Hello, My Name is Erin Hutchins Johnson
My name is Erin Hutchins Johnson and I lived in the twin cities all my life until I moved to Nashville.
My name is Erin Hutchins Johnson and I am the Lead Regulatory Compliance Analyst for the Vanderbilt Human Research Protections Program. I lived in the twin cities all my life until I moved to Nashville. My parents are Kent and Lisa Needham Hutchins. My brother is Garrett Hutchins and my nephew is Tucker Hutchins. Growing up in the funeral business I began as a young teen helping during visitations by greeting people as they entered the funeral home to pay their respects. One summer during high school I worked in the front office with my parents to assist with administrative duties. Even while attending college at Murray State University, I would assist as needed at the funeral home until I moved to Nashville in 2003.
Over the years I would encounter so many people who lost loved ones. It was a comfort to be able to give the grieving person a hug or offer words of encouragement during their time of sorrow. Some families are grieving the loss of someone they lost suddenly and unexpectedly while others might be dealing with the loss of a loved one who had an extended illness. Caretakers might not have had much time or mental capacity to gather ideas to help plan a funeral. I must admit that although I grew up in the business, I didn’t really understand just how many decisions you have to make when you lose a loved one until that time came for me.
In 2017 I lost my 23-year-old stepson, Houston. unexpectedly. I will never forget going to the funeral home in Nashville with my husband and other family members to make Houston’s funeral arrangements. It was almost as if I had never been to a funeral home before and didn’t know what to expect. We were sleep deprived and pretty much running on empty at that point. So many emotions and such a difficult time. On top of grieving, we had to make decisions on things such as clothing, song selections, flowers for the casket spray, who was going to speak, selecting a date/time for funeral and so on. Funeral home staff are great at gathering these important details to help the family plan the funeral but it’s up to the family and in some cases, a close friend or caretaker, to provide the answers. We quickly found ourselves being asked to answer questions to things we didn’t immediately know the answer to and needed time to think on.
The pressure of making such important decisions in order to tailor a service to honor your loved one can be daunting when you feel unprepared. You never think about a child going before you but unfortunately, it can happen. Death can happen at any time and at any age. I remember leaving the funeral home after making funeral arrangements and my husband saying he hoped we made the best decisions to honor Houston.
Let’s face it, planning a funeral is not something any of us want to think about. Not many of us take the time to communicate our wishes to loved ones. However, when the time comes it makes things easier on those who are planning the service. If your loved one communicated their funeral wishes before they passed you should do what you can to honor those wishes.
Choosing the location and type of the service is one of the first things to consider. Traditionally the service occurs at the funeral home or church but there might be an instance where the service will need to be elsewhere such as a school gymnasium to accommodate a larger crowd. The deceased might be an older person whose family lives away from the area or only has a small amount of friends still living. A graveside service at the cemetery or burial site might be more appropriate in these circumstances. Most funeral homes should be able to provide you with upfront costs in order to help make decisions. This helps those planning the service to be realistic in terms of what they can afford to spend.
Writing an obituary is great way to showcase those meaningful details about the person as well as communicate the information to the public. Social media platforms are a great way to communicate timely details such as the time and location of the service. Remember, not everyone is on social media so this should not be the only method used to communicate details.Newspapers, both print and online, continue to be a leading provider of obituaries and most Funreal Homes have a 24 hour obituary line you can call for incomplete as well as complete information for funeral services. Another great point to consider is asking friends and family to help communicate the news to those who live away from the area or may not be on social media. This allows those who need to make travels arrangements to do so.
You might be making funeral arrangements with a group of family members or close friends so it’s important to consider everyone’s opinions. Remember, you are at a time when you are emotionally exhausted. Be considerate and kind to one another. You are all there to work together to do the best you can to honor the legacy of the loved one.
In the future I hope to discuss some of these topics relevant to funeral planning in more detail.
Erin Hutchins Johnson
May 17, 2022, 9:00:00 PM