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Telling Others About Your Loved One’s Passing

Telling others about your loved one’s passing isn’t an easy task. People have a variety of ways they accept news, and we express grief and sadness in different ways.

Not only is the death of a loved one difficult on you, but passing on this difficult piece of information to other family members and friends can pose some challenges.Sometimes you may be faced with having not talked to the person before, or in a very long time. You may be afraid of saying the wrong thing or not being able to be ‘strong enough’ to help them with their grief. This is particularly true if the response to the loss brings up strong emotions. Some people may respond with shock, and you could feel that every person you tell makes it more real and painful.

Telling others about your loved one’s passing

The news can be shocking to some, so deliver the news in a relaxed environment. This may mean taking a child out of class to meet in a quieter area, leaving a workspace or other public area. Telling them face to face, rather than over the phone, is preferred, if possible.

Not only should the physical environment be calmer, but they should be in a calm state of mind. Tell them to take a breath and that you have some important news. Encourage them to be in a safe space and make sure they can hear and listen to you. Practice what you are going to say, even creating a script if needed, to help yourself be in a more calm state of mind as well.

Speak clearly and sincerely. Be as open as possible and understand that they may have questions, may need silence or may express emotion. Some people may want physical contact, such as a touch on the hand or arm or even a hug, and others may pull back and away. Ask what they need at the moment to receive comfort. If you are uncomfortable disclosing answers to questions, reply with, “I’m not ready to talk about that” or “I’m not comfortable talking about that”.

The best way to deliver the news is by first showing them that you care and offering support. It may also mean that you ask for support from others. If making phone calls to lots of people, ask for help. Some people will automatically ask how they can help, and if they do, let them. One woman asked people in different circles of her husband’s influence to call the others- for example; she called one person from church, another from his work and a family member. Each person acted then as a phone tree calling others from that area. This reduced the amount of time she had to tell people and limited the awkwardness for her of contacting people she didn’t know well but who her husband did.

Create an environment free of judgment or criticism. Listen with compassion to the person’s emotions and feelings without trying to change how they are being.

Sometimes when we think we are offering comfort, we say things that minimize their feelings, so if in doubt, silence is a good idea. Remember compassion will be given to you as well as sharing in the grief. Sometimes at the news, or even after during services or gatherings, they may want to talk about their loss, the events or details surrounding it and stories of the deceased. This is a typical response to loss and is ok. Being patient and allowing this will help them accept the loss and work through the grief. Validate, rather than compare their emotions to others. Share feelings of your personal experiences of loss and be aware to avoid unsolicited advice or criticism as those can be very harmful.

Fairmount offers the support of Family Care Providers who help you with the entire process of preparing for and conducting a life honoring service for your loved one. They will meet with you in your home or in our private offices that look and feel like a living room. We want you to feel comfortable and cared for like we have been doing for Denver families since 1890. Give us a call today to meet with one of our Providers or ask any questions you have at 303-399-0692.

Talking to Kids about Death and Grief

Talking to youth about death and grief.

Nearly 80% of youth age 16 and under have reported the loss of a loved one.

With so many youths dealing with loss, being able to talk to them about death, dying and grief is important. This is particularly true when the adults in their life may also be experiencing grief, leaving kids even more confused and isolated.

When talking to a child about death, it is important to know that their age and experience has a lot to do with what they will understand, and therefore what should be talked about. Honesty is the best bet, which may include answering the question of “I don’t know”, or “I have wondered that also.” Showing them that you too don’t fully understand death, dying, and grief can help them process their feelings in a safe and non-judgemental way.

When first telling them of a loss, be with them in person. Sit down in a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. The youth may want a hug, or they may withdraw, so be aware of what they need and offer compassion and support. Allow for silence and the expression of emotion, without trying to “make it better.”

Accept their emotions as they come, and don’t reason with them or tell them how they should or shouldn’t behave, as that can be very damaging. Don’t criticize or argue, rather understand that a range of emotions can come to them that can range from seemingly non-existent to emotionally high or low. They may be angry, blaming, attempt to negotiate or bargain, cry, scream, sit in silence or act “fine.” They may experience physical symptoms such as stomach or a headache, or want to lay down.

