Life stories. . . . .that’s one way we can transform

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column for Funeral Director Daily entitled, “How will we transform”?  The article was based on the fact that Hillenbrand Industries, parent company of Batesville Casket Company, knows that its casket business will not be its bread and butter forever, and is transforming itself over time to a company where Batesville is less and less the centerpiece of that company.

A comparison was somewhat made that Hillenbrand is “taking charge” of this business transformation from within whereby some funeral homes are just sitting back and being reactive to what consumers are doing to transform the business for them.

Through that article and several e-mails I met a fellow funeral director named Jim Bauschke who is very passionate about moving the discussion from death care to life.  Jim does not want the consumer to define us. . . .he is re-defining funeral service from within.  Jim is passionate. . . he said in response, “People are all about life — they don’t want funerals or funeral directors. . .They want events about life, memories, and the story of their loved one’s life.”

Jim also told me that “every life has a story and for years we’ve buried or cremated the story right along with the body.  Well, those days have to end.”

I’m a disciple of Jim Bauschke and believe he is on the right track.  Funeral directors have to create memories for the families we serve.  Here is something that Jim wrote in response to my article and he gave me permission to print it in its entirety.  Hopefully, it spurs you to not care for somebody who has died, but for somebody who has lived.

How will we Transform?

How will we transform? This question was asked of funeral homes by FUNERAL DIRECTOR DAILY based on how Hillenbrand Inc. has transformed its business. It’s a great question and I offer the following thoughts for consideration by all of funeral service.

How about beginning by re-imagining funeral service. People don’t like the funerals we’ve been giving them, so they opt-out. And what do we do? We offer more trinkets, doodads, and pre-need for sale, but those don’t make a better funeral. We’re still all about death and the products that go with it. Plus, we still call ourselves ‘funeral’ directors.

People today are all about life–they don’t want funerals or funeral directors. They want events about life, memories, and the story of their loved one’s life. Hence, NFDA’s “Talk of a Lifetime”.

Have you ever had a family walk in your door to make arrangements and tell you they had the talk of a lifetime? No. So have that talk right then, in a comfy, casual setting. Instead of talking about burial, cremation, service time, mother’s maiden name, military service, etc., just say to them, “Tell me about your mom.” Then listen. And listen some more. Remember, no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

Ask about her childhood, how she met her husband, what their life was like when they started their family. Ask about the most important things they learned from their mom. Ask who will be most affected by her passing. We cannot expect people to want to honor and celebrate her life if we don’t take them back to the meaning of her life.

Re-think how you make arrangements, let go of the boring statistics and yes or no questions of the old arrangement form and get to the good stuff. And write a story then instead of an obituary.

Obits are about someone who died, stories are about someone who lived. Change how you make arrangements and create a fresh new visitation, funeral, memorial service, or life celebration. Make it an uplifting experience people like, want, and are willing to pay for. You can do it. Life story Funeral Homes® do it every day.        

–  Jim Bauschke, Life Story Network 10/7/2019

Jim Bauschke is a member of the Life Story Network of which you can learn more here.

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