identify the truth about yourself.

I hope that those of you who took time to address the questions have learned something about yourself. I used it myself long ago and it really got me thinking about what I want to leave behind as my personal legacy to those I love. The questions forced me to look at myself openly and honestly in evaluating my beliefs and, in my case, they made me a better Christian. While I thought I knew the answers before I began, I found that my desire for having a funeral clergy of my Christian faith, one in tune with my individual views of many differing alternatives became clearly important. Whatever your particular faith, I hope it might have a similar result for you and, for those who either don’t acknowledge a God of love and grace or have doubts about Him, I hope this might open your heart. There’s a wonderful life ahead for all of us and it need not be limited to our life on earth.

Have a wonderful week and God bless you all.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark portrays my family life with animals living with and near me at my farm in North Florida. Animals are truly a gift from a most gracious Father above.

 

Secure Your Valuables!

As if mourning was not enough!

Police in Suitland, Maryland—a Washington DC suburb—have reported that thieves have broken into cars at Washington National Cemetery. These merciless thieves prey on those who arrive at the cemetery to attend burial services for a loved one. While the incident appears to be isolated, it serves as a reminder that security cannot be ignored even at a time of grief. Here are a few tips to insure callous thieves won’t make the worst of a very troubling time:

• Secure the home of the decedent during visitation, funeral services and burial as well as other gatherings that take place away from the home.

• Ask the funeral director to instruct everyone attending a burial to lock their cars at the funeral home and the cemetery.

• Do not leave anything of value at the gravesite. Thieves across the country have stolen everything from flowers (which they resell) and copper flower urns atop graves since copper prices have skyrocketed.

• Purses and other valuables should be guarded during visitations and other gatherings.

SharedSorrows.com offers additional tips on our Time-Of-Need Checklist as well as our Post-Funeral Checklist.

 

Memorial Day 2014: Remember the Fallen

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year of Our Lord 1918, the guns fell silent in France.  A truce signifying the end of the “War to End All Wars” brought with it an uneasy, yet peaceful serenity to the thousands of soldiers, Allied Forces and Germans, who hadn’t had quiet in their lives in years.  Tragically, life for the 116,000 dead Americans was ended in their early prime.

While it took a considerable period of time for the Articles of Peace to be formulated, the end result was good for soldiers but ultimately tragic for the world.  The proud German people were basically held responsible for all aspects of the war and treated accordingly.  And with the upcoming economic disaster known as the Great Depression, the world created the very seed for a much more expanded and even more bitter contest to unfold in a mere twenty years.

With the exception of the Civil War, where Americans fought against their own brothers and cousins, World War II by far had the highest death total, over 400,000.  And this number does not include those who were lost and never found in the swamps of Guadalcanal or in the snows of Bastogne.  Almost every family in America was touched by the tragedy of this war on two fronts and it was one that all hoped would never be repeated.

Sadly, since that time America has been involved in many conflicts, the most noteworthy being Vietnam (over 58,000 deaths), Korea (over 36,000), Iraq (4800) and Afghanistan (almost 3400 and still growing) plus a large number of smaller conflicts which also resulted in death.  Despite all of the death, and the heretofore unmentioned large number of maimed and wounded who survived and suffered through these conflicts, we today once again find the world filled with hatred and animosity and the prospect of further conflict ever present in our minds.

So I would urge every American to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for each of us and our fellow countrymen, for as long as man lives on this earth there will be conflicts for which we must maintain a standing force of brave men and women ready and willing to answer the call of duty.

What can you do to honor our dead?  Visit a military cemetery, participate in a Memorial Day service or event, fly your flag proudly, and thank those who have sacrificed for us.  Each of us has a neighbor or friend who has sacrificed their time and in many cases their physical well- being for our freedom and they deserve our sincere gratitude and respect. Don’t forget to tell them.

And there is one other thing we need to do.  We need to pray to our Lord for the care of those who have suffered, for their families and for the souls of those departed. Won’t you join me in prayer?

Dear Lord:  We thank you for always being available to talk with you and seek your guidance through prayer and we beseech you to help us find a way to end the pain and suffering that so many of our fine young men and women face due to never ending war.  Hatred, anger and bitterness, all of which are a waste of good energy and contrary to what you would have us do, is so prevalent today and we each must reach into our inner selves and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, find forgiveness and peace.

