By David Lazenby
When the funeral directors at Ridout’s Trussville Chapel were training to earn their funeral licenses, they never imagined they would one day be conducting services that featured heavy metal ballads or football fight songs instead of traditional hymns. They also didn’t anticipate visitors wearing more non-traditional clothing to a service. But all this is perfectly okay with the staff at Ridout’s.
Jerry Beam, the manager of the Trussville facility constructed in 1975 and located at 1500 Gadsden Highway, said the funeral home is progressive in that it caters to all cultures, beliefs and lifestyles while continuing to offer traditional funeral arrangements as well.
In recent years Ridout’s Trussville Chapel, a Dignity Memorial® provider, has concentrated its efforts on customizing funerals to reflect the lives of loved ones. This provides a meaningful and memorable way for family and friends to say goodbye and pay special tribute to the person who was so important to them.
“We strive to offer unique personalization for our families,” Beam said. “We ask whether a loved one had ever discussed how he or she wanted to be remembered. This helps family and friends recall positive memories. One of the most important parts of our job is to offer families comfort and help put them at ease when they come to us. Taking the time to learn more about their loved one and working with them to create a true celebration of that life can provide mental and spiritual relief during what can be a very difficult time.”
One way the chapel has changed in recent years to make families more comfortable is in the atmosphere created by the facility and its staff. Whereas the funeral directors there once wore coats and ties every day, they have switched directions, embracing slightly less formal attire in an effort to put families more at ease.
Informality can also be seen in the room used for funeral services. “Pews were replaced by plush, comfortable chairs during the complete remodel of the facility about six years ago,” Beam explained. “In addition, we’ve added brighter colors and more lighting to make guests feel more comfortable.”
Music is yet another important component of making family and friends feel more relaxed at Ridout’s. Noted Beam, “We offer more up-tempo music that helps lift their spirits, rather than playing traditionally expected sadder melodies. The music selections now heard in the chapel’s foyer are less somber and families are invited to select their own music if they wish. Families may also choose to further personalize a service with special photos, mementos or even a collection of items that were special to their loved one. Again, everyone is unique and each person deserves to have a unique remembrance. These are little things that might not be noticeable right away, but they make a difference and are in keeping with our philosophy of helping families cope with feelings of loss and grief. We try and assist the families we serve in any way we can. No request is too small for us to do what we can do to help,” Beam said, adding, “We take care of all the details so that families can focus on remembering the life of their loved one.”
Beam and the staff at Ridout’s Trussville Chapel said their commitment doesn’t end when the funeral is over. They check on families after the service and, as part of the Dignity Memorial network, also offer professional grief counseling support. Every family who plans a service with Ridout’s receives access to a licensed counselor through The Compassion Helpline®. This complimentary 24-hour phone service continues for 13 months after a loved one’s funeral takes place. Funeral director Robynne Gray said Ridout’s also offers literature designed to help families and friends find peace in their time of mourning.
Eugene Thomas added that it’s not enough for funeral professionals to feel sympathy for those they serve. “We have to feel empathy for them,” he said. “We have to put ourselves in their shoes and
understand all their needs—everything from financial to emotional.”
Another way Ridout’s helps to decrease stress on those suffering from the loss of a loved one is by offering pre-planned arrangements.
“There are a lot of benefits involved in making arrangements in advance of the time of need. You’re making decisions when you’re not stressed,” Beam explained, adding this also allows those planning ahead to have a say in how their service will be conducted and how they want to be remembered.
Beam added that pre-planned funerals also make economic sense because families are able to take advantage of prices on products and services at today’s costs—typically considerably lower than they will be in the future.
Beam is extremely proud that the staff at Ridout’s Trussville Chapel also makes it their mission to be involved in the community they serve. Last month, the funeral home was a sponsor of the Senior
Olympics held in Trussville. “There are many ways we support our community,” said Beam, noting that Ridout’s is the oldest funeral service provider in the Trussville area.
All of the funeral directors at Ridout’s echo Beam’s sentiment about the importance of giving back to the community and the families they serve. Offering families more choices and opportunities to celebrate the lives of their loved ones is at the core of their service.
“You have to feel where they are, and meet them where they are,” Thomas said. “The most important thing when you are assisting a family is to really listen.”
Perhaps funeral director John Abernathy summed it up best when he explained, “I try to let families know how important they are to us and that we’re here to do everything we can to help them through a difficult time. I don’t wait on families—I try to take care of them. It’s not about what we want; it’s about what they want and what they need.”