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Just Cremate Me

Posted By Barbara Kemmis, Thursday, October 26, 2017
Just Cremate Me

 

In recent months, preplanning and preneed have become hotly discussed topics in the death care industry. CANA has plans to address them at the Preneed Summit, a special addition to the Cremation Symposium in February – a meeting for preneed professionals and those looking to learn how to improve their preneed strategy. Stay tuned for more details.

In the meantime, consider CANA Executive Director Barbara Kemmis’s own experience with her parents.


One morning, my dad called me at work, which was a first. I was immediately concerned that bad news was coming, however it turned out my parents had made a resolution to “get their affairs in order.” They were starting the process of prearranging their funerals and updating all of their end-of-life documents. My dad’s plan was to have everything in order before I visited in a couple of months. He was calling to confirm that the funeral home he had chosen was a CANA member.

CANA gets similar calls and web inquiries from consumers regularly and it got me thinking: What does a CANA membership and CANA certification mean to the consumer? The funeral home my parents chose is well respected in the community and is a CANA member that proudly displays the CANA logo on its website and front door. The crematory operators are all CANA certified, which means the employer saw value in providing continuing education for the staff. I contacted the funeral home owner, DeWayne Cain of Rest Haven Funeral Homes in Rockwall, Texas why he sought this designation for his business and staff, and what it means to the community he serves.

Dewayne and his staff serve hundreds of families like mine every year. Dewayne said, “CANA is considered the authority in training and certification for crematory operators. The outstanding CANA workshops, seminars and continuing education courses help my staff and me stay current on best practices for crematories. Rest Haven’s affiliation with CANA is important to me and to the families we serve, because it demonstrates our commitment to the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.”

When I visited my parents, we went to the bank and spent time reviewing documents – living wills and worksheets from the funeral home. Not surprisingly, my mom had planned a lovely funeral for herself at which her many friends from church and her social clubs, former students and others could gather together. My mom is a social creature known for her party planning.

My dad’s worksheet simply stated, “Just cremate me.”

He explained that he didn’t want us to be sad or mourn him. He didn’t want a big deal made about his passing. He would be in heaven and we would see him again when it was our time. My mom and I looked at each other and then looked away. I said what she couldn’t at that moment. “I love you, Dad, and I will mourn you and I will cry when you die. I need to be surrounded by family and your friends and former students. I need to hear about the practical jokes you pulled in the classroom and the stories of your leadership in the church and community. I want to respect your wishes, but I will mark your passing. I love you too much not to.”

Cremation is really just the beginning of the conversation, though for too many people like my dad, it’s the end. Recently, I was saddened but unsurprising to read that an urn filled with cremated remains had been accidentally donated to Salvation Army. In a culture of well-meaning but uneducated consumers dealing with the new tradition of cremation, this situation is becoming all too common.

I’m grateful that my parents want to discuss preplanning and that I have access to the information provided by our members on the process, what to expect, and the importance of memorialization. As it says in the CANA Code of Cremation Practice, "Cremation should be considered as preparation for memorialization; and the dead of our society should be memorialized through a commemorative means suitable to the survivors."

The agreement I reached with my parents is that I will honor their wishes to be cremated and the details of the ceremony and final memorialization are underway. Our conversation continues about their “affairs,” and has become about much more than preplanning a cremation.


Barbara Kemmis

Barbara Kemmis is Executive Director of the Cremation Association of North America.A version of this post first appeared on Confessions of a Funeral Director.

Join CANA at the Preneed Summit for innovative thinking around preneed for all businesses, February 6, 2018 in Las Vegas.

All members can benefit from community outreach and consumer education programs by using the PR Toolkit to develop a strategy. Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice to help you understand how to grow the range of services and products you can offer, ensuring your business is a good fit for every member of your community – only $470!

Tags:  arranging  consumers  preplanning  services 

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Celebrant Training

Posted By CANA Staff, Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Celebrant Training

 

From May 18-20, 2017, CANA staff members were privileged to participate in the InSight Institute’s Celebrant Training presented by Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury.

