The Most Touching Funeral Moments of 2016

For many families, a funeral can feel like sad, somber affair… and understandably so. As much as we talk about funerals as a celebration of life and a chance to memorialize the ones that mean the most to us, they also mark the passing of someone whose life will be immensely missed.

But out of life’s most emotionally trying, challenging moments — for example, the task of having to bury someone that is so loved — can come unexpected moments of faith, inspiration, hope and empathy.

Whether it’s a small expression of love from a friend or family member, or even a otherworldly, grand gesture that feels like it was sent from somewhere beyond our reach… It’s these kind of moments that bring light to an otherwise dark situation, or give us the strength we need to move forward in times of struggle.

To celebrate another year in the books of funeral services that touched us, moved us, had us celebrating, and (most importantly) reminded us why we work in this profession, here are some of the most touching funeral moments of 2016… Plus, a few tips from our team to yours on how you can make every funeral in 2017 as meaningful as the ones below.

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The True Superhero

In April 2016, Officer Damon Cole of the Fort Worth Police Department responded to a scene that he would never forget. A little boy named Joshua from Fort Worth, Texas was reporting missing by his mother and, soon after, was found unresponsive in the family’s backyard pool. Officer Cole was the first to respond the the scene and began doing everything possible to try and save the boy, but he was unsuccessful. However, the tragedy of the scene was not the only thing that stayed with Officer Cole.

The outfit that Joshua was found in — a Spiderman shirt and matching Spiderman sneakers — kept coming to Officer Cole’s mind in the days that followed the incident. So when he learned from Joshua’s family that Spiderman was his favorite superhero, Cole took it upon himself to make sure that the superhero would be there to celebrate his #1 fan’s life. Hundreds of people attended young Joshua’s funeral… including Officer Cole, in a head-to-toe Spiderman costume in order to pay special tribute to Joshua (who was buried in his own matching Spiderman costume.)

What funeral pros can take from this: Funeral personalization is about so much more than pictures glued to a photo board or a custom funeral service song. It’s about making sure the entire service feels like the person whose life you are celebrating. In the case of this funeral, that meant making sure a child’s favorite superhero was present wherever you looked, from balloons to flowers to decor. Even taking an extra step to ensure that the superhero himself was there to give his final send-off to someone who looked up to him so much.

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A Hero’s Funeral

Not all heroes stand on two feet… as proved by Nero, a German Shepherd who served in Afghanistan as a Contract Working Dog. After working hard to to protect his country for seven years, Nero came home at the age of eight and retired to a loving home through the assistance of Mission k9 Rescue — an organization in Texas that rescues and re-homes military dogs when they return from service.

However, when Nero passed away in late October 2016, his important work was not forgotten. In a funeral fit for any brave soldier, Nero’s funeral was complete with every last accolade you could imagine to honor his bravery and heroism. The hospital where he died covered him with a flag in a gesture of respect, and he stayed that way until his military-style funeral shortly after.

What funeral pros can take from this: Pet funerals have become a much-desired offering from funeral homes in the last few years, and many funeral professionals have embraced these unique services with open arms. However, it’s important that our profession applies the same standards that we would to any other funeral service — celebration, personalization, honor, memory sharing and healing — to the services of our four-legged family members. After all, these cornerstones of funeral service were created as a way to help families heal and process their grief… and this needs to be done no matter who it is you are celebrating.

Funeral homes should also make sure to promote their pet service offerings to the people in their community through promotion and education on their funeral home website. By walking families through the many personalized pet services that you offer and opening their eyes to what is possible, you can introduce your funeral home to an entire new community of families that may be looking for unique ways to celebrate life.

If you’re interested in turning your funeral home website into a tool that educates families on your services, click here to learn more about the best way to do it.

Five Powerful Words

When a local community member passed away near Boston with no family or friends present to attend his burial, six students from the nearby Roxbury Latin Boys’ School volunteered to be pallbearers. With suit jackets on and meaningful poems to read in their pockets, they carried the coffin to the man’s burial site. In unison, they recited the following prayer:

“Dear Lord, thank you for opening our hearts and minds to this corporal work of mercy. We are here to bear witness to the life and passing of Nicholas Miller. He died alone with no family to comfort him. But today, we are his family. We are here as his sons. We are honored to stand together before him now, to commemorate his life, and to remember him in death, as we commend his soul to his eternal rest.”

What funeral pros can take from this: Between the daily stressors, long hours, lack of sleep and day-to-day nature of the funeral profession, it’s easy to become desensitized to the importance of the work that you do. But at the end of the day, it’s a funeral director’s job to support, help and serve families as if they were your own… to treat each family that walks in your door in the same way that you would want your own family to be treated. Only then can you truly deliver an exceptional customer experience.

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The Final Salute

Jerry O’Keefe III was many things when he passed away at the hard-earned age of 93… an American World War II veteran, a decorated fighter pilot, a state representative, a mayor, a beloved community member, a father, a husband, and so much more. So when it came time to hold a funeral service, his entire town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi came out to to show their support. And in the case of one young boy, he literally came outside… in the rain, without shoes, to pay his respects.

While 9-year-old Kaiden Wade did not know Jerry O’Keefe directly, he knew of his legacy. So when he heard that the funeral procession (horse-drawn hearse and all) would be passing by his family home, he made his way outside and in the rain (sans shoes) and held his hand over his heart for the entire 30 minutes it took for the funeral procession to pass. The O’Keefe family was so moved by this act that they invited Wade to the funeral home to share in the memory sharing and life celebration of a community member that had obviously impacted so many.

What funeral pros can take from this: The desire to share support, extend sympathy and exchange stories in times of loss extends so much further than the immediate family and friends. But many times, people like distant friends, acquaintances or co-workers do not feel comfortable attending something intimate like a funeral service, so they are left searching for an appropriate avenue to share memories and express themselves.

Giving these audiences an online avenue to communicate, such as a social memorial page, is the perfect way for extended friends and acquaintances to show their support in a safe way that lets them be heard, and also gives family members the opportunity to read back through new stories and memories that they may have never heard before about their loved one.

To get your funeral home website setup with social memorial pages, click here for a free demo with one of our website success specialists.

What was the most touching funeral moment you witnessed or experienced in 2016? Be sure to share your stories with us in the comments below!

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