Richard Hoonhorst loved to tell jokes. If you didn't catch the punchline the first time around (or even if you did), he'd enthusiastically tell it again...and again...and again. Just ask his friends at Sandy's Donuts on Grand Rapids' West Side—the place where Richard spent countless mornings drinking his coffee, enjoying a donut and cracking jokes. Most of them will groan, laugh and share their favorite of his one-liners by memory. That's what happens when you hear something for the second, fifth, tenth, hundredth time.
Something that we encourage families to consider is whether a graveside ceremony or service could be included in the memorial planning. Families who’ve included this element have found value in it, and here’s some of the reasons why:
1. Taking the Final Step – Going to the cemetery as a family isn't necessarily about words spoken or the amount of time spent there; it is about taking this final step and accompanying a loved one to their final earthly resting place. Additionally, this place that is often visited in the future is framed with this memory of a meaningful experience there.
2. Community Acknowledgment – When our community recognizes and has to yield for a funeral procession, or even when they pass by a cemetery and see a crowd gathered there, it causes them to stop for a moment and acknowledge the loss of life. Supporting those who’ve experienced a loss begins by acknowledging a loss, and a graveside service is a poignant and meaningful step in that process.
3. Military Honors – Honors can be conducted at the funeral home or church, but there is something uniquely meaningful about conducting graveside military honors. The flag-draped casket rests in natural surroundings, and the flag is folded and presented with family and friends closely gathered round at a graveside ceremony.
4. A Final Message to Send – We offer families an opportunity to write a final message on the casket. We provide markers for children to trace their hand, draw a picture, or leave a short note, and families who’ve experienced this have commented that these acts of closure are simultaneously a step forward in the healing process.
5. Witness an Interment – Watching a casket being lowered into the ground is important to some families, and it is a somber yet solemn experience that can be profoundly meaningful.
There certainly may be circumstances that warrant a delayed or unattended burial. However, we do encourage each family to also consider the benefits of accompanying their loved one to their place of final rest because we’ve heard the positive benefits of doing so from those who’ve included this as part of their loved one’s memorial.