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 title="Pushin' Up Daisies - Blog" href="http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/">Pushin' Up Daisies</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

Cherished Memories

As I was preparing to leave my office at the close of a busy day, my phone rang.  A gentleman asked if he could speak with me about the recent loss of his dear wife.  His anguish was heartbreaking and as he recounted his experience and emotions to me, I was impressed in so many ways by the depth of his love for her, his devotion to her, his ability to evaluate his spiritual reliance on her, his awareness of his emotional wound without her beside him, his ability and willingness to express his loneliness and fear of life without her by his side, and his desire to openly seek assistance.  There were so many impressive attributes expressed during our conversation, that when it was over, although I remained worried and deeply saddened for him, I was comforted that he was on the right track for recovery. A loved one’s death is overwhelming.  Prior to your loved one’s death, you understand that you love that person deeply; however, you may not realize that without that person, your life is barely manageable; barely maintainable.  Upon the other’s death, your life is suddenly in danger as well.  Your life is filled with turmoil.  Disorganization rules every aspect of your functionality.  Indeed, at times, your will to live may be called into question.  These are very frightening facts.  Moreover, upon the death of a significant loved one, someone with whom you have been married for decades upon decades, with whom you have created generations of descendants, with whom you have established reputation, successful business, wealth, and happiness; these facts do indeed become burdens of distress, that if not properly managed will end your life.  The gentleman caller on the other end of my phone understood the gravity of these issues and wanted to understand and apply the remedies for them. Unfortunately, the only quick fix for grief is to be a shallow person – a person who does not love others.  To be this type of person is undesirable.  To live this type of life is empty and lonely.  For my caller to swiftly recover from his wife’s death, he would have to forget about the many wonderful years they spent together, the trials they conquered together, the foes they battled together, the fears they triumphed over, their accomplishments, their setbacks, their hardships, their disagreements, their makeup’s, their holidays, their illnesses, their recoveries, the births of their children and grandchildren, the accomplishments of their children and grandchildren, and the list continues.  These are things this man would not give up if his life depended on it, and at this point, it does. These experiences that have built his life with his wife, strengthened his resolve to be her eternal companion and solidified his love for her are exactly what have caused his grief upon her death.  They are also the exact same experiences that will save his life and cause his recovery as he begins to reorganize his existence without her by his side.  Day by day, he will understand more and more that these sweet memories are what get him through his days and allow him to keep breathing.  Although his heart is momentarily rent in two, these memories that he sees as reminders too painful to recall, are slowly turning into bandages that will spiritually bridge his existence to that of his wife’s beyond the veil.  As he opens his heart to celestial infusion, he will realize that his wife’s love remains with him, that she has not and will not forget him, and that she awaits his arrival with the greatest anticipation just beyond his view, but never beyond his reach, in that glorious place called paradise.  And that one day, they will reunite where families are forever, where love is eternal, and where the trials and sorrows of this life will become cherished memories. My name is Tracy Renee Lee. Continue Reading →

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Suicide, Recognizing and Preventing It, Part 3

This is part 3 of Tracy Lee’s Suicide Prevention articles.  If you missed the first two, please look them up in our history. SUICIDE PREVENTION TIP #2:  RESPOND QUICKLY IN A CRISIS

Once you have confirmed your suspicions that your friend or family member is indeed contemplating suicide, you need to evaluate their immediate risk level.  Persons intending (INTENT) immediate action upon themselves will have mapped out a specific plan of action (PLAN), they will have prepared their mode or means of action (MEANS), they will have planned or set aside a specific time for the deed (TIME). Exploratory Questions

Asking the following questions will allow you to evaluate their immediate risk factor. INTENT: Do you intend to take your own life? Continue Reading →

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Suicide, Recognizing and Preventing It, Part II

PREVENTING SUICIDE, Tip 1

If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you know, you may wonder what you should do. Should you say something to them? What if you are wrong and you offend your friend? Personally, I would rather lose a friend because I offended them rather than lose a friend and have to bury him or her. Usually, if a person talks about suicide or shows other warning signs, they need immediate help. Continue Reading →

