Mourning Coffee with Tracy Lee

Recent Articles

To Vault or Not to Vault

I was speaking with a loved one recently. Our topic of conversation was to determine if he would add a burial vault to his wife’s burial plan. While conversing, it occurred to me that perhaps the purpose of a vault, compared to that of a casket, is confusing to those who are not funeral professionals. Casket: a receptacle of wood, metal or plastic into which the dead human body is placed for burial. The casket has only one basic function – to move a dead human body from one place to another in a dignified and safe manner. Continue Reading →

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Mikey Joe 7 – Due Date

Today was my grandson’s due date.  Instead of being at the hospital with my daughter to welcome him into our family, my husband, younger daughter, and I took our bistro table and set it beside his grave.  We had dinner and birthday cake and took photos to send to his mom in Hawaii.  We placed a baby boy balloon and carnations upon his tiny grave and prayed to our Heavenly Father to let our Mikey Joe know that we love and miss him.  It was a very somber and difficult day. When Mikey Joe passed five months ago, my world stopped.  It has been reeling ever since.  My concentration has suffered, my stamina has suffered, and I find that things that used to matter a great deal to me now are mediocre and somewhat unimportant.  I find that I do not wake up every morning ready to jump out of bed and begin my day.  I do not attack my work with fervor as I once did.  Even lifelong habits, like applying my make-up, fall out of order and are disorganized.  His tiny little life inside of his mother’s womb affected my life ever so deeply.  Only my belief that we will reunite as a family in God’s presence keeps my life going. As I prepared for bed, I checked social media and saw this post from his mother.  As her mother, my heart breaks for the pain she suffers.  I know it pales compared to my own. “Five months ago I gave birth to a baby boy. He was so beautiful and precious. Continue Reading →

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My husband and I go to a movie and out to dinner every Tuesday. Unlike most couples, our weekends are almost always filled with funerals and Mondays are insanely backlogged with paperwork. That makes Tuesday our weekend. It is the slowest day of the week for us and it is the senior discount day for many businesses. The movie theatre near our home offers a wonderful discount every Tuesday so it makes our evening out very affordable. Continue Reading →

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Breast Cancer

Six weeks ago, my sister-in-law was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.  This devastating announcement was unexpected.  She and my brother rushed off to a cancer treatment center in another state.  We have great expectations that her treatment there will prove miraculous.  

I traveled to Louisiana this weekend to see my brother and his wife.  We are expecting results from a recent blood test to inform us of whether her condition has improved, remained the same, or worsened.  We are praying for improvement. My sister-in-law has always been very health conscious.  Among us, she has been the one who has deprived herself of any food-related pleasure, has maintained a routine exercise program, has avoided excessive sun exposure, and seen her doctor annually for check-ups; yet, it is she who has extensive cancer. She suffers pain, nausea, confusion, sadness, self-blame, fear, exhaustion, depression, etc.  My brother does too.  We are all confused.  We wonder how this happened and what should be done to save her?  She and my brother research exhaustively, potential treatments (natural, of course) and the rest of us pray intently for her return to health. We discussed possible treatment options this weekend.  There are so many obstacles to obtaining them, primarily distance and expense.  My brother and his wife are professional people; however, her treatments within the last six-weeks have already exhausted their financial reserves.  They are now looking at creative options to afford additional treatment. Continue Reading →

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One Prayer Away

Yesterday evening, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend a lovely intimate concert.  Well, 20 minutes of it anyway. My husband purchased tickets to a concert about three weeks ago and as the days past, we had a funeral scheduled for the exact same day.  The concert began at 3:00 PM and was scheduled to end at 5:00 PM.  It was in a town almost an hour away from our home and the scheduled funeral ended around 3:45 PM. As we entered the concert hall, the performer stopped his performance, scanned the audience, found us with his gaze, and asked, “Did Y’all just get here?  Maybe you were at church, you look like a Preacher.”  My husband replied that we were funeral directors and had been delayed due to a family’s need.  The performer replied, “Ah, same thing, it’s a ministry.  I hope it was at least profitable for you.”

