Melissa Hernandez & Trista Lewi (JOINT BLOG!!!)
- Sept. 28, 2022
August 24, 2022
Over the last few years, the trend for funeral homes is not based on which region or state consumers live in as years past but more on cost and personalization. Statistics state 57.6% cremation rate vs 36.6% burial rate was the trend for 2021. The ways of full traditional burials with lavished floral arrangements, high end caskets and over the top cemeteries is becoming a rare thing. Burials are still taking place but with no embalming, closed casket services or opting for memorials after the burial has taken place. Families are more likely to do cremation and hold a celebration of life at the loved one’s favorite place (parks, restaurants, or church). 55% of Americans stated since 2020 they have attended service a nontraditional location. The other big notice is that attendance for services has been cut almost in half. Pre-COVID funeral and memorial services were filling chapels to capacity. People were traveling in and out of state to attend friends and family members services. Over the last two years, people are concerned about being in small spaces with people that did travel to attend the service or concerns over the cause of death being related to COVID and the spread of the virus from the dead to the living. (By the way no proof one way or another) As a funeral director it sad to see the decline in number of actual services being held and the number of people attending. This makes us work harder to make the service special for the family and the one thing we are good at is personalization.
Online Tributes: Right before COVID hit, we changed website designs. Our old design, I felt was not user friendly for people to locate service information without having to click a bunch of times to find it. The new website is designed to see current obituaries right on the front page and one click gets you all the information you need. The obituary page for each person is designed with them in mind (think Facebook page look) with a cover photo and a main photo. The page includes a tribute section (condolences made online), ordering flowers directly and gallery wall. Another feature is to Live Stream the service directly from the website. This gives people that cannot travel the option to attend the service. Our website also offers online grief support. I think this is a great feature for people too scared to ask questions if their feelings are normal during this time of their lives or just need a few words of encouragement. I am currently enrolled in the 365-day program, and it has helped me navigate life without my mom. The other focus on the page is we display the memorial video.
Memorial Video Tributes: This has become a major trend in our funeral home. We started doing this before it was a thing and used Power Point (nightmare lol). Now, it is user friendly for families and our team as well. As our phones have evolved and we capture every moment, we can use those to enhance the video for the family. We send them a link and they upload photos and video clips. If they have loose photos, we scan them too. Then give us a list of songs and within 15 minutes we can provide a preview for the family to edit as they see fit. I will give you a personal example… we just handled my mom’s service. We had tons of photos so that was the easy part, next came music. We picked music, she loved to listen too. She loved upbeat music from different eras of music (The Carpenters, Gloria Gainer, Price, The Judds and Whitney Houston made the cut) so when you watched the video, we felt like she was there with us singing along as she always did in the car. The video to me really brings the celebration of the life into focus. Music and photos help use retain and hold onto our memories and comfort us during a sorrowful time. Even when families opt for no service, they will have us build a video to help capture their memories of the loved one and then sharing it with others on the website.
Digital Register Books: Let me ask you a question? Once you leave the funeral home and the director hands you the register book, what do you do with it? Keep and read through or take it home and store it away never to look at it again. Most families tell me, they never open once they leave the funeral. So, we have opted to do a digital register book instead of the traditional paper book. We have developed our own version of this at our funeral home. We design the page to sign in to represent the loved one with cover art, then it captures each person in attendance name (typed out not signed) allowing the family to read them with out trying to decipher handwriting. Then we give the family the option to email the list or print out a hard copy to take home. We get a lot of ooohhhs and ahhhs from people attending the service that this is a smart idea and they have never seen it before.
Creative Ideas with Cremains: In 20 years of being a funeral director, I have seen some interesting things people have done with cremains. The Urns have become more personal with engravings, color options and design but what about the nontraditional approach. A family brought in their dad’s collection of beer steins and each kid placed cremains inside. Or a handmade music box or a motorcycle gas tank. I always encourage the family to do what they want to do because Trista and I do not make a commission off your urn selection. Jewelry has become extremely popular from pendants to fingerprint jewelry to turning them into diamonds. Yep, diamonds. You can make them into hand blown art glass, shipped into space, made into bullets for a 21-gun salute or much more. I love when families share with me, their ideas for the final disposition of remains. The options are endless.
