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Friday, 27 January 2023

The Funny Thing About Death


 A play by Kim Kalish at the Cell Theatre in New York City, part of Origin Theatre Company’s 1st Irish Festival 2023

 

The funny thing about death? You might be thinking, well there is no such thing. Death is not funny; it is not something to be found comical; to be laughed at. But for the storyteller, writer and performer Kim Kalish, it wasn’t that death was, or is, funny - her situation and experience were absolutely heart breaking - but it is how she coped with death - her grieving.

 

Kim used what was familiar to her; creativity, theatre and humor to help process the massive burden of grief. Humor was her coping mechanism. We see all of this in her spine-tingling, attention grabbing and captivating performance. In her own words, she was a theatre kid and that is how the bond blossomed between her and the love of her life - Patrick Michael McMurphy.

 

I had the privilege of sitting in the front row of her show, to feel the rawness and realness of her story, her wit and her emotions. We, the audience experienced the heaviness of her struggles but the essence of joy in finding true love at such a young age. I could feel my throat muscles tense and cave in at spells throughout the hour-long performance, while my eyes glassed over with both tears of sadness and laughter.

 

Their love story was a “showmance”, as Kim recalls. It sounded like the typical perfect Romcom. 

Kim was only 23 years old when death came knocking at her door in the form of her best friend Andrea, ‘Andy’. You see, death has no timeline; it does not care what time of the day, or what day of the week it is. It does not care if you are busy making plans for the future, or just hungover on your couch in the same outfit as the night before (as Kim was). It just comes knocking. Knocking when it is greedy for another life to take.

 

Professionals have termed The Five Stages of Grief as DABDA: 

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Kim touches on this topic in the play, but listed them in the wrong order. At first thought, I presumed it was an error on her part. Later in the play she states that “Grief is not Linear, it is not a lifestyle change, nor is it a fad diet!”. It was at that point that I understood why she changed the order of stages. There is no order to death or grief. No single individual experiences these stages in the same pattern, what may be the second stage for one person is the first for another. Anger may consume a griever initially before denial sets in. When Kim received the news of her soulmate, love of her life, expected life partner’s death; she accelerated through all 5 stages of grief in just one moment.

 

She was both in denial and angry at her friend for saying such a thing, she bargained with her to take the news back; that the news she shared wasn’t funny. It was only when Andrea turned her head, in anticipation of Kim’s palm approaching her cheek to slap her, did Kim comprehend the reality of the situation. She fell to the ground in depression and shock, once the truth was accepted. Andrea was right there with her, cradling her. This is a true testament to friendships and the community we create for ourselves. When someone we love dies, our community and support is everything. Andrea was by Kim’s side for a week solid, so much so that she hadn’t showered and started to smell. This is how selfless her dear friend was.

 

You see, Kim was on suicide watch at her mother’s request. The uncertainty of what Kim may do was the main concern.  She claimed she was fine, that she was OK, not to worry about her. This was absolutely not the case; Kim went back to work two days later! Kim's mother wanted her to eat, in fact insisting that she ate! That is how she showed her love. 

 

In life, we all have different avenues of expressing and showing our love. When Patrick was alive, he used to express his love by showing up for Kim when she needed him most. He appeared at Kim’s apartment in the middle of the night as her knight in shining armor. Like most typical college kids, Kim was procrastinating on her senior year thesis. She frantically typed in the final 24 hours before it was due. She typed so hard and so fast that her laptop and thesis flashed and smoked before her eyes. When she lay in a fetal position thinking it was all over; there Patrick Michael McMurphy was to save the day.

 

Fast-forward and Kim was still not OK, and that is OK, she recounts two years later, with Patrick’s anniversary looming. She was dating again. Kim forewarned her date that it might be a difficult time for her and she didn’t know how she would behave. He exclaimed, “You’ll be OK though right?!”. Kim felt that her date’s question was a way of protecting himself against the possibility that she might not be OK. Asking someone if they will be ok, is like saying “time heals all wounds.” Words like those take away from the griever and their grief.

 

“It’s OK not to be OK” is a slogan used by Hope For The Day. This is a non-profit movement empowering the conversation on proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. There is no shame in admitting you need help, love or support. Please, if you are reading this; reach out to someone that is worrying you, seems reserved or you feel is alone with no support. Or, just reach out to friends and family and tell them you love them! 

