You’re not likely to get an argument from anybody if you contend that 2020 has been one of the toughest years on record. So many long-running family traditions are having to be dramatically changed this year, or even sidelined completely thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In its own bizarre little twist of fate, one great tradition in Michigan’s Great Southwest surprisingly has the potential to reach more of the people it is intended to provide comfort for than anytime in recent memory.
Since 2001, Starks Family Funeral Homes and Cremation Services has hosted an annual Remembrance Service at their St. Joseph location. Olivia Starks explains, “What we would typically do every year at our St. Joseph location is we would send out a letter and anyone who has lost a loved one, whether it be this year, last year, even five or ten years ago, they are welcome to come to a remembrance service and they are also welcome to bring in an ornament to hang on our tree at the end of the service. The tree and all of the ornaments then remain on display throughout the month of December.” In fact, every year right after Thanksgiving the Starks family sets the tree up and places everyone’s ornaments on it. Even those who elected over the years not to attend the service, were invited to stop by the funeral home anytime and hang their ornament on the remembrance tree.
However, “Some people couldn’t have a service this year due to COVID, or had to delay their service, or they possibly never got the chance to do anything,” says Laura Starks. For these reasons, continuing the Remembrance Service in 2020 has become more important than ever, which is why this year the service has been produced as an online video available to everyone to watch at any time. “This allows people to at least remember their loved one during the holiday season and know that they still have support,” comments Laura.
Because the Remembrance Service from Starks Family Funeral Homes is a virtual event this year, more people than ever before will have the opportunity to be a part of it, which Tom says is very important for grieving family members. He says, “In this time of COVID, a lot of people weren’t able to grieve and I’ve always cautioned that you can’t postpone grief. If you do that, you run the risk that it will just get worse and other issues will arise.”
Laura adds, “We also offer families from all of our funeral home locations the opportunity to set up a time to come to their local Starks Funeral Home and hang an ornament on the remembrance tree in memory of their loved ones.” Tom says, “Some families pick up the ornament afterwards, while others leave them with us so we can just keep hanging it onto the tree every year. It’s just our way to try and give back to the community and help folks through a difficult time.”
You can watch the annual Remembrance Service on the Starks website throughout the month of December and notes, “If someone is really struggling they may watch it a few different times.” Olivia is pleased with the plan, saying, “This may be the first holiday that they’re going through without their loved one by their side, so this option we’ve made available to them could potentially be huge for them and just really helpful.”
Tom Starks, who has been in the business for years, says they work all the time to educate clients on how they can grieve throughout the year, and what can be done, even in times of pandemic, “and how important it is to have some type of service now, because, while it’s true, you can have a larger service later, with COVID nobody knows how long that’s going to be.”
For those who would like to, after watching the video you can also leave messages or comments on the Starks website, just as you can leave memoriams following obituaries on their website.
Truly, the creation of a virtual service will have the potential to reach a much larger number of family members and friends than ever before, leaving at least one bright moment in these weary days of pandemic, all thanks to a family that cares like no other in the business and always believes in giving back to the community at Starks Family Funeral Homes & Cremation Services.