Contemplating Mortality, Facing the Challenges at the End of Life

What if we understand death as a developmental stage — like adolescence or mid-life? Dr. Ira Byock is a leading figure in palliative care and hospice in the United States. He says we lose sight of “the remarkable value” of the time of life we call dying if we forget that it’s always a personal and human event, and not just a medical one. From his place on this medical frontier, he shares how we can understand dying as a time of learning, repair, and completion of our lives.

This is the lead paragraph from this week’s Speaking of Faith Program on APM, an entire radio hour devoted to end of life issues which some may find helpful to hear. Follow the link: Contemplating Mortality with Ira Byock

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What’s the Hathaway difference in cremation?

There’s a lot of misleading information out there regarding cremation services.

Years ago the Federal Trade Commission developed rules for funeral and cremation pricing. In the process they created a special category called “direct cremation” which has turned into a source of confusion for consumers as funeral homes have stripped away more and more customary services so that they can offer the lowest possible teaser price. In one extreme case, a funeral home publishes a price which does not include transportation of the deceased to the funeral home. This is perfectly “legal” because the rules don’t say what has to be included in the price, but it can be very misleading.

We do things differently at Hathaway. Over 120 years of service, we’ve learned to keep our prices straight forward and complete. This video is designed to explain the difference. If you have any other questions, please send an email we will do everything we can to help.

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Using iBooks Author to Select Prayer Cards

My family has adopted many innovations over the years to improve our quality of service. Here’s an example of our most recent innovation, an eBook designed with iBooks Author so that we can present prayer cards on an iPad. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time iBooks Author has been used in funeral service.

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Hathaway–It all began in a garage…

My great grandfather began his “undertaking” in 1893 out of a little garage in Somerset, Massachusetts. Look past the young man (probably my grandfather as a teen) in the driveway and you’ll see the pitch of the roof to that garage still located on Riverside Avenue near the bottom of Luther Avenue.

Nearly 120 years of service from one neighbor to another. With a little luck and a lot of attention to detail, I hope we’ll serve for many more.

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Remembering Through Facebook: For Some, It Can Be So Much More Than an Obituary

The New York Times ran a story over the weekend profiling Paul Cebar of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He posted photos from his deceased mother’s scrapbooks using Facebook and apparently found comfort from the replies he received on line.

Sometimes public expressions make you feel better. Sometimes keeping things private helps just as well.

Choose wisely what works best for you.

To see Mr. Cebar’s page, click here.

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You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.

The following letter appeared on a site called Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving a Wider Audience. It is the words of the famous teacher and physicist Richard Feynman to his deceased wife.

Deeply touching, and a reminder of the range of human emotion in the face of loss. There are those who let the past pass, and those who bring the past with them as a constant companion. Either may work as a form of coping, either may become a pathology, but with care there is a balance we each find in accepting and coping with loss.

October 17, 1946


I adore you, sweetheart.

I know how much you like to hear that — but I don’t only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you.

It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you’ll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing.

But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can’t I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the “idea-woman” and general instigator of all our wild adventures.

When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.

I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don’t want to be in my way. I’ll bet you are surprised that I don’t even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can’t help it, darling, nor can I — I don’t understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don’t want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you.

I love my wife. My wife is dead.


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May you always have…

From the folks at

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Facebook and Funerals

A reminder I think that there is so much more to LIVING, than hanging out in front of a screen.

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The Descendants

We in funeral service talk about grief as if it fits in one tidy little definition which goes something like this–someone dies, we have to say good-bye with visitations and funerals, we feel hurt and sad for a long time (and sometimes families come unglued in the process), and one day we feel better.

George Clooney‘s new movie The Descendants turns that traditional definition inside out. In it you see a man and his two daughters come to grips with the accident induced coma and eventual death of wife/mother, and in the end the movie portrays a closeness and peace among the three survivors they had never known when the woman lived. That the characters have not changed appearance in the final scene also suggests that very little time has passed between the time of death and this cozy gathering on the couch without Mom.

Life does not follow this pattern very often. Experience tells me that most times a tragic loss leads to a period of chaos and disruption for the family involved.

But the movie is a reminder that death and loss and grief and recovery take many shapes and forms. The old “stages of grief” model taught in every Psychology 101 course for 40 years or more, does not tell the whole story, and “normal” grief doesn’t follow one and only one path.

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Before I die…a simple, and thought provoking art project

I stumbled across this video clip on MSNBC this morning. I’m wondering if I could get this to happen in the Fall River/New Bedford area in the Spring.

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