As association staff, we're responsible not only for responding to the needs of our members and the industry, but also monitoring the changing winds of consumer preference and practitioner trends and understanding the difference between fads and forward thinking. InSight’s excellent celebrant training spoke to all of these concerns, describing new consumer preferences in an increasingly secular world and illuminating what the role of a funeral director is and can be.

Taking the class with industry professionals allowed us to hear stories about their work with families outside of their crematory operations and their perspective on the role of the funeral director. The thoughtful class lectures, case studies, and the final project assignment challenged preconceived notions of how our members interact with families, what consumers want, and the heart of real service to communities. We've all gained an understanding we did not have before.



Personalization Isn't Product.
I once read an unintentionally humorous article about the right number of accessories to wear based on a codified point system where certain items were worth certain points and you weren't ready to leave the house until you'd scored well. I think we can all see that, while well-intentioned, this method is ridiculous. And, like something as personal as style, you can't codify quality and sell keepsakes and products to add up points and score something as personal as memorialization. It's about knowing your audience—your own style in the case of accessorizing—and listening to a family's wants and needs in end-of-life planning.

The funeral director is the expert in options, but listening and guiding is the next step to making personalization a matter of course. Families can't be coded and assigned urns, keepsakes, and options based on assumptions about their spending, love for the deceased, or style. And it's only when consumers trust that they're being heard without judgment that they will talk and share. From there, the right products, like the right accessories, will come.

Brie Bingham, Membership Coordinator

Watching Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury present this workshop was a revelation. It was evident that they’ve spent many years thinking about people and grief and a meaningful way to help families and friends work through the deaths of the significant individuals in their lives—and find deeply personalized ways to remember them. Amidst the current revolution in consumer interaction with the death care industry, Doug and Glenda have developed a powerful response that was inspiring to witness. They’ve truly brought the art of listening to a new level and they lay out clear strategies to incorporate listening into interactions with those that seek their assistance.

The wealth of information and the creative and insightful approach shared by these experts has broad applications to the issues we consider as we work to serve CANA’s members and their best interests. CANA’s staff does not include any funeral directors or cremationists, so we benefit from hearing real-world experiences. Such stories helps us to see the through the eyes of the people who belong to CANA.

Sara Corkery, Communications Manager

As the education director, I was excited to participate in Celebrant training to make sure CANA education incorporates best practices and well-rounded perspectives. But I got more than I was expecting. My father died when I was 19. He was cremated and we had a memorial service for him. During the celebrant training, we talked a lot about the importance of a funeral or memorial service in beginning the healing process. As I thought back to my father’s service, I began to appreciate what my step-mother did, instead of resent it. She had taken control of planning my father’s service and what resulted was far different than anything the rest of the family was expecting. In other words, a traditional service. What we attended instead was a highly personalized celebration. Various people told stories about my father that I hadn’t heard before, and we played his favorite music. It was exactly what it should have been, but twenty years ago I didn’t understand that and still didn’t until I attended the celebrant training. And once that understanding took root, I was overcome by a desire to make sure everyone I know gets to experience that kind of funeral or memorial service when they lose someone they love.

At the same time I was experiencing a personal healing, I was also learning a lot about the funeral industry. As someone with no training in funeral service, I was shocked to learn that funeral directors aren’t the ones leading funeral or memorial services, and they aren’t the ones helping families plan them either. It’s usually a clergy person who may or may not know the family or the deceased. That explains why my step-mother did most of the service planning. The concept of a celebrant was almost non-existent in the US in 1996. Now I’m excited whenever I talk to funeral directors who have been through celebrant training or incorporate them into their business models. But I also see a huge missed opportunity for those who have not.