It is ok to share your experiences with grief, but don’t offer comparisons with their grief and your experiences, as everyone grieves differently. Ask them questions about how they are feeling, what they would like to do that will help them feel better or if there is anyone else they want to talk about. Ask them to share any stories or ask any questions. Compassion is the key.

Allow the child to attend any funeral or celebrations they are interested in to help them accept the reality of the situation. If they aren’t comfortable going, don’t have them attend. They may be scared, and it is important to recognize they have feelings that may be new to them. If the child has spiritual beliefs or asks spiritual questions, answer them to the best of your ability. Pray for them if that offers comfort.

Check in with the child regularly and ask about the deceased person and how they are coping. Ask about symbols, rituals and memorialization they have done or want to do. Children tend not to have the intense and long-lasting emotions that adults do, which means their grief can look differently than adults, depending on their age and support system. Try to keep their daily routine as normal as possible and watch their behaviors for significant changes in sleep, diet, energy and interest levels. Observe their interactions with others and their play see if they are more scared, anxious, angry or withdrawn. Drastic changes in behavior should be discussed with your family’s physician or a mental and emotional health professional.

Overall, kids need to be free to talk about death, dying and grief in a safe way. By offering compassion and support, they can move through it in a healthy way.

Fairmount offers the support of Family Care Providers who help you with the entire process of preparing for and conducting a life honoring service for your loved one. They will meet with you in your home or in our private offices that look and feel like a living room. We wanted you to feel comfortable and cared for like we have been doing for Denver families since 1890. Give us a call today to meet with one of our Providers or ask any questions you have at 303-399-0692.

Offering Support to Someone Grieving

Virtually all of us have had the experience of grief in our lifetimes.

But because everyone grieves differently, wider understanding is important in order to offer support for those people who are moving through the process differently than we have.

Understanding How Grieving Looks

The first thing to know is that there is no right or wrong way to express grief. And grief can be unpredictable, triggered at surprising times with a wide range of emotions. There are no “shoulds” of grieving, with the exception of course, when day to day living and function becomes a problem, in which case, professional support should be sought. This professional support may be a grief support group, bereavement counseling or other emotional and/or mental support professionals.

Grief can consist of highs and lows and include guilt, blame, despair, anger, and even fear. Some people in grief will have angry outbursts, while others withdraw. Some become obsessed with death and understanding what caused it or philosophical about the afterlife and other beliefs around death. If thoughts begin to be over obsessive or turn towards hurting yourself or others, a professional counselor should be contacted to help support you through the grief. And because there is no timetable for grief, this would be true any time you feel these things.

Some grievers will experience physical reactions such as including loss of sleep and/or appetite, inability to concentrate, panic attacks, dizziness, physical pain in the heart/chest area, lack of energy, and the loss of interest in previously joyous or interesting activities.

There are several factors that could cause healing from the loss to be prolonged including the closeness and/or relationship of the deceased to the grieving person, the timeline or progression or type of death, or even pressure from others to move quicker through the process. For example, those who had a daily ritual with the deceased will likely be shaken up by the change in habit that will also be missed with the person’s passing. Likewise, the death of someone who died tragically and/or quickly, may solicit a different type of response than the death of a person who fought a terminal condition and suffered for years.

And while some people experiencing grief may not fully recover, other will seem to heal quicker than they thought they would. This is also misunderstood, but again there is no timeline. Someone may feel they “should” have felt more symptoms or even that they should have grieved more or felt more sad. Again, how we deal with loss is very complicated. It can do with the nature of the relationship between the griever and the deceased, coping strategies and the past experiences, support systems, temperament and more. There truly is no one way to grieve.

Offering Support to Someone Grieving

Words of comfort are appreciated. The trick is to not minimize the feelings of the person who is grieving, and sometimes that can be confusing. Some minimizing statements could be: “Well at least your grandma lived a long life”, “You will feel better soon”, and “I know how you are feeling”. These statement attempt to lessen the pain that the person is feeling, but they can be interpreted harshly. Instead, consider phrases such as: “I’m here for you, how can I help?”, “I’m sorry for your loss”, “He/She was a wonderful person”.

These types of responses allow someone to have the feelings they have while also honoring the person who has passed. In addition, some people love for you to share positive memories and stories about the deceased. You can offer this in writing through a letter or card, or digitally with an online tribute.

