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How We Work to Provide Grieving Families with Dignity and Compassion at Harris Funeral Homes

September 23, 2019

By: David Cash, Manager of Harris Funeral Homes, Livonia

When I was in mortuary school, one of the professors talked to us about what being a funeral director is all about. He used a phrase that has stuck with me ever since: “quiet dignity with compassion.”

As the Manager of Harris Funeral Homes in Livonia, Michigan, that’s exactly what I want to do. I want to provide a quiet, dignified environment for families to begin their grieving process. And I want to show compassion to them. Providing “quiet dignity with compassion” is a standard I have tried to live up to all these years – and it’s a standard I hold my staff to as well.

When I started working at Harris Funeral Homes, it was clear that the owner, Tom Rost, shares that desire – to serve grieving families with dignity, respect, and compassion. For more than 26 years, I’ve been able to witness this commitment.

Tom truly cares about everyone who walks through the doors of Harris Funeral Homes – both the staff and those we serve. It’s at the heart of everything he does.

Tom has a way of making every staff member feel like they are part of a family. That sense of family is why so many employees have stayed with the funeral home for five, ten, or even twenty years. We all help each other. We all have each other’s backs.

He also invests in helping us to improve ourselves.

For example, several years ago, Tom paid for us all to visit the Ritz Carlton Hotel where we received training. We learned how the staff interacts with the people that stay at the Ritz and how they are empowered to do whatever is necessary to create the best experience for their hotel guests.

We seek to replicate that same principle at the funeral home. We want to make sure our staff knows that they can do whatever it takes to make a grieving family feel comfortable – to make them feel like they are valued.

That’s why Tom is continually innovating to ensure we are serving grieving families to the best of our ability. He’s made a grief counselor available for the families and friends we serve, and he encourages families to bring in food for visitations and services – both of which are uncommon in the funeral business.

That’s also why Tom put in place an employee code of conduct and dress. This helps us to be free from distraction and allows us to completely focus on the family’s needs – not our own. And it ensures that the family can focus on the grieving process, not on the staff.

Wearing a suit, for example, means I don’t have to think about what I’m wearing or worry that it is not professional enough. I can turn my full attention to the family and their needs. It also keeps the family from being distracted by what I’m wearing – which we desperately want to avoid.

When a family is grieving, we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves. It’s not about us; it’s about the family.

That’s why it is so surprising, and upsetting, that the dress code is what led Tom and our small funeral home to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ultimately, it’s not about our needs or our preferences. Everything we do at Harris Funeral Homes is about the grieving families that are going through one of the most difficult times in their lives. It’s about what our team can do to help grieving families heal.

It’s about providing “quiet dignity with compassion.”

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