He then segued to a song that had been a big hit for his father.  I do not know if his conversation with my husband influenced the selection, or if it was just the next song in his repertoire, however, it was about a man going to meet his death.  The performer’s father had been in prison and had been befriended by an older man in the cell next to him.  The older man was serving three consecutive life sentences and had decided, along with two other inmates, to escape San Quinton Prison.  The performer’s father thought he might like to escape along with them, but his friend asked him to reconsider. As the two inmates became friends, they both learned about the other’s life.  The older more experienced criminal told the younger less experienced inmate that he needed not escape with him.  He explained that he intended to never return to prison and that he would do whatever that goal required.  He told his younger friend to get his life in order, to return to his family, and to follow his unshared talent of playing the guitar and singing with the world. The older man escaped with his two inmate friends, but was hunted, and caught in a firefight with law enforcement.  The two friends were killed in the encounter and the older man shot and killed a police officer.  His sentence was capital punishment.  He returned to San Quinton Prison for execution. Continue Reading →

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Mikey Joe 6 – Abandonment

As I stood in line at the bank, Friday, the bank manager approached me and whispered kind words into my ear.  She thanked me for how I close the services for my client families.  She had recently attended the funeral of my cousin’s husband and wanted to express her appreciation for my closing statements.  I appreciate her encouragements.  

At the close of every funeral, I always come forward and thank family and friends, on behalf of the survivors, for their attendance and support during what is definitely the most difficult ritual accompanying death; the lowering of the loved one into the earth and sealing their grave with soil.  At that moment, fear, panic, and pain rush into the hearts of the survivors. I was there six months ago.  My son-in-law carried my grandson’s tiny white casket out of our chapel and placed him in his grave.  My daughter and her surviving two children followed, and we gathered around Mikey Joe’s resting place for the dedication and closing of his grave.  My husband, son-in-law, and three-year-old grandson began the arduous task of returning the soil of the earth into the oblong grave where my deceased grandson would now rest. I think my heart stopped beating at that moment.  I watched in horror as my little grandson grabbed a small fist full of dirt to throw into his tiny brother’s grave.  I could not see or hear anything else around me.  I was completely focused on my two tiny grandsons sharing their last moment on earth; one lying in a small grave and the other filling it with dirt.  Suddenly, my three-year-old grandson realized his hands were dirty and briskly wiped them up and down on the chest of his freshly starched shirt.  Those in attendance gasped and then broke into laughter.  With tears of heartache streaming down my face, I too broke into uncontrollable laughter.  He repeated his assigned task of filling his tiny brother’s grave until the task was completed, each time wiping his hands on the front breast of his white shirt.  The bright red dirt of East Texas, now permanently stains my grandson’s beautiful white church shirt.  What a wonderful treasure my daughter has of her two tiny sons:  a stained dress shirt, evidentiary of their brotherly love and care for each other. As the committal came to a close, I, like always, stepped forward.  Choking with sobs of sorrow, I thanked our family and friends for their support, participation, and attendance.  Then, one by one, they each left our funeral home.  Since that day, no one who attended his funeral has ever mentioned my grandson again.  My husband, daughter, and I speak of him continually, but no one in our family, nor do our friends ever speak of him. Continue Reading →

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Mikey Joe 5 – Angels of Comfort