 

This is a message that Kim leaves her audience with. For it was only at Patrick’s funeral that Kim discovered SHE was the definition of true love to him; not a Billy Joel song as she had once believed. He told a friend that true love was knowing what your partner needs before they know it themselves. She was who he wanted to be with and he was going to ask for her hand in marriage! But Patrick never got a chance to tell her before his tragic death. 

 

So, can I leave this with you? whom do you need to contact? Who would appreciate hearing your voice at the other end of the phone? Do not procrastinate like Kim, writing her college thesis. Who needs to hear the words today from your heart, “I love you”? 

 

-Siobhán Regan

Monday, 10 October 2022

Cake: A Symbol of Celebrating Life Moments with Suelin Chen

   





Funeral preplanning is important because it guarantees that when your time comes, your family can have a fitting and personal farewell. This means giving yourself and your loved ones the best chance of moving forward in a healthy way from the loss of a loved one.

Join us in this episode as we have our guest, Suelin Chen, CEO of Cake, talk to us all about her company, a digital self-serve suite of tools spanning from
planning to bereavement support.

LITTLE NUGGETS OF GOLD:

  • How to create a plan for a meaningful ending so they can live their best life through Cake.
  • CAKE: A symbol of celebrating life moments
  • Why end-of-life planning is actually all about honoring life. 
  • The importance of funeral planning. (... and how does it feel setting up your own?) 
  • Why should people know how funeral services work? 


Connect with Suelin Chen:


Connect with Jennifer/The Glam Reaper:

Saturday, 8 October 2022

Part 2 - The Hosts of Undertaking The Podcast join The Glam Reaper Podcast to talk about life and death in the world of funerals.

  



Part 1 of this podcast had these three fabulous hosts discussing the idea of a celebrant. If you missed the episode, catch it first before you tune into the more light-hearted part 2.  

It does get serious a little in this episode where we discuss how funeral directors get alot of backlash from every side. Is it a business, is it an industry? Should people be expected to work for free? Do families feel robbed when at a funeral home? Does the media make us think that?

The conversation talks about preplanning and how we are all unique humans at the end of the day and everyone suffers loss, even your funeral directors. 

A lighter tone was used at the end of the conversation, and it was a great way to conclude the episode.  Enjoy! 

LITTLE NUGGETS OF GOLD:

  • What is the value of giving a funeral service?
  • A thank you note received by Brian that disproves what people are thinking about Funeral Directors
  • Why is Jennifer not going back into being a wedding planner?
  • Jennifer's book, her 3rd book coming up and the podcast. 
  •  About the Undertaking Podcast where Funeral Directors, Ryan Ballard and Brian Waters discuss life, death and the stories of funeral service.
  • Jennifer posed a question to Brian and Allan - Who are your favorite and your worst guests? 
  • Ryan and Brian being asked on what is the future of the funeral industry and what is their funeral song? 

Connect with Brian Waters and Ryan Ballard:


Connect with Jennifer/The Glam Reaper:

Part I - The Hosts of Undertaking The Podcast and The Glam Reaper Podcast talk about funerals with a Celebrant

 





The guys from “Undertaking, The Podcast”, Brian Waters and Ryan Ballard joined The Glam Reaper, Jennifer Muldowney in this epic two-part (and maybe more!) episode talking all things funeral.  As we are both natural hosts of our own podcasts, there was a reversal of roles throughout.  I asked questions of the lads and Brian quizzed me back which I happily obliged!

Of course, we chatted and discussed and digressed so much that we had to edit this into two episodes and honestly, it could have been 3 but I figured not everyone wants to hear us just shooting the sh*t. In this episode, you will hear us focus mostly on the idea of the celebrant and what it can do for both families and funeral homes. Happy listening! 


LITTLE NUGGETS OF GOLD:

  • What goes into the thought process in creating a memorial and being a celebrant?
  • How does a celebrant help a funeral home?
  • What happened when Brian, a Funeral Director, was asked to offer eulogies for the departed? 
  • Why is it okay to get emotional during the funeral service?
  • What about the clergy? Will they be replaced by celebrants?
  • How rewarding is it to be a celebrant?


