Funeral home gives back

Published 12:15 am Sunday, November 27, 2011

NICOLE ZEMA | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Batseaste Funeral Home in Natchez will host a memorial service for family and friends of people who died this year, Sunday, Dec. 4. All families will receive a platter engraved with the name and dates of birth and death of the deceased. Pictured above are Ken Bateaste, at left, with staff members Cagney Brown and Cleveland Moore.

NATCHEZ — In a business that often deals with families in times of unspeakable agony, the staff of Bateaste Funeral Home in Natchez wanted to find a way to give back to the families they serve, especially during the holidays.

“Holidays are a particularly tough time for families to deal with loss,” said Ken Bateaste, who owns and manages the funeral home.

A holiday memorial service for family and friends of loved ones who died this year will be from 5 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4 at the funeral home. The Rev. Melvin White will share an encouraging message, and families will be presented with a shiny platter engraved with the name, date of birth and death of their loved one.

Bateaste emphasized that the memorial service is not a church-style sermon.

“It’s not preaching, it’s encouragement,” Bateaste said.

Cagney Brown, administrative assistant at the funeral home, hangs ornaments on the tree that will be distributed to families when they arrive at the service.

Ornaments will also be distributed at the start of the service to be hung on the Christmas tree, each representing those who died.

Last year was the first memorial service.

“There were tears,” Bateaste said. “And tears of joy. This is an opportunity for families to connect over similar situations. When the service was over, they didn’t want to leave.”

Bateaste said every death situation is unique, but the memorial service unites families with a common thread — healing.

“From homicide to sickness, each family has different wounds that require different types of therapy,” Bateaste said.

With business doubling twice since opening in August 2009, Bateaste said the staff expects a big crowd at Sunday’s service. He said the service, like the business, requires input and effort from the entire staff. He also added that while the service commemorates the lives of those who died, his staff is ultimately there to support the families that are living.

“Once it’s done at the cemetery, it’s not done here with us,” Bateaste said.

Natchez High School Principal Cleveland Moore, who also works at the funeral home, said the platter is just a token of appreciation for families to have as a keepsake.

“The community was very receptive to the idea last year,” Moore said. “Especially at this time of year.”

Bateaste said one of the more emotional parts of the service is when the roll is called — naming everyone who died.

“That is the teary part,” Bateaste said. “There are still a lot of open wounds. And we have families who lost more than one person this year too.”

Bateaste said as far as he knows, the funeral home is the only one in the area to have memorial services during the holidays. But Hospice Compassus also has annual memorial services.

Glenda Sinclair, executive director of Hospice Compassus headquartered in McComb, said the company usually has its local services in early in the year.

“We invite all patients, families and the public,” Sinclair said. “It’s mainly aimed at families of patients who were lost during the year — honoring them and their memory. And it gives the family an opportunity to represent that person. It’s a neat thing.”

Sinclair said whether one person, or dozens of people, come to the service, it does not matter.

“It’s all about people,” Sinclair said. “If your family member was our patient, or even someone else’s, and they are dealing with grief, we are there for them.”

Cagney Brown, administrative assistant at the funeral home, said she hopes families and friends of people who died this year will come Sunday for encouragement and inspiration as we head into the holiday season.

“We want people to know that we are here for them,” Brown said.

Bateaste said the community should expect a holiday memorial service annually at the funeral homes.

“It’s a beautiful thing, and we will continue to do this for the community,” he said.