We know that you love those who died in support of their country and that war is not of your doing but just another of the sins that we mere mortals have created with the free will granted to us. But help us to be strong in searching within our conscience and ridding ourselves of the very traits that, on a societal level, allow for war to take place.

And please remember those living veterans who are suffering from war wounds, both physical and mental, and help our government officials to provide the care that they have been promised, not instead using their positions to further their own careers and fortune. Help them see the light and turn to you for the strength they need to listen to you and follow you in all that they do.

Finally, help our enemies to also find peace and tranquility and a willingness to come to solutions short of warfare, but help us to always be vigilant against those who do not seek peace honestly but instead use temporary periods of peace to plan for more and greater bloodshed.  Let us always stand strong and resolute against such action.

Lord keep all of our military safe, be with them in their good and bad times and enter their hearts and souls to guide them in the difficult tasks that they are called upon to do.  Be with them forever and with the rest of us as well.  We pray in your Holy name, Amen.

Never forget what our heroes have done for us and honor them always. Enjoy this special holiday with picnics and relaxation time with family and friends but always put those who did so much for us first in our hearts and minds on this day.  Happy Memorial Day 2014 to everyone and may Old Glory ever fly free as a symbol of what America truly means.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick or

www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Author: Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark

 

Do You Remember Armed Forces Day?

So as the family’s funeral representative, you did what was required for your loved one who is now gone.  You carried out funeral plans, insured that the eulogy writer prepared a wonderful written memorial and appreciated the wonderful service by the funeral clergy which was delivered before a backdrop of beautiful funeral flowers just as requested in the decedent’s written funeral plan.  After all was done, you directed the payment of all funeral expenses and closed out all remaining requirements of your duty for the family.

Three months later, you decide to go and visit the gravesite now that the marker and headstone are finally in place.  Standing in front of the impressive granite headstone, you suddenly realize that his funeral plot is so bare.  There are no flowers or other indication that anyone has been to visit.  And you realize just how quickly the dead are forgotten as the living must go forward with their lives.  It’s not that they mean to, it’s just that with life’s requirements and things to be done, the best laid plans for remembrance often fade like the sunset.

This coming Saturday is Armed Forces Day, a day when America traditionally celebrated the American military for all that they do to protect us and keep us safe.  It is not just for the dead or the wounded or even those who fought in wars for their country.  No, this is a day designed to honor the composite force of men and women and the military institutions themselves for what they mean to us. In many respects, it has been forgotten in recent generations.

In years gone by, Armed Forces Day was a really big deal.  Communities around the country held parades, usually on Saturday morning, and townspeople planning on shopping downtown timed their trips to first attend the parade and then shop.  Military units were invited to participate, local bands showed up dressed to the hilt and even the police and fire departments entered marching units in dress uniforms.  The reviewing stand for judging performance was decked out in red, white and blue bunting rivaling a Fourth of July parade and many in the crowd wore red, white and blue while sporting American flags.  Patriotic pride clearly filled the air.

I had the good fortune as a boy to personally participate in this wonderful parade of support for our military.  The first time, as a Cub Scout, I remember making sure my mom did a special pressing of my uniform as I wanted it to be perfect.  I stood tall and proud as our group, normally mischievous and active, stood at silent attention waiting to step out.  I think it was right then when I knew I wanted to be a soldier when I grew up.

Later, in the first year of high school before I became active in sports, I marched as a member of the marching band.  In our blue and gold uniforms with gleaming instruments, we all felt a chill go down our back as we stepped out on the avenue at the beginning of the parade route and saw the huge throngs of people watching our every step.  When we broke into a John Philip Sousa march the crowd cheered and we played as well and as loud as we ever performed.  At the end of the long parade, we were hot and tired but happy and we felt extremely proud to be Americans and to have our military to keep us free.

Aside from some American Legion functions and events in heavily military family communities, most of us no longer even know that this day is on the calendar.  And it’s sad to note that since the anti-war movement became so outspoken during the Vietnam conflict, those who give dearly of themselves, even up to and including death for their American brothers and sisters, fail to be recognized on this occasion.  I’m afraid it’s just a sad sign of the times and as fewer and fewer young Americans experience the privilege of serving in uniform it becomes easy to forget the cause which many no longer fully understand or appreciate.

