Our earthly life is a line of precautions. As young adults we try get a better education, to have a better life; we pay health insurance to save big on health issues; we pay auto-insurance to avoid financial disaster in the case (save God!) of the accident; we save during the year to have a vacation. What is often overlooked is our end-of-life moment. Without THIS precautions we place a severe financial burden and very difficult decision-making onto our children and grandchildren.
Michael Wilfong, Director of Community Outreach of Restland Funeral Home Dallas, speaks to The Dallas Telegraph on this important matter.
– Michael, are you or your family a living testimony of pre-planning?
– I am fortunate that my parents have written their wishes down, they prepaid their funeral expenses, and they paid for their cemetery lots. We know exactly where mom and dad will be placed. We have a family tradition because my grandmother and great-grandmother before her had both prepaid their funeral arrangements and had purchased their cemetery properties in advance. To answer your question, – “yes”, I am a sample of some wise decision making that affects my children and will affect my grandchildren too.
– Never make a wish or statement if you not prepare to do. I actually left the business for a while. It has been in my heart for many years. I would not go back unless it is a Restland. It was about probably two years when I was working for Bank of America, and I enjoyed what I did with a good team, and I learned a lot while I was there. Then I got a call asking me to come to Restland. I said “no, I don’t want to go back.” Then I said “why not?” If it was Restland I would go back – because it has that reputation. It is THE place to be. And it has been one of the biggest blessings that ever happen to me. I love what I do.
– What is the history of Restland?
– In the late 1800’s, the Floyd family established their family farm here, and it extended far south down towards Dallas and as far north as where downtown Richardson is today, west under Central Expressway all the way to the Campbell family property. It was stage coach stop to people as they travel towards Dallas or back to Kansas City or other points and was sparsely populated at that time.
The Floyd family started their family cemetery on the farm, which is still here today marked with a historical marker near where the water tower is today. In 1925 George Young, who is the founder of Restland Memorial Park, purchased the property and created the modern day cemetery. In 1918-1919, a Flue epidemic swept the United States filling cemeteries, and you will see quite a few cemeteries across the U.S. that were established in the 1920’s – including Restland Memorial Park. The original part of the cemetery also reflects the planning of the time, which was to create a space, a park in the urban environment as Central Park in New York. Its design reflects the urban parks movement and used the same National Parks Department architect that designed Yellowstone and Yosemite. It is designed as a place where people could come and have a picnic, so you see the flat memorials, the curved streets and an area with lots of trees, where families could enjoy nature, but also memorialize their loved one.
As the cemetery expanded, then we began to have gardens set aside for different faiths – a Catholic Garden, a Garden for Jewish family, Orthodox Garden and Islamic Garden. The cemetery itself shows we continue to embrace the communities around us as they evolve and change and our desire to serve families according to their tradition and customs.
– Who are of the pride of Dallas who has found the resting place in Restland?
– Tex Schramm, who is the original president and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, – he and his wife are here. We have several U.S. and Texas senators. We have several Dallas Cowboys players. The Garden of Honor is here, which is the resting place for Dallas County firemen and policemen who may be killed or lost in the line of duty. This sacred area of the cemetery was donated by the Founder of Hunt Oil and is in the heart of the cemetery, where we honor those who died serving our community. We also have military sections dating back to World War II, but also have graves of Civil and World War I Veterans as well.
– Tell us in very simple words, what does it mean “funeral pre-planning”?
