Where’s Theresa? We hear the question daily at Hansen-Spear, for many reasons. It kind of reminds me of the children’s picture book game, ‘Where’s Waldo?.’ There are a lot of things happening at the funeral home, and finding Theresa can sometimes become a challenge.
Theresa has been a funeral director, embalmer, and the heart and soul of our funereal home for over 40 years now. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but we graduated from Mortuary School in Chicago in the Fall of 1979, and have been here since then. We first served an apprenticeship for a year under my parents, George and Charlotte, and then began as fully licensed funeral directors and embalmers.
And I cannot underscore the second part of that enough. Theresa, who went back and earned her Bachelors Degree in studio Arts from Quincy University in 1996, has always taken charge-in our preparation room. George was very meticulous, but Theresa has a special talent that is unsurpassed in restoring people to a degree that allows a family to have a private viewing or a public visitation with the body present that is comforting, not upsetting to a family. It’s such an important part of what we do. Last week we again heard a family thank her for “…returning my beautiful mother to me.” This is not the first time.
Theresa has always been in the forefront of all quality control issues, from touching up paint to directing maintenance cleanup to making sure the package of typed flower lists and memorials were proofed and cataloged before being delivered to a family we served. This work put her front and center in the office where she could greet everyone as they came for a funeral or visitation.
Lately she has turned over more of the clerical duties and several years ago began focusing on reaching out to families with grief information over the course of the first year following the death of a loved one. So many days she can be found in the ‘back office’, what used to be an apartment, where she sends handwritten notes to our families. The first note goes out within the first two weeks of the funeral and includes a booklet on aftercare as well as information on the grief resources on our website.
The next contact is around Thanksgiving when she organizes the mailing of ‘Holiday Help’ booklets as well as an invitation to our yearly holiday help event which we have hosted on the second Saturday of December since 2006. She also plans the music and the theme for the message.
Another handwritten card goes out near the anniversary of the death. We understand that holidays and the first anniversary are some of the most difficult hurdles, and some common sense, easy to read information can be so helpful.
So “Where’s Theresa?”
She is definitely not retired.
She is fulfilling one of her callings as a funeral director, helping a hurting family navigate through that first year of grief. It takes her a bit more out of the public eye, but it’s important for our families that we provide them the best, not just during the week of one’s loss, but with continued aftercare.
It’s what is expected from Hansen-Spear, and Theresa is making sure it is delivered.