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How To Recognize a Suicidal Person

Note:  This is Part I of three parts dealing with Suicide

Last year, I worked diligently at acquiring a placement for my mother and my aunt in an assisted living facility.  They reside just across the hall from each other in a lovely facility about 20 minutes from my home.  Although I am very happy with the facility and their services, I am not sure my mother and aunt are nearly as satisfied.  They miss their health and their independence, and they naturally blame the center’s employees for their loss of emancipation. Since their move there, I have seen a change in their attitudes.  My mother and my aunt have become less and less cooperative with the staff.  They both suffer extreme pain and depend on prescription medications to manage their quality of life.  Recently, I have noticed an increase in self-destructive behavior from my aunt.  I have addressed this with her and she has been unwilling to discuss it calmly and politely.  She angrily strikes at me with menacing words, tells me that her choices are her choices, and insists that I should leave her alone. I would be happy to accommodate my aunt’s request to leave her alone except that I love her and she has no children nor anyone else to care for her.  My aunt only has my mother’s children to care for her as she ages.  If we were to walk away, there would be no one to manage her end of life care.  I live the closest to the assisted living facility, so I am usually the relative called upon when a family member is needed. Last week I requested that my aunt willfully place herself in a behavioral unit for medication evaluation and possible modification.  At first, my aunt was very angry with me, but I remained firm in my request.  As a funeral director, I have witnessed many methods of suicide and my aunt vocalized a disregard for life during our conversations.  Although I did not know beyond question if my aunt were suicidal, I believed she was nearing a cliff that I did not want to see her approach.  With the extreme changes in her behavior and medical condition, my aunt agreed to voluntarily enter the behavioral unit at the local hospital, and we have seen an immediate improvement in her psychological balance. Late last night I received a call from the local area coroner.  There was a suicide not far from my home.  As I prepared myself for travel to the place of suicide, I said a quick prayer of thanksgiving to my Father in Heaven.  I am so thankful that my aunt was strong enough to agree to admit herself into the behavioral unit at the hospital and get the medical treatment that she so desperately needed before something tragic happened to her at her own hand.  As I looked into the faces last night of the adult children of the decedent and spoke with them about what will happen today when they must come to the funeral home and arrange for their father’s final moments before burial, my heart ripped right in half for the pain they were suffering.  I wished in my heart that someone could have seen that their father was nearing a dangerous cliff before he ended his life and had been able to help him seek assistance. Continue Reading →

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Emotional Support

“Following the death of a loved one, there may be a significant need to reach out for emotional support. This can be accomplished through a support group, an understanding cleric, a professional funeral practitioner or a therapist. How do you know if you need professional assistance? If you find that you have unanswered questions or that you need a tool to help you cope with the loss, you might benefit from professional support. When you break your limb, you go to a qualified care professional for proper wound care. Continue Reading →