Another way to offer support is to send a gift or make a donation to a charity or foundation in the name of the deceased. Some families can benefit from housekeeping services or having food brought to them. These are tangible ways to show support, but we suggest asking first so the person who is grieving isn’t further overwhelmed with visits or gifts to sort.

Remember again, there is no timeline on grieving and while the family may receive an outpouring of support in the beginning, it fades. Anniversaries, birthdays, holidays and more can be harder for someone going through grief than one who isn’t. Continue to check in on the grieving person to offer support.

The loss of a loved one can be one of the most painful events we experience. And death and dying are still one of our more taboo subjects to talk about, although that is starting to change.

No longer do people who are experiencing grief need to feel alone and isolated. More than ever, support is available for family and friends who have experienced loss. Fairmount offers the support of Family Care Providers who help you with the entire process of preparing for and conducting a life honoring service for your loved one. They will meet with you in your home or in our private offices that look and feel like a living room. We want you to feel comfortable and cared for like we have been doing for Denver families since 1890. Give us a call today to meet with one of our Providers or ask any questions you have at 303-399-0692.

Preparing an Obituary and Delivering a Eulogy

An obituary is simply a notification that someone has passed and details about the funeral services. Its objective is to communicate publically the passing of our loved one and announce how others can participate in any visitations, funeral, burial and memorial services. How much information to include will have a lot to do with the newspaper space that is available and/or affordable. The obituary should appear in print a few days before services.

The obituary can be cut and dry or be more expressive like a eulogy. While some people want to capture the overall attributes and life of the deceased, many just give general information. This can happen due to the flood of grief or busyness of planning other arrangements. This is why we put the obituary and eulogy in the same conversation, as they can support the content of one another. Overall, the obituary should include:

  1. Full Name
  2. Age
  3. City/Town of Residence and State
  4. Time and Place of Death

It is customary to list loved ones who are related through bloodline or marriage, whether living or passed including:

  1. Grandparents
  2. Parents
  3. Siblings (Biological, Adopted, Half and Step)
  4. Spouse
  5. Children (Biological, Adopted, Half and Step)
  6. Grandchildren (Biological, Adopted, Half and Step)

These relatives can either be listed by name or generally as in “the deceased had 4 grand-children and 2 great-grandchildren”.

Other items that can be considered, at your discretion, include:

  1. Cause of death
  2. A photograph (color will be at the publisher’s standards)
  3. Education/Degree/Alma Mater
  4. Career or Job
  5. Hobbies/Special Interests
  6. Where the body will be laid to rest
  7. Honorary Pallbearers
  8. A request for memorial donations
  9. A memorable story or commentary about something meaningful to the deceased or that captures the loved one’s personality or character

Additional notes about preparing an obituary

Today’s technology has allowed for online obituaries and memorials. These are a place for people to share their thoughts, condolences, stories and more whether or not they were able to attend services. Contact us to learn more about these options.

Delivering a Eulogy

Like preparing an obituary, a eulogy can honor the deceased and capture their personality and also share about their bloodline and hobbies. Where an obituary informs people of the events and offers an overview, the eulogy is a part of the memorial service that allows reflection, remembrance and connection.

“I love eulogies. They are the most moving kind of speech because they attempt to pluck meaning from the fog, and on short order, when the emotions are still ragged and raw and susceptible to leaps.” Peggy Noonan

Overall, the eulogy should convey experiences and feelings of the person giving it. It doesn’t need to summarize the person’s life, and, it doesn’t need to be delivered by only one person, or one certain person. Some people prepare a full speech, while others write a short poem, tell a story or offer a few words as part of a bigger piece.

Writing a eulogy, even if it isn’t delivered, is one tool that helps people deal with their grief. For this reason, it is encouraged to simply write from your heart, telling your recollections and stories that show the loved one’s character, personality, passions, loves and more.

Remember that the eulogy doesn’t need to be perfect as the people in attendance are there to honor and show respect for the deceased and grieve in their way. Because of this, it is a good idea to avoid negative traits, stories or comments that could make guests, including children, uncomfortable.

Additional notes about delivering a eulogy

There is no reason to be embarrassed if you get emotional or stumble in presenting a eulogy. Anyone with the experience understands it is hard and don’t judge you.

Prepare the written eulogy in a larger font size than usual as reading it at a podium is different than reading from a book. If you need to read it word for word, do. You are not expected to make eye contact or have it memorized or rehearsed.

