Music . . . let there be music!

I was asked the other day if I knew of a country singer by the name of Jim Reeves. 

Many was the evening, as a young boy, my dad would put several of Jim Reeves’ LP 33’s on the record player and we’d listen to song after song.  Her question brought back good memories of my dad and mom and what home was like as a kid.

Isn’t that one of the things music should inspire us to do?

We had a woman in our grief group many years ago who shared the love of Eddie Arnold’s music with her husband.  When he died, she listened to the albums over and over again.  It was a reminder of her husband and their enjoyment together.  Over time, the recordings were not played as often, but when they were she was transfixed to a moment and place that made her grief more bearable.

Including music in a memorial service can change the entire feeling of the service. 

Just last week we enjoyed three recordings by Johnny Cash at the funeral of a man who absolutely loved his music.  Smiles were all around when “A Boy Named Sue” was played and heads bobbed to the beat.  Every person there held a part of Bob in their hearts for those minutes.

I remember “On The Road Again” at the service of an RV addict.  Four classical selections were played for a woman who immersed herself in classical music her entire life.  “Spirit In The Sky”, by Norman Greenbaum was played at the service of a man who loved Rock-and-Roll.  One couple had been married in Hawaii following the end of WWII and she asked for the “Hawaiian Wedding Song” be played at her husband’s service.  There’s a medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful Day” that absolutely stunned me the first time I heard it. 

If the person had a favorite class of music or artist, hearing them again is a wonderful way to bring back memories and to inspire others to remember long past the service.

Posted in Memories, Music | Leave a comment

I’ll Design Your Service

An excellent celebrant designs a service in consultation with family and friends.

You can have the best stories told.

You can have the important photos shown.

You can listen to your favorite music.

You can have a eulogy that tells a life story.

You can write what you want told and the celebrant will read it.

You can place sentimental items in the casket.

You can involve others in the service, at a meaningful, no threat level. 

You can provide a favorite candy, flower, poetry or other item to encourage memory and thanks.

You can hold the service at a memorable place.

You can allow humor.

You can make the service aim toward healing and acceptance.

You can provide the emphasis or theme for the service that honors your loved one.

People deserve to be remembered and their significance needs to be retold.

Posted in Celebrant, Officiant, The Way You Want It | Leave a comment

Life Can Be Messy

I had not met the family yet.  We talked by phone and I did my best to get the life story of the deceased.  Our conversation ranged from the early days to the divorces to the squandering of huge amounts of money to alcoholism to dalliances with suicide to the disease that would finally take a body that was all used up.

Living is messy.  Messier for some than for others.  Some have learned to control the mess.  Others just let it ooze out there and they often become victims for life. 

As a former pastor who is now a funeral director/grief support group facilitator, I meet people on, what Thomas Lynch calls, “the worst day of their lives.”  Because I perform funeral services for people who have no minister or officiant, I tend to get the messier ones as well as a lot of the “normal” ones.  I’m not complaining, in fact I’m thankful.  I’m grateful I’m experienced enough and trained enough to be the answer to many people’s question, “Who can we get to do the funeral?”

I get the many of the funerals most pastors don’t . . . the one’s where . . .

  • there was no relationship with a church
  • there is doubt of a person’s relationship with God
  • there is no doubt of a person’s dislike of God
  • the family has a million questions following a suicide or homicide
  • the family looks back on a life very ill-spent
  • the agony of illness left the family bereft of hope and few tools to cope
  • no one remains to care about the destitute
  • no family remains to love an invalid for life
  • a baby had no last name
  • a family is relieved to have the mess over

In every instance I try to point out the significance of that person’s life; however hidden, however distant, however hard to find.  Because none of us live without touching someone in a healthy and loving way at some point in our lives.  And this is what the family is yearning, through tears, to hear.  My son, my daughter, brother, sister, dad, mom or whoever was significant to someone other than just me.

I sometimes think God has given me one of the most wonderful gifts on earth.  I don’t fear the mess, I don’t mind the search and I don’t look away from all one might have to sift through to find significance.  It’s a treasure search and, finding the treasure, I love to share it with those who have looked for it for a long, long time. No one is insignificant.

Posted in Celebrant, Officiant, Significance | Leave a comment

A Eulogy For The Family

Losing a husband, father or grandfather is one of the most difficult things we go through in life. No words can express what you, the family, are feeling right now. To those of us who are not the family, we can only observe in a small detail your sorrow and pain.

Marshall was one of those hard working family men that was so persuasive, it seemed you almost always ended up on his side of a discussion. His words were the law in your house. He was always teaching the most valuable lessons of life, standing up for what he believed in. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.  Marshall was a very compassionate and kind person. You learned that the most important thing that he had was you, his family. He was really proud of all of you. You are who you are now because you had a father like him.  You would see that look that told you that you did something great, and seeing him like that made you feel like you owned the world.