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The Master Healer

The older I get, the more I realize that people tend to develop their own distinctive doctrines in life.  In general, people will take a truth and alter it to comfortably fit it into their own understanding or habits.  The problem with this adaptation is that one day that which we have justified, almost always, inconveniently justifies itself.  A truth that is altered even slightly for convenience, comfort, or for any other reason, will at some point, reveal its truth in its entirety.  When this happens, one’s world rattles, and we see people who have always been confident in their convictions, falter.  The realization that our own justifications in life justify themselves, may well set us back to a place where we may question our abilities in almost every facet of life. I have a friend who is a retired medical practice manager.  She has a unique insight into the interpretations and justifications of medical practitioners.  One of the things she has always told me, is that certain medical professionals tend to callous themselves toward human pain.  To an extent, one might be able to justify some level of callousness in this profession.  One might suggest that to endure treating thousands of pain suffering human beings, one must shield oneself from their suffering.  On the other hand, one might suggest, to become blind to their pain is to become inhumane toward their quality of life.  It is an interesting argument, one that I am sure medical practitioners struggle with constantly. I have another friend.  She is a retired medical practitioner.  I have observed that she has lived by my first friend’s observations, and has to an extent, justified shielding herself from the acknowledgment of pain.  The problem with justifying a truth, is that it somehow spills over into other aspects of our lives.  I am sure that when my friend began her medical career, seeing people suffer physical pain was emotionally distressing to her.  As she became an experienced medical practitioner, I could see that the pain of others distressed her less and less.  In fact, as time pressed forward, I could see that not only did the physical pain of her patients seem to only be an inconvenient notation, eventually; their emotional pain became equally inconvenient.  Of course, for both issues, there were treatments she could prescribe, doctors she could refer, or labels she could assign. The loss of a loved one is immensely painful.  The loss of an immediate loved one is beyond that.  The pain of immediate loss is so overpowering that it can become instantly life threatening to the survivor.  I see it daily.  It is something over which I cannot callous.  Recently, my medical practitioner friend lost her husband.  Throughout her years of practice, she has had thousands of opportunities to study disease and recovery.  Opportunities to study the recovery of the human spirit, however, have been lost to her as she calloused herself to them.  Those experiences would be great resources to draw upon for application toward the pain she must now endure.  Instead, she faces her recovery through this experience as an infant. The master healer taught recovery through spiritual mastery.  Love, although encompassing elements of physical attraction and emotional fulfillment, is a spiritual endowment.  Grief, brought on through the death of a loved one, thereby, requires a spiritual recovery.  It is the most difficult and dreaded recovery man faces. Continue Reading →

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The Death Certificate

It seems that there is always confusion during the arrangement conference when it comes time to order death certificates.  When I ask the next of kin if they know how many they would like to purchase, I will usually offer an explanation about reasons death certificates are necessary.  At this point, families will respond with a quick answer, or they will begin counting reasons that they do, or do not, need a certain number of them. A death certificate proves dissolution of a decedent’s legal claims on properties and responsibilities over debts.  Therefore, anything that is legal, financial, binding, contractually consumable, or requires stewardship or ownership, requires a death certificate. If you are trying to count the number of death certificates you will need to order, it is easier to think in categories.  First, consider your decedent’s financial obligations, both positive and negative.  These would include bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, insurance policies, loans, credit cards, dependent children, etc.  Second, consider properties your decedent owned or was purchasing.  These would include his or her home, rental properties, investment properties, vacation properties, automobiles, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, airplanes, boats, trailers, anything that requires a title, etc.  Last of all, consider any utilities for which your loved one was responsible.  These would include cell phones, cable, electricity, gas, water, sewer, waste removal, landlines, internet service, secondary property utilities, etc. Quite often families will suggest that they will merely purchase one death certificate and make copies to distribute.  The lists above are legal obligations.  Legal obligations require legal documentation to dissolve responsibility or ownership; a copy will not suffice.  Copies will work for a family member’s journal of family records and history. When considering the purchase of death certificates, it is always better to order at least one more than you think you will need.  As one’s privacy is protected while living, so too will one enjoy this right after death.  Obtaining additional death certificates later on is not a quick nor necessarily easy process, nor is it available to just anyone.  In order to obtain a death certificate after the immediate issue, one must be able to prove immediate kinship.  Quite often, this is not convenient.  Also, an amount of time involved adds to the frustration of obtaining additional certificates. Continue Reading →