Nontraditional Burials: Think GREEN! Did you know embalming is not required to bury in Texas. We can even set up an intimate viewing for the family prior to burial for final goodbyes without the loved one being embalmed. We have seen the trend to closed casket graveside with immediate family then memorial service for the public. The area we live in has not seen a dramatic trend in total Green Burials since most cemeteries require a container (casket) or outer burial container (concrete liner or vault) to be used. Not my rule. In the US, 60.5% of people would be into exploring more Green Burial/Cremation options. I see this become more popular in our area over the next five years once everyone can get over the traditional mindset of funerals.
Price Shopping: As a culture we price shop everything from car insurance, cell phone plans, to cable/internet providers. Why are people not price shopping their cremation and funeral needs. We see the trend over the last two years changing because get 100’s of calls a day asking for pricing. As the smallest funeral home in our town, we are not super fancy, but we offer the same services as the big funeral homes. The famous question that gets asked is why the difference in price; well… we don’t own a brand-new fleet of cars or have a chapel that sits 200 people. I am always quick to tell people, what does a hearse and limo have to do with the cremation service, we perform for you. They have no benefit. If I have all those new things, that drives up the cost of the cremation. To keep our prices affordable, we focus on services that directly relate to consumers we have sitting in front of us. We have a full line of urns, cremation jewelry, personal monuments, memorial cards and more on the shelf ready to take home (no waiting on an order to arrive). The other thing, I pride myself on is putting the price out there for everyone to see. We have it on the front of the website displayed and under services tab is the complete general price list. The trend is coming to shop around and ask questions, read google reviews and of course word of mouth about not only the price but the customer service the funeral home offers you. Are you family to them or just another case.
The trends are necessarily groundbreaking or completely out of the box, but the change is big from the more traditional ways of the past. I embrace the more current ways of thinking and encourage the families to do what they need to help get them through during this most difficult time. The funeral home has done some amazing memorial services with fun themes and interesting displays. I cannot wait to see what trends come about over the next 20 years in the funeral business.
All the statistics in the blog come from the National Funeral Directors Association (https://nfda.org/news/statistics)
August 17, 2022
Did you know that the average median cost of a full traditional funeral is about $8000? The FAMIC (Funeral and Memorial Information Council) reported that in 2015 69% of adults over 40 years old stated they prefer to pre-pay for their funeral expenses, but only 17% of those adults completed the process. When you make pre-arrangements for your funeral expenses before you pass, it alleviates stress off your family as they go through a difficult loss.
How does it work? First thing we do when you come into your pre-arrangement appointment is we get all your vital information from you that we will need at the time of your passing. Then we began planning, you will make all your decisions yourself whether its burial or cremation. Finally, you get to choose how you want to make payments. We have monthly, quarterly, and yearly payment options that can be as low as $30 a month! We understand that most people are on a fixed income especially if you’re retired so we always try to make the payments very flexible that won’t “break the bank.” Once you’ve decided on your payment plan, we go over the paperwork and you will be on your way feeling that sense of relief knowing you’re taken care of.
Our pre-arrangement policies are insurance funded, what this means is that they are protected. We use the company FDLIC to hold the money for all our policies until those funds are needed at time of death. If you chose to make payments on your expenses and you pass away before the policy is paid off, there is insurance built into your policy that will pay the remaining balance off automatically so that balance due does not fall onto your family.
When you pre-pay at the funeral establishment you plan on using, rather than using life insurance, or a policy from a third-party funeral finance company that money is available to your family immediately. They will not have to fill our paperwork, present any policy documents, or wait on the phone to get information. When the policy is written through our funeral, we know those are guaranteed funds so the family will not have to wait to do any services until the money becomes available from that third party.