Be you and take the time you need.

For additional support on preparing an obituary and delivering a eulogy, contact our Fairmount Family Care Providers at 303-399-0692. They will meet with you privately in your home or in our warm, welcoming offices which look and feel like a living room. Fairmount wants you to feel comfortable and cared for during this difficult time in your life. Give us a call today to begin your pre-planning process or to set up services.

Checklist for Planning a Funeral

Planning a funeral is something we will likely all encounter at some point, whether it is putting our own desires in writing through pre-planning, or laying to rest a parent or loved one. There are several things to do when someone we loves dies, and we usually aren’t the most clear headed. This checklist, as well as our other resources, can help you in planning the funeral or memorial service of you or your loved one.

Religious or Traditional Services

Religious Funeral Services will likely be structured to fit the customs and expectations of the belief system. Your spiritual leader can guide you in the process to make sure all the components are met. Likewise, if you want a service that follows a non-religious tradition, for example, a Masonic funeral, then those will likely be lead by that group but done in conjunction with the support of the funeral home.

Non-traditional Memorial Services

Many people are choosing personalization and customization of their end of life services that move away from the traditions of the past. Be sure the funeral home you are working with is open to the personalization you are considering. Some funeral homes will specialize in traditional services or have limits, due to a variety of reasons, on what they are able to accommodate and not.

Checklist for Planning a Funeral

Choose a Funeral Home and Type of Service. Will there be a viewing/wake? Will the service be traditional? What is the funeral home willing and able to support? Will there be a graveside service? Will there be a funeral reception?

If you are having a viewing, choose clothing and jewelry as well as casket. If needed, assign someone to remove any valuable jewelry or mementos from the body and/or casket before cremation or burial.

Choose an officiant to lead the service. This can be the funeral director, clergy, or other appropriate leader. Also designate the person who is “in charge” for questions and payment of the expenses so there is one point of contact.

Choose pallbearers. These can be actual people who carry the casket, or ‘honorary pallbearers’. Honorary Pallbearers are not able to physically perform the task of pallbearer but are given the respected title.

Choose speaking roles. If a eulogy, prayers, poems or other readings are to be done, choose who will deliver those. You can choose the funeral director, clergy member, family or friends. In a longer service, it is a good idea to ask multiple people to read rather than have it all be on one person, if possible.

Choose Flowers and/or Charity. Standing sprays are flowers that are positioned on an easel usually in a design and are common in funerals. Casket sprays are also unique to funeral services. Bouquets in baskets or vases are traditional as well. Decide who will take the flowers from the venue after the service is completed.

Sometimes people will ask for charitable donations in lieu of flowers. If this is desired, choose a charity for people to make memorable contributions to in honor of the deceased.

Choose Music. Music may be played over a system or performed live. Check with the funeral home regarding what they are able to accommodate and what makes sense for the venue space. If music will be performed live, talk to the musician about what they need to be sure you have that set up properly.

Plan the Program. You may want printed programs, or not, but either way, you will need to plan how the flow of the event will go. Funeral programs usually have a set template to simplify this process. Ask how you can personalize it if that is important to you.

Organize a display table. Many people will offer a guestbook for the family to know who attended the funeral service. They may also set up a photo and personal memorial items that were important to the deceased. This can be in the funeral reception and/or the memorial service itself.

Fairmount has been serving Denver families since 1890 and can support you through the entire process including: pre-planning, funeral or memorial services, burial services, funeral reception and bereavement needs. Our Family Care Providers will meet with you in your home or in our private offices that look and feel like a living room. We want you to feel comfortable and cared for. Give us a call today to get your questions answered or schedule time to meet with us.

History of the Funeral

“With no great intellect or customs, the Neanderthal man instinctively buried their dead with ritual and ceremony.”

It seems mankind has always instinctively held end of life transition as sacred. While the traditions varied among cultures, all people had some sort of tradition for the treatment of the dead. Some cultures would place bodies in graves, or cover them with dirt, while others put them in remote areas or on platforms. Some were offered a “send off” in fire, with gifts or even sacrifices, but whatever the custom, the dead were honored.

