Christmas controversy

For most businesses it is perfectly acceptable to decorate your office in any manner you choose, even for the Holidays. To be honest though, I hesitate to call funeral service a business or the mortuary an office, as it is a very different industry than most.  My experience in the funeral industry has shed new light, for me, on how and what is displayed for the public, it is important to be sensitive to the views of everyone we serve and make all families feel comfortable and accepted in their religious and political views. However, in this small town where I was managing a funeral home, Christmas was embraced by all, so I thought I should have a Christmas service that would memorialize every person who had died that year and comfort those who had losses in years passed.  I was warned by my coworkers that to decorate was one thing but people would not come to a service, “It’s too hard” they said, “People are busy during this time” they said, “No one wants to have a funeral for Christmas” they said. I had already held several events at my location, fundraisers, local art receptions, car shows, civil servants luncheons and more and now I was determined to have a Christmas service. The town had a big Christmas parade where the funeral home staff drove our van and threw out candy for the children. I had a Christmas tree in the lobby and garland strung on the fireplace mantel, wreaths on the front doors and it truly felt like a home for the holidays. I planned this Christmas program to be held in the chapel of my funeral home and invited the town to come and join the service. My staff and I distributed fliers to local businesses and mailed out invitations to everyone in our files. We then spent hours in my home hand making ornaments adorning the name of each and every person who had died during the year and placed them on the tree in the lobby.

On the day of the service I ordered festive foods and drinks, set tables in the biggest viewing room and adorned them all with fresh cut flowers. The fireplace was roaring, and all of the lights were on, it was a holiday funeral home for sure. The program included speakers, local clergy of different religions, I hired a very talented singer and I had my own speech prepared. The turnout was huge and as people showed up they ate and drank and talked and merriness was all around. I was even told that we ran out of parking spaces. People showed up dressed for a Christmas party and I remember looking around at all the faces of these families that I had previously served and knowing that I had made the right decision by not taking my coworkers advice. By the time we started the service, every seat in the chapel was filled. Everything went as planned, there was some laughter and some tears as each part of the program took place. At the end, with no music or fanfare, my staff and I took the ornaments, with their precious names, off of the tree in the lobby and one by one read them out loud. As each name was called the family members of the deceased stood up and while looking at them, I remembered the death, the service that accompanied and the grieving of that family. In the silence of the chapel, I walked over to each family and handed them their ornament, I hugged them all and loved that I could do this little thing. Holidays are especially difficult when you ache for a loved one to be there yet, they are gone. So many people thanked us all for putting this thing together and for not forgetting them during the holidays. We had served them again.christmas-3013063_1920Picture provided by Pixabay

One thought on “Christmas controversy

  1. I remember getting the ornament for my son. The love put into it made it even more precious. It was the thought and love that I remember today. Thank you for everything you did for me and my family.

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About Chelsea Tolman