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Church Lady

Last night, my husband and I were privileged to have a dear family of friends visit us.  We met our friends in Las Vegas NV at the very beginning of our journey into becoming funeral professionals.  We have not seen our friends since their youngest daughter was a toddler.  She is now a bright teenager and her older sister is on her way to college.  Their brother is an encyclopedia of historical facts. As the men of our families were in the back room excitedly exploring firearms and ammunition, the women were in the sitting room discussing life.  My friend began telling me about a woman from her church whose husband passed away as a young father.  His family was very active in their church and at the time of his death, his wife was out of town with their three very young children.  His death was discovered by my friend’s brother-in-law who was so alarmed by his friend’s absence from church one Sunday, that he went to his home to check on him.  It was then that this young father’s death was discovered. One can only imagine the devastation suffered by his widow; a young mother with three young children, suddenly finding herself the sole parent and provider.  Even more devastating, the guilt of being out of town, upon his premature death, had to weigh heavily upon her soul.  Of course, she was completely unprepared for such an unexpected, catastrophic event.  Everyone who knew her had concerns for her future. Under these circumstances, the outlook for most survivors is bleak.  This widow, however, although unprepared herself, was generously blessed by someone who was prepared.  My friend’s sister-in-law was this widow’s dear friend.  Upon the death of her husband, her friend became the friend we all wish for in times of crisis.  Her friend called her every day.  She took up the slack as the young widow mourned the loss of her husband.  She became her friend’s nonjudgmental confidant as she traveled through the difficult stages of grief recovery.  She sacrificed her time and her freedom, and became whatever and whomever her friend needed for recovery until her recovery was complete. After some time, a young father who had lost his wife, moved within the boundaries of their church.   The young widow and the young widower shared a life’s experience that none of us care to experience with them.  In time, the two families became one, and each of the living parents honorably filled the vacant roles of the lost parents. Continue Reading →

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Time Is Money

The funeral profession is a service-based business. Services are divided into three categories. First, there are services provided to the decedent. These services would include removal of his or her body from the place of death in a dignified, respectful, and modest manner. They also include preparing the body for and accomplishing final disposition. Continue Reading →

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Without You

When I was a young girl, my brother had a band.  He and his buddies would practice their music down in our basement and I would try not to listen to them.  Most of the songs they sang were sad in nature, or very loud, neither of which did I appreciate.  One of the songs they would sing was “Without You.”  I remember placing my hands over my ears and thinking, “If they sing that song one more time, I’m going to scream.”  “Without You” was both sad and loud.  Although my early memories of this song are not so favorable, as an adult, I can see where there is truth in this song; especially in my capacity as a grief counselor. Earlier this year filmgoers worldwide mourned the loss of mother/daughter actresses Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.  Many were shocked that a mother and daughter would die just one day apart.  Many news reporters speculated that grief played a role in the close timing of their deaths.  As a grief counselor and funeral director, I wanted to shout at my television and pull my hair out, “You fools, grief didn’t just play a role in the closeness of their deaths; it was the leading lady.”  Now, just four months later, no one even thinks about the calamity of their deaths. How very strange that in a society where information is at our fingertips, we remain blind to certain things that kill us.  Doctors and researchers publish study after study on illnesses that kill us.  Yet, study after study, they ignore a very real killer that creeps into the hearts and minds of every person who has ever lived:  grief.   “As a funeral director, I am often asked, “What is the most important task of funeral week?”  The answer may surprise you…….………The number one task for the survivor during funeral week is survival.” (The Most Important Task of Funeral Week, Tracy Renee Lee, 2017)

Perhaps grief is just too painful a subject to address.  Perhaps doctors and researchers do not realize that grief is just as physically damaging, as it is psychologically damaging.  Perhaps the Ostrich Effect suppresses funding and renders grief an unsuitable candidate for in-depth scientific analysis.  Although we all battle illnesses, only some of us will battle cancer, some of us will battle heart disease, and some of us will battle death through a myriad of other causes.  Grief is potentially the single life-threatening battle that everyone, ever born, will battle.  It is a battle, that if left untreated, will kill you. The Ostrich Effect is the tendency to ignore a dangerous or risky situation, a way to avoid troubling information.  It is not the way forward.  No one wants to face his or her mortality, nor that of their loved ones.  I understand that fear.  I see it every day in the faces of my clients.  Unfortunately, fear nor ignorance keep grief at bay.  It comes whether we want it or not, and it will, one day, come for you. Last week, I directed a funeral for a family who had lost a young man through murder.  This week, I directed the funeral of his last living immediate family member, his sister.  Both siblings had suffered tremendously during their short lives.  As children, they were orphaned through extremely tragic circumstances.  Fortunately, their extended family had a strong leader, and these two children were raised together, rather than separately.  Now that they became young adults, they are dead – one through murder, the other through sorrow. Continue Reading →

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