Category Archives: Memorialization

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

 

The Best Legacy Left Behind is the Way You Live Today

We’ve talked over the last year or so via this blog about the importance of getting your affairs in order including your personal funeral plan.  Determining funeral costs, funeral expenses, and general funeral needs are important and making sure that ensuring the presentation both by the funeral clergy and by the eulogy writer are also important in leaving the memory of you for your loved ones in a tasteful and memorable way.  Your loved ones will look back often at the memory of your last rights as they think back about what you mean to them.

But there is one other aspect of the memories that you leave behind that are so much more important than the presentation that represented you.  It’s the reality of how you lived your life before you died, because those precious memories of the “real” you, witnessed by family and friends in the flesh, that really drive your legacy for the living.  For this reason, it is very important that you evaluate yourself honestly and use what you learn from this exercise to guide the remainder of your life.  It is never too late to change the way you are for the better, after all, as Jesus taught us we are all sinners no matter how hard we try for perfection.

So how do you go about this self-evaluation?  Well, there are many ways, but might I suggest a few questions as a starting point.  These are questions that we can apply to ourselves under any circumstances and they will open you up to many more questions.  Believe me, there is probably no limit to the number of questions that this first set of questions opens, and that is one of the most important features of self-evaluation.  It should be ongoing and regularly used as a refresher course to insure you are sticking with it throughout your life.  As mentioned earlier, it is never too late to change our course for the better.

Here are some questions and a little guidance to get you started:

1.      Are you at peace with yourself and do you have love in your heart?  Now since I am a Christian, I think you probably know where I am headed with this but, even if you aren’t, peace and love are two wonderful terms to describe how we should focus our lives.  If we are caught up in envy or hate we spend our time wasting our energy while also accomplishing nothing positive in life.  For life to be meaningful you need peace and love, and by love I mean love of all of mankind, those who are friend and foe alike.  This is truly critical if we are going to serve as an example to others of good living and what is expected of all of us.  If you don’t feel this way, take a good inward look and determine what it will take to get rid of the hate, jealousy or whatever else keeps you from being happy.

 

2.      If married, do you and your wife (or husband) consider yourself to be as one?  While those of you who have never married might not understand the point here, it is a simple one.  When you make a commitment to a spouse through Holy Matrimony, you are saying that you are each a part of the other.  You are a team in life and you work in tandem, not keeping secrets from one another and enjoying the time, the joy and the counsel that you receive from one another.  If you don’t look at your marriage this way, you are missing something precious and wonderful.  And even if you are not married, I think the idea of this commitment is indicative of how you should approach your life as well.

 

3.      What about your children?  So what do your children really think about you?  Do you spend time with them and encourage their schoolwork and their extra interests or are you overly demanding and hard hearted?  Children need nurture and encouragement to do their best, but they also need rules to live by and consequences for their actions.  And since there is no text book to follow, it is a work in progress.  If you are too rough on them, they don’t like but if you are too soft, you are not helping them to learn about how life operates.  Take time to clearly think about these things and how you respond.

 

4.      When you make commitments to others, do you honor them and follow through?  Many of the same type of thought processes as discussed above also apply here but in a different context.   Be a person of your word and honor your commitments.  Just like promising a child a baseball game, if cancelled, is a huge disappointment, the impact here can be losing your good name as an honest and reliable person.  You can lose your reputation in mere moments but rebuilding it can take a lifetime.  Don’t take this lightly.

 

5.      Do you feel that the successes you have had in life have come honestly?  Deep down inside you know what you had to do to get where you are.  Was it based on good moral values and principles or did you allow things to slide?  Did you justify your shortfall as being a means to the end and nothing more?  This one can lead into a very insightful but also painful process or recollection, but if it does it means it is needed.

 

6.      Are there things in your life that you feel ashamed of and have you tried to mend the errors of your ways?  Here you are looking for those things that you consciously know you have done in the past that were wrong and that continue to bother you.  Probably first and foremost as a result should be coming clean with your God on this one.  He will forgive you and allow you to forgive yourself and, where possible, try to make amends with the person you hurt.  It’s tough, I know, but you’ll be surprised at how accepting people are when they know you are sincere.

 

7.      What do you expect to be your future when this life is done?  Here’s where you look at your future and whether or not you believe in salvation and continued life in another place.  If you believe, as I do, that God awaits those who love Him, it is easy to identify with what you generally expect.  If you don’t believe this, ponder it for a while.  I mean, really, what was the purpose of your life on earth, with all of its trials and tribulation as well as its joys if there is a vast nothingness when it ends.  I just have problems grasping with that possibility.

As suggested, these are just a few questions to get your thinking going.  They merely serve to open the door to your heart and your soul.  But they do hopefully make you focus on your life and how it has impacted others and what that means for your legacy when your time is over. The entire point is to sit down, candidly look at yourself privately and by yourself, and come to an honest assessment of your life so far. You can use it to make any changes necessary to help you take your human self in the direction it needs to go.