What a blessing it is to be able to read.  It was not so long ago that reading was uncommon among the masses.  Even today, we see many people who remain illiterate due to dyslexia or some other underlying cause.  Reading is better than movies.  It is better than plays.  Reading is a gift to our souls because it allows us to engage our minds, imagination, reasoning, and intuition.  It allows us to accept the words to our brains at the speed at which we can understand and interpret their meaning.  Once we understand their meaning, we are at liberty to accept or reject them as truth or error.  I am thankful for the blessing of reading in my life.  I hope you are too. I read an article this morning. While I found some of the article acceptable, most of it seemed mystically based.  It did, however, evoke deep thought, encourage contemplation, critical thinking, and evaluation within my mind and soul.  At the end of the article, I had considered new theories, reasoned whether they were soundly based, and either accepted or rejected them.  It was an educational morning for me. The interesting part of the article for me was the section entitled “Angels of Comfort.”  In this section, the author addresses two different types of angels.  She writes of angels who take upon themselves a physical form.  She states, “A true angel encounter is when angels assume physical bodies.  They have a different essence about them. They come out of nowhere, deliver the message or assistance and leave without a trace.”  (Kermie Wohlenhaus, Ph.D., Angels of Grief, Comfort, and Hope)

Ms. Wohlenhaus also writes of angels who remain in a spiritual form and communicate soul to soul.  It is this second concept of spirits that had merit to me. Continue Reading →

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The Value of Rubies

As designated by our government’s Standard of Living Index, she was not a woman of great wealth.  Upon her death, entry-level merchandise was purchased for her burial.  To those of us working at the funeral home, it seemed as though her funeral would be mediocre. Her family prepared their program, printed their service folders, produced their memory movie, assembled and delivered their own floral arrangements, along with other tasks customarily performed by the funeral home.  They were indeed frugal people and as funeral day approached, there was nothing to suggest that her funeral would surpass ordinary. Her visitation began Friday evening.  Guests trickled in a few here and a few there; they did not linger.  They offered their condolences to her son and then took their leave.  About halfway through the evening, he asked to use a microphone. Suddenly, guests stopped leaving.  They assembled in the chapel and each found a seat.  Little by little, as guest after guest took the lectern, it became clear that the woman lying in state had been extraordinary while living.  One after another, they would speak of her generosity to them:  groceries delivered to many upon hard times, air conditioners freely given to those suffering blazing temperatures while combating illnesses and recuperation, financial support to friends who suffered monetary setbacks while they worked to regain self-reliance, and emotional support and donations to those suffering bereavement.  She shared her heart and sustenance freely with those in crisis. Her funeral was the following morning.  I expected a small gathering.  Her family, neighbors, friends, and community began arriving 90 minutes before services were due to begin.  Before I knew it, our chapel was at capacity.  I opened the overflow to accommodate the large gathering.  Within minutes, all seats were occupied.  I began seating guests in the foyer; soon it was filled as well.  I brought out event seating and her services began. Continue Reading →

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CDC Releases Alarming Suicide Rates

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released staggering suicide facts last week.  In all but one state (Nevada which saw a 1% drop in suicide rates), the overall rate increased across the board since 1999 with over half of the states seeing an increase of 30% or more.  Furthermore, over half (54%) of those deaths had no reported “mental health conditions.”  They had, however, recently experienced relationship problems (42%); a crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks (29%); substance abuse issues (28%); a physical health problem (22%); a job/financial problem (16%); a criminal/legal problem (9%); or a loss of housing (4%). Several months ago, I received a very interesting phone call.  The woman on the other end of the line introduced herself as a psychiatrist who had dined with my youngest daughter the previous evening.  Along with a panel of professional leaders and other psychiatrists, this woman had been tasked with evaluating a severe productivity failure in a workforce of over 70,000.   The members of the task force had met on numerous occasions to discuss, organize, and compile their findings.  They would be presenting their final report that very afternoon. She explained that the day prior, she had received a call from the presiding authority over this workforce.  He asked her to meet and interview my daughter.  She followed through with the request and exclaimed that she, as well as the other members of the task force, now found themselves in a state of uncertainty. Over the past year, each member of the task force had traveled the globe, surveying, interviewing, and analyzing a large sampling of workers to identify their weaknesses and compile a workable plan to restore productivity levels.  She expounded that their conclusions were relative to millennial preferences and needs. She requested a few moments of my time to investigate my daughter’s history, her personality, her accomplishments, disappointments, education, family dynamic, etc. Continue Reading →

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