Monday, April 30, 2012

Homemade Memorials

So this past weekend I made a trip to the Butler Creek Cemetery, nestled in the hills just North of the community of Sulpher Springs. I had never been up toward that direction and, WOW! was it beautiful!!
Trees and plants of all kinds dot the landscape, creating a beautiful setting for this quaint little cemetery.

Butler Creek Cemetery
Aside from the beauty surrounding the cemetery, I was in awe of the number of homemade memorials that had been placed throughout and will focus this post on those memorials.

You see, mankind has had an emotional and historical need to remember the loved ones it has lost and the history it has made since the beginning of time. Of course we have evidence of this today with ancient monuments such as the Great Pyramids and their hieroglyphics, Stonehenge, and many, many more.
This need is inherent and human nature is to ensure that the need to remember is met.

While there is no material (to our knowledge) that will stand the test of time in the cemetery as long as or as well as granite, some families choose to create homemade memorials from other materials for several different reasons. Perhaps the family has experienced financial hardships that keep them from purchasing a granite memorial for their loved one. Or, perhaps their loved one worked in a certain area of skilled trade and the family simply wanted to remember them with something they had made. Whatever the reason, the important thing is that their loved one, whether they were cremated or traditionally buried, has been remembered and memorialized

This memorial (to the right) appears to have been derived from a cross-shaped tree branch. It has been whittled smooth and features the gentleman's name "Jim" where the arms cross. It is set into the ground with some concrete.

You will notice the little vase to the side of the monument has become separated from its base. Over the years I have heard countless customers describe the lengths they have gone to to fix a broken vase and, unfortunately, most of those remedies do not work.
Folks have tried Gorilla Glue, shoe glue, some kind of adhesive caulk, hot glue, the list goes one. However, if you want to re-attach a vase to a base, the only solution that truly works and holds up over time, is to use what we call "vase tape". If you need some, drop by the store and I will give you some.
If your vase has cracked, busted or otherwise broken, there is, unfortunately, no way to fix it indefinitely. The best solution if that is the case is to completely replace it.
This cross memorial (to the left) is actually one of my favorite homemade memorials in BCC and appears to have been chiseled from native stone.
The metal butterfly in the middle is actually wired to the memorial and looks like it is in pretty good shape.
The "sunburst" design back behind the cross has been beautifully done as well.
Although beautiful, I was unable to locate the name of the deceased on either the front or the back; Perhaps the inscription has weathered away.
This double marker (to the right) features a VA marker (free-issued by the US Government for Veteran's who had honorable discharges from any branch of the military) that has been inlaid into a concrete border that doubles as a memorial for his wife. The neat thing about this monument is 1) they used a colored concrete, which helps it become more visible from the ground and 2) they were really ingenious in their use of resources.
It isn't uncommon to have a family come in who has noticed that a homemade headstone has become difficult to read. In these cases the family will typically choose to leave the homemade memorial in the cemetery, undisturbed, and place a flat granite marker in front of it that lists the individual's name, dates and any other important information.

We hope you have found this post both informative and interesting. Please contact Emerson Monument Company if you have any questions or a need that we can assist you with.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How You Can Help Those Who've Lost A Loved One.

There are moments throughout the day when I catch myself practically feeling the pain of the individual or family sitting across the sales table from me. It's not a casual "oh, I feel your pain", but a sincere, deep hurt that aches inside for this family and the loss they are suffering. Perhaps you have felt moments like that before. And, if you have, you may have found yourself wondering what to say or how to say it.

Sometimes, as a co-worker, friend, family member, or even a spouse, it can be difficult to know what to say and how to support another who has lost someone so dear to them. With that being said, it is my goal to offer you some tips and ideas (beyond the ordinary "take food" or "help with chores") for supporting those who may be grieving.