Open your heart and your soul and really take the time to look inside yourself.  The reality of the real you as you have been and as you would like to be will surface if you give it a chance.  Won’t it be nice to continue your personal growth into being and living that person you want to be.  Trust me, it will be good for you and it will make your family love you even more.

God bless you and have another wonderful week.  Spring is here in its full glory and it offers us a wonderful sign of the New Life that we all have available to us.  Let’s take advantage of it.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

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

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

 

 

Selecting Appropriate Funeral Clergy or Eulogist

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written Tributes and Memorials

Imagine that you are a fifty year old woman and you die suddenly from the rupture of an undiagnosed aneurism. As a devout Christian you are at peace and experiencing the transition of your life from its physical to its spiritual form. Before being called up to Heaven, you are given a moment to watch your body being worked on by medical practitioners before being officially declared dead.

Although you are joyous contemplating eternal life above, you have a final moment of anguish about your former earthbound life as you witness your husband of twenty-five years and your children grieving over your now lifeless body. If only you had left behind a plan for how you wanted your life to be remembered. It would have eliminated questions and concerns about the important final rites and the resultant stress this will add to an already emotionally charged time of sadness.

You say your final silent goodbye and are on your way knowing that you could have done something when you were still alive to make things much easier for them.

Situations like this happen daily and if you are a believer like me you know that when earthly life is done you will go to a much better place. If you haven’t planned for how you want to be celebrated and remembered by those left behind, you have left them with an enormous burden that could have been planned for in advance. It is both a large problem and an important subject which we could devote many pages and hours to, but for today I want to focus on only one aspect of planning for that final day: the obituary and written tribute or memorial. In the weeks ahead we will take up other aspects of the things that need to be done.

The written documents depicting your life at death are critically important since they play a central role in recording for posterity how you are remembered and the memories that you will leave behind. No one knows your history better than you and if you don’t play an active part in putting your life down on paper your family will be left in a situation much like the opening scene earlier described. Is this a fair task to leave them with at a time when they are grief-stricken and often not thinking clearly?

I know that many don’t like to think about their final preparations. We humans have a tendency to want to avoid things that we don’t want to think about and our own mortality is frequently one of those things. Being actively involved in the preparation of your tribute, however, not only shows caring for your family, it also can provide an excellent source document of family history and pride for generations to come.

Think of it this way. You take the time to evaluate your life, reviewing your experiences and your accomplishments and put them down on paper. It presents a wonderful representation of who you are and what you have done in life and when passed on to family it provides a great addition to the family heritage archives. Your spouse and children may already know much of this, but if not recorded it gets lost over time and through succeeding generations. Wouldn’t it be nice for your grandchildren and later generations to know their heritage?

Many people opt to complete the job themselves, and while this is the best approach from the standpoint of having the writer fully knowledgeable on the subject, it can face some roadblocks. One is the tendency of most people not to want to “toot their own horn” and really cover all accomplishments of which to be proud. Another is our natural tendency to procrastinate; many people start with good intentions and then just put it to the side, never to be completed.

Some of us also don’t like to write so in that case it’s better to get someone else to do the writing for you. You still will need to make a comprehensive outline of what you want covered and find someone you are comfortable with portraying your life on paper. The only pitfall with this approach is that some of us are very private and don’t like those close to us to be the ones detailing our background. It just depends on your personality and style.

Another option would be to commission an organization like Shared Sorrows to prepare your professional tribute. They have professional writers like me who do this type of work routinely and can quickly settle on an approach for your life after an interview via telephone. Being detached from you personally, this allows for a completely dispassionate narrative to be developed with a professional flair. In a short time, your tribute will be provided to you for review and modification, thereby insuring that your life is presented the way you want. It can’t be easier and it is surprising affordable and will be ready for publication on site when the need arises.

If you’ve had to place an obituary recently you know that the cost can be prohibitive, ranging generally from six hundred dollars and up depending on the metropolitan market involved. The active publication time is also quite short before it is archived, usually two or three days. Pulling up obituary archives from a newspaper site later can be very difficult.

Contrast this to the Shared Sorrows approach. The memorial is displayed on their website with easy access for friends and family at any time. The document can also be used as the basis for a newspaper notice if you wish and it stays on line with Shared Sorrows for as long as you wish. Furthermore, the cost of developing it and displaying it is pennies on the dollar compared to the competitive news media market.

Making it easy, making it right, making it visible and making it affordable are all combined in this process. Whether or not this is the way you want to go with memorialization is entirely up to you, but you owe it to yourself to at least check it out. After all, you’re already on the website. And regardless of what you decide to do or not do, I hope our discussion today will be of assistance to you in planning ahead in this important area. Saving your family added grief at a time of grief is certainly the right thing to do.

Thank you for taking the time to visit with me today and God bless you one and all. Be happy, be safe and remember that whatever you do, our God is always with you.

Written by:
James Dick
www.northfloridawriter.com