So then it seems the history of the funeral service is as old as humankind itself. Today’s funeral is very different than those of even last century. The funeral of this generation has more to do with the celebration of the life the deceased lived. The black attire and mourning has been bypassed by people who wish to recognize the life, and not the death, of the loved ones.

The new funeral experience is customized and more creative than ever before. Some ways we have seen the American funeral service change include multimedia, memorialization, and celebrations.

 

Multimedia Funeral Experience

Music is no longer played over a large pipe organ. Instead, slide shows of the deceased and their family and friends may be played with their favorite modern music. The loved ones gathered may laugh, tell stories and share memories based on music, photos, and memorabilia gathered from the deceased.

The multimedia experience is one that is easy to reproduce in today’s tech savvy environment, so attendees can be given links to online slideshows or can be given a personalized CD with the information. In the past, the ceremonial program was on a piece of paper, and now it has expanded to be an experience that can be revisited over again digitally.

 

Memorialization in a Funeral Service

In addition to multimedia experiences, the modern funeral service uses customization like never before. The loved one being honored may include their favorite foods being served, rather than traditional catering. There may be cocktails offered, live music, and even dancing. The legacy and impact of the deceased becomes a point of celebration and the may be honored in games or donations or requests for participation in a charity, organization or practice.

Customization is taken further by creating clear front niches which serve almost like a small shadow box. Memorial art, custom carved or engraved headstones and unique burial styles are now part of the 21st century funeral experience.

 

End of Life Celebrations

More and more people are moving from the feel, look at character of a funeral to that of an “end of life celebration”. People are looking for a new experience. Funeral homes can no longer crank people through as though they are a number and a cash cow. People are doing more research and they want a better experience.

The living room experience of long ago is being resurrected, when the Family Care Provider (or funeral director) came to the house and met with the family to make arrangements. During that time, many family members were cared for by others within their own home, but now, people are in hospice care at the end of their life. However, they are still wanting that warm feel, not to sit in a sterile environment surrounded by pamphlets. They again want the Family Care Provider to help with all aspects of the process. They want a friend to walk them through the process and they don’t want to be sold anything. People want to choose the things that are important to them and to the deceased.

 

Pre-planning a funeral

The end of life experience has become once again intimate and comfortable and personalized. The baby boomer generation is burying their parents, and with that process are learning. They are then taking what they have learned and are making pre-planning arrangements seriously. They are talking about their end of life wishes, unlike the generation before them. They are considering the financial needs and the processes that need to be in place to make their own end of life transition easier for their loved ones.

Pre-planning is something everyone can do and it can be as elaborate or simple as one desires. It can start with basic end of life wishes stated in writing once you are 18 years old and head off to college, or it can be a will and power of attorneys and an estate plan. Overall, the point is to open up communication so your desires for how you are honored are met. It doesn’t cost anything to pre-plan, and there is no time that is too early.

Fairmount would like to meet you and begin your pre-planning process wherever you are in your life. Our Family Care Providers will meet with you in your home or in our private offices that look and feel like a living room. We want you to feel comfortable and cared for. Because although humanity has performed end of life traditions since the beginning of time, it is not the easiest conversation to have. Give us a call today to begin your pre-planning process or tour our grounds. Become a part of history at Fairmount.

What To Do After A Loss Or Death

Pre-Planning

Accepting the death of a loved one can emotional and overwhelming. With pre-planning in place, it can be an easier progression, therefore, this checklist can be used actually in the time of need to help simplify the process, or for aid in the pre-planning stage.

  1. Notify the hospice, family doctor or medical staff. If applicable, call 911. They are trained to guide you through the next steps. Notify them of the deceased request for organ or tissue donation.
  2. Contact any close family or friends, doctor and lawyer of the deceased.
  3. Locate the deceased’s Will and/or Trust, Letter of Instruction/ Final Instructions, Pre-paid Funeral Contracts, and Organ/Tissue Donation records.
  4. Arrange body transportation to the mortuary and discuss the funeral/memorial requests with the chosen funeral home.
  5. The Executor or Trustee is responsible for the deceased estate and for carrying out the wishes documented in their will. If there is no will, consult a family lawyer.

