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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A Eulogy - what is it and how to write one

The word eulogy comes from two Greek words, eu meaning ‘good’ and logos meaning ‘word’ or ‘thought’. A eulogy is a speech in praise of or tribute to a dead person.
It can be very difficult to deliver a eulogy when you are grieving. Public speaking or writing a speech can be daunting under the best of circumstances but, when someone you love or care deeply about has died, being asked to “say a few words” at the funeral service can feel like a thousand-ton weight on your shoulders.

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Now this means to the average person that, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. (Jerry Seinfeld)

A eulogy should be a healing experience, for you and for the deceased’s family and friends.
Here are a few tips to help you:

• Write the eulogy in a form that will help you to deliver it. This can be key words on paper or a computer tablet, bullet points, a slide show or a full speech written out;
• Use your memories and ask the deceased’s family and friends for their stories;
• Sometimes, the most poignant eulogies can be read like a letter to the deceased;
• Your eulogy can include absolutely any type of words you like: humorous, sad, poetic, thought provoking, inspiring, dramatic, anything;
• It may help to think about the big achievements in the deceased’s life, the hurdles they overcame, the milestones they reached;
• Don’t be afraid to use poetry or quotations if they mean something to you, friends or family; it doesn’t matter whether it’s the words to a pop song or a Shakespearean quote;
• Try to avoid clichés or common eulogy sentences, such as “We are here today to mourn the death of (name) …” or “(Name) will be sorely missed by all …”;
• You’re not on your own; others are grieving too. If you have to stop in the middle to compose yourself, don’t panic;
• Consider ending with a farewell to the deceased using
a piece of music or a video or a reading.

Few of us are saintly, but the eulogy should concentrate on what was positive in the deceased person’s life; if you must mention the negative, try to do so in humour.

Follow this advice and you will not go far wrong:
• Start with what you know: What you know is your relationship with the deceased, so start with your
memories, take out old photo albums or get online and go through some photos of you both to jog your memories. Remember the good times as well as the bad;
• Make a list about the person: Include details such as dates – birth, marriage, children, work dates, etc; names – spouse/partner, children, grandchildren; locations – childhood, teen years, trips abroad, etc; work life; hobbies; achievements;
• Seek out what you don’t know: Talk to the deceased’s family, friends, members of groups they belonged to about what they remember of the deceased;
• Humour: In the midst of mourning, your audience will appreciate some light-hearted, tasteful humour; referring to an anecdote, funny quote or accidental mishap is generally appreciated. But be careful – you’re not auditioning for stand-up comedy!
• Create your flow: Every speech or piece of writing should have a beginning, middle and an end – your eulogy should too. Interpret that chronologically or based on lifetime milestones – whatever seems appropriate;
• Time: Depending on the circumstances (religious ceremony or not), a eulogy should be no longer than 10 minutes and probably no shorter than two or three minutes. Speak slowly and calmly. Give yourself time and allow the audience to take in your words;
• Practice makes perfect: Practise your eulogy with close family or friends because they may wish to change some of what you say or add to it.

NOTE: If you’re delivering a eulogy for someone who has taken their own life, focus on understanding and empathising with the family’s grief and refrain from rationalisation and explanation. Arrange for loved ones to share good memories about his / her life. Humorous stories can be appropriate as they will lift the mood, if even momentarily, but be cautious. If possible, have anyone wishing to speak about the deceased write out their comments, as this will prevent any inappropriateness, however unintended, that may cause additional hurt or pain to the family.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Final Resting Place

Developments in technology have introduced new methods of disposing of bodies, including ecolation (combination of heat, cold and thermal pressures), resomation (where bodies are dissolved into an alkaline hydrolysis liquid) and promession (a process that freeze-dries bodies in nitrogen). Currently, the most common ways to dispose of a body in Ireland are burial and cremation (earth versus fire).

The funeral service for a burial or cremation is not vastly different. Following a service in a local church or other venue, one takes the body and the mourners to a burial ground, the other takes them to a crematorium. A further short service of last prayers, words or music can be held in either of these places.

Burial
Burial grounds (also known as cemeteries or graveyards) in Ireland typically are the responsibility of local authorities, although there are a number of privately-owned cemeteries as well.

Each of the burial grounds usually has a registrar or caretaker, who manages maintenance and the sale of plots in that site. Some graveyards forbid the purchase of a plot until a death has occurred and there is a ‘need’ for the plot. The reason for this is that they are running out of space!

You can re-open a grave to bury a member of the same family, but a space of at least one foot (30cm) above the previous burial must be left so the deeper the first body is buried, the better. It is possible to bury three or four people in
each grave plot.

