By Leader Contributor Maria Neathery

Editor’s note: As we emerge from quarantine into the “new normal” following COVID-19, families are going to want personalized services for their loved ones, especially since some of them aren’t able to hold the funeral or memorial service they envisioned right now. Some families may wonder if they even need to plan a service. That’s why you’ve got to show families just how valuable your services are, including all of the options they have available for personalization — even if you’re planning the service for a later date.

While all firms across the country are guiding their communities to ensure their staff members and all of their guests stay safe, their number one priority is honoring those who have died and preparing a fitting tribute so their loved ones can get the closure they need to start healing.

Helping families create a beautiful service is something they’ll never forget — even amid a health pandemic. One way to celebrate a life is to personalize their service, adding the unique touches of who this person was.

Maybe their family member loved the beach and went to the same resort every summer. Or maybe their loved one was known for their love of sports and always rooted for their favorite NFL team every Sunday. When you’re telling the story of a beloved family member, every detail matters.

Jason Diemer, owner of Greenlawn Funeral Home in Missouri, has many props stocked and ready to go for the families he serves. Diemer and his staff have prepared several personalization setups that they can suggest to families while planning their arrangements.

“By doing personalization for families, it proves that we are listening to the details of who that person was,” Diemer said.

One great example is their beach setup. This includes a tarp filled with actual sand and seashells scattered all around the casket. From beach balls to palm trees to beach chairs, and even Hawaiian leis, any person who loves the beach would appreciate the attention to detail that the Greenlawn staff is ready to provide.

“The personalized setups that stick out to me the most are the beach-themed ones and the beekeeper setup,” Diemer said. “At one of the beach services, I wore a grass skirt and a Jimmy Buffett T-shirt.”

Another personalization setup they offer is Western-themed. In this arrangement, the casket is topped with a brown leather saddle, accompanied by beautiful flower arrangements on top, which all rest on top of bales of hay.

“My favorite part about doing the setups with all the props is seeing the family’s reactions to it,” Diemer said. “And what makes this great is they won’t just remember this — they’ll remember the funeral director who made it happen.”

What’s in your prop closet? Being prepared to serve families with burial or cremation services is one matter, but you can offer a whole new level of service when you’re able to give a family a detail-oriented, personalized arrangement. After all, it’s often the smallest gestures that mean the most to families.

“Everyone deserves the attention and the details,” Diemer said. “And seeing the family’s faces when it’s done – it’s worth it.”

As you grow your prop closet, here are some questions to consider:

  • What are the most common personalization requests you receive?
  • What does your community value?
  • What are your town’s favorite sports teams?
  • What are the beloved places in your area where the locals go?

Have personalization ideas you’d like to share? Email your comments to

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