Tracy Lee

Recent Articles

Mikey Joe 2 – Acknowledgment Cards

As a funeral director, I am often asked about acknowledgment cards. One of my funeral arts classes, while attending college, focused on the traditions and etiquette surrounding funerals, so acknowledgment cards are an easy subject to explain. Acknowledgment cards are merely thank you cards addressing services performed by those who participated in any way at a funeral or assisted in relieving the mourner’s burdens. They should be written on card stock, rather than plain paper, and sent out in a timely fashion. Funeral homes offer funeral specific cards for your convenience. Continue Reading →

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Mikey Joe, 1

Last night I was talking to my daughter on the phone.  She and her sweet little family had just returned to Hawaii, their home, after being on the mainland for twenty days.  Today, my son-in-law returns to work.  Today marks the one-month anniversary that they posted their reveal for their soon to arrive bundle of joy, on social media. It was an exciting morning.  My husband popped his head into my office and announced that our daughter had finally posted her reveal.  I couldn’t wait to see it.  I jumped online immediately to watch it.  I laughed and cried as I watched my daughter, her husband, and my sweet grandchildren, reveal to everyone they love, that they would soon have a new addition gracing their family. My son-in-law does not like to announce pregnancies early as he and his first wife lost a child during gestation.  To respect his wishes, my husband and I must hold our excitement and happiness from our family and friends until our daughter’s baby bump becomes undeniable.  At that time, our son-in-law relinquishes his secret and we are all free to celebrate. Salutations were coming from far and wide.  Friends and family were texting, posting, and phoning with congratulations, and the day was exhilarating.  As my husband and I met for lunch, my phone rang once more.  I looked at the caller id.   Before I answered the phone and before she said a word; I knew.  Her voice was strained, she tried not to sound worried, she asked me not to worry – but I knew – my daughter was miscarrying my grandchild.  My son-in-law rushed her to the hospital and by dinner, she was induced. Our grandson was delivered in Hawaii the day his mother posted his reveal on social media – lifeless – to brokenhearted parents and brokenhearted grandparents.  By nightfall, the congratulations were no longer coming.  In their stead, tears filled our hearts, and condolences and flowers filled our home. Continue Reading →

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I like to think most people are decent people.  In the event of a tragedy, I like to think that almost everyone, even those who ordinarily experience a deficit in decency, will step up to their better selves and lend a hand of compassion to those who suffer.   I have often been told that I see the world, and humanity, through rose-colored glasses.  This weekend has proven that statement true.  

When I see looters or violent mobs on the news, I think to myself, “Well, they are underprivileged people who have never experienced the dignity of self-reliance, the fulfillment of self-mastery, or unselfish dedicated love for anyone other than themselves.  Otherwise, how could they so horribly victimize those who have done nothing to them?”  Their behavior only serves to taint their cause and bring focus on the negative aspects of their movement.  Victimizing others out of tantrum, demonstration, or any other reason is pure barbarism.  

The florist brought over flowers for a service this weekend and as she lingered, we took a moment to chat.  She mentioned that when she was first married, she miscarried a child just two weeks shy of full term.  How utterly heartbreaking.  I can’t imagine the heartache she suffered.  As we were discussing her experience, she mentioned that during her bereavement she would receive prank phone calls related to the miscarriage.  In detail, she related that as she answered the phone, she would be met with a moment of silence before music would begin to play, the song:  Rock-A-Bye-Baby.  

She endured this torture for six months as the police and phone company tried to trace the phone calls, without success.  I cannot imagine the anguish that she suffered, the intensity of grief that continued to build up within her heart and soul at the cruelty of another human being’s actions toward her, and the fear she experienced each time her phone rang.  I am surprised that she even has a phone, now that they are cellular.  Fortunately, in today’s world, we have caller id and inferior little trolls who would treat a bereft mother so abusively would be easily identified.  

Losing a loved one is a serious event, which imposes serious psychological vulnerabilities upon the survivor.  In most cases, these vulnerabilities are temporary; however, persons who would exploit such a devastating event are seriously deficient and should be separated from society.  Those who would exploit the bereft would also exploit the elderly and the innocent.  Such individuals are dangerous and should be exposed.  One would be well advised to remove such individuals from their circle of friends before tragedy strikes their lives. Continue Reading →

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Death and Social Security

During the arrangement conference, I am often asked about Social Security income. Many American’s are confused about how benefits are calculated and how the death of their spouse affects their benefit status. It is noteworthy that the Social Security Administration points out that, “Social Security was never meant to be the only source of income for people when they retire. Social Security replaces about 40 percent of an average wage earner’s income after retiring, and most financial advisors say retirees will need 70 percent or more of pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably. To have a comfortable retirement, Americans need more than Social Security. Continue Reading →

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Fountain of Youth

My client, although in his eighties, had the body structure of a man in his twenties.  He had been a long distance runner before death:  a Hall of Famer.  His limbs and torso were lean and limber, his skin lacked the usual sagging and spots of aging, and his posture was straight and narrow.  As I prepared him for his services, I marveled at how well he had preserved the coveted fountain of youth.  

I reflected upon his habits.  He had obviously consumed a very healthy balanced diet without the absurdities of fast food and sweets, maintained a code of health excluding the life-shortening effects of smoking, drugs, or alcohol, and he had practiced a rigid schedule of conditioning and competitions.  It caused me to evaluate my own code of health commitments.  

Due to my work, I am bombarded with the realities of one’s choices upon death.  My husband often quotes my philosophy that “We choose our death.”  There are, in some instances, circumstances beyond our control, however, more often than not; we do indeed choose our deaths.  

We may not have had honest conversation with ourselves at 16 years of age about the cancer that would follow our choice to smoke; cirrhosis that would follow our choice to consume alcohol; addiction with our choice to consume illegal drugs; auto accidents from our choice to drive distracted; heart disease due to inactivity; high blood pressure due to obesity; skin cancer due to overexposure; murder due to compromising our safety by being in dangerous places, having dangerous associates, or being unaware of our surroundings; etcetera.  Yet, when it comes to the day that we lay on an embalming table, the facts are undeniable:  most people chose their deaths. Continue Reading →

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Expectations Great and Small

As I sat in church beside my dear cousin, she leaned over and whispered to me, “You should write about mourning expectations in your article.”  After church, she asked me to accompany her to her home.  My cousin is a world famous quilter and she graciously quilts lovely gifts for those she loves.  I am one of her fortunate recipients.  

As we stood in her sewing room, we took a moment to talk about the expectations and realities of our lives.   As children, she and I both lived near our current homes in a tiny East Texas town.  As teens, we were privileged to briefly room together while attending college.  We both vowed that we would live outside of East Texas for the rest of our lives.  

My cousin married an FBI agent and raised her five sons in wonderful cities across the United States.  She worked the graveyard shift making donuts so that during the day she could be home with her boys and help make ends meet.  I married a career United States sailor and raised our three daughters in San Diego CA.  I did daycare so that I could stay home with my girls and help make ends meet. We both homeschooled our children.  

I am not sure where I thought I would live out my days, and I do not know if my cousin had a specific destination in mind either, but the realities of life find us living out our retirements in this tiny town to which we vowed never to return. Continue Reading →

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Last night as I prepared to retire, I opened my electronic device to social media to check on last weeks events in the lives of my friends and family.  A friend of mine, whose daughter had, many years ago, attended my daycare facility, posted a sweet comment referencing an article I had written.  Her daughter is now a married woman.  It amazes me how quickly children grow into adults and how quickly I grew into a senior.  

Earlier, I had decided to attend a seminar about self-reliance.  Thankfully, self-reliance is not one of my struggles, however, I am often asked to help others obtain this worthwhile quest, and therefore find it advantageous to continually seek new information toward its fulfillment.  I asked my husband to accompany me and as we prepared to leave our home, we briefly discussed a beautiful Christmas present he had given me this past season that carried significant personal meaning.  

Prior to Christmas, while my husband and I were shopping I spotted the present he gave me.  My attention, however, was focused on an item sitting beside it that was perfect for my sister-in-law.   My husband told me that when he went back to purchase my gift, the sales lady expressed relief and happiness.  She said that when the item was set out for display, she had hoped he would see it and buy it, as she knew that it and I were perfectly suited.  She was right, and her observation indicates an intimate knowledge of me personally and compliments me in a unique and endearing manner.  

While listening at the seminar, the facilitator’s message encouraged my thoughts toward one’s purpose in life.  It became clear to me that one’s direction or work should be correlated with one’s purpose, or as my friend had stated, “one’s calling in life.”  How wonderful it must be to work in what you are driven to accomplish.   One often hears, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”   I have always felt that 98% of what I do in a day is out of responsibility, while the remaining 2% leaves me wondering if it will ever pay off.  

I responded to my friend’s post that funeral service is as rewarding and fulfilling as daycare ever was.  Her compliment, however, was aimed at writing.  I continued that although I truly love funeral service, writing does not come to me easily.  I lament over it every week. Continue Reading →

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False Alarm

Our daughter was born in July and when the calendar flipped over to December, I excitedly took her to Camp Pendleton for her first Santa picture.  Each year thereafter, until she was too old for Santa pictures, we faithfully visited the sweetest Santa and Mrs. Claus there ever has been.  Traditionally, I take those sweet pictures and place them in chronological order across our fireplace mantle for display throughout the holiday season.  

During my husband’s military career, we were stationed in San Diego, CA.  We attended church near our home, and through the years, we became friends with an elderly couple who attended church there also.  This sweet couple, in particular, loved our daughter.  They were wonderful to her.  They were Pearl Harbor survivors.  

Norm and Gerry would share with us, their amazing stories of that frightening and deadly attack.  When the bombs dropped on Hawaii, Norm was on a different island than his family and for weeks, did not know if they were dead or alive.  The fear that his family may have died affected him so deeply that it haunted him throughout his days.  

As the first bomb hit the ground, Gerry sprung into action.  Like a mother hen, she gathered her wee ones and sought shelter for them.  She was nearing the delivery of her fifth child, yet she formulated a plan and implemented it into action.  She hid her children in a baseball dugout protecting them from explosions and flying shrapnel.  A soldier running by stopped and gave Gerry his loaded weapon.  Realizing that she would probably use it to shoot enemy soldiers, he paused and explained that should the Japanese invade, she should use the weapon to avoid capture by taking her children’s lives, as well as, her own.  

Trembling, and with tearful emotion, Gerry would share with us the agony she experienced as she struggled to find the strength to kill her children to save them from capture and horrific torture.  She would express the importance of seizing every opportunity to vocalize and demonstrate our devotion to those whom we love.  The impact of her experience was overwhelming to us and demoralizing to her. Continue Reading →

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Embrace Every Moment

At the beginning of the first Gulf War, I had an opportunity to spend every penny I had to my name in order to fly to Singapore to see my husband who had been on deployment with the US Navy for five and one-half months.  The reality of war meant that his current trip home would temporarily port in Singapore for five days and then turn around and head straight back to where he had left; the Gulf War region of the world. In the life of a military wife, the possibility that I would not see my husband for another five and one-half months was now a reality, the possibility that I would never see him again was now a threat with a great big red exclamation point behind it.  I was terrified. I was very nervous to scrape up every penny that we had, but I was determined to see my husband before he went off to war.  I needed to express my dedication to him and my absolute dependence for him to return to my side.  He needed to know that without him I would be unable to breathe, that my heart would stop beating, and that my life would immediately end.  He needed to know that our sweet baby needed him to come home because she loved her daddy so deeply that growing up without him would not be possible.  He needed to know that our prayers of protection would pour out to heaven every moment of the day and that angels would surround him when he was in danger. Unfortunately, the airlines found out what was going on and instantly air tickets jumped from $500.00 to $5,000.00.  Five hundred dollars for a poor military family living in San Diego CA during that time was an astronomical fee, five thousand dollars was impossible.  But, I was determined that not even the airlines would keep me from what might possibly be my last chance to see my husband alive.  I pulled every penny we had out of the bank, dug for change through coat pockets and the couch, and purchased my airfare. I was teaching art classes at the time so it was necessary for me to rearrange my commitments to my students.  One of my students was a wife of a Retired Combat Veteran.  She pulled me to the side and shared her great wisdom with me.  She advised me that the first two days with my husband would be wonderful, but the third day together would be sad.  I was so confused.  I had no idea what she was telling me.  She continued.  The third day would be our “Hump Day”.  She cautioned me not to think about it, not to let the fact that we were on our downhill slide of having to separate, destroy the final few days that we would have together.  She said to push it out of my mind anyway possible and to enjoy every moment we had.  Her advice was worth more than I paid for that blasted airline ticket.  In fact, her advice was invaluable. Continue Reading →

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While studying to become a funeral director I consigned as a master artist. In fact, painting portraits funded my college degree, my daughter’s college experience, relocating my family from the Western United States to the Southern United States, and collateralized my funeral practice; all in concert. On average, I painted 423 portraits yearly. Painting portraits is a unique and wonderful profession. It gives you the opportunity to profoundly touch a person’s soul, which in turn, touches your own. Continue Reading →

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