At Ryan Funeral Home, focus is on caring, and closure

By Susan Gibbs

At Ryan Funeral Home in Ruckersville, final arrangements are labors of love.

Ashleigh Coffey and Sarita Ryan Powers

For Sarita Ryan Powers, who took over the funeral home after her mother retired in 2006, it’s about paying tribute to and remembering those who pass on, and about giving closure to loved ones.

Powers, who grew up in the family business her parents established here in 1964 says it wasn’t until she gave up a teaching career for motherhood and started helping her mother in the funeral home that she realized why her parents had loved it so much.

“If we can do one thing, two things, three things, four things, ten things or a hundred things to help people achieve closure, it’s worth it,” she says. “We continue to be of support to families for as long as they need us.”

For Ashleigh Coffey, Powers’ friend, funeral director, manager and pre-need counselor, it’s something she has wanted to do since she was 14 years old, when her grandmother died.

“She looked beautiful,” says Coffey. “The service was beautiful. I wanted to do that for people, and started working in a funeral home when I was 17, right out of high school.

“You only lose your mom once. Your dad once, or your spouse,” Coffey continues. “You don’t get a second chance at that. You will never forget the day they die, and the events that surround the death. It is very rewarding to help people get through that most difficult time.”

Coffey explains that such arrangements can be made to happen within just a couple of days, or they can be pre-planned.

She points out that most people who make arrangements in the immediate wake of death are emotionally distraught, and that families are often relieved when arrangements have been made in advance.

A traditional funeral costs about $6,000 and the fancier ones can easily top $10,000.

And there are rules that funeral homes must follow. They are required by the Federal Trade Commission to provide a list of casket prices to consumers before they choose one.

In order to ensure that consumers are not pushed into expensive package deals, the FTC requires that funeral directors give people a list of casket prices before they can show any caskets, along with an itemized price list of other goods and services – such as vaults, urns if they wish their remains to be cremated, flowers, hearses and limousines, cemetery plots, cemetery opening and closing fees.

The business surrounding a death is much easier to conduct when the consumer is not bereaved, Coffey says.

Ashleigh Coffey helps a client pre-plan a funeral

“People can come in at any time and make funeral arrangements,” she explains. “They can pre-pay in full, or they can make payments spread out over three, five or ten years. Either way, the cost is essentially locked in. People who die 30years or more after arrangements have been made will never pay a penny more for their funerals, with the exception of fees that might change, such as the cost publications charge for obituaries, or the cost of death certificates.”

On the other hand, if a person is paying for the funeral on a plan and dies at any time after 24 months of signing the contract, it is considered paid in full.

In that sense, it is like a life insurance policy, except that unlike life insurance policies there are no restrictions for pre-existing conditions.

Also, says Powers, money paid for a pre-planned funeral is sheltered from taxation, so it is not considered an asset when net worth is figured for such things as Medicare.

Moreover, arrangements are transferable, so if a person moves after arrangements have been made, or chooses to be buried out of the area, the arrangements go with them.

“Or,” says Coffey, people can come in at any time and make their arrangements without paying. We will keep their wishes on file so that their families will not have to make decisions while they are grieving. They just have to let people know that they have everything chosen at Ryan Funeral Home.”

Powers wants to remind people that Ryan Funeral Home is a small, family-owned business that provides quality, made in the USA merchandise, that every effort has been made to keep costs down and that while talking business is a necessary part of the funeral home business, the focus at Ryan Funeral Home is on caring.

“Sometimes people just have a question that they want to have answered, something about the funeral process,” she says. “We want them to call. If we can’t find the answer we will point them in the right direction.”

Coffey says she keeps a list of support groups at the Funeral Home for those who would like to join. And if they don’t, “We are always here if people want to talk,” she says. “We say it all the time, if you want to come back for a cup of coffee and sit here and talk about how you’re feeling, we’re always here for you. Our job does not end at the grave, or when we hand you back an urn … we’re always here for families.

“Closure takes time,” Coffey continues.  “It has to do with the closure of the person’s birthday, or the first Christmas without them or the anniversary of the death. Closure is extended … there is no definite time frame … it is different for everyone.”

Powers urges people to remember those who have lost loved ones.

“Call somebody up a month, two months, six months afterwards just to say ‘Hi’ or send them a card to let them know you are thinking about them,” she says. “Sometimes it’s really hard for people to get back into a routine after they’ve lost someone that has been a major part of their life, or if they have spent a lot of time taking care of that person, or both.”

Powers and Coffey send cards on the anniversaries of deaths and at the end of each year, around Christmas, they hold a Remembrance Service, where tribute is paid to all who have passed on over the course of that year.

“We don’t forget our families,” Powers says. “Sometimes we’ll say to each other, ‘Remember that sweet family we had … they were so nice … or, do you remember the day we buried …?

“We live in such a fast-paced society that if someone dies on a Thursday you have a funeral over the weekend and go back to work on Monday. It’s hard for people to take the time to go through the mourning and closure processes in this society, but we don’t forget,” Powers says. “We don’t forget.”

Posted in: Features

Leave a Reply