August 2019

Page A10 AUGUST 2019 FUNERAL HOME & CEMETERY NEWS S ec t i on A Learn why Funeral Homes and Families are calling it the most Meaning ful Keepsake Turning a cherished memory into a work of art. 1-801-368-6215 A Hmong the Living Funeral Home & Cemetery News Contributors share insights and exchange ideas. B logs MatthewMorian, CFSP and ZachCarnley, CFSP are theMillennial Directors. Matt and Zach met through the North Texas Funeral Directors Association and TFDA Emerging Leaders. They started their Millennial Directors blog as a way to give voice to a generation of young professionals. Matt is a first generation funeral director and embalmer and is the man- aging director of Lucas Funeral Homes in Keller and Grapevine, TX. Matt has been in the funeral profession since 2010 and is a graduate of the Dallas Institute of Funeral Service. He was awarded the 2017 North Texas Funeral Director Association’s Young Funeral Professional of the Year as well as the 2017 Texas Funeral Director Association’s Young Funeral Professional of the Year. Matt currently serves on the board for the North Texas Funeral Director Association. Zach was class valedictorian at Dallas Institute of Funeral Service, where he earned a degree in Funeral Sciences. He has also earned his Certified Funeral Service Practitioner designation. He had previously earned a B.A. in Criminal Justice from Stephen F. Austin State University. Zach was awarded the 2014 North Texas Funeral Director Association’s Young Funeral Professional of the Year as well as the 2014 Texas Funeral Director Association’s Young Funeral Professional of the Year. He serves on the board of the Texas Funeral Director Association Services Inc. He is a board member of the Academy of Professional Funeral Service Practice, serves on the Job Task Analysis Committee for The Conference of International Funeral Examining Board. He is the funeral home manager of Lucas and Blessing Funeral Home in Burleson, TX. Millennial Directors Matthew Morian, CFSP Funerals are a cultural event. As funeral directors, we are sometimes asked to understand diverse customs and rites that are not our own. How you react when asked to open up your funeral home to another culture and their traditions is important to the future of your busi- ness. Earlier this year I had the honor of serving the Yang family when their father passed away. The Yangs are Hmong, an ethnic group of Southeast Asian decent located predominately in Southern China, Vietnam, and Laos. The Hmong people were broadly depicted in the 2008 Clint Eastwood movie Gran Torino . Mr. Yang was born in Laos and fought with the Royal Lao Army alongside the U.S. Military during the VietnamWar. This was often referred to as the “Secret War” because of America’s covert involve- ment in the border conflict between Laos and the North Vietnamese. Mr. Yang assisted the United States Military at great personal risk and when the U.S. subsequently withdrew their troops from the re- gion, his family was exiled from their home. They found refuge in Texas where they formed a tight-knit family community. The Yangs do not identify themselves as Laotian. They are proud Hmong. When the Yang family first called on our funeral home, they were very upfront about their needs and wants. They had three concerns: Time, Space, and Food . Time: Hmong funeral tradition consists of several full days of ser- vices culminating traditionally with a burial on the final day. We found a clear weekend with no other services scheduled so we could designate a Saturday, Sunday, and Monday for their family’s exclusive use of our entire funeral home. That is an ingredient of concern num- ber two… Space: We are not a large location by some standards, but we have some space to work with. Our chapel can seat 185, and we have two state rooms as well as a small reception room. All of our space would be needed to welcome their family but our reception room was the key. It was just large enough to hold the food. Not the guests eating it, just… Food: When I tell you that food is a big part of Hmong funeral tradition, you better believe I mean BIG ! We used six of our folding tables and six of our cocktail tables just to hold the serving dishes. We didn’t need to supply any of the food. We just needed to accommo- date it. Food, Food, FOOD! To accurately describe the amount of food served and eaten in- side the funeral home over those several days would be impossible. A small army of family and friends cooked three daily meals at the family’s home and brought each meal over to be eaten hot and fresh: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. No leftovers. No store bought sandwich trays… truly authentic Hmong cuisine. Freshly slaughtered beef in spicy sauce with bamboo shoots, sticky rice, beef tendon broth, desserts galore such as neon green and pink sticky breads, pud- dings, cakes, cook- ies, and a sweet co- conut milk drink filled with fruits of several different tex- tures and tastes akin to soggy cereal (in a good way)… and that was just one of the lunches. Dinner tended to be much more rustic. One night was a chicken soup in which I had a boiled chicken claw hang- ing out of my bowl. A tangy beef dish with more bamboo shoots and sticky rice, as well as a leafy green salad. Lots of broiled and steamed fish, some of which were wrapped in banana leaves. Breakfast usually began with a giant crock of chicken porridge that was akin to chicken and dumplings. I dressed mine with green onions, fish sauce, and a dash of homemade chili oil… “Not too much!” they’d say, as I attempted to draw a large spoonful from the jar. I’m glad I listened. It was tasty but ex- tremely potent. In order to serve and con- sume all of this food, we defi- nitely needed space. Space for activities… Out of necessity, we con- verted the stateroom adjacent to our reception room into a dining hall. The family rented twenty additional folding tables and one hundred and fifty chairs to be able to seat their family and guests. A few days before the service, the son came in and thoroughly measured and mapped the space in the stateroom to make sure we could fit as many tables in as possible. We had additional tables that ended up under our portico because it decided to storm that weekend and our uncovered patio was no lon- ger usable as over- flow. Our chapel setup was rou- tine. The casket remained open and surrounded by flowers and photos. Tradition dictated that the family choose an all wood casket. It is believed by some Hmong that metal cannot be buried with the deceased or else it can draw a curse on the family. A shroud or “spirit shield” is often employed to keep a family’s enemies from se- cretly placing metal objects in the casket. Our second stateroom was used as an area for guests to do- nate to the family. A desk, chairs, and a little privacy was all that was needed to perform this customary act of respect. Zach Carnley, CFSP By Matthew Morian, CFSP What time is it..? Saturday and Sunday were busy from 8 am to 10 pm. Three services each day that were usually followed or preceded by a full meal. The services were packed with Karaoke style songs sung over backing tracks that each singer would bring to me on CD’s or flash drives just minutes before they were set to perform. In the family printed memorial programs they called this portion of the service: “Special Songs”. Each service typically had be- tween four and five of these songs as well as a host of speak- ers including their minister. They were a Christian family, however a Hmong Baptist ser- vice takes on a cultural distinc- tion that is much different than the Baptist services I had grown accustomed to. By the end of the weekend, I was exhausted. I was lead di- rector/sound guy for all of the services which usually lasted right up until 10:00 pm each evening. The family also invit- ed our entire staff to dine with them at each meal, so there was not a lot of down-time. In total, I estimate that we played about 30 different songs and oversaw about 15 hours of ceremony including the funer- al services on Monday morning. By noon we had processed to the cemetery and were watching the casket being lowered into the grave after a brief committal. The time for rituals had come and gone. Everyone said goodbye. The Yang family became near and dear to me after many days of planning, organizing, and hosting their father’s funeral. Had I said NO to their needs when they first called on me as a fu- neral provider, I may never have earned the tremendous appre- ciation for their culture I now have. While Hmong funeral traditions share similarities to other funeral customs, as a funeral director you will need three dis- tinct things to successfully serve a Hmong family: the time to honor their heritage, the space to make them comfortable, and an empty stomach . Ua tsaug. The line for each meal stretched down our back hallway to the front foyer. The claw may not look appetizing to some, but the broth was fantastic. Chicken porridge with spicy chili sauce. The rental company dropped off and the family helped set up the tables and chairs. Family and friends enjoyed a hot meal in our stateroom. Each service had a sec- tion for “Special Songs” but the order and amount was not predetermined. 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