January 20, 2018
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Remembering loved ones through personalized services

By David M. Fitzpatrick, BDN Maine Special Sections
Meadow Hill Co. | BDN
Meadow Hill Co. | BDN
This particular keepsake melds a lasting memory of a loved one — a thumbprint — and a heart-shaped pendant. Known as a Thumbie, this keepsake has been laser etched with a decedent’s thumbprint.

Of all the trends in the funeral industry, in recent years there has been a major shift in how the services are done. Today, they are becoming more and more personalized, with loved ones taking active roles in making those services celebrations of life.

“They are selecting a form of remembrance that is focused directly on their loved one rather than having a service that is religious or faith based,” said Lauri Fernald of Jordan-Fernald Funeral Homes, with three locations serving Hancock County. For example, her home once handled a funeral for a Civil War reenactor; attendees showed up in full uniform.

J’Anna Hutchins Hedrich of Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home in Rockland has also seen many unique ways people have personalized services.

“Most recently we held a service for a gentleman who was very fastidious about his lawn care,” she said. “His family was delighted to see his urn displayed on a shiny John Deere tractor. Personalization has continued with bringing the outdoors in for hunters, displaying local artists’ paintings on our walls — all those things that really speak to who that person was and tells their life story at a glance.”

These days, services are even broadcast over the Internet, so family and friends who can’t be at the service can still participate in the event. However people choose to celebrate the lives of those they’ve lost, it’s a solemn and vital duty for funeral homes to assist in making it happen.

“One of the most important things is for a family and a community to come together somehow and to remember that person,” Hedrich said. “They need to have some kind of gathering or get-together to mark that person’s life … They need a way to say good-bye.”

Even with personalized services, a keepsake can still make a big difference. One popular method is the creation of a memorial DVD that’s a slideshow of images, often set to music, that plays during the service or visitation.

“It’s nice to have something to look at — to watch those photos go by and to hear those stories it evokes as people are watching those memories,” Hedrich said. “It’s so great to be able to share all those stories.”

And sometimes it’s the simplest of mementos that make the difference.

“Families are finding more and more that the way they memorialize their loved one starts from within their hearts,” Fernald said. “They believe that their loved one will always be with them, in their memory, and how they commemorate that person can range from a special stone with the loved one’s name on it to a thumbprint on a necklace that they wear every day.”

She’s talking about Thumbies, an increasingly popular way of memorialization that both Hedrich and Fernald’s funeral homes handle. Using a thumbprint of the departed, which is scanned and stored electronically, family members can have the print laser-etched on jewelry.

“It makes a very nice keepsake,” Hedrich said. “We have a lot of families who choose this option.”

Fernald related a story of a woman whose departed husband’s thumbprint is on a pendant she wears every day.

“She found that no matter where she is that when she is thinking about him she can reach up and feel his thumb print on her necklace and feel like she is connecting with him on a very personal level,” Fernald said.

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