Tracy Lee

My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer. I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. Please read my blog, <a href="http://www.MourningCoffee.com">Morning Coffee</a>, follow me on <a title="Pushin' Up Daisies - Twitter" href="http://twitter.com/PushnUpDaisies">Twitter</a> , and visit our website for additional encouragement and information. <a title="Queen City Funeral Home - Website" href="http://www.queencityfuneralhome.com/">www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com</a>

Recent Articles

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” what a great song. As a child, I grew up looking forward to Christmas year after year.  The snow, the goodies, the family gatherings, the shopping, the caroling, the parties with dear friends and new friends, and the gifts truly made this time of year the most wonderful of all.  As an adult, I continue to look forward to these same events with great anticipation and experience them with unparalleled delight.  Over the years, however, I have experienced small changes regarding the meaning of Christmas; mainly in my conscious perception of the world around me. I see Santa bouncing babies on his knee as photos are snapped, parents and grandparents busily shopping for just the right gifts, and volunteers jingling bells for monetary donations.  My husband and I, as we do every year, prepare ourselves for service at the nearby Bishop’s storehouse.  As we help families fill orders of donated food for their Christmas dinners, the world seems blanketed in the happiest season of all. This past week, however, has brought a new perspective into my purview.  As the holiday season has approached, I have received two US Veterans who have committed suicide into my care.  Neither veteran had living or caring family members about them.  In this world, they felt alone.  It was a pain too deep to bear as the holidays approached. I have thought about that quite a bit this past week.  For my entire life, I have volunteered during the holidays in one benevolent project or another.  I have donated gifts for needy children, I have filled food orders, I have served hot meals, I have caroled at rest homes, I have sewn blankets and bandages for lepers, put programs together for military families, and the list goes on.  If there has been a request for assistance during the holidays, I have probably stepped up to help.  That is just it though; I have only helped.  It has occurred to me that after the holidays, the problems and issues that I have assisted with, still exist. Continue Reading →

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Mid Season Sorrow

Some people may think that since Thanksgiving has passed, a survivor’s spirits should recover from the sadness of being without their loved one for the holiday. Realistically, this is not usually the case. Even though family and friends have returned to their homes and work, the survivor remains suspended in their loneliness. Recovery work generally calls for extensive support throughout the entire holiday season, as well as for quite sometime thereafter. If you have recently lost a loved one, or know someone who has, here are a few holiday ideas that may be helpful for getting through the season. Continue Reading →

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Angel Shots

Although my husband and I have chosen new professions, persons often call upon us from our past, to photograph their families, and paint their portraits.  Because we have retired from the world of luxury portraiture, we usually refer these clients to our daughter. We retired from luxury portraiture ten years ago and moved to an obscure little village in East Texas, where we have settled into our retirement business, funeral service.  One wonders how our past clients locate us.  What motivates and drives them to search until they find us?  Recently, I posed this very question to a past client and her response was deeply moving. While searching for us, our client has taken her family to several photographers and artists, yet has been continually dissatisfied.  “Their work”, she said, “does not capture the beauty of who we are inside.  Their photographs merely document our physical characteristics.”  She continued.  “When I walk through my home, the portraits produced by you and Mike (my husband), continue to have the same breathtaking effect on me, that they did the first time I saw them.”

Our client is now a grandmother and wishes to capture the beauty of her grandchildren.  I have complete confidence that our daughter will be able to capture her dream.  Our daughter, like her father, is masterful with her camera. So what about these portraits?  What was our client saying about the timeless inner beauty captured within our work?  Before becoming a mother, pictures really did not matter that much to me.  When I had my first daughter, I, like many young moms, took my daughter to the mall for pictures whenever she had a birthday.  It was not until I had my second daughter that I realized the profound impact of portraits. My second daughter was nearly lost during pregnancy.  Had it not been for Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital and their amazing prenatal and delivery staff, her life, and quite possibly my own, would have been lost.  Twenty years ago, an expectant mother and her wee one rarely survived our pregnancy condition.  Our seven-month pregnancy hospitalization took its toll, but we both survived her birth.  However, it was not until her first birthday that I was finally confident that she would not slip away from my arms at a moments notice.  It was then that I, at last, felt profound joy in my soul.  I needed something to capture the beauty of her spirit, the happiness I felt as her mother, and the relief that I felt that she was finally out of the ever-present clutches of death. Continue Reading →