The cost of buying a burial plot varies hugely. In rural Ireland, a burial plot could cost as little as €200 while in Dublin it could cost as much as €3,500. This cost does not include grave opening fees, which can add another €1,000 to the bill in some cemeteries. Burying someone and erecting a headstone or grave marker can provide a family with peace because they have somewhere physical to visit where they can feel close to the deceased. This is one of the reasons a lot of people opt for burial instead of cremation.

Cremation
Cremation is becoming more popular in Ireland and is predicted to become even more so. It is often seen as a cheaper option, because a family does not have to pay for a plot of land on which to bury a body nor do they have to pay to have the grave opened. And cremation costs currently average about €600.
There are currently 6 crematoria in the Island of Ireland, three of which are located in Dublin, one in Cavan, one in Belfast and the other in Cork. However, anyone anywhere in Ireland can arrange for a cremation to take place in any of these crematoria. (more info here)

Note that a time slot of 30 minutes is given when booking a crematorium, so if you require a longer time – perhaps to hold a funeral service at the crematorium, ask for a double slot.


Remember to alert the funeral director of any pacemakers, breast implants, artificial plates or joints that the deceased may have. Most metals pass through the process without any difficulty but it is always better to communicate all the available information you have. At the end of the service in the crematorium, the coffin holding the body is moved into the committal room. Despite rumours, only one coffin is cremated at a time – although, if for example a mother and baby, or wife and husband, died together, they can be cremated together also.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

The First Steps to take when someone dies.....

(IRELAND ONLY)

If you are reading this post, it is likely someone – someone close to you – has died and you are responsible for what happens next. So the first thing you need to do is not panic.
Have you contacted any of the following:
If the death did not take place in a hospital, you must contact the local doctor. Do not move anything until an official pronouncement of death has been made by the doctor.
Relax, take some deep breaths and sit down with a pen and paper. The next few days will pass you by so fast but the important thing to remember is that, although there seems like a lot to do, you are already on the right track. So what needs to be done right now, this instant? This depends on what stage you are at, so first things first: what have you done so far?

• Hospital / local doctor?
• Garda Síochána (Irish police force)?
• Funeral director (mortician / undertaker);
• Religious group;
• Solicitor;
• Next-of-kin.

Next, do you know whether the deceased held an organ donor card? If so, inform the doctor immediately (for more information on organ donation, see POST).
You must contact the Garda Síochána if the death occurred at home in Ireland. A coroner will be called if it was a sudden or unusual death. Do not be afraid or concerned if a coroner
is called. A coroner in Ireland is an independent official person with a legal responsibility to establish the ‘who, when, where and how’ of sudden or unexplained deaths. This may require a post-mortem examination, sometimes followed by an inquest.

Most people in Ireland responsible for arranging a funeral contact a funeral director for help with the arrangements. If you know that the deceased person left burial wishes with a particular undertaker or funeral planner, you should contact that undertaker or planner so they can put the deceased’s wishes into action immediately. Otherwise, you must now choose an undertaker or decide to make the funeral arrangements independently.

If it was the deceased’s wish to be buried, find out whether a burial plot has been pre-purchased and determine its exact location. If you are using a funeral director, they can help you with this. If not, contact the deceased’s solicitor or check their file where they kept important documents. If the deceased was a member of a religious group and you are not familiar with the traditions or rites that should be followed following their death, you should contact a representative of the group for guidance.

The deceased’s solicitor should be notified of the death of one of their clients so they can work on the legal implications of the death – in particular, to release any burial wishes or pre-arrangements noted in the person’s will. The will also specifies who is to serve as the executor or personal representative of the deceased. The executor is responsible for making sure that all creditors are paid, estate tax returns are filed and the remaining assets distributed according to the will. If the deceased died intestate (without a will), usually a surviving spouse, if there is one, or an adult child or parent will take on this role. Contact the next-of-kin, especially those abroad who may have to make travel arrangements. Close friends, relatives, neighbours, employers, classmates, and colleagues of the deceased should be notified as soon as possible. The best way to ensure that everyone is notified is to gather a small group of close relatives or friends of the deceased and ask them to start a ‘chain of calls’ to people in the wider community who need to know.

If the deceased person was employed, you will need to contact their employer.
If the deceased person was receiving a State pension, you will need to contact the Pensions Office. Others to notify in the days following a death include State authorities, the health service, insurance agencies and financial institutions. In most cases, you will need to provide a death certificate (see below) – usually an original, not a photocopy, so make sure you get plenty of certificates when
you register the person’s death – to prove the person’s death.

