Saturday, December 29, 2007

Politics & Death – Perception Is Reality


I recently had the opportunity to do something that I rarely do. I went antiquing with a family member and was accompanied by my five year old daughter, Annalise. She was amazed at how much “old stuff” could be in one store. Although I am not a complete antique kind of guy however, we had a nice time.

I being a funeral director, I find often find myself looking for old funeral programs and death notices from the late 1800’s. the language and grammar used during this time period intrigues me. Now in order to let the store owners and clerks understand I am not too weird, I explain that I am a funeral director that collects this type of memorabilia.

During my conversation with a shop owner they asked the typical questions, such as are you currently practicing and if so where and if not why and what are you doing now? Then they typically have funeral question to ask or a story of some kind to tell.

After much discussion, a topic I never thought of was brought to my attention. Recently the Huntington area lost a well respected elected official that was a member of the W.Va. House of Delegates for 14 years as well as serving the West Virginia public in other capacities for well over 60 years. The funeral service details were handled by an out of state, across the border funeral home. (Just minutes from Huntington) WHY?

This was a question on this shop-keepers mind. They had a difficult time understanding why someone would make a living their entire life from the state of West Virginia, accepting income from West Virginia taxpayers and then at death their family would call a funeral home in a bordering state. Out of all the funeral homes located in the Huntington, West Virginia area why did this West Virginian go out of state for funeral services?

I instantly started making possible excuses; maybe the family had a relationship with the funeral home owners, staff, personal preference (after all death is a pretty personal event) etc. this did not seem to ease the mind of this storekeeper. In this persons mind, it simply boiled down to West Virginia supporting a person’s career and then in death they turned their back on West Virginia supporters and this great state.

See in years past business owners and town’s people as a common courtesy, out of loyalty and to show local support would trade services and product with each other. It kind of kept each others businesses in operation. You just did not cross certain boundaries. A sense of loyalty to one another, to ones city and state was taken seriously and was considered sacred even in death.

Both the store keeper and I agreed that the funeral home in question was some of the finest people and professional businesses one could ever meet, but why did a West Virginia employee (dignitary, public servant) who was supported financially a great deal of their life by West Virginians would support a bordering state in their death?

I guess when you look at it in the strictest sense, the taxes paid on the funeral supported another state, not West Virginia, the employees paid to work the funeral services were out of state employees and not West Virginians, etc.

This simply proved to me that their still are some people who view this sort of thing as a non loyal act.

I left this conversation with many questions as well as a few of pieces of advice for myself. 1.) I guess the one thing I learned from this conversation is to remember to never bite the hand that feeds you. 2.) Stay true to your loyal supporters and in every aspect of life and yes even death always do the right thing. 3.) Remember you are being watched as well as scored on your actions in life as well as in death. 4.) When you ask for someone’s support in career, life, politics, etc., remember you will and should be ready to pay them back or even pay it forward at some point in time. 5.) Perception is Reality!

Maybe we need more of the old mindset, more loyalty. Maybe our state and local leadership need to understand that as private citizens we do take notice when they mis-step or go against supporters. They need to understand that it does not bode well. It defiantly creates a lack of trust among the average supporter that is for certain.

Let’s keep in mind we are all free moral agents, not owned by anyone other than God, so we are capable of making our own decisions in life and death. But we must always remember and NEVER forget who help us get where we are and what legacy our actions may leave behind.

I am reminded of something I was told by a former employer many years ago. One mis-step or goof-up erases three praises…

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