We’re going to have another chance soon to celebrate and honor our military, but this next opportunity is for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, dying for their country and their countrymen.  Memorial Day is right around the corner and while it is positive that more tend to remember this day than any other military-related day, it is really sad that only after death do we as a nation seem to take real notice of all that our brave fighting men and women do.

So, on this Armed Forces Day I ask that each of you take a moment and say thanks to all of our fellow citizens for taking the time and sacrificing a portion of their lives so that we might remain free.  God bless them and God bless the United States of America. May her flag forever fly proudly over a land that remains free.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a Best Read for 2014 selection of American Pet Magazine

 

A Tribute to Mothers Everywhere

This Sunday we will celebrate Mother’s Day, a day which we set aside to honor those women who raised us, played a key role in establishing our moral values, and kept us safe and secure in the formative years so that we could develop into adults capable of supporting ourselves and continuing the ever changing cycle of creation of new life.  And while fathers are certainly also important traditionally as the leader of the household, it was our mother who was the one who usually filled the role of principal caretaker and day-to-day life support coach.

For many of us, today is a day when a big family gathering is scheduled where all grown children and their families gather together for a family meal after church.  For others, from less close knit families, it might be taking Mom out to dinner at a nice restaurant.  And for even others, those who no longer have Mom with us, it might be a visit to the cemetery with flowers of remembrance.  But whatever the activity might be, it is important for us to never forget the sacrifice that our mothers made for us so that we grew up happy and well-balanced.

Each of us has special memories of Mom.  I will just relay a few about my mom who is no longer with us as an example of how much I loved her.  I hope and trust that these words might awaken memories from your own past about your own mother and what she means to you.

Mom was a country girl, born in a small fishing village in the coastal Southeast.  She had a normal childhood: doing farm chores after school, tending to her little brother (she was one of nine kids) and from all reports she was quite the tomboy.  In high school she was a pretty good guard on the girls’ basketball team and sometimes it was quite painful.  It seems in those days they practiced for all games on an outdoor court which used clam shells for boundary markers.  In later years she would laugh talking about coming home with bloody knees which her mom would tend to.

Never having been to a large city, she embarked right out of high school for nursing school in New York City, where she met my dad, an intern, and they eventually married before returning to his native Virginia to live after training was done.  America was gripped by the Great Depression in those days and she talked of the good fortune of being given gratis tickets to New York sporting events since nurses were considered sister saints by residents of a struggling city.  She even had the opportunity to meet Babe Ruth in person.

I was the last of three children born to Mom in Virginia and she chose not to continue in nursing and instead took on raising us three children as a full time duty.  She also doubled as the neighborhood nurse for all of our friends when any of us suffered the normal bumps and bruises associated with childhood games in the 1950s and early ‘60s.  After all, we didn’t have knee and elbow pads and helmets and the quick answer was always Bismuth Violet, the purple antiseptic that was a badge of courage among little boys back then.

Graduating from high school, I went on to college and then the Army.  I didn’t see Mom nearly as much, of course, but I did write to her weekly and visited whenever I could get leave or during school breaks.  She always kept me abreast of things and I can remember how she would pull out the scrapbook for memories’ sake whenever I came home.  She kept clippings, stories and anything else she thought I might like.

As I reached middle age, Mom started to falter.  By then she was in her mid-80’s and except for one operation that I can remember, she was never sick or in the hospital.  It must have been that good old country living and exercise, and she religiously took a brisk daily walk for good health.  Despite her best effort, however, Mom started to fail.  It wasn’t failure in her ambulatory skills but mental. 

Mom developed Alzheimer’s and eventually could no longer take care of herself.  I offered to move her to Florida but she wouldn’t hear of it, saying she would rather be in assisted living in Virginia than to leave the place she had called home since 1938.

I traveled home to visit her at least once a year and, in 2004, I was preparing for another trip to see her when my sister called and said she had passed.  I was sad but didn’t cry; I guess I kind of expected it at any time and since she no longer could remember me she was a shell of her former self.  I will say this, though; Mom remembered things from her childhood and New York in detail even if she no longer recognized me.

It was a chilly late October day when we went to view her body at the funeral home the day before she was laid to rest.  The funeral director had done a splendid job of making her lifelike, yet as active as she had been in life that couldn’t be replaced.

