'No Service Option' Not An Option

 Photo Courtesy of The Grand Rapids Press

Photo Courtesy of The Grand Rapids Press

A few weeks ago I was listening to WLAV and heard the sad news about the unexpected passing of Ed Buchanan (“Uncle Buck”), a longtime radio personality on the station. That morning his friend and co-host Tony Gates was sharing how shocked he was after learning that Ed didn’t want to have any kind of service after his death.

So, Tony took matters into his own hands and organized an impromptu on-air memorial service over the course of several days to honor his friend. He invited listeners, friends and co-workers to share their favorite “Uncle Buck” memories and he even queued up all of Ed’s favorite music to play. And the people responded, so many people. Tony provided an outlet for hundreds to celebrate and remember the significant impact Ed had on their lives.

All of this got me thinking about my own experience as a funeral director. Almost every day someone tells me, “I don’t want any type of service when I die.” And I immediately think to myself (and sometimes actually say),

“What if it’s not about you? What if a memorial service exists for the living, not for the deceased? For your family, your friends, your community members?”

 Photo Courtesy of West Michigan Music Hysterical Society

Photo Courtesy of West Michigan Music Hysterical Society

Those of us left behind are the ones who have to pick up the pieces. Those of us left behind have to transition to life without our loved one, and so since the beginning of time death has been followed by some kind of ceremony to grieve, remember, honor and celebrate in the presence of a caring community. Does it have to be in a funeral home? No, of course not. Does it have to be expensive or formal or in a church? Not at all. But it should be something!

For more than 20 years I’ve walked with families through this difficult process and I am convinced, now more than ever, that the “no service option” shouldn’t be an option. Every person left behind deserves an opportunity to remember and grieve. Tony’s on-air memorial shows us just how true that is.