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

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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Indifferent Survivor

When I was in college, my professor taught that the opposite of love was indifference.  Throughout my life, I have witnessed the truth of his teachings.  This past week, however, forty years later, has disproved his teachings and erased my belief that he taught me the truth. This weekend I worked for a family full of love for each other.  Many of its members had not seen the others for years as they live far distances apart.  In fact, the time of separation between family members has been so long, that some did not recognize those with whom they had grown up playing.  I watched this family closely, for they were in my building under the very tragic circumstances of murder.  I expected angry outbursts, inconsolable grief, and temper flares all week, but they never surfaced. The core group of this family is matriarchal, educated and cultured.  They arrived at the funeral home early Monday morning to arrange funeral details.  Their young decedent, who had been orphaned early in life, had been reared under the tutelage of his widowed grandmother. The tragedy and senselessness of murder bring uncontrollable raw responses to the lives of co-victims.   They will experience both physical and emotional responses.  Physically, the body will attempt to protect itself from the trauma.  This response is commonly known as the “Fight or Flight Response.”  One may experience physical shock, disorientation, hyper-alertness (brought on by adrenaline rush,) heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting, sweating, hyperventilation, difficulty breathing, tightness of chest, uncontrollable sobbing, inability to cry, a void of emotion, panic, and/or numbness.  Emotionally, co-victims may respond with anger, rage, fear, terror, confusion, guilt, self-blame, shame, sorrow, frustration, humiliation, or overwhelming grief.  Any or all of these responses, both physical and emotional, have the ability to overpower the brain.  This creates a dangerous situation for co-victims.  It thrusts them into a grave potentiality of not surviving the murder of their loved one. Murder is surrounded by public curiosity and rule of law.  Co-victims must endure news reports, police interviews, public speculation, ongoing investigations, and trials.  They may be caught in the lair of constantly reliving the trauma of their loss as justice tries to right the wrong they have been dealt.   They may begin suffering nightmares about the murder, anger toward their beloved decedent for being murdered, rage toward the murderer, rage toward law enforcement for an inability to establish justice, depression, helplessness, loneliness, isolation, or disbelief or hatred toward God.  These added emotions compound the functional inability of the brain and can create long-term impact on the co-victims character.  They interfere with grief work and create complications too great for unassisted recovery.  The impact may affect several generations. Continue Reading →

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Finding the Right Funeral Director