Jennifer Head, Education Director

I'd rather be ignored for $2,000 than $10,000.
I found celebrant training to be a transformative experience. I didn't expect to relive every funeral and grief experience of my life on day one, but that is exactly what happened. At the end of the session I was emotionally drained, but also exhilarated. Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury provided the language to describe so many of my negative and positive experiences.

In response to a question about the increase in direct cremation, he told an anecdote when he was told, "I paid $10,000 for my father's funeral and my grief was ignored. The funeral director didn't direct anything, just took my order. I'd rather be ignored for $2000."

This story struck me profoundly. I thought about the behaviors of funeral directors that made the most impact on me, such as anticipating my need for a tissue or water, hugging or touching me when I needed comfort and saying my family member or friend's name. I have never been ignored, thankfully, but no one deserves to be ignored.

Barbara Kemmis, Executive Director



InSight

CANA Staff send our warmest thanks to Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury of the Insight Institute for sharing their passion and professional expertise during the Celebrant Training course. We congratulate our fellow new Certified Celebrants who joined us for this course!

Tags:  celebrants  consumers  services  tips and tools 

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Asking the Right Questions: Interviewing Families with an Event-Planner Mindset

Posted By CANA, Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Asking the Right Questions: Interviewing Families with an Event-Planner Mindset

 

Have you ever really planned a funeral service event?

Sure, the flowers are set up, the urn is in place, the seats are reserved, and staff knows exactly what to do and when to facilitate a flawless service. But all too often, the actual ceremony, the most meaningful part and the invaluable marketing tool telling everyone in the audience what you do matters, is left in the hands of the family.

For most of us, consulting with families is a mixture of how the person we interned under did it, mixed with a lot of trial and error. Though we want to serve well, we default to an "Every family, every option, every time" approach giving the family our entire set of resources, in hopes that they will choose well. But to your client, it means "I’m unwilling to get to know you, so I’m dumping my entire bag of tricks on the table, and hopefully you can pick what you want."

Beyond legal and financial matters, they have five basic choices to make in their time with you, their trusted guide: 1) having a viewing, 2) type of remembrance event, 3) a final resting place for their loved one’s remains, 4) an appropriate container for saying “good-bye”, and 5) an appropriate urn and/or keepsakes.

As a profession, we have a tendency to either (a) make assumptions and not educate families well or (b) to overwhelm them with options. Instead, we must become expert consultants, asking the right questions and making meaningful recommendations.

Out of necessity, we have to ask families a lot of questions. We are skilled at asking questions clearly and compassionately. We often focus on the questions that meet our immediate needs, but we must also ask the questions that reveal memories and stories stacked with emotion and importance. Examples of these “feeling finding” questions are:

  • What are the special things you hope friends and family members will remember most about your brother?
  • Who were some of your son’s closest friends? What were those relationships like? How did they spend their time together?
  • When your grandmother found time to relax, what would she do?

Being a good interviewer hinges upon your ability to be a good listener. Fight the tendency to tell your own stories in response to what the family is sharing and focus only on the family at that time – set aside the to-do list and listen.

These answers allow us to guide families on the choices they need to make – your suggestions give them permission to be creative. Be willing to take the remembrance event outside your facility or bring the essence of a unique location inside because your recommendations should flow into the event experience itself. Consider the stadium, the beach, the driving range, and other outside-the-funeral-home-box places.

By focusing on asking the right questions and honing our creative event planning skills, you can ensure that each family’s experience is the best possible and that, ceremony or not, the outcome is an experience that you can be proud of having provided.



Foundation Partners

With thanks to Justin Baxley, Senior Vice President of Business Development for Foundation Partners Group, for sharing his passion and professional expertise.

For more information, take CANA’s new Cremation Arrangement Conference online class get more tips for talking to families.

Members can read more techniques in Vol. 53, No. 2 Issue of The Cremationist.

Not a member? Consider joining your business to access tools, techniques, statistics, and advice to help you understand how to grow the range of services and products you can offer, ensuring your business is a good fit for every member of your community – only $470!

Tags:  arranging  consumers  services  tips and tools 

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