Wednesday, December 18, 2013

This Funeral Home Goes Beyond the Expected

This year our family experienced the death of a child -- in fact, our sixth grandchild.  We only had Ronin Cole Godevenos for six hours on May 26th.  Service arrangements were handled by Chapel Ridge Funeral Home, in Markham, Ontario.

As you can imagine the funeral service for a child is not the easiest thing to arrange and it takes an incredibly understanding funeral home staff to walk a grieving family through it.  Chapel Ridge had that staff in spades.   The owners, Eric Tappenden and family, have experienced similar losses and their pain is felt anew each time they help others in similar circumstances.  It is not natural for a parent to bury their child, rather for children to bury their aging parents.   Eric, who was recommended by a friend, met with us and then turned us over to his Funeral Director, Jessica Competiello.  Through the process, we felt Jessica had become one of the family.  We cannot say enough about her and her entire team.  My wife and I have become good friends with Jessica since that valley she helped us walk through.

The excellence in Chapel Ridge's services to us as clients did not end there.  On a Monday night in December, Chapel Ridge held its annual "A Light in the Darkness: A Candlelight Memorial Service to Celebrate Christmas With Those Who Are Experiencing Grief" event -- something they have successfully and graciously hosted for several years now.

Being very sensitive to all the various religious backgrounds of the families they serve, the funeral staff who are predominantly Christian and make no bones about it, discretely invite all families of Protestant and Catholic backgrounds to be their guests and join them on this occasion.  (Eric is investigating how he and his staff may reach out appropriately to those of other faiths in the future.)

The evening consisted of the Lighting of the Advent Candles, Christmas readings with audience participation, the Lighting of the Christ Candle, some special music solos, a meditation, poem, and then the Lighting of the Memorial Candles with the reading of names and music playing in the background.

The home uses one of its larger rooms for this event and the place fills very nicely.  Program participants include various clergy from the community.  Each member of a grieving family is given a small votive candle when they come to the service.  And when their loved one's name is called they go up and light their candles from the lit Christ Candle and set it on the table in memory of their loved one.  Tears were welcomed and they came readily for many.

The evening then ended with a lovely reception provided by our hosts where we had an opportunity to meet and chat with others that had suffered a loss this year.  In my case, I was reunited with four other families or individuals -- the mother of someone I knew; the husband of a pastor I had interacted with in the past; a deceased's daughter that was our church secretary for many years, and an old friend from 40 years earlier that had served with me as part of another charity.  It was a great time encouraging each other.  In my opinion, this was far above and beyond the call of duty or even beyond what I consider good customer relations.  It was an act of love.

I mentioned to my wife that the service allowed me to further deal with the loss of our grandson.  In addition, I had often watched memorial services on television of people who had shared losses at some major catastrophe like a violent shooting rage at a school, but never really knew what that would feel like.  Chapel Ridge helped me understand that feeling just a little better.  

I can't say enough for the professionalism, yet tender care and concern that each member of Eric's staff showed us and by the sound of it, all their clients.  Jessica was not just selling us services, as a  mother of a young little boy herself, she understood what we were going through.   I can't think of Chapel Ridge as just a funeral home providing a necessary service.  Yes, they were that -- but they made me feel like we all belong together -- we're all in this life together.  We are not alone and God is with us all.  And Christmas will be a little easier to live through because of this event.

You can check out Chapel Ridge at   This testimonial was not solicited, but I felt I owed it to an organization that strives to make life more bearable when a death has occurred.

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