Death Certificate copies

Get multiple copies of the Death Certificate from the funeral home, hospice, or Department of Health office. Copies of the Death Certificate do have a fee associated with them, so find out if photocopies are acceptable or not. Typically certified versions will be required for:

  • Transfer of ownership of major assets such as vehicles, land and property
  • Insurance benefits
  • Veteran’s or other survivor benefits
  • Annuities, Stocks, 401k and other retirement accounts
  • Bank Account & Credit Card Closure
  • Utilities, including energy, phone and more
  • Closing a business
  • Closing Storage space
  • Cemetery burial or scattering
  • *Other less common reasons also apply

Locate legal documents such as:

  • Property Settlements
  • Name Changes
  • Divorce Documents
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Military Service Papers
  • Adoption Papers
  • Prenuptial Agreements
  • Birth Certificates (self and family members)
  • Social Security Card
  • Driver’s License
  • Citizenship/Immigration Papers
  • Property Agreements
  • Contact information of friends, family, lawyers, accountants, doctors, etc.
  • Social media, email and other online login information
  • Begin notifying creditors and government agencies

 

The Value of Pre-planning

A comprehensive plan that outlines your final wishes can help your family and loved ones reduce stress, confusion and disagreements at your end of life. Organizing required documents, getting in writing your wishes about burial, cremation, how much to spend, the type of services, burial arrangements, and more can all be planned ahead of time.

Our friendly, caring and knowledgeable Family Care Providers can help walk you through the process to set your family up for success and to honor you in the ways you wish after your passing. By pre-planning, you relieve a large burden from the shoulders of your family and our experts can help with every aspect of the process.

Fairmount would like to meet you and begin your pre-planning process wherever you are in your life. Our Family Care Providers will meet with you in your home or in our private offices that look and feel like a living room. We want you to feel comfortable and cared for. Give us a call today at 303-399-0692.

The Hardest Funeral — Dealing with Tragedy

I was talking to a friend today on the subject of funerals, because in this line of work, it comes up. She said, “The hardest funeral I ever attended…” but she couldn’t really finish because when she thought of one, she then thought of another. I tried the same, with the same conclusion. The truth is most all funerals are hard. What we tend to think of as maybe an easy funeral, would be one where the person lived a long, happy life. And then, we are sad that such a wonderful person left the world. So in reality, they are all the hardest funeral.

One way we combat that sentiment is by reframing them, or another way to say that, is to think about them differently. We have come to a place where we begin to celebrate a life, honor a person, recognize their uniqueness, tell their stories. So what do we do when the story is hard?

  • What do we do when tragedy is part of the story?
  • When a child dies?
  • When there is an accident?
  • When suicide is involved?
  • When a crime is committed resulting in death?
  • When there is a natural disaster?

These are hard questions to answer. And yet the human spirit always comes through with a one word answer: HOPE. Author C.S. Lewis said:

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind”

When we think about the idea of hope, we are basically holding the belief that there is a bigger reason for the tragedy than what we understand, and that things will be better one day. There isn’t an answer to “WHY” a tragedy happens, it just does. It is simply part of the human experience that we feel. Joy, sadness, anger, hurt, fear, love, confusion… they are all part of our human existence. And, when we look at each of these emotions, we can think of a time when we have felt them, and, if we think more about it, we can see that each lasted for a time period that came to an end and possibly began again.

They say time heals all wounds. But they don’t say how much time… Because this can be different for everyone. It depends on how deep the wound was for an individual person. It will depend on how they choose to cope with the pain. It can depend the support system they have in place. The grieving process is different for everyone.

The hardest funeral for you may not be the hardest for someone else. I was deeply affected by the death of a friends infant, as well as the vehicular death of my daughter’s Kindergarten teacher. I was deeply affected by the death of a teen who took her life, as well as the passing of several family members with cancer who died before they had lived their full lives. I was saddened by a shooting near my home where people lost their lives at the hands of another, and though I had no personal connection, I hold a piece of grief for those who lost their lives in the floods during Hurricane Katrina and in the Black forest wildfire, as well as others here in Colorado.

All death is a tragedy in some way. The deceased no longer feels the sting of pain that we are experiencing as those left behind. Yet, in us being remaining, we can make choices to honor each other, celebrate life and maintain hope.

Fairmount has been a Denver staple for the last 120 years and in that time have seen both tragedy and triumph. Our funeral services are designed to celebrate and honor those who have passed on as well as the families who loved them. Become a part of history and tour our grounds to learn the story of the lives lived here. History and celebration are alive here!