Comfortable Communication Eases Dialogue on Death

Last summer, Gerontology Professor Glen Dunbar served as our speaker for one of my most interesting and unconventional Coaching workshops to date. His presentation was entitled “Planning Your Own Memorial Service: Putting the ‘Fun’ in Funeral.” Truthfully when Glen first approached me about presenting, I was a bit uneasy about the title and how people might react to the idea of putting “fun” in their funeral. But nonetheless this was a topic that I’ve wanted to turn into a workshop for some time. It’s a crucial subject that we must talk about for ourselves and our loved ones.

It turns out it was one of the most well attended and popular workshops I have conducted. I was pleasantly surprised with nearly 50 people in attendance, although a few came without their spouses who much preferred ignorant bliss. But here’s the thing: death will become us all, and a funeral for most will be the ceremonial closing to the lives we’ve lived. Unfortunately, many of us are terrified or very uncomfortable talking about death or planning our funeral. However, people like Prof. Dunbar want to change that.

Later this month, on July 26, I will be hosting another Coaching event in the realm of death and dying. It’s entitled, “An Evening with the Undertaker: A Comfortable, Insightful & Lighthearted Conversation about Death,” a very worthy topic, worthy of its very lengthy title. Last year’s workshop with Professor Dunbar focused more on the planning and ceremonial aspects of a funeral, where this month’s presentation will focus on the logistics and intricacies of pