Extra, Extra…Read All About It!

DeerparkWhile I’m not one to brag, there comes a point where being modest does not highlight the areas in which Oakey’s goes above and beyond the call of duty. And without knocking other funeral homes in our region, there are many “extras” our firm provides that families need to be aware of. While we have always used the mantra of treating each decedent “as if it were our own father or mother,” there are a myriad of concrete practices we have long implemented showing we are not just all about talk. Some of them are rarely seen by the loved ones who call upon us, but are meaningful to us in our quest to offer the utmost in care and service to our families.

For decades, we have offered blankets to family members for use at graveside funerals on cold days. I like to think this act is representative of how we attempt to cloak the family with care in the duration of the time we are helping them. While a blanket at a cemetery might seem like a small act, families tell us it is extremely meaningful on days when the wind chill is hovering near zero!

Back in the nineties, we began to brainstorm about acts of caring that we could utilize in the summertime. It was decided we would begin carrying coolers full of iced down Deer Park bottled water to graveside services, and hand out the bottles after the funeral. I know of no other cemetery or funeral home doing this when Oakey’s instituted it, and since that time we have given out 100,000 bottles of water to thirsty mourners. Again, a small act deeply appreciated by those who it touches.

When death comes, it is not always between 8 am and 5 pm on weekdays. Nights, weekends, and holidays are all open to the possibility our telephone may ring with word someone has passed away. We feel strongly that the decedent deserves to be PROMPTLY removed from the hospital, nursing home, or home where they took their last breath.

I know for a fact some funeral homes have a policy that they will leave the deceased in a hospital for the duration of the night, and then pick them up the next day. This is completely contrary to our way of thinking, and we back up the belief by bringing the decedent back into our care as soon as they have been released by the appropriate authorities. This goes for 2 am as well as 2 pm. In addition, while most other mortuaries only send one person to retrieve the body, we find always sending at least two of our Oakey’s staff members makes for a more dignified and safe removal.

It is a known fact that the sooner a deceased is embalmed, the better the results will be. Our licensees all agree that beginning the preparation and embalming as quickly as possible enables this operation to be a more successful one. Even if a family opts for cremation and does not need their loved one embalmed, I firmly believe that ethical protocol dictates bringing the recently departed man or woman into our care immediately.

For ten years now, Oakey’s has offered families served a complimentary dove release at the cemetery. This final tribute is an awesome psychological boost to all of those present. Instead of leaving the cemetery looking down at the grave or ground, folks leave looking skyward. While not every family wants this free option to be carried out, we have never had a family tell us they regretted the white bird release. Most times, the dove (technically, a snow white pigeon) will circle around the cemetery once or twice, then take off back to its home. I have even had families request that “I’ll Fly Away” be sung or played as this takes place.

This year, we began gifting all families selecting Oakey’s for a visitation and/or service with a framed collage of photographs representing the life of their loved one. We call it our “Meaningful Memories” presentation, and it has been a huge success with all who have seen it. Such a tangible item in the visitation room or chapel helps take the focus off of the decedent’s death and puts it back onto their life. Families are then able to take it home with them as a reminder of a life well lived.

For decades now, we have provided each family with a laminated obituary of their loved one, which can be used as a bookmark. This may be a small gift, but I know it means a lot due to families showing me such items many years after we presented it to them. The laminated obits are often handed down from one generation to the next, acting as a bridge between the years of family members.

Very few things irk me more than going out of town to a funeral Oakey’s is not involved with, and seeing no hostess manning the register book. Our firm has for many years believed there should be an attendant in the vicinity of the guest register to hand out memorial records and to make sure visitors remember to sign the book. Often folks think they do not need to sign the register if they did it the night before at the visitation. Our books have separate areas, so visitors can record their name for each event. Hostesses also have tissues, and can supply information if they receive questions from attendees. And it goes without saying…you will NEVER walk into an Oakey’s location that is without a host or hostess to greet you.

Last year, we began placing a rose on the pillow of any decedent we remove from a hospital, home, or retirement community bed. This simple act has gotten us a huge amount of appreciation from those we serve. Just another touch that distinguishes us from many other mortuaries.

Our pledge to never turn down a family that needs us, no matter if they have little or no financial assets with which to pay us. The ONLY time we will refuse to pick up a decedent is when the authorities cannot provide us with any responsible family member. Such cases become legal quagmires, and put us in a weak litigious position no matter what we opt to do with the decedent.

Oakey’s has a huge commitment to the valley that we live in, and has become known as a major benefactor for a myriad of charities, churches, and other organizations. Whether it is through one of our television public service announcements we donate, or a financial gift to a good cause, we consider it an honor to plow our profits back into the community that has supported us.

Our holiday services of remembrance at each Oakey chapel. We send handwritten invitations to each family we have served over the previous twelve months inviting them to a memorial service honoring their loved one. During November and December we conduct these events to help grieving people learn how they can better make it through the upcoming holiday season. Each service includes music, a memorial message, a candle lighting ceremony for everyone to take part in, a delicious meal, and a balloon release. The hundreds of family members that attend always tell us how meaningful such a service was to them.

Having a full-time aftercare coordinator, as well as two full- time pre-need counselors gives us the depth we need to serve families both before AND after a death. There is no charge for families to utilize either department, and we would never even dream of “jobbing” this out to a company not located in our area.

I am sure that everyone has noticed the proliferation of conglomerate giants in the banking industry, as well as in other professions. The funeral business is also seeing huge corporations buying up funeral homes, leaving the family name on the funeral home, and then running the business from a headquarters often located thousands of miles away. Oakey’s is family owned and locally operated, which enables us to concentrate more on helping bereaved families than improving a stock price on the Dow Jones index.

I know that I have overstayed my welcome on this blog entry, but I wanted to point out just a few of the “extras” we may or may not be known for. And here’s the kicker: each item I have listed above is complimentary and at no charge. I guess you can sense my passion and pride in the firm my great-great grandfather founded 148 years ago. Thanks for being indulgent, and letting me expand on areas that I feel have made us the valley’s premier funeral service.