I like to think that I can get along with anyone.  I also like to think that everyone likes me.  If I am completely honest, however, and analyze my life, I find that this is probably not an accurate perception of my personality nor of my friends list.  In fact, as I think back over my life, I find that not only am I not friends with everyone I have ever met; I really don’t want to be friends with them after all.  When it comes right down to it, I’m actually a rather picky person when it comes to spending time with other people.  In all honesty, I’d rather not spend my time with people for whom I do not deeply care.  If a person is not an intimate friend of mine and I do happen to see them, I really only want  a casual exchange of pleasantries and to be quickly on my way.  I am always busy, and unless someone needs my assistance, I’d rather be off to someplace where I might be helpful, or with my children, or grandchildren.  So, that is me; that is my personality; that is how I live my life. I have been a licensed funeral director for 10 years.  It took me 10 years from the day I decided to become a funeral director to the day I was able to open my funeral home.  In all, I have been actively involved in the funeral profession for 17 years.  In all of those years, I have worked with many families.  I like to think that I have been able to get along with all of the families I have served.  I also like to think that they have all been satisfied with their services.  If I am completely honest, however, and analyze my professional record, this is not an accurate analysis of my professional career.  I have interviewed with families that in the end have decided to go elsewhere.  I have interviewed with families that in the end, I wish had gone elsewhere.  Fortunately, these families are very few in number. When I meet with a family, I try to determine their needs, their traditions, their budget, and many other details relating to funeral planning.  I try to understand the relationships and issues slinging across my conference table.  I begin to formulate methods to separate families from historical pathologies that will cause complications for their recovery, and I try to help facilitate an experience that will accommodate and move them toward a healthy grief rehabilitation.  My service and client satisfaction ratio has never fallen below 99%. What then of this other one percent?  It is easy to say, “You can’t please everyone.”  Well, why can’t you?  If you take on a client, why can’t you please them?  If you contract with them to do a job, why are you not capable of doing that job to their complete satisfaction?  In my case, I find that it is usually an issue of communication.  Perhaps the family did not clearly communicate their wishes, or perhaps I was unclear in my descriptions of what they might expect.  Sometimes neither is the case.  Quite often it is confusion within the family itself.  If two members of the family are in conflict over a particular issue and cannot come to an agreement, only one will get their way.  Very often family members will feel invalidated when this happens and feelings get hurt.   In my history as a funeral professional, I find that open and exhaustive communication, prior to contractual obligation, is the best practice for client satisfaction. If you are searching for funeral services, take your time.  Interview various funeral directors and multiple funeral homes.  Nothing says you must use the same funeral director your grandpa used.  You don’t use the same razor he used, do you?  Or only use a land line?  In today’s world, we have access to enormous amounts of information.  Utilize the internet, investigate your options, do phone interviews, ask questions, and get to know your funeral director before you even meet her or him face to face.  Once you narrow your possibilities down, make appointments and meet with them.  When you arrive at each funeral home, ask for a tour.  See if you are comfortable.  Do the funeral homes and personnel meet your needs?  Will they accommodate your family?  Do you communicate well with the funeral directors?  Are they forthcoming with the information you seek?  Are they accommodating to the things you want?  Do they go the extra mile to ensure your comfort?  Are they traditional or modern? Continue Reading →

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Consecutive Miscarriage

My daughter is seven days away from delivering my new grandchild, and due to distance, I am unable to be there.  I have lamented over this fact trying to find a solution, but alas, there is not one on the horizon.  I have worried about her health as I have watched her over her last trimester.  She has endured the fatigue and pain that accompanies the final stage of pregnancy without anyone to help her.  She lives in Hawaii, a recent transplant due to her husband’s occupation, and therefore, finds herself without friends or family to love or assist her.   Yesterday after she got home from church, she told me something that was absolutely horrifying.  While she was in her women’s class, her women’s group leader announced that she had suffered her twelfth miscarriage this past week.  Wow, how could you not feel badly for this woman’s emotional pain and suffering?  My daughter immediately asked me what she could do for this woman.  In order to help someone who has suffered a miscarriage, one must first understand the confusion and grief that accompanies such a profound loss. Eight Important things to know about Miscarriage and Grief

MISCARRIAGE IS NOT ACKNOWLEDGED AS LOSS

Miscarriage is classified as a non-loss within society.  Unfortunately, when a mother miscarries a pregnancy, many people may not have known that she was pregnant.  Sometimes the pregnancy announcement is delayed for one reason or another.  Parents who have previously suffered miscarriage are less likely to share the news of pregnancy early on due to an apprehension of potential recurrence. Human beings are experience driven.  If one does not have personal experience with a certain thing, one is generally unmoved by it.  The missed opportunity of holding, touching, kissing, or cooing a newborn baby leaves us without a tangible experience from which to draw.  The parent couple, grandparent couples, and perhaps siblings are potentially the only human beings on the face of the earth who will mourn the loss of a premature infant.  This small circle of awareness does not offer a support network of understanding or assistance for those suffering the very real experience of grief following the death of a wee loved one. MISCARRIAGE IS THE DEATH OF A CHILD

Ask anyone, “What is the worst sort of death known to mankind?”  The answer will always be, “The death of a child.”Although others may not have experienced the life of an expectant couple’s baby, the expectant couple has.  These parents have planned, prepared, sacrificed, and experienced the life of their child.  The death of their baby brings with it the death of their plans and hopes for their future.  It brings the same chaos and fears survivors experience at the death of any other loved one.  Expectant parents may experience a loss of identity, unity, and purpose.  These losses may spill over into other aspects of their lives.  Unfortunately, for parents grieving a miscarriage, there is little understanding, or patience found for them within society.  They are expected to bounce back as though nothing has happened by people who have not experienced the devastating death of a child. Continue Reading →