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Superhero Incognito

I have written articles about my cousin in the past.  Her life is filled with enormous responsibilities that are nearly impossible to bear, and yet, she continues in life under a load of stress that would surely cause the death of most of us.  Over the past several years, my cousin lost both of her parents, closely together.  Around that same time, her adult daughter was sideswiped by an 18-wheeler, and after nearly dying and being in the hospital for a full year, continues to suffer physical and mental discrepancies, to the point, that she can no longer care for her children.  As such, my cousin has been tasked with guardianship of her young grandchildren. She has assumed the care of her 104-year-old grandmother.  She is the provider and caregiver for her adult incapacitated daughter.  She is the provider and mentor for her 58-year-old drug addicted brother (when he is out of jail) because she cannot bear to see him homeless. Her eldest daughter’s marriage failed during all of this chaos as she was returning to school and entering a Ph.D. program.  In order to assist her daughter in obtaining her educational goals, my cousin nearly always has responsibility for her other grandchildren as well. My cousin, who is now 63 years old, and her husband, worked for a company that decided to relocate its operations approximately 1,200 miles away from where they live.  Due to their overwhelming responsibilities, my cousin and her husband were unable to accept the relocation offer.  Thus, they lost their employment and tenure of forty-five years.  She was forced to seek, and accept employment at a wage far below her customary income level.  Additionally, she now travels two or more hours daily for work.  It was not an easy task to find her new job either.  She worked for an extended time in a job far below her skill level while she searched for something in her field. After years of worry, I, at last, see positive things happening in my cousin’s life.  Her eldest daughter has met and married a strong man of faith.  They have seen the addition of a new tiny bundle of joy into their blended family.  Two of my cousin’s grandchildren have recently been baptized into their faith; another accepted the responsibilities and was set apart as a deacon.  Her grandchildren have received noteworthy honors at school.  Her eldest daughter is doing very well in her Ph.D. program.  Her new son-in-law has opened a successful business.  Her husband has secured comparable employment.  In general, I see things moving in a good direction for her. Continue Reading →

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My “To Do” List

Wow, it is the first week of November and already, I feel the pressures of holiday preparation.  The holiday season is a lot of work and I cannot imagine not having my husband beside me, helping me with all of the details and stresses that go into this time of year.  Party planning, festive clothing, and holiday hair are already topping my list of things I must do this week.  I have added a new category to my list this year; it is service. Year after year, I worry and pray for those who mourn and for those who have been forgotten in nursing homes, hospitals, and assisted living facilities.  I usually add these souls to my Christmas card list and hope that they enjoy a little cheer upon receiving it.  This year, I have decided to change that practice.  I have decided to take the time to actually do something for them.  I have decided to provide service to them.  
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SPECIAL DAYS
 

Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, and especially the yearly loss anniversary are extremely stressful for survivors of loss. The anticipation of these important dates may sometimes be worse than the day itself. If you have a close friend or relative, it may be a good idea to let them know that you might need extra understanding and support on these days. Continue Reading →

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Distracters and Maskers

Following the loss of one’s child, the worst death experience, in my opinion, would be multiple or stacked deaths.  I have assisted families who have lost as many as six members in quick succession.  A situation where multiple family members die all at once or close together is usually unexpected and very difficult to accept. Recovery from multiple or stacked deaths is complicated and generally, requires assistance for those suffering the tragedy.  In these scenarios, survivors may choose to try dealing with them as one loss rather than several.  In other cases, the pain may be so great that survivors choose to ignore them all together.  Both recovery scenarios are unhealthy and invite extreme complications. When a survivor tries to ignore a death, he/she will generally incorporate distracters or maskers into his/her life.  
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Distracters and Maskers
 

Some mourners try to minimize or avoid their grief with distracters and/or maskers.  Popular distracters include food, excessive exercise, anger, isolation, sex, shopping, work, movies, books, and TV.  Popular maskers include alcohol, prescription medications, over the counter or illegal drugs. Prolonged self-medicating is never an appropriate treatment.  It in no way contributes to recovery.  Under these circumstances, self-medicating has a tendency to take control of your life and infuse all sorts of collateral damage physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Continue Reading →

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A Family’s Love

Quite often when I direct out of town services, I will arrange for my clients to have their visitation and funeral on the same day; one immediately following the other. Doing so saves my client money, as I am not staying in hotels more nights than necessary, nor am I forced to bill them for non-productive hours. Last week, I directed such a service. My husband and I rose early and set out on our way across the great state of Texas. It was a peaceful morning as the sun rose over the majestic Texas landscape. Continue Reading →

