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Many people don’t want to think about their own funeral. I can’t blame them. It is difficult thinking about our own mortality. I have heard people say, in order to shift from this thought, “Don’t make a fuss over me. Just put me in a pine box and bury me in the backyard.
Death is a significant milestone in our lives just like our birth, graduation and wedding. Think back on the other milestones you have had. What made them special? For me it was the people who shared special times with me.
Yes, when I die I will not be there completely, but all of the people I have loved and celebrated with before will be, and they will miss me. At least I believe I have connected enough that my absence will be noticed. It is for them and for their needs that my final celebration will be held.
The artwork of my Aunt Dorothy Buckwalter and the inspiration to learn
Thank you to everyone that joined us for the Pysanky egg demonstration. We had a great turn out. I also wanted to thank Cathy Witbeck for her outstanding explanation and lesson on the tradition of Pysanky eggs. She taught us that Pysanky comes from the verb “to write” in Ukrainian. Therefore the Psyanky eggs are messages given to loved ones in the Ukrainian tradition.
Some of the messages are in the colors and others are in the design. For instance, white stands for purity, green for new growth and hope, and red for love. The interesting symbol Kathy shared with us is that spiders stand for patience.
Kathy started when she was 12 years old because her mother introduced it to her. In Canada where she grew up there was a lot of Ukrainian influence. She has loved it ever since and now is helping other families to have a tradition to share together.
What are some of your family’s traditions? How did they start? Who is involved in each part of it? What are some new traditions you would like to share with your family members. Life is all about the connections we make and share with others. Sometimes we do things without sharing the why and how things were started. I think it makes the tradition richer to know the details behind it.
Take some time in the next week and look closely at some of your family’s traditions. Find out the details and maybe write them down so that other generations can share the why and how the traditions were started and why they are is important to carry on.
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.
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American Fork Chapel
49 East 100 North
American Fork, UT 84003
Lone Peak Chapel
6141 West 11000 North
Highland, UT 84003