The Essence of Gratefulness

It’s probably appropriate that this article will appear in Funeral Director Daily on a Friday.  It’s on weekends, at least it was for me, that many funeral directors feel overworked and neglected.  It’s probably because most funeral homes are short-staffed on weekends and those on duty miss many family activities that take place on weekends because they are working.


I felt like that at times. . . I worked a schedule most of my life where I was on duty every other weekend until the last few years of working where it was every third weekend.  The first thing Angie and I would do when our boys’ activity schedules came out for weekend baseball, band, hockey, or basketball was look at the schedule and make a plan for the season.  Sometimes it entailed looking ahead and checking with other funeral home workers about switching weekends if possible.  Other weekends it was about finding a family to include our sons’ in their plans because I knew I would be at work.


However, while it is difficult to see in the moment, I’ve came to view those years of work with a certain gratefulness when I look back on them.   I sometimes think that hardship, if you can call a work schedule hardship, allows us an easier view into gratefulness.


New York Yankee star Lou Gehrig gave a farewell speech from baseball when he was diagnosed with ALS disease, now referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, on July 4, 1939.  That speech, when he proclaimed that he was “. . the luckiest man on the face of the earth” has been called by some “the essence of gratefulness”.  You see, Gehrig faced a difficult future — one that included certain death in a short period of time.  However, he was able to reflect and look back on all of the wonderful things of his earthly life.


I recently drove 28 hours over three days from our Minnesota home to our winter condo rental in south Florida. That’s a lot of driving time. . . and a lot of time for reflection.  I drove through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and finally the length of Florida.  I couldn’t help but see our wonderful country at its best in cities, suburbs, and rural areas.  As I drove through the differing areas I thought of who were the funeral directors on call in that area. . . . because while I didn’t know them, as a funeral director who cared for his community, I knew they were out there. . . . .at least one funeral director on call for every square inch of geography that I traveled.


I’m guessing that some of those funeral directors were at work at the moment. . . and they maybe would have rather been home with family or watching their favorite football team compete in a televised game.  But they were out caring for their community.


As mentioned earlier, funeral service can be a time consuming and odd hour profession that we sometimes can get weary and tired working in.  There were many Saturdays that I was working at funeral services where I missed watching my favorite college football team play and that disappointed me.


Maybe a little like Lou Gehrig, however, I feel that essence of gratefulness in retrospect in knowing that I was making a difference to a family in need. . . .a family that had lost a loved one and didn’t quite know what to do next.  Yes, I missed a lot of “stuff” over the years, but I don’t think that “stuff” can hold a candle to the experiences I had helping families and for that I’m now truly grateful.


Here’s a big “thank-you” to all of those working in our profession to care for those that need it. And, many times missing other “stuff” because of it.  My guess, is that someday you will look back with gratefulness because you were able to be there for those families at that time.


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  1. Eugen Lavole on January 15, 2023 at 6:37 pm

    My husband first symptoms of ALS occurred during covid, but was diagnosed in 2021 when he was 61 years. He was on Riluzole- not crazy about it! he was also on Gabapentin and Radicava not crazy about any of it either, The Rilutek (riluzole) did very little to help him. The medical team did even less. His decline was rapid and devastating. His arms weakened first, then his hands and legs. I was a master Gardener and love herbs! This ALS took my life from me, I was no longer able to work in my garden anymore because I was a full time caregiver for my husband. We stopped most of his ALS medications due to severe side effects and I started him on herbal treatments from Health Herbs Clinic (healthherbsclinic. c om), the treatment has made a very huge difference for him. His symptoms including body weakness and slurred speech disappeared after few months on the treatment. He is getting active again since starting this treatment, he is able to walk and able to ride his treadmill again.

  2. Benjie Huy on January 6, 2023 at 10:58 pm

    Great article and commentary as usual. I was on that bi- weekly weekend schedule until recently. After almost 50 years and with changing face of services my wife Donna and I are able to be off weekends unless sickness or vacation or working with friends. We have enough licensed staff they are only on call every 4th weekend. They all seem to be very thankful. I am also thankful for every FD covering their community on weekends.

  3. Colette Kemp on January 6, 2023 at 6:19 am

    Typo in my previous comment *should be Loved ones*

  4. Colette Kemp on January 6, 2023 at 6:18 am

    Thank you for this article and thank you to all those that sacrifice their personal time to care for people and their lives ones.

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