Connect with Brian Waters and Ryan Ballard:


Connect with Jennifer/The Glam Reaper:

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

A Celebration of Life the Green Way With Elizabeth Fournier

 

Notice how many people are into renewable energy, into protecting the environment, opting for hybrid or electric cars, and so on? It is not surprising that people can also embrace the green lifestyle in handling the end-of-life phase with natural burial or what is popularly called these days ‘green burial’. This is the episode where the Glam Reaper meets the Green Reaper, Elizabeth Fournier. Elizabeth is the author of “The Green Burial Guidebook: Everything You Need to Plan an Affordable, Environmentally Friendly Burial” and she helps families with how they want to celebrate the lives of their dearly departed. There are many options, of course, but being a member of the Advisory Board for the Green Burial Council, she is certainly an authority on the subject and why she is known as the “Green Reaper”. Enjoy listening! LITTLE NUGGETS OF GOLD:

  • About Elizabeth Fournier's journey in the funeral industry and her initiation on the green burial option.
  • What is the story of Elizabeth's first natural burial experience?
  • How many states allow natural burial and what sorts of legal restrictions are there in every state?
  • What are some problems that we can anticipate with natural burial and what precautions should be taken beforehand?
  • How was the ambiance of that first natural burial and how did Elizabeth's green journey progress from that?
  • Does Elizabeth's funeral home only do green burials? (... What are the other options and guidance she can provide to people?)



Resources:

Green Burial Council

National Home Funeral Alliance



Connect with Elizabeth Fournier:

Website

Email



Connect with Jennifer/The Glam Reaper: 

Facebook Page: Muldowney Memorials & Rainbow Bridge Memorials

Instagram: @muldowneymemorials 

Twitter

YouTube

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Should Planning Your Own Funeral Be Scary or Fun with Erica Hill





They say that you can't always get what we want in life but what’s worse is, we can’t get what we want after life, as well.  How many funerals have you been at where you have questioned the lack of ‘personality of the deceased’ in the service? It is a serious thing. And a serious problem in the funeral business. 

So should you be spending time planning your funeral now, even at an early age? 

Jennifer, the Glam Reaper had an enlightening conversation with Erica Hill about how she created Sparrow, a contemporary funeral home in Brooklyn. Erica feels that people are looking for something different in their final story, funeral/memorial and is trying to make sure it is a story being told from the heart.



LITTLE NUGGETS OF GOLD:
  • What makes Erica think that Sparrow’s service is different in comparison with the rest?
  • Why did Erica venture into the founding of Sparrow Funeral Home?
  • What was wrong with most funeral services in failing to properly represent the deceased?
  • Why is pre-planning of your funeral important? (...Erica using the funeral of her friend as a positive example for pre-planning.)
  • What is the plan for the future for Sparrow? 
  • Erica shared one of her unforgettable recollections for a funeral service Sparrow did for families.

Connect with Erica Hill:

Website

Connect with Jennifer/The Glam Reaper: 

Facebook Page: Muldowney Memorials & Rainbow Bridge Memorials

Instagram: @muldowneymemorials 

Twitter

YouTube

Sharing Solace, You Are Not Alone With Crystal Webster


Sometimes your grief is aggravated by people who in spite of coming from a sincere place of wanting to support are not really helping. They say things that are not supposed to be told to a grieving person, but really they are just trying to help in their wrong awkward way. When we are supporting someone who is grieving, we just need to understand that they are clouded with emotions and can sometimes act irrationally.


Sharing Solace was officially launched May 19, 2018, on the 8th birthday of Crystal Webster’s daughter Madelyn Elizabeth who died in her arms after 8 beautiful hours of giving birth to her. In this episode, Crystal said that the idea of Sharing Solace was from Madelyn and she felt that she was ready to begin to heal and help others do the same. It's OK to feel lost and it is OK to want extra support. 

 


LITTLE NUGGETS OF GOLD:

  • Crystal’s painful journey started in 2010.

  • How did Crystal come out of the dark place and started the business of helping people who are grieving to heal?

  • The flagship locket set from Sharing Solace and their mission for people in grief.

  • How is Crystal able to work with people who share their stories of grief? (...Is she taking people’s grief home and absorbing them, as well?)

  • The problem for funeral homes with children's funeral, how unprepared funeral homes are (...What did Crystal choose to do for Madelyn?)

  • How important is pre-planning of your own funeral?

  • Jennifer’s experience every time she attends the Professional Women's Conference by NFDA (National Funeral Directors Association).

  • What is the concept of Hanlon's Razor? 


Connect with Crystal Webster of Sharing Solace:

Website



Connect with Jennifer/The Glam Reaper: 

Facebook Page: Muldowney Memorials & Rainbow Bridge Memorials

Instagram: @muldowneymemorials 

Twitter

YouTube