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Always Be Prepared

When I was a young girl, I went on a “Daddy Daughter Date” with my father, sponsored through our church.  There were many girls and fathers there, and the evening was filled with fun, games, and activities.  I enjoyed that evening so immensely, that even now, forty-seven years later, I still recall with clarity the fun we had, and the lessons my father taught me. We played several games and participated in many activities, but one, in particular, comes to mind.  The director of the event had the fathers and daughters pair up for three-legged sack races.  As my father and I pulled the sack over our legs, my father hugged me tightly around the shoulders, securely wrapped my arm around his waist, and with his free hand gathered all of the sack’s slack synching it within his grip.    He whispered in my ear, “When the starting bell sounds, take off with your sacked leg first.”  I was so excited and as the starting bell sounded; my dad and I immediately took the lead.  We finished the race in first place.  As I turned to see who would finish second, I saw girls and their dads all over the field, falling as they struggled out of sync with each other.  Their lack of preparation and cooperation was evident and catastrophic. I have never forgotten that lesson.  In a brief second, before the race began, my father took a moment to prepare me for what was going to happen.  With that knowledge, and working together, we were able to run the race efficiently, avoid injury to our bodies, battle our foes with composure, and cross the finish line victoriously. This race demonstrates how a little knowledge, preparation, and cooperation kept us safe and helped us win our objective.  The same holds true in all of life’s battles, especially grief. As we travel through life, we take the time to prepare for each of life’s milestones.  We go to class and study for tests in preparation for graduation.  We date and enter into an engagement to prepare for eternal commitment to our beloved.   During pregnancy, I ate healthy foods and worked out vigorously in anticipation of delivery.  My husband worked and sought promotions in his field of labor to provide for his family.  Why would we not protect and prepare ourselves for loss as we do for gain? Continue Reading →

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My Two Friends

This past week, I had two dear friends visit me.  The first was a friend who is anticipating her husband’s death.  As we discussed his wishes and her finances, she would momentarily pause for composure.  I could see that his looming death weighed heavily on her heart. As it happens, my first friend and my second friend are also friends.  My second friend lost her husband earlier this year.  As I was visiting with my first friend, I suggested that my second friend would be a good resource for her as she traverses this experience.  She commented with great concern that my second friend was not doing so well. Two days later, my second friend came by the funeral home for assistance.  She is the widow of a retired Air Force Veteran.  Her husband died nine months ago.  She needed my help to complete a form sent to her by the Veteran’s Administration (VA).  Prior to her husband’s death, renovations were underway in their home.  Since his death, the roof has begun leaking.  When he died, his retirement income ceased.  From that day forward, she has applied for reimbursement for his funeral expenses and her promised “Widow’s Pension.”  Neither has materialized.  The VA just keeps sending more and more forms to be completed, over and over again. When my second friend arrived at the funeral home, I could see instantly that she was demoralized.  The grief she suffers over the loss of her 60 plus year sweetheart has devastated her.  The grief she suffers from the incompetence and lack of concern from the VA is inconceivable. For nine months, my friend has lived with a leak in her roof.  That leak, which began as an easy fix, is now a tremendous problem.  The beams in her attic are now severely damaged, the insulation is ruined, the drywall and paint have started pealing and falling, the flooring is buckling, the subfloor is swollen, and the support beams that once supported the weight of her home have now rotted and her home is no longer level.  She bathes out of a metal washtub as the renovation on her bathroom stopped midstream upon her husband’s death.  Without her widow’s pension, she does not have the funds to restore her home.  She barely has the funds to keep her power on and food in her belly.  Yet, after nine months, the VA continues to require her to resubmit the same information she has submitted time and time again.  Winter is coming and I worry whether she will be able to afford adequate heat for her home. Continue Reading →

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Profound Love

Recently, I have received several correspondences asking a question similar to the following, “Why does losing your loved one hurt so much after three years?” Last night I read a post online, written by one of my dear cousins. She was grieving the sixth year anniversary of her mother’s loss. Her heart remains completely broken and her loneliness cuts like a knife. In an attempt to help survivors who are concerned about lengthy grief, I have composed the attached response. Losing a loved one is a very personal and exceedingly painful experience. Continue Reading →

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