Seeing her like that, it broke the ice and I cried like a baby.  I remembered childhood at home, the family holidays and food, the skinned knees, the discipline when I needed it, but most of all the love and encouragement that she gave to me and my siblings.  Not only was she the staying force in my early years, she was the staying force for our entire neighborhood.  Any neighbor could stop in at all times of day for a cup of coffee and a chat, and a neighborhood child could find the door open if they needed a place to stay until their parents got home.  It was a different time and place and Mom was a different kind of lady.

As we left the funeral, we decided to honor her by stopping for a cup of coffee and a chat before scattering on our separate ways.  And we laughed joyously together knowing that she was in a better place.  We also knew that she was probably watching us from afar a nodding in our choice of places to say our goodbyes to each other.

It’s now ten years later and I think of her often.  And Mom, I hope you are proud of me and what I’ve done with my life.  Oh, I’ve made my strikes and errors, but at least know this: I love you and look forward to sometime in the future seeing you again and talking with you over some of that strong coffee of yours because I know you are still drinking it.

I hope my comments here have helped rekindle those memories that each of you have about your mothers and what they did to get you ready for life.  Happy Mother’s Day to mothers everywhere.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book site: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, my story of life with animals in rural America

 

In Memoriam: Jeremiah Denton, A True American Hero, 1924-2014

A truly fine Christian man and great American hero passed away last Friday.  I had the good fortune of  hearing a speech by Admiral Denton at his retirement and he was a man who truly loved his country and lived a life that any of us would do well to emulate.  We have truly lost a good man who always put his country and his God first.  I hope each of you will take a moment to ponder what he did for us and say a prayer of thanks to God for putting such a fine man on earth.  May he enjoy his rest which is so richly deserved.

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Former Senator and Retired Rear Admiral Jeremiah Denton passed away on March 28th at the age of 89.  Admiral Denton was a gentleman, a Christian, a great Patriot and an American hero who always put his country first.  His firm but kind words will be missed by a country sadly losing her destiny.

Admiral Denton, a Navy pilot at the time, was shot down in 1965 over North Vietnam and spent nearly eight years in the brutal “Hanoi Hilton”.  Always devout and a courageous leader, he communicated with his men by tapping Morse Code messages to his fellow prisoners.  As the senior American and despite his hardships from torture and illness, he did what he could to keep their morale as positive as possible.  He stated later that he turned things over to the Lord who gave him the strength to endure.

When put before the cameras by his captors to supposedly apologize for his nation’s sins under extreme duress, he sent a message of Morse Code by eye blinks which spelled out the word “Torture”, letting the world know the truth.  He was released and returned home in 1973.

Seven years later after retirement from Naval Service, Admiral Denton ran successfully for the Senate from his home state of Alabama and served one term in office.  He was an outspoken critic of those attempting to weaken our military and he said to his dying day that victory in Vietnam was taken away by the actions of liberal politicians.  He was a plain spoken and honest man always.

America owes a great debt of gratitude to this fine man and I hope each of us will take a moment to thank God for giving us such a fine Christian and for the sacrifices he made for his country.  And as the Navy likes to say, I wish him “fair winds and following seas” on his journey home.  May he finally receive the peace that he so richly deserves and may God bless his soul.

 

 

“Rocket and Me”

INTRODUCTORY NOTE:  Death can bring many surprises about people.  Sometimes those who know the decedent best are as much in the dark as everyone about what was really special in their heart.  All of the necessary tasks associated with last minute funeral plans and execution including determining actual funeral costs and sources of payment (burial insurance and funeral insurance, etc.) are made even more difficult with this uncertainty.  A well organized decedent who was prepared in advance makes it much more manageable. 

In the case of a popular man who lived alone, the tasks of initially organizing the home for visitation and planning funeral meals and death notice and eulogy writing require immediate attention and can be stressful, but when something is learned that is unexpected yet positively displays the content of the man’s heart, things become much more a pleasure than a chore.  This story is about one of those situations.

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John and Mary Walters had been friends with Ben Williams for nearly twenty years.  Ben was a good next door neighbor but since the death of his wife, Susan, three years ago he was a different man.  His jovial nature had become subdued and he just seemed lost without her. The Walters’ knew that Ben had some heart problems but they had no idea if the problems were critical or just of a cautionary nature and he never offered any information. They still stayed in daily contact with him but things were never quite the same since the “light of his life” had been taken from him.

