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Beginning the Monument and Memorialization Conversation
When a family arranges a funeral for a loved one, it’s unreasonable to expect them to have the knowledge base to understand fully what products and services are available. On average, people plan or arrange funerals but once every decade, so it’s rare when you encounter a family who has recently planned or played an active role in a funeral.
To many consumers, planning a funeral is anticipated to be easy. They expect to go to the funeral home; answer a few questions about their loved one and then plan the service and final disposition. However, you are doing the family a disservice if you don’t make the effort to explain the memorialization options, including memorials and monuments. And the best way to do this is to start a conversation.
During the arrangement conference, some conversations are easy – like “Tell me about the deceased” – and some can be a little more difficult – such as “How do you plan to pay for the funeral?” One that is just as important is: “How do you plan to memorialize your loved one in the cemetery?”
To begin this conversation, ask everyone at the arrangement conference to tell you something special about his or her loved one. Let them get comfortable sharing fond memories that can form the basis for the discussion on the memorialization options available that will take place later in the conference.
For many funeral professionals, a conversation on funeral products include caskets, urns, vaults, and other memorialization options like jewelry. But what about monuments and markers? Many funeral professionals choose not to discuss monuments with families. They leave this task to the cemetery and/or the retail monument dealer. Doesn’t it make sense to talk about this with families? You’ve built a rapport during the conference – now is the opportune time to round out the memorialization product selection.
I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss how you might engage with families about monuments. This is an opportunity to be of service to your families beyond the funeral service. But before I go any further, perhaps it makes sense to provide a quick primer on monuments and memorials:
There are two common memorial materials available from most monument providers and allowed in most cemeteries—granite and bronze.
Granite is the most common material choice and is allowed in nearly all cemeteries. Granite is a natural stone that took Mother Nature millions of years to create and exists in just about every region of the world. Deep within the earth, combined with compression of various minerals under varying conditions creates infinite unique patterns. No two patterns of granite are the same. Each is a unique piece of art created by nature. Granite is antibacterial and each piece is made uniform so it can be polished. Though naturally occurring, this rock comes in an infinite number of colors and varieties. Additionally, it does not naturally deteriorate even 1/1000th of an inch over 1000 years.
The other common material option is bronze. If selected, bronze is typically mounted on a granite or cement base per cemetery rules and regulations. Bronze, like granite, can last thousands of years with almost no degradation. Though not susceptible to rust, regular upkeep is recommended to prevent corrosion from altering its color. At Tecstone, we categorize the shape of monuments in four standard categories:
Upright Monuments - typically, these consist of 2 main pieces. The upright portion (called a die or tablet) and the bottom portion (called a base). Flower vases are a common option and can be added on one or both ends.
Slant Monuments - a slant monument has a steeply angled face but the back is perpendicular. The top of the slant is much thinner than the bottom. Slants may be used by themselves, or they may be placed on a base. Two major sub-categories exist - the traditional style has a front nosing and the western style (or full face) does not.
Grass Markers - grass markers, also known as flat or flush markers, derive the name from the fact that they are normally installed into the ground, with only the top face showing. They are the simplest form of granite memorial and they are typically all straight without angled surfaces.
Bevel Markers - bevels, also called pillow or hickey markers, are very simple memorials. The most common style has a straight angled top surface. The back is generally 2 inches taller than the front.
Once a monument is selected, it’s time to determine what information (names, dates, etc.) to place on the monument and how to best do so. Primarily there are two ways to do so – sandblasting and laser etching.
Sandblasting - Families can commemorate personal memories using the traditional sandblasting process to produce a loved one’s memorial. This process selectivity removes granite from the surface of the stone using a rubber stencil, high-pressured air, and abrasive grit. This creates memorials with incredible sharpness and stunning detail.
Laser etching - the second way to add inscriptions and images to the monument is via laser etching. The laser is like a pencil – the beam emitted from it allows the controller to trace patterns onto the surface. The controller (usually a computer) controls the direction, intensity, speed of movement, and spread of the laser beam aimed at the surface. Improvements in technology have allowed for the imprinting of photographic images into stone. Entire monument designs can be done using only laser etching, or laser etching can be used in conjunction with traditional sandblasting and takes place after blasting.
A few final thoughts
Monument suppliers like Tecstone have a host of tools available to help you not only sell monuments but allow families to create the designs. Through the use of software and a computer screen, the design of the monument can be created and viewed by the family. Changes can be made real time and the family can leave knowing that the design of the monument has been created and approved.
There are other memorials beyond monuments available for placement in cemeteries and other public and private areas. This includes memorial benches and statues. Discuss with your monument supplier just what is available to present to families for memorialization. In the end, it is all about finding your comfort level in presenting monuments to families. This task is much easier if you spend the time getting to know the families and the loved ones they lost as well as being knowledgeable about monuments and memorials.
Jay Kown is the Director of Sales for Tecstone Granite. He has more than 20 years of sales and marketing experience in the monuments and memorials industry. He is an effective sales leader with strengths in key customer relationships, new account development, national accounts, strategic market development, planning, budgeting, forecasting and analysis.