I suspect Marshall was very strict as a father but that’s only because he cared for you. To his friends he was a very kind person and was always ready to help. He was often the first one consulted over a difficult diagnosis, the first counsel to a friend who needed wisdom.  He always had a solution to every problem and had his ways of making things simple. He never seemed to ask others for help but he was a very generous man in sharing his own guidance, and he never wanted to be acknowledged for anything he did. When he helped he simply helped.

Marshall showed strength until the end. Those of you who are left behind will continue what your father has started. It’s no accident that Michael and Deborah are professionals today.  They had displayed for them, throughout their youth, the highest model of professionalism one could ask for.  You and your children are and will be filling huge shoes but with the legacy provided by dad, by granddad, you will find ways to enhance that heritage.  Remember the things your father shared with you. And be thankful he is now in the hands of a loving and single-minded Father of his own.


Posted in Eulogies | Leave a comment

Example Of A Religious Funeral

“Amazing Grace”,  LeAnn Rimes

We gather today to celebrate the life of Dexter Haney.   The enormity of his significance to each of us draws us together.  If we had not loved deeply, the wound of our grief would not be so deep.  If we had not loved so deeply, the ache of our hearts would not be so raw.  If we had not known him, our minds and our bodies would be in a hundred other places doing a hundred other things.

We gather, because we need one another.  We must be reminded we are not alone. 


Father, we gather because we love Dex.  We pray for your presence as we remember him and as we consider your ability to care for our heartbreak and sorrow.  Our grief is evident.  Speak to us in these moments we spend together and with you.  Draw us closer to you than ever before.  Help us to know the truth of your words . . . “Cast all your cares upon God, because he cares for you”.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

We gather, because he would have wanted us to. He would have wanted friends and loved ones to find support in one another.  I have no doubt he is as much a part of our gathering as we are.  His spirit is among us as we say his name.  His very nature is among us as we tell his stories.  Dex will not be gone from us for a long time to come.  No one is ever gone until we stop saying their name and stop telling their stories.


Dexter C. Haney, 88, of Highland, passed away Saturday at his home.

Born in Chanute, Kansas, Dex came to Colton in 1942 and then to Highland in 1991.  He served in the US Army during World War II and continued his civil service as an engineer at March Air Force Base for 25 years, retiring in 1957.

He was a member of the Pathway Church, Masonic Lodge F & AM #123, Scottish Rite, Al Malaikah Temple, San Bernardino Shrine Club, the NARFE Chapter #73, and served as a member of the San Bernardino County Citizens Patrol and as a Board Member of the Civic Opera.  He also taught the Searchers Sunday School Class at his church for 23 years.

Dex is survived by his wife of 45 years, Clara Elise, a daughter Miranda Hickle of Morro Bay, 2 grandsons, Reggie, a career naval officer and Teddy, several great grandchildren.

Interment will be private at Riverside National Cemetery.

These words record in small snapshots a few events in his life.  You who are gathered here today saw his life on the big canvas.  Your memories could fill a room with what Dex was really like and how he touched the lives of others.  I’d like to invite some of you to come forward today and tell some of your stories about him.

Eulogies, Comments and Recognition

     Eulogy –         Grandson:  Ted

     Comments – Wife:  June  (written comments)

                            Daughter:  (written comments)

     Recognition of: Citizens Patrol Volunteers, Valencia Lea Residents, Masonic Members, Bible Study Attendees

     Casual Eulogies

“The Longer I Serve Him, The Sweeter He Grows”, Gaither Vocal Band


 Dex’s Witness

Dex loved to read biographies and accumulated over a thousand books on the famous and infamous in his lifetime.  He could carry on an enlightening discussion on just about anyone in history you wanted to talk about. 

Elise helped him see the value and fun of travel.  She was raised in a Navy family and had traveled the world before she had finished high school.  They especially loved taking  trips to Europe with the Valencia Lea travel group and dozens of cruises with family and friends.  Dex and Elise went to Tahoe to visit Julie and her family every Thanksgiving.

He had heart problems for many years and had two bypass surgeries performed.  When the last complications occurred, his physician told him he had 6-8 months, surgery could not be performed.  That reminds me that grief begins with the diagnosis, not with the death.  It was during this time Dex became additionally passionate about being with family.  In these months, he ministered to them and they to him. 


Such a diagnosis also reminds me of a truth that is eternal.  No matter who we are, where we are or what we have done, there is Someone who is waiting to greet us with open arms.  The fifteenth chapter of Luke tells us of a Father who is waiting.

Most of us spend all of our lives trying to get comfortable . . . to get to a place where things are serene and we have as few problems as possible.  We set our goals that have to do with finances, relationships, work or retirement and good health.  We work for our lives to become placid, like a lake at dawn, quieted by the early morning mist. 