Ben’s only daughter, Sheila, had died about two years before his wife, and after both of his loved ones were gone his devotion was to his little pet dog, Rocket, a lively Jack Russell terrier.  Ben bought the dog about fifteen years earlier as a puppy and after Susan died he was his constant companion, accompanying him wherever he went.  He even had a license plate on his car which read “Rocket and Me.”

As if it was the last straw for Ben, Rocket developed a tumor and died two years after Susan and Ben was devastated.  He took the little dog’s body to a taxidermist and had it stuffed and mounted on a wood block that he could keep.  After he brought the figure of the dog home, no one ever knew what happened to it.  Even Ben’s best friend John would not bring the subject up; he knew that Ben felt this third death in a short time put him at his limit.

One beautiful spring morning while out on their morning walk, John and Mary realized that things seemed unusual at Ben’s house.  He was usually an early riser and his biggest enjoyment left in life was his prize rose garden where he could usually be found in the cool of the morning.  The couple couldn’t remember a day in months when Ben wasn’t out there working on his flowers during their walk.  They usually stopped to chat with him, sometimes even joining him for a cup of coffee before continuing.  John made a mental note to check on Ben if he wasn’t seen moving about by lunch time.

After lunch and with still no sign of Ben, John and Mary walked over to their friend’s home. The garage door was open with the car parked; the hood was cool to the touch and it had not been driven.  Ben usually took a quick trip each morning to the hardware store he had owned for thirty years and sold just after Susan’s death. The new owner loved Ben and always was glad to have him around, even offering to let him work part-time if he desired.  The fact that he had not been out of the house all morning increased their apprehension greatly.

John called Ben’s name and knocked hard on the inside door which led to the kitchen; there was no answer.  Calling his name again, he tried the handle and found it open.  Walking into the kitchen, he found the portable counter TV turned on but no John in sight. 

Both now being fearful, they entered the living room where a full cup of cold coffee sat on the coffee table next to an unopened newspaper.  From there, they split up, Mary going one way and John the other.

As John turned into the hallway toward the master bedroom, Mary shrieked from the Florida room.  Rushing to her, he found her sobbing and kneeling beside Ben’s body, face down on the Arabian rug he loved so much.  There was nothing they could do as he had no pulse and his body was losing normal temperature.

After calling 911 and waiting for the body to be removed, John went to John’s business desk in the study.  Even though retired, John, an attorney by trade, had agreed to be his friend’s executor and he knew where to find his important papers.  There in the center drawer was an oversized clasp enveloped with Ben’s signature across the seal and annotated “to be opened by John Walters only”.

John carefully opened it and found a series of smaller business envelopes, each labeled separately.  One was his last will and testament which John had prepared for him, the second was labeled property and financial information and the third contained funeral instructions.  John started with the funeral plan envelope since it was the one thing that required initiation right away.

Opening the envelope, John first found a hand-written instruction sheet on two pages of a legal sized tablet detailing his funeral notice and wishes for a church service at his place of worship, First Methodist Church with burial in his family plot next to his wife in the church cemetery.  He even specified type of casket and pallbearers.  The listing also referenced an additional smaller envelope contained therein which held additional special instructions.

As he opened it he was totally surprised.  First were two pictures of his little dog, one in life and the other as a lifelike stuffed and mounted remembrance, complete with his smiling eyes.  A note attached told John to bury Rocket with him in his casket.  Also in the envelope was a passbook to the local savings and loan with rights of survivorship passing to John.  A note attached said it was to be used for his final expenses and looking at the balance it had more than enough deposited to handle a first class funeral.  That was just like Ben, a cash and carry guy.

John covered the house and found the mounted Rocket in the floor by Ben’s bed and made the necessary arrangements with the funeral home to initiate the final funeral plans and include Rocket with Ben in the casket.

Ben took care of all other immediate matters and at the funeral Rocket was ultimately posed beside Ben as if he were sitting at his master’s side in final repose.  He remained in this pose throughout the viewing and the funeral and, when all was over, he was placed with his head on Ben’s shoulder before it was lowered in the ground.  It was actually very touching to all and was certainly memorable and the large audience saw a new side to the spirit of the lonely man that they liked but didn’t always understand.

John and Mary made arrangements for the reception after the funeral to be held in Ben’s side garden where the roses were in full bloom in the glorious sunshine.  They brought in two canopied tents for the caterers for serving lines and all enjoyed the beauty of nature as they chatted about Ben and his life.  Even his only known remaining direct relative, his nephew Freddie, came to the funeral.  John had trouble locating him and surprisingly found him living only fifty miles away in Wilmington.