  1. Your friend/family member/co-worker/etc will not recover. When we lose a person who is special to us, we often feel that we have lost not only that individual and the life that was shared together, but we may also feel as though we have lost a piece of ourselves as well. Do not confine a person's grief to a certain period of time.
  2. Patience is a Virtue. You may have noticed that your friend/family member/co-worker/etc. expresses his or her pain and grief in unpredictable ways. Perhaps he or she cries at seemingly random times, or becomes agitated or forgetful. Do not demand this person to "get on with their life". On the other hand, do not avoid them or silently ignore their actions either. Instead, acknowledge their pain, offer a gentle smile or, if you don't know what to do or say, simply say "I really care about you and, while I don't know what to say, I do want you to know that I am here for you."
  3. Looks Are Deceiving. Your friend/family member/co-worker/etc. may look fabulous and act as though he or she feels great in public, but his or her appearance may not be an accurate representation of how he or she feels inside.
  4. Memories are Priceless. Help your friend/family member/co-worker/etc. remember his or her loved one by helping them remember the good times they had. Many who experience grief have an intense fear that they will forget their loved one over time. Help relieve that fear by helping him or her keep their loved one's memory alive. You may do this by offering a special journal for him or her to write down memories, or provide copies of any photos or memorabilia that you may have. Send a card or call on special occasions such as the deceased's birthday, anniversary, or other special life events.
  5. Don't Judge. If you are reading this post with someone in mind and are taking notes, then chances are you will not and have not judged your friend/family member/co-worker/etc. If you have experienced grief yourself, help your friend feel more normal by assuring them that you had the same thoughts or feelings when you lost someone you loved. If you are unable to offer that kind of assurance, simply encourage your friend and let him or her know that you are available to listen. And when you do listen, don't interrupt or say anything that may be interpreted as an attempt at minimizing their loss or pain.
In Northwest Arkansas we have been blessed with several organizations who offer grief support services to those who need them. If you are struggling with grief associated with the loss of a loved one, you might consider contacting Circle of Life Hospice or a trusted grief counselor. Those struggling with the loss of a pregnancy or the loss of a child under the age of two might also consider contacting NWA Share Parent Support Group. Of course there are countless organizations that offer counseling services in and around our area. If there is one that you would like to recommend, please leave a comment listing the organization's name and contact information.

I hope you have found this information helpful!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

When Inspiration Strikes

If there is one thing I love about my "job", it is listening to each familys' inspiration and making it become a reality in honor of their loved one. In fact, the more I help folks, the more I realize that we are all truly individuals: with individual likes, dislikes, interests, loves, opinions - the list could go on.
It also seems that each family, as a whole or as individuals, always holds tight to something that reminds them of their loved one: a favorite song or saying or verse...a photo or piece of artwork...a memory or single moment in time. The inspirations are countless.

A few weeks ago I had a sweet customer bring in this photo. She had found it online and immediately fell in love with it; and I can see why- it is absolutely beautiful!

Although I have admired their beauty for years, I never really knew much about the cherry blossoms and their significance in several Asian cultures. And as the daughter explained it to me, the more interested I became in researching the meaning behind this beautiful flower.

In the Japanese culture, these sweet little blossoms are most commonly held as symbols of purity, good fortune, love, life and mortality. So why do they act as a symbol of mortality? My research shows that it is due to the blossom's short life cycle.

In the Chinese culture it appears that the cherry blossoms take on a whole different meaning. In China it appears that the cherry blossom is associated with feminine beauty, love and passion.

With that symbolism being known, it is easy to understand why this sweet daughter would want to incorporate the cherry blossom into her mother's memorial. On  occasion a customer will come in with a specific design idea that is completely unlike anything I have in my design library. When this happens, as it did in this situation, we search our system to see if there is anything relatively close to what the customer wanted. And when it appears there is not, we are left to draw our own the design by hand.

You will notice the design on the left (the closest match from our system) does not have the same clarity as the one on the right (the one we drew by hand). You will also notice the symbols- all of which we drew by hand as well.

After completing the drawing we let the family review both proofs and select the one they felt was most like their initial inspiration. The family selected the hand drawn proof (the one on the right) and then we began the manufacturing process.

I was very pleased with the way this monument turned out; it is such a beautiful memorial for a special mother and her daughter.