Sadly, it seems, we never quite reach that Nirvana.  There’s always something.  Even when we feel we’ve got it made by the world’s standards, there seems to be an undercurrent of unease. 

If we are an average group of people, 90% of us in this room believe in God . . . that he exists and that he is active in our world. 

Most of us have spent our lives with the concept the Ten Commandments are a good set of laws for both individuals, in particular, and society, in general.  We view them as moral compass we adhere to for a better life.  The truth is, we have all broken them.  Even at our best, we still chose to break them.

The Waiting Father knows that and He is heartbroken when we do.  But there is nothing we can do to make him not love us.

As we raised four children, we declared to them often, “There is nothing you can do to make us stop loving you.”  They pushed the limits at times, but we were adamant in our love whether it was tough love or sweet love, it was always there for them.

Like us, but a million times more so, the Waiting Father lingers near for the hurting child to return. 

Dexter was one of those thwart children.  He would tell you, as he may already have, that a person can have their sins forgiven and begin a new life in Christ.  He would tell you the peace you search for, the calm you long for, the hope you pray for can be found in a relationship with the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

That was Dex.  He’d love you, whoever you are.  And he would hang out with the sinner and the saint alike.  He’d be your friend, no matter what.  But he was always looking for a way to share what he had found, peace with God.  I have no doubt many of you here today are thankful he did.



We come to you Father, as a people of faith, hope and love.  We know what it is to be loved by the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our hope is therefore centered in his death, burial and resurrection.  And our faith is a daily expression of our walk with Him.

But there are matters of the heart at work among us, Father.  One deeply loved has left us to be with you.  We are confident of his place today among other brethren who have gone before us and we rejoice, as he does, in the glory of Heaven.  He stands among the cloud of witnesses urging us on and encouraging our progress.

Even so, our hearts still ache because of our loss.  Reach into our grief and place the balm of your love and presence within us.  When the pain seems too great, remind us of your company.  Comfort us, not only because we need it, but so we may comfort others.

May all we do and say bring glory and honor to you, our Strength and our Redeemer.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

“Alleluia”, The Gaithers      (While the song plays, invite the people to come forward to the front and take a flower home in memory of Dex.  As Elise said of the flowers, “His last gift to his friends and a reminder of the beauty he sees today in Heaven.”)

Posted in Examples | Leave a comment

Excerpt From A Memorial Service

Helen Keller, blind and deaf her entire life, said,   Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.      

If you are a child of seven and your mother dies, your expectations lie in a heap at your feet.  Everything you thought was sure is now unsure.  When your five brothers, all older than you, decide to leave home and make their way in the world, you take stalk of what’s left, even at seven.  You are relegated to a new home, the home of Charles and Frieda Weaver.  A farm it is and handsome it is.  But like almost everyone who has lost a loved one, you would rather have Mom back . . . and the rest of your family.

So began the pre-adolescence of Beverly Harden.

Posted in Stories | Leave a comment

Sweet Lou

He taught me more about love in a year than I had learned during the rest of my life.

We called him Sweet Lou, the Italian Leprechaun and Louis.  He was as Italian as one could be after having grown up and lived most of this life in the neighborhood of New York City.  He would gather himself up to a full 5′ 4″ and expose a heart as big as Paul Bunyan’s Ox; a wiry little guy full of love for the woman he lost after  three years of bed-ridden hostilities with a body that would not heal.

He had promised the love of his life, “no convalescent homes, we started this together, we’ll end it together.”  Day in and day out, from bedpans to small meals untouched; from medication in the middle of the night, to the whimperings that woke him in the middle of the day; from a cool cloth across a fevered brow to nervous phone calls to doctors and nurses at odd hours; these were the rudiments of Lou’s care. 

For three years he loved and learned all the necessities of caring for the sweetheart who finally said yes to his marriage pleas so long ago.  When she was frail and near death’s door he still remembered the young woman of his dreams and how they walked the streets of our nation’s largest city, their home for so many years. 

A catholic of the highest degree, Lou prayed often for healing, then for comfort and the pain to go away and then for an end to the unending, humiliating, emotionally traumatic events of the end of life.  It broke his heart to often miss daily mass because he was brought up believing in its efficacy to empower and protect.  Near the end, his prayers were said over the rasped breathing of his one true earthly love.

I never walked those steps with Lou, I only learned of them as he poured out his heart in our grief support group.  As we listened, we all learned what it meant to walk the journey of sacrificial, unconditional love; far from the sweet smells and sights of youth, deep in the dark alleys of old age and pain-wracked bodies.

Lou was my friend and mentor . . . my wife will forever be the beneficiary of his lessons on love.

I lift a tribute today to the most important son of Italy I have ever known.  May his tribe increase.

Posted in Stories | Leave a comment