Freddie was a retired soldier who had been disabled in Afghanistan.  He and his wife and little girl lived in an apartment in the nearby town where they were struggling to make do on his pension.  His wife, Sally, held a teacher’s certificate and was trying to get full time placement but thus far had only been able to secure substitute assignments.  A real surprise was about to be given to them, courtesy of Ben’s will and John’s astute work.

All of Ben’s estate, which was considerable, was given to charity with the exception of his home.  The house was granted to Freddie in Ben’s will and John was going to advise Freddie at the end of the reception.  What’s more, using a few contacts and some good luck, John had secured a teaching assignment in the local schools.  A teacher had to drop out two months before the end of the year and Sally was being offered the temporary assignment subject to being hired in permanent status if she handled the end of the school year well.

As the last of the guests were departing and John gave the catering crew the okay to close it down and clean up, he walked over to talk with the young Williams couple with Mary.  At first, they seemed dazed, then they smiled broadly and finally both Freddie and his wife hugged John and Mary.  It was a dream come true and they couldn’t believe their good fortune from an uncle that Freddie remembered and respected but didn’t know real well.  John told him it was from an appreciative uncle in honor of his service and sacrifice.

John told them to go back and get things finalized back at their apartment and he would start getting the house cleaned and in order.  The belongings left by Ben would be theirs if they desired, otherwise he would have things donated to charity.

That night after the long day, Mary hugged her husband tightly and said, “I’m proud of you, John, and I know that Ben is smiling in gratitude from his new home”.

“I don’t know about that, Mary”, he replied, “but I know there is one thing I did that will get his attention.  I donated what was left over from his funeral account to the new dog only park that the city is supporting and there will be a memorial picture at the gate dedicated to Ben and Rocket.  And the auto tag everyone in town recognizes will be included.”

As they relaxed and talked about the day, John was right. Ben, who now was looking down with Susan and with Rocket at his side, was grinning from ear to ear.  His funeral plans had been administered to perfection and with the added touches made possible by John, dog lovers all over town would learn and cherish the story of “Rocket and Me” for generations to come.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Author page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark was selected as a Best Read for 2014 by American Pet Magazine

 

A National Remembrance: Veterans Day

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and eighteen, the guns fell silent in France. After a long and arduous struggle with the advantage shifting back and forth and months in the trenches, soldiers were notified that a truce had been reached and that the fighting was over. While the details of Germany’s surrender would be ironed out by the Treaty of Versailles, exhausted warriors on both sides of the battle were finally able to escape the constant noise, horror and fear and experience calm and peace.

The following year, President Woodrow Wilson declared Armistice Day, a celebration for all Americans who took up arms against the forces of the Kaiser. It was not until 1954 that the name was changed to Veterans Day by a law signed by President Eisenhower. From that date forward, the day would honor all American fighting men and women who had served their country in uniform. The impetus for this change was, of course, World War II and the multitude of young citizens who fought, with many injured and killed, against a resurgent Germany under Adolph Hitler and eventually his ally the Empire of Japan.

In the funeral business, the patriotism and dedication of our fighting forces and the reverence we Americans display toward them is probably seen as prominently as anywhere. Funeral planning for military personnel, both active and retired, is a standard feature involving many important responsibilities such as determining and assisting with arrangements to handle funeral costs and funeral expenses, working with appropriate funeral clergy and in some cases funeral chaplains to insure smooth delivery of services, and often supporting active military funerals.

The effort provided on behalf of our World War I veterans has now ended as the last of our survivors are gone. Funeral planning for World War II vets is also beginning to wind down as that generation is reaching the end of its lifespan. Funeral planning and support, however, will continue for Korean War and Vietnam veterans and, of course, the Iraqi and Afghanistan support requirements are ongoing. These same support requirements will continue as long as conflict remains with mankind and, unfortunately, it is likely that this will be ongoing as long as we continue to inhabit the earth.

To provide support for veteran families in their time of need is a distinct honor. And for all of us in this great country, Veterans Day should be a special occasion for each of us to celebrate these brave men and women, these veterans, and what they have done for us. Whether they served in combat or not, each of them was willing to serve their country wherever they might be called and in whatever capacity their duty required. These veterans also subjected themselves to separation for extended periods from family and requirements for hardship and sacrifice that most Americans can’t even imagine. Yet they have done so, generation after generation and war after war, unflinchingly and with resolve.