You also may need a letter from the deceased’s solicitor confirming that you are the executor (if that is the case) or have authority to act on behalf of the deceased.
To register a death, and to obtain a death certificate, which you will need later for all sorts of purposes, you must bring a medical certificate or death notification form issued by a doctor stating the cause of death to the local Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths. One exception is that, if you are the parent of a stillborn child, you are not legally obliged to register the death.
There is no charge to register a death that occurs in Ireland. Fees are charged for copies of the death certificate. Contact information for Registrars of Births, Marriages and Deaths throughout Ireland is also available on the HSE’s website (www.hse.ie) and from your Local Health Office.

Although not urgent, it is important to remember to:
• Inform the deceased person’s bank, building society or
credit union;
• Cancel any direct debits or standing orders that are no
longer required;
• Cancel reservations made by the deceased for holidays,
flights, theatre, etc and enquire about any refunds that
may be due;
• Change the name on the house deeds (the solicitor will
arrange this);
• If the deceased person was living in rented
accommodation, arrange to have the name on the
tenancy agreement changed or cancel the agreement;
• Change the name on household utility bills;
• Contact An Post to re-direct post to the executor or

solicitor or to hold it for collection at a later date.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Considering a DIY Funeral?

Not a task to be undertaken lightly, a DIY funeral (or, more accurately, a do-it-at-home funeral) can be a very personal experience but also a very difficult process. I suggest that if itis something you wish to do, do it with the help and advice of a good funeral home. I would advise also that this is something you plan ahead for (before the person dies).


A few things to note:
• A body can – and probably will – leak bodily fluids if not properly prepared;• If you wish for the body to be stored at home until the service, the family will need to keep it in a ventilated and cool room;
• A number of factors affect the speed of decomposition, even if the body is kept in a cool place. Be prepared for this;
• Embalming is not a legal requirement (In Ireland) unless the body is leaving the country. However, embalming is sanitary and preserving and allows the body to be presentable for viewing. Only a professional embalmer should do embalming;
• You can make or purchase your own coffin. Walmart and Costco in the US now sell coffins online. In the UK, William Warren (www.williamwarren.co.uk) provides instructions to make a bookcase, called ‘Shelves for Life’, based on your measurements, which can be turned into a coffin upon your death (more on that in a separate post)
• You will have to take care of certain issues that the funeral director typically deals with, such as booking the slot at the crematorium, appointing a priest or another person to deliver the service, arranging transport for the coffin, and grave-digging if a burial is involved;
• You cannot legally bury a body anywhere in Ireland. You must get permission first from your local County Council to do so, and approval from a Health Inspector to avoid human remains from polluting the water systems, etc;
• If you are opting for cremation after the DIY service, check with the crematorium that they will accept the body as you have prepared it. Some crematoriums may have an issue accepting bodies that are not in a coffin bought from an undertaker or arrive other than by hearse.

Friday, 20 January 2017

2016 - The Year of Celebrating the Dead Celebrity

2016 – wow what a year for celebrity deaths!

We kicked off the year losing David Bowie and Alan Rickman to the devastating disease cancer and the deaths of Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher, her mom Debbie Reynolds and pop star George Michael in December felt like the final gut wrenching twists of the celebrity knife. Are we/Am I being dramatic, or has 2016 actually been a cursed year for the ‘celebrity’ and those who spend time idolizing them? More on that later but seriously...MILLIONS and MILLIONS of people around the world reacted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat etc etc. So I have to ask the question WHY do we mourn people who we have never met, so publicly?

I think that the way that we grieve on social media today has also amplified the perception that 2016 really was the worst year for celebrity deaths and there's proof to that below! In addition to the 24 hour news cycle, most people are using the aforementioned social media outlets to express their personal memories and attachments to celebrities. Before the big world wide web, that conversation and that grief was limited to talking in person and pulling from newspapers. The younger the celebrity, the cause of death, the more sudden the death, the larger the shock, cultural impact and social media outrage there tends to be rather than if they succumbed to a long-standing illness or old age.

Millions attended Whitney Houston’s funeral and listened to “I will always love you” as her body left the local church. After Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros was killed covering a Libyan uprising, thousands attended his memorial service. The majority of the audience at each of these funerals attended them virtually which is one of the few things that is changing the way we mourn and how we do funerals in the 21st Century. EVERYONE can be let in to experience this historically private event.