– Pre-planning your funeral is three step process. The first step is work through our pre-planning guide and talk about who, when, and where. Where would you wish your services would be? Will the services be in the Orthodox Church or in one of our three chapels? We need to know what type of service you would wish to have. Maybe the family wishes to have a graveside service here and a private celebration at their home. This is simple and less expensive. Other families may choose cremation, and we would want to discuss the necessary authorizations. Beginning the process of documenting your wishes, so your children or your loved ones know what decision you are making. Then, at the time, we will have the planning guide to go through and be able to say, “Here – my dad or mom, or my sister, or brother wanted…’’
The second part of pre-arrangement would be to financially prepare for those expenses. Our pre-arrangements are simple trust accounts. The dollar value of the services that it would be today simply either paid in full or paid by installment payments. Restland cannot touch that money. That money goes to the trust account to be held until the time the money is needed. The prices are frozen at today’s price. And we guarantee that we will deliver the services that you have arranged for whether it is tomorrow or many years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now. That is our promise to the family. Those accounts are under the authority of the Texas Banking Commission who audits the accounts annually to make sure that the money that the family is paid us has gone to the account properly and for those services that we performed that we have given the service to the family they have contracted for with us. The banking department checks us every year to make sure that we comply with both – the spirit and the legality behind the ability to sell prepaid funerals because it is one of the highest trusts that families places on us. We take it as a sacred duty.
The third part of pre-arrangement is to communicate to your loved ones, your next of kin that you have made those arrangements with Restland. So they know when the time comes to contact Restland, and then we will take care of everything.
– Why it is essential to think so much in advance about eternity when you are on top of successful and joyful life here, in Earth?
– As my grandparents and parents had done for me, I need to do for my children. I bought a house for my children and took care of them up until the time they moved out of their own. I am preparing financially for my retirement, I am preparing for my daughter’s wedding someday and setting those funds aside, so we can have a celebration for that event. We prepare for all of those events and celebrations ahead of time.
Funeral is one of those life events that we better prepare and plan for. And the question is just a matter of “when.” At many times when people retire, they are now on a fixed income. The available income that they have to purchase the funeral or the cemetery property is very limited. It becomes a real struggle. We encourage people to go ahead and begin to think about planning earlier, so they began to include that into their financial planning process.
– What kind of services Restland offers?
– We offer in the cemetery all forms of burials or placement for cremated remains, including the burial that meets you religious requirements. For example, for a traditional Jewish burial, Restland works with the Chevra Kadisha, which is the ceremonial burial group and washing group from the synagogue would come out, and we have a special facility called the “Tahara Room” where that is performed and there is symbolism and meaning behind what they do, but they all wash the loved one’s body, place special garments, and they actually place the person into the special casket made from all wood construction and no metal. The grave liner that we use at the cemetery has no bottom because the casket has to be placed on a ground itself, in accordance with Jewish religious custom. At the time of the service, the rabbi will lead us up to the grave and there are special prayers to be done to lead the family through the service. The casket is lowered into the grave, and the family and the friends that gathered will themselves fill in the dirt around the casket with prayers. The Jewish family does not bring flower to the grave but they bring a rock. And there is a symbolism a meaning behind that.
There are different areas within the Jewish cemetery whether you belong to this or that synagogues. We have nine different synagogues that we have relationships with. There are sections for the Orthodox and for those who may be Jewish and married to a Christian but still want to have Jewish burial.
– Do you have a designated place for Christians?
– If the family is Christian Orthodox, the Christian Orthodox Garden has burial rights and practices that meet the religious customs and practices of the Christian Orthodox Church. The Church generally tells us who is allowed to go in the Garden. The funeral services can be arranged through Restland Funeral Home as our funeral directors know the customs and practices and works closely with the Church.
– Do Muslims find this place peaceful and obeying their traditions?
– Definitely – in the Islamic Garden, the services is very different from a lot of different services we do. The body is washed and wrapped, prayers are said and the family themselves actually placed the loved one down into the grave. The graves themselves are angled so they face Mecca. We work with the Mosque, the Imam and Islamic Community closely to perform the burial rites in accordance with the Muslim faith.
Restland is one of the only cemeteries that offers this full range of service along with the funeral home, paying close attention to the customer’s wishes, faith, and customs. We also offer cremations and customization.
Restland has served as the funeral home and cemetery of choice for the Dallas Community for many years. At Restland, we offer many types of unique and personalized options to commemorate the lives of loved ones and to help ensure that legacies will endure for generations to come.
(To be continued)
Call or come to see Tonya Lowe – Restland’s expert in multicultural funeral traditions. She speaks not only English, but French, Russian, and German. Save this number: (214) 505-1192.