I believe America always has and always will respond positively with a warm thank you to our veterans. Oh, there will always be those few who scorn them and call them vulgar names, but there are always a few bad apples in any barrel. But just this past week if you happened to see the You Tube video of the reception a group of Marines received at the Chicago airport while passing through, it is obvious that Americans have high regard for their military and by this I am including those currently and past in service. The outrage recently displayed over the government’s unwise decision to close the World War II memorial during the federal partial shutdown is another example of this.

And there is the other side of this coin as well. Those Americans who are veterans are extremely grateful to all of their American brothers and sisters who have supported them in times both good and bad. You see, they remember those times when they were away from home and often lonely and fearful, but they also remember the pride they felt knowing that those on the home front supported them, prayed for their wellbeing and honored them. And they have been honored by the privilege of serving their country and the many back home kept safe and secure by their service. It is something they will always remember and always cherish. It has been a distinct honor and privilege to help maintain The Land of the Free.

So whether it was in the hedgerows or on the Normandy beaches of France, dodging intense fire on the black sand beaches of Iwo Jima or in the freezing cold at the Chosen Reservoir, or on patrol in the jungles of Vietnam, operating in the stark environments of Iraq and Afghanistan, even working stateside in a motor pool, America salutes all of her veterans who served anywhere. And these veterans remain ready even today, after their term of military duty is over, to stand with their country and their God in whatever endeavor duty calls. That is the foundation of the American veteran and their belief in America.

As a grateful nation made up of citizens with loving hearts, let’s take a moment to pray together a prayer for all of our veterans who have answered their nation’s call:

Dear Father Above:

We thank you for the willingness of so many who have served the needs of their country and the cause of freedom which she represents. To all who have served this great land, we ask for Thy love and benevolence in caring for them and helping them with the many issues they have faced after service. Many live with debilitating physical injuries, others suffer from psychological disorders caused by the stress of war, even more suffer after returning from war to find difficulty in finding gainful employment and economic prosperity. Be with them and give them strength to deal with their issues and overcome them.

We also beseech Thee, Oh Lord, to give each of us the compassion and goodness of heart to help our veterans in any way we can so that they might return to a normal and loving lifestyle without the internal demons so many face. And give our government leaders the wisdom and good sense to honor all commitments and promises made and to always look for ways to find alternative solutions to international problems other than war, for it is the young, the strong, and the courageous who receive the call to make the personal sacrifices that war brings.

Finally, Lord, be with America. Keep her strong, keep her people brave, and keep all of us in Thy love and grace. And help each of us to understand the importance of maintaining our personal relationship with Thee, for when this is multiplied by millions Thy power becomes a force that will weather any crisis and any storm.

We ask this prayer in His Holy Name, Amen.

To all of you out there who served proudly, Happy Veterans Day. And to those of you who have not served but appreciate the service they have given, find a veteran on this special day and thank them for their service. God bless America and may she ever be free.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

 

God Cried With Us

Why would the sun
Wait in the wings,
Instead of appearing
For one as loved as you
This day as you
Were laid to rest?

It must be that God
Decided to cry with us
Gentle warm tears
Fell from the white sky
And sprinkled us
As we made our way
Under the tent
Over your grave.

The season’s first
Green blades peeked
Above the earth
In the midst of brown.
The soldier stood between
Two somber gray gravestones
In the distance
Each note of Taps lingered
Before floating away.

The last few wisps
Of cold snow melted.

You are no longer searching for,
Or running from,
Love as we humans do,
But rather, radiating
In that golden glow that
I imagine may be like
That soft early evening
Sunlight of summer
That warms us evenly,
And you feel like you
Could stand in it forever.

We can’t see you, dear friend
Because we are separated
By a window fogged
Like the softened ice
On the pond today.

If we could, I am assured
We would see you blissfully
Strolling a gold-paved road.