I can never stress enough to our families how important pre-planning can be. It is too often we have families you have absolutely no idea how they are going to pay for their parents or grandparents funerals but have the desire to honor them in an extravagant way. Pre-paying can be one of the best gifts you can leave for your family.
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How We Got Here
August 10, 2022
THE HISTORY of Wright’s is not a traditional story that most hear when it comes to funeral homes. Most funeral homes are handed down in the family or people go to work for other established funeral homes and never dream of owning their own. Cynthia (my mom) went a different route to her dream. She went to mortuary school as a second career in life. She was a veteran in the US Navy on disability and the VA wanted her to take the rehabilitation option to further her education and not pay her as much in disability checks. When she was given the option on what to do… being a funeral director/embalmer was at the top of the list. She graduated San Antonio College in 1996 and went out looking for a funeral establishment to complete her one-year apprenticeship. Having a four-year-old (Robert) and 16-year-old (ME!) at home made it difficult to commute to the nearest large city and she wanted to work locally. With resume in hand, she visited local establishments (one was corporate owned at the time and not hiring and the other one was not interested in hiring women). Being turned away, Cynthia felt defeated. A week went by, and she had an appointment at the local VA and one of the nurses told her about a newer funeral home to town and she should go talk to “Good Ole Charlie” ie Charles Sizemore. And everyone around this area, knows him as Charlie. Cynthia went to visit Sizemore Funeral Home the next day and Charles hired her on the spot. He was a veteran, and she was too so they hit it off.
Charles taught Cynthia a very practical approach to the funeral service industry. After a few years of working together, Charles walked in one morning and told her, “You are always here, and I am never here… buy me out”. They finalized everything in July 2000, changing ownership to Wright’s Funeral Parlor.
During 2000, Cynthia alongside my grandpa, Bobby Jack worked to build a reputation of a family owned and operated business in the Hill Country with lowest cost services. Mom was the funeral director/embalmer, and my papa was the muscle/ handyman for the business. As time went on, my mom tricked me into helping her with a few services here and there (that’s another story) and I started
mortuary school in August 2001. Mom and I worked together every day since then. The funeral home has seen a lot of cosmetic changes over the years but the service we provide has never changed. “Our family serving your family”.
On my 40 th birthday (2018), my mom and grandpa called me to his house because they had a gift for me. And to my surprise it was giving me part ownership in the family business. My brain works different than most… I told them we had to make it effective Jan. 01, 2019, for tax purposes. When Jan. 01 came, we started making plans on what 2019 would hold for the funeral home and family. Little did we know, later that month, our family was faced with the death of my grandpa. This left a huge hole not only in our hearts but in our business too. He was the fixer, we called him every time something broke or we needed something built. He remodeled every square inch of this building. To add to our grief, Cynthia was diagnosed with a rare breast cancer May 2019 and had to step away later that year. Mom helped when she could or was feeling up to it. So, the conversation about the future of the funeral home
between her and I was simple, I will carry on with the values of what has been created here. BIG SHOES
My husband Victor and my kids helped when they could after she stepped away, but they all had full time jobs to maintain. So, I guess we have a trend in this family… let’s trick the women into helping. One day, I needed help and called my son’s girlfriend Trista to help me on a call. I promised her it was easy and nothing hard. With that being said, she started to work for the funeral home October 2019, and she is a natural.
The funeral home survived 2020 with all the new things that came with it (COVID). And worked to incorporate new things to help the families be more engaged and the inside of the funeral home underwent a remodel and the logo changed to focus on the name not the horse and carriage.
As we sit here today, I must tell you that the cancer and COVID won and my mom died on June 27, 2022, and it rocked my world. The reason, we have this wonderful business helping others is solely because she had a dream. The dream to serve others in their darkest days and help guide them through to understand funeral directors are here to not only help but to care. She always told Trista and me to make sure we understood that the families we serve are part of our family and care for them the same as we do for each other.
So our little family owned and operated, women lead business is thriving in the Texas Hill Country for over 22 years. And we hope you enjoy our blog and insight into our family business and allowing us to
give you tips into helping at your time of need.