Snapchat, YouTube and Twitter have also made us much more comfortable with sharing intimate details about ourselves online with strangers on a constant basis and hey I'm not objecting, I just learned Snapchat last year and currently have a love/hate relationship with the App. Many deaths and funerals are reported, commented on, tweeted, snapped, recorded and posted online before even their loved ones have heard of the news.

According to Famous NYC Funeral Home to the Stars, Frank E Campbell Director Schultz:

‘They (the public) Want Closure’. The funeral home stood as a backdrop to those who came to mourn Heath Ledger in NYC in 2008, as his casket was carried from the home, and the media and fans who came to watch. The intense dedication and unity of the mourners, the familial connections felt for people they have never met, the volatility of grief was apparent for all to see and this is not just reserved for Heath Ledger and his fans but to every “celebrity” or person in the publin arena." 

“They need to be a part of that life that they … have never touched personally, individually, privately, and in person — but through the media, through television, through the movies, it was very much a part of their growing up and their life. They want closure, People from every walk of life.”

National University professor/celebrity death expert Jacque Lynn Foltyn says:

“All these reactions can be viewed as ways of managing death in societies where actual death and the corpse are hidden away and seldom experienced firsthand but rather through Game of Thrones and CSI. Funerals are more rare, as memorial services have become popular. For some, social media is the virtual memorial service when they cannot attend, making a death an international event.”

SO - WAS 2016 really the WORST year for celebrity deaths??! Well Apparently not...... there is an interesting and (self admittedly) unscientific analysis of whether 2016 really was the worst year for celebrity deaths….check out CNN for further details. We lost at least 34 celebrities in 2016, which factor in Oscar and Grammy winning celebrities but when it comes to numbers, 2016 is edged out by 2006, during which 36 celebrities died so there ya have it! Dont ask me what you do with it but at least you have it! Feel better?? No, me neither :-( Bring back Alan and George!!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Family and Friends - THAT is what the holiday season is all about.

Christmas is coming and of all the feasts throughout the year the celebration of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day seem to be the most popular of all. There are more traditions and customs associated with Christmas in all Christian countries than with any other feast. I love Christmas time, it’s family time, it’s home time.

A few years ago my family and I decided to stop exchanging gifts and focus on the real gift of time, time spent with each other. The first year, it felt a little odd, but as the years rolled by, it became the norm for us and now I love it and would not have it any other way.

Having spent many years in America and enjoying Thanksgiving, it soon became one of my favorite holidays. Why? Because it was so similar to my experience of Christmas but without the pressure of gift buying. Yes, both Thanksgiving and Christmas have become commercial commodities that the stores use to guilt trip us. But what if we could fight off the advertising awareness, the pressure to spend more than the next person on a present and find the time to really, truly enjoy the moment, the season, the holiday with our loved ones, wouldn’t we be more loved and loving? Isn’t that what these dates are truly about?

With increasing awareness of suicide, poor mental health and depression in Ireland today we should be focussing on what is important in life. Family and friends are two of the most important parts of life and for me, Christmas is a time to really bring that to the fore. Whatever business you are in, we should be encouraging all our customers to share this message of love and warmth, family and friends and reaching out to those who we know don’t have the luxury of either.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The Vatican and me, Head to Head

So the latest this week was the ‘ruling’ from the Vatican who ‘ordered’ Catholics to keep ashes in a sacred place rather than at home.  Umm sorry now, I consider myself catholic and I don’t see anything MORE sacred than my own home where love and family are the biggest contributors??!

They also reckon the ‘remains of the faithful’ should be left in consecrated ground such as a cemetery plot which is interesting because we have to pay for said plot.
Church authorities also say that ashes must not be scattered in the air, on land or at sea, but yet these are all of ‘god’s’ creation are they not???

I’m sorry but I am not having it, yes of course I am biased as this affects my business of cremation memorials but I think it is a load of BS, and JUST when I was starting to dig our current Pope.

People are turning to more natural and green alternatives - natural burials, scattering ashes in the sea or on land are all deemed more natural currently.

My business is memorial jewellery, putting cremated ashes into jewellery so people can keep them close to them for as long as they live. I am catholic so what does this make me? Unfatihful? A Judas?

For me, this ‘ruling’ has nothing to do with religion at all and more with the church making money and exercising their control over ‘the faithful’. Well those ‘faithful’ are about to become the faithful departed if they don’t sort their beans out!

They cannot just make rules up as they go along. One minute cremation is out, then for convenience sake, it's in but don’t separate the ashes! Then it must be on sacred ground. Enough already! Sacred is whatever is SACRED TO YOU, the loved ones left behind. End of story.