In memory of John Porier. By S.T. Haggerty. March 12, 2013.
Copyright 2013 by S.T. Haggerty

 

The Shame of Dishonoring Our Patriotic Veterans

Editorial Note: This week’s column will be on a subject that saddens me and many other Americans with my background greatly. As an American military veteran, recent events are quite upsetting to my view of the land that I love and served. And while a funeral services blog would normally discuss such subjects as funeral planning, funeral expenses, funeral needs, and grief and depression, I find the recent events of which I write something that is probably also causing much grief and depression for a different reason. I hope it will make you think seriously about the future of America and how it impacts you and yours.
______________________________________________________________________________

At the outset of the recently concluded partial government shutdown, someone in a very high place in our federal government had to approve the decision on which services would be temporarily shuttered and which would remain open. While there can be many reasons for a lot of possible options, to pick facilities such as the World War II Memorial, a facility which is in an open area with 24/7 public access and practically no outlay of cost, is an outrage.

This facility, a destination for the Honor Flights program for our still living World War II veterans, was closed at a time when the Park Service knew that flight groups were en route as part of long planned trips. Yet despite this, they still barricaded the facility and only the action of the veterans and their escorts themselves, with a few patriotic Congressmen, saved the day.

Speaking about grief and depression, can you imagine how these heroes felt after taking a long flight to find that the very nation that they fought and bled for was using them as pawns in the middle of a political conflict? I must confess that I myself, a veteran of a later time, had tinges of grief and depression in my soul watching police in riot gear and even with police dogs intimidating elderly patriots with wheelchairs and walkers. I have trouble believing that anyone in America would condone treating these men and women in such a dishonorable way. And there is something drastically wrong with a government which behaves this way.

The World War II memorial, the other shrines, and the national parks do not belong to any party or any administration. They belong to We, the People, and they are of particular significance to those who fought and bled for this country and for the families of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

And this brings me to last Sunday. When thousands of American veterans who served their nation in harm’s way marched on the World War II memorial in support of the Greatest Generation as a protest of what was happening, they were met with a large force of riot clad police. The veterans were boisterous, yet calm and peaceful, and they succeeded in their mission, tearing down the unconstitutional barriers that the Administration selectively chose to place. And what happened next I found to be symbolic of the veterans’ pride and love of country. They carted off many of the barriers in two man groups, walking them to the sidewalk in front of the White House and stacking them there. They even left a sign on one: return to sender. At one spot a Gadsden flag was even seen flying from the fence.

The protesters milled around in front of the White House, boisterous yet calm and peaceful, when suddenly a riot squad marched in and began to form a barrier between the veterans and the fence. They were met with some boos and catcalls but no physical threat. Nothing was thrown at them. The police proceeded to physically jostle at least one older vet although no one made any physical gestures toward them and the crowd stayed remarkably calm. One tall, younger veteran, I would guess a former Marine or special unit fellow from his lean and fit appearance was close to one of the officers and quietly talking. It became clear he was pointing out that what the vets were doing was peaceful and constitutional and that they had every right to be where they were in front of the People’s House. The crowd followed his lead by chanting things like “This is a peaceful demonstration” or “The Gestapo isn’t needed here”. Several members said repeatedly “Stay calm” or “Stay peaceful”.

Looking at the police, many of whom appeared very young and some wearing bicycle helmets instead of riot gear, they appeared edgy and unsure of themselves. I would guess that many of them didn’t want to be there. In any event, after a few minutes of the standoff, a leader of the police unit, wearing a mike on his helmet, was seen engaged in a conversation with someone over the radio, probably his supervisor. At that point he signaled his unit to disengage and walk off. It was obvious that the veterans were not going to be violent and I believe he became concerned that some of his personnel were about to cause an incident.

I salute my fellow veterans who were there for their willingness to stand up for freedom and for sending a message of encouragement to all of us. But, in addition to the fact that government action would even require such a response, there is one other disconcerting thing: the media. The media barely covered the event, not even Fox News, which should have had a crew handling it live. It’s as if even Fox has been silenced by someone. I mean, really, think about it. Look at the drivel that gets coverage from start to finish as news but no one other than internet-based organizations found this to be newsworthy. This is absolutely astounding.

I don’t know who actually made the decision to take this action, but I think it would clearly behoove the President of the United States to make a public apology to America’s elderly heroes. It is something that certainly should be done by the man who is, after all, the Commander-in-Chief of our military. And never, never again should an action like this ever be taken against the people to whom this Administration is responsible.

God bless the United States of America and the flag that we fly in her honor. May she ever wave proudly and with honor over this land that is ours. God bless you all.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

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