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Rich Blessings

I am often asked about funding unfunded funerals.  I am sure it is because I am in the funeral business that I see death as a common occurrence; however, it is interesting to me that there are those who do not understand that one day we shall all die.  I guess some people feel as though they shall live forever.  Inevitably, the truth of the matter is, that should you fail to prepare for your death, not only will grief slap someone you love square in the face, so too will a hefty financial burden. This morning I experienced this very scenario.  I was called by the hospice center to attend a family that had lost a loved one who had failed to prepare for his death financially.  This burden now falls upon those who mourn his loss.  His young adult daughter may need to delay her dreams of college to procure the necessary funds to pay for his burial.  His mother may need to economize her retirement to assist her granddaughter with the expenses.  There may also be others within the family, who might be able to help obtain the necessary funding to cover these costs, but times are tough, and this family is not wealthy. There are several ways to fundraise for funeral expenses.  The primary obstacle is time.  The funeral home must be paid in advance of services being rendered, and a dead human body does not wait indefinitely for burial.  Additionally, each day above ground adds to the expense of interment.  With these issues pressing upon the family, fundraising becomes increasingly stressful. In past articles, I have reported on successful fundraising techniques that several of my client families have utilized. (Funding an Unfunded Funeral, Mourning Coffee for the Mourning Soul, II, Tracy Renee Lee) Today, however, I am broaching a new method of payment.  This type of payment is not often available in the funeral profession; however, the family I am serving today has an extended family member who has a unique skill.  This particular skill happens to be one that I stand in need of at this moment in time; it happens to be of great value to me.  This family is in the unique position of being able to offer a skill rather than funds for payment of their funeral services.  Their extended family member and his crew of workers must, however, agree to accommodate their need. Continue Reading →

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How to Talk to your Parents about Pre-Planning, A Funeral Director’s Dilemma

As odd as it may seem, I cannot get my father to talk to me about his preferences for funeral arrangements.  I am a licensed funeral director/embalmer in two states, I own a funeral home, I am a licensed Grief Counselor, and I am his oldest daughter (the one responsible for that sort of thing).  One would think I could coax, at minimum, a comment from him about his preferences.  At the very least, whether he prefers burial or cremation would be a nice place to start; but no, to this day, my father remains silent on this subject. My dad is in his late seventies.  I hope, like most children, that my dad lives forever.  Realistically, as a prudent adult, I know this will not be the case.  As a funeral director, I know statistically, that my years with him are somewhat limited. As his daughter, knowing our family history and his health issues, I estimate that my siblings and I need to begin a savings plan on his behalf for his funeral arrangements. I have already begun preparations on my mother’s behalf.  Although she has not prearranged her funeral, she has expressed certain wishes to me, and I have taken the appropriate steps to ensure that these wishes are met.  I have purchased her burial plot, her headstone and its setting, her burial clothes, her casket, and her vault.  These are the major expenses associated with burial, and so my siblings and I will need to come together when her time arrives and simply arrange the timing of her services.  This will save us from having to come up with tons of money, and most importantly, trying to decipher her wishes and choices after she is gone. As a funeral director, I meet with families daily who have not had these sorts of discussions.  I witness the turmoil, and disputes siblings enter into, at this desperate time, over the slightest little things.  Vicious arguments that see the most horrendous words fly across my arrangement table over tiny details, cut siblings and family members to the core.  I see loved ones rush out of the room as the ferocity becomes too much to bear.  Were the damages of such criticisms measured against physical wounds, I would see carnage and death laying across my table rather than tears, absence, and anguish.  My desire to know my father’s wishes is to avoid such an awful scene with my brother and sisters. Continue Reading →

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