November 2020

Page A16 NOVEMBER 2020 FUNERAL HOME & CEMETERY NEWS S ec t i on A www. By Wally Hooker, CFSP, MBIE This month instead of a technical article, I’m going to share a related story, which I urge you to read to the end. In retrospect, Ron was fortunate…he was just a few months shy of his 90th birthday and diagnosed with stage 4 colon can- cer with metastasis. He passed just a little over 60 days from the diagnosis, only enduring a few bad weeks. He had served in the United States Marine Corps and retired from farming after near- ly 50 years on the same farm. He was a tough ‘rascal’ and fought until the end. Ron died peacefully at home sur- rounded by family, who were lov- ingly holding him as he took his last breath. When the family was ready for Ron to be taken into my care, I asked, would it be OK if I took Ron past the family farm on one last ‘road farming trip’ before I took him on the 70-mile trip to the fu- neral home. They thought it was a great idea! Not only did I take Ron out past the farm, but seven fami- ly vehicles followed. We stopped at the homestead where many photos were taken and tears shed. It was a beautiful evening with the sun just setting behind the corn on the land he and his father had farmed. It seemed appropriate watching the sun set beyond the fields of corn. As Ron and I headed to the funeral home, I was thinking ahead to what chemicals and fluids would be appropriate. It was my desire to restore this now frail man back to the robust, hand- some, tanned farmer he always was. I had formulated a plan in my mind but didn’t want to ‘overdo it’. Sometimes we can turn the clock back too far and this does not serve us well. The embalming went well, he had great color and looked like a million bucks! It is my opinion to inject color for a more natu- ral appearance, lessening the need to ‘over cosmetize’, especial- ly men. Using accessory fluids to ‘plump’ his tissue was a suc- cess. Both his face and hands were uniformly ‘plumped’ and not much tissue building or cosmetics would be necessary. I dressed Ron in his finest, all the way down to his favorite pheasant tie tack. He looked great, but I’m always fearful when I think my bodies look great, that the family won’t. Once he was casketed in a Pecan casket with a John Deere tractor headpanel I was sure all would be well. Since the services would be 70 miles from my funeral home, we engaged an ‘event center’ to hold the visitation and funeral. Ron’s church had many steps, narrow aisles and concerns with COVID. The staff of this facility went above and beyond on ev- ery expectation I had. They even had a separate room for the family with refreshments and would host the luncheon follow- ing his funeral. finally step back, be a son, and al- low my friends and staff to take control and do the leg work. How humbling and what a re- minder that we aren’t in this alone when death hits home. To experi- ence colleagues flying in, driving in from great distances, spending the night to attend the funeral, the surprise to see long lost fam- ily, friends and colleagues who care enough to be with you is indeed healing. They all get it; they understand and it totally amazed me to see so many colleagues. For me personally, the healing began the evening of Dad’s visi- tation. The stories shared, the love felt, the hugs, the continu- ous line of people, the comments on how great he looked. Feeling the support and respect of those in attendance was therapeutic. The value of seeing Ron look so at peace, so handsome with that little smirk to the grandchildren, great-grandchildren, his wife, brother and family was invalu- able for them to begin the jour- ney to live a life without Ron. I am left without words…just incredibly humbled and hon- ored by the calls, emails, texts, cards, memorial contributions, personal visits and the outpouring of love and support from around the world. I am truly blessed to be friends and associat- ed with such kind, loving professionals. This is why we do, what we do…let us never lose sight of the foundation on which fu- neral service was built, the dead human body! From the bottom of my heart…I thank you! The day of the visitation was like most…the hustle and bustle of florists, making sure the light- ing was just right over Ron to ensure he looked perfect. Fam- ily bringing photos, memorabil- ia, video, working strategically to make sure everything would be just right for this family. Even a 1946 UTU Minneapolis Moline Tractor that Ron had bought from his father and farmed with, and had been meticulously restored by his son, was sitting under the en- try carport so guests could see it as they entered. The entire arrange- ment was befitting to a man of the land. A large shock of corn was on display with the floral arrangements at the head of the casket. Ron had often lamented…I want no tears! I want laughter, Eddie Arnold and Statler Brothers mu- sic and my neighbor to officiate my funeral. We gave him his wish and a little more! The funeral was a celebration of Ron’s life, just as he requested. Complete with laughter, tears, re- membrances, gratitude and grate- fulness. When the funeral proces- sion arrived at the country church yard where Ron and his family had attended…his flag draped casket was transferred to a hay wag- on. The wagon was hooked to the same tractor that sat outside the visitation. The pallbearers and immediate family accompanied Ron on the wagon as his son drove the tractor to the gravesite. Over one hundred guests followed in silence, many taking photos and vid- eos. They were met at the gravesite by an American Legion Honor Guard and honors team from the Marine Corps. The stainless steel vault carapace had a sunset farm scene that seemed appropriate for a retired farmer. It was a surprise for the family. In my mind, everything had gone very well, especially consider- ing the logistics involved. The big question, what would his daugh- ter think? She had second-guessed everything…questioned every- thing, as though it was my first service. As people began leaving the cemetery, the daughter told me, “everything was absolutely perfect, I don’t know what more we could have done.” She hugged me and said thank you! This was a huge relief for me…you see, the daughter is Julie and she is my sister. Ron was our dad! Preparing for this service was a double-edged sword. It was both a privilege and honor to handle the details of Dad’s service. However, it doesn’t leave much time to mourn his loss. I felt totally alone at- tending to the details. But who else should do it? After I finalized Dad’s arrangements, the calls started coming in from friends and colleagues in funeral service offering their assistance. I was able to FUNERAL HOME & CEMETERY NEWS Monthly Columns online at Wallace P. (Wally) Hooker CFSP, MBIE, is the owner, funeral direc - tor and embalmer of Family & Friends Funeral Home of Wingate, IN. He and his wife, Janet designed, established and built their funeral home in 2004. Wally is a graduate of Worsham College of Mortuary Science, where he serves on the Advisory Board. He is Past President of the Indiana Funeral Directors Association and board member of North American Division of the British Institute of Embalmers. In addition, he has served as chief deputy coroner/ investigator of Fountain County, IN for the last 24 years. Embalming 101 Ron died plies in the U.S.” The 15th edition of the Funeral and Cremation Services and Supplies Industry report, published annually, con- tains timely and accurate industry statistics, forecasts to help plan, and objective analysis. The report, pub- lished in September, fea- tures historical, current, and future trends covering the 2005-2024 period. 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