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A guide book to help people get though the tougher times in life would be great.
Gregory Vaitl, owner, supervisor, and funeral director of Christman’s Funeral Home Inc. in Lebanon, thought so, too, and he recently published a book, “Christman’s Chronicles” filled with information to assist people when it comes time to say farewell.
“The first question people ask is, ‘What do I do next?,'” Vaitl said. “So we discuss everything….there are a lot of unknowns, especially since we don’t talk about it.”
Vaitl said his goal was to have a casual conversational approach on a subject most people prefer not to think about.
Facing a loved one’s demise and planning what needs to happen following that event are stressful, sometimes heartrending times, Vaitl said, so being armed with helpful guidance can ease the burden a bit.
The book is free; published simply to help grieving families get through those difficult times.
The book’s subtitle is “Sharing our Experience with Valuable Advice and Information,” offering knowledge that dates back to the 1941 founding of Christman’s Funeral Home.
Vaitl purchased the business in 2009, after having worked at the home for a number of years.
“I don’t think anyone has done this before – at least around here,” Vaitl said of the book. “I feel, the more information, the better. I’m not selling this; it’s to help people, to educate them with what they may need to know.”
If no details have been made, or ‘pre-arranged,’ before the individual’s passing, families generally have lots of questions, Vaitl said.
“This book can give people an edge so they know something before coming here,” Vaitl said. “We discuss everything with families, look at all options in order to give ‘the perfect farewell,’ which is really the slogan of our business.”
Armed with information, people feel less nervous, Vaitl said.
The “Chronicles” book began as a series of online educational blogs to media outlets about 18 months ago, with the assistance of Jack Cantwell of SkyLimit Marketing in Lebanon.
The Facebook site grew and so did the ideas.
“It just snowballed,” Vaitl said. “Something would happen and we’d say ‘that would be a good idea for the blog.’ “
While the book covers topics such as grief and coping, Vaitl said they didn’t want to go “too deep,” and the book is more educational than therapeutic.
Empathy and understanding are part of a good funeral director’s portfolio and helping people through one of the worst experiences of their lives is also part of the job.
Beset by grief, it’s a hard time to make decisions. A good funeral director can guide you through those rough waters.
As an example, family members often ask about attire for the deceased, Vaitl said.
“We might ask ‘did he wear a suit in life,’ because you want something to represent how they dressed in life,” Vaitl said.
The clothing concern can be addressed by remembering what the person enjoyed in life, he said.
One gentleman who was a big Steelers’ fan prompted a funeral full of friends and family wearing Steelers’ jerseys, as did the deceased.
It was Vaitl’s idea to put the blog information into a book as a way to reach more people.
The book’s publication came through a sense of duty, Vaitl said, just to offer advice and options.
The book is divided into four parts: Commonplace, or general information; Military, serving military families and organizing military funerals; Advice, information about creating the kind of service that is a true celebration of life; and Grief, a critical topic shared by many people at these times.
Topics range from the correct way to fold a flag, adjusting to a new reality, the importance of storytelling, being supportive, funeral etiquette, and even considering the value of holding a funeral service.
“You have to get something out of the service, “Vaitl said. “It’s a hard time, a sad time, and families want something that reflects the deceased….they want something that helps mourners to move forward and heal from their loss.”
In a segment called “Always the Same, Always Different,” Vaitl explains that the process at the funeral home begins with patient listening and goes on to exploring ways to be supportive.
“Our goal is always to orchestrate the perfect farewell for the people who depend on us at a very trying time,” Vaitl said.
Trends such as cremation are also addressed, he said. That option gives families more opportunities to personalize.
“The whole industry is becoming a lot more personalized,” Vaitl said.
The “Chronicles” book required several months of work, Vaitl said; from deciding how to lay out the pages to the actual editing.
“Christman’s Chronicles” was published by a company in Lancaster County.
“There was a lot of back and forth tweaking,” Vaitl said. “All the work has made me really appreciate people who write books; it was a big undertaking.”
This coming year, Vaitl said more online blogs will be available, too.
Anyone wanting a copy of “Christman’s Chronicles” can stop in at the funeral home at 226 Cumberland St., phone 717-272-7431 or email Vaitl at [email protected]. The website is christmansfuneralhome.com.