This is the first week of spring and with it comes new hope and a rebirth of energy and drive. Sometimes when mourning, we can find ourselves stuck in what seems to be an endless winter. Darkness and despair may be the only reality we can picture.
It takes energy sometimes to look beyond winter’s bleakness. No matter how dark it may seem. No matter how cold and dark your winter may be, spring will come and help bring new life and energy to you.
When I find myself in this scenario, I have to remember to be grateful. I have to find little things to be grateful for--a bit of sun shining through on a cloudy day. Maybe I could think about something that made me smile or even laugh. Helping someone else can shift my perspective, and sometimes I may even need to be quiet and meditate on the many wonderful experiences I had with my loved one. Sometimes I just need to lean on a good friend to see things through their eyes and borrow their energy and listening ears.
You and I are more resilient than we know. We have the power to allow the spring to start. It may not happen all at once, but soon some evidence may be seen.
I just finished reading the book My stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. It is a fascinating book. She worked at Harvard Medical School researching how the brain functions when she had a stroke which shut down her left hemisphere’s functions. I know, about now you are thinking, “What does this have to do with grief?” Stay with me. It will make sense soon.
She talks about the experience, what she felt, and the recovery process. What is really interesting was at the end of the book she talks about how through this experience she learned that she had a lot more control over the emotions she felt and how happy she is. She talks about a physiological response. You have no control over this reaction, but it only lasts about 90 seconds. After the 90 seconds have passed, you have the ability to choose whether you will continue to stimulate this emotional and physiological loop or move on to another.
The reason I thought about this in the context of grief is because when my mother-in-law passed away, I found myself in a self-recriminating loop. I wished I had spent more time with her. I wondered if she really knew how much I loved and appreciated all that she did for me. Because of the distance, I did not take as much time as I should have talking with her. I wished I would have done things differently.
The thing I realized was this loop wasn’t helping me feel better. It was not helping me remember and keep my relationship with her. It was shutting me down. I was not able to go beyond the loop, “Why didn’t I call more?” or “What if I visited more?” Etc.
Jill talks about the importance of feeling the emotion of the moment and allowing it to pass through us. Since reading this book, I have caught myself in other loops. I have to pull myself back to the present. There are many ways to do that--repeating a phrase, humming, singing. What works best for me is to close my eyes and listen to all the different sounds I can hear or see if I can feel different textures. When I have come back from the loop, then I think of the situation again. This time I can feel the emotion and let go of the loop. I cannot explain it better than that. I don’t know how to, but it is different, and I feel at peace.
I am not saying that you can take the pain out of grief, or that it will bypass the work needed to grieve and mourn properly. What I am saying is getting beyond the loops helps to see things as they really are.
It’s the Holiday Season again, and things start to be busy. Time is spent preparing and decorating, not to mention the shopping that goes on to make it all possible. We want so much to create memories and have everything be perfect, but do we remember the lasting impressions of stories. What stories do we want to pass on to the new generation?
I had the honor and privilege of spending time with my Great Grandma Lyle. She lived to be 104 years. I remember her telling me stories of her childhood about the coal oil lamps, the bear skin rug, and the horse and buggy being the means of transportation. I thought of cars, computers and cell phones--all of the many wonderful changes that took place during her life. History was more real to me because of her stories.
I also remember stories told of my great grandfather who hid money in certain places around the house before he left on his mission, and wrote back periodically to tell his family where the money was hidden as they needed it. Once I was talking to someone who was so surprised to hear about people not putting money in the bank, and storing it in their home. It seemed so completely foreign to them. I was not surprised because of the story of my grandfather. There was a time that people did not trust the bank and, they found other ways of keeping their money save. Although in the case of my grandfather, he should have kept it in the bank, because the mice used it to make their nest.
There are stories that are special to your family that help demonstrate what values you family holds dear, give hope and encouragement, and that make us laugh and feel closer together. This holiday season let us find time to tell each other a little more about who we are, and what really means something to us. If you need starter questions, National Funeral Director Association has put together a brochure at http://www.talkofalifetime.org/event/ , or there is also a deck of cards that can be ordered with questions to start the conversions. Here are a few samples: What made you laugh so hard you cried? What is the most beautiful place you have ever visited? What made it Beautiful? What does your perfect day look like? What is your favorite genre of music? Band? Song? Is there something you’ve always wanted to know? Now is the time to ask.
I know there are many stories we tell over and over at family gatherings. There are new stories yet to be heard. Life is about the connections we make and remember with each other.
We were honored in the Nomis newspaper. Below is the article that was published.
We are celebrating 150 years of funeral service. When Emil Anderson started helping in 1866 to make the coffins he was a carpenter by trade, but knowledge and training in funeral service was important to him. He later graduated from the Chicago College of Embalming.
He started out in a shop to the side of his home. Emil’s sons, Warren and Stephen Anderson were taught the art of embalming and established a mortuary on Main Street in American Fork known as Anderson Brothers. Continuing the tradition started by Emil servicing the all funeral needs.
Then Warren's sons: Earl, Glen & Harold Anderson were involved in the family business thus changing the name to Anderson & Sons Mortuary and once again they added a funeral chapel to improve the facilities in 1955.
In 1963 Earl and Zola both licensed funeral directors purchased Anderson & Sons Mortuary, Inc. from his brothers and built a modern facility. This facility is still in use today it is our American Fork location.
We have seen many changes to the funeral industry during our 150 years. Some of these changes were pioneered by the Anderson family. We are proud to continue this heritage. We currently have two locations in American Fork, Utah and the other is in Highland, Utah. We have two generations that are currently working at the mortuary. Alan Anderson and his children Alec Anderson, Angela Plummer and Andrew Anderson. We enjoy the relationship with have with our communities and hope to be able to continue serving for many more generations to come.
It was said that there were probably two reasons flowers were used originally at funerals in ancient times. One, flowers are a symbol of renewed life, because each spring the flowers return to life. Two, flowers have a pleasing fragrance to help cover the smell of embalmed bodies.
Flowers can help to bring an atmosphere of comfort and cheer to the funeral service. For some people it is an essential part. It is a way of conveying feelings of sympathy when the words are so hard to find.
Each type of flower in and of itself has a symbolic meaning. According to the Telaflora website, lilies are a symbol for innocence and purity. Gladioli embody strength of character, sincerity, and moral integrity. Carnations are long lasting and fragrant, and symbolize pure love and innocence. Chrysanthemums in many cultures represent death and sympathy, but here in the United States can be used to mean truth and can be cheerful. Roses have different symbols for each color. Here are some examples: “White roses evoke reverence, humility, innocence, and youthfulness. Red roses convey respect, love, and courage. Pink roses signify love, grace, appreciation and gentility. Dark crimson roses denote grief and sorrow. Yellow roses are given by friends of the deceased to symbolize their strong ties. When you include a single rose in a bouquet it expresses enduring love for the deceased.”
I help family and friends pick their floral arrangements. We begin by talking about the personalities of their loved ones. Some were gardeners themselves, some loved pink or red. Next we discuss how the flowers should represent the family member’s memories. Some families want bright vibrant colors to go along their loved ones had bright robust personalities. Some want roses specifically others want to have a variety.
Sometimes, when I speak with people living out of state, they tell me they do not know what they are looking for specifically, but they know the feeling they want the flowers to convey. It is a fun process to begin with a vague image and then to arrive at something they would like to send.
I love flowers. I love to see the way flowers change the atmosphere of viewings and funeral services.
I hope you took some time to reflect on those who have influenced your life this Memorial Day. I also hope you spent some time with your families making new memories. Now what can you do with all the pictures and videos you have collected throughout the years? One of the great ways to memorialize someone’s life is to combine all of these into one video.
Pictures and music can help bring back memories to those who were there and create impressions for those who were not there but are experiencing what it was like through the memorial video. It can be shared over and over. It can be as short or long as you want it to be. The hardest part is choosing which photos to include. This can be a great family project to sort through the photos and videos to compile them in a sequence that has meaning to you and your family.
There are a couple of ways to make the video. Windows has Movie Maker and Apple computers have iMovie. With this software you can insert your pictures and the music of your choice, or if you do not feel like learning the software or messing with scanning in the photos, we can help. Check out some of the videos found on the obituary page.
If you would like to do this for a family member who has passed on awhile ago and you need help, we would be glad to help you with your video. This can be fun for birthdays or wedding anniversaries as well.
Are you ready? That is a loaded question. Ready for what? What happens if a loved one needs long term medical care, and how will you pay for it? Recently I have learned more about Medicaid, and what happens when a loved one needs Medicaid to cover their needed medical expenses. I had a vague idea working around the mortuary, but I really knew very little of the emotion and concern that accompanies the reality of it.
There is a website that says there are two kinds of Medicaid planning the first, and most frequently used, is the crisis planning. This is at a time when your loved one needs Medicaid’s assistance and you are forced to look at what is now possible. The other is pre-planned which will give peace of mind knowing that everything is in order and your posterity will have the maximum benefit from your carefully savings plan.
It varies from state to state what the exact rules are, but mostly it is that the person on Medicaid can only have $2000.00 dollars in assets. This includes houses, cars, insurances and bank accounts. For the exact rules for the state of Utah see the Medicaid Nursing Home Information pdf link below. There are some exemptions for spouse and dependents. Even though the state of Utah will not consider the home an asset that will limit your ability to receive Medicaid if your spouse is still living, when you sign for assistance a lien is placed on your loved ones home to be paid after your loved one passes away. An attorney specializing in elderly law should be consulted to know what is best for you.
There is a five year look back to ascertain what the person’s assets include, and during that five year period if you have gifted or sold the assets for less than they are worth in market value to your children, this may make you ineligible for Medicaid assistance. That is why it is important not to panic, but find some real help.
One way we can be of service is through an irrevocable pre-paid funeral plan. Medicaid exempts these type of plans when calculating the assets. It can give you peace of mind that your final arrangements will not be left to your children to pay, and it is less stressful because your children already know what your wishes are. We have a Family service agent that can help by coming to your home, or you can come to the mortuary. Please see the Pre-Planning section of our website.
In this section the steps are the same for you as well as for your child. It is easier to complete them for yourself, and then guide your child through the steps. Now that you have reviewed the relationship and took note of your feelings, there are actions to be made. Some memories will bring feelings of wishing you had done something different or better, or in other words, you feel sorry for your actions or inactions. Some memories will bring feelings that you wish someone else had done something better or different. These memories may make you mad or sad for the actions or inactions of others. Some memories will have strong emotional values. Such as, “I loved spending time with him/her,” “I felt safe when I was with him/her” or “I could always count on him/her.” Last of all, but also the best, is the fond memories. You know the fun stories that get told over and over again. These are important too.
Let’s look at the first set of memories--the things you did or did not do that you wish you could change. When the person has passed away, a direct apology cannot be made, but for your peace of mind the apology still needs to be made. Find someone you trust and let them hear your apology. This will help you complete your part of the relationship. It can be simple as, “I am sorry for not visiting you as often as I should have,” or as detailed as you need, but it must be sincere, and another person needs to be present.
This next category is the hardest. For the memories where you were hurt or offended by another you have to forgive the person who offended you. If you don’t forgive them, that negative energy will stay in you. Just like with the apology, the expression of, "I forgive you for…," should be sincere and to another person. It may have to be done more than once. There may be multiple levels of forgiveness. You may not allow yourself a complete forgiveness at first, so you may have to repeat until it is finally let go.
The third category is important in defining in your mind the relationship. What was the quality? What significant emotions define your relationship? These should be stated.
The last category--the memories we cherish are nice to keep around and help us to look for new memories to share with others.
All of these categories should be complied in a letter written to the person who has passed away and read out loud to someone you trust. Make sure at the end of the letter to say good bye to your loved one. P.S. notes can be added later if you remember more about the relationship you wish to express. Again, end with saying goodbye to your loved one.
American Fork Chapel
49 East 100 North
American Fork, UT 84003
Lone Peak Chapel
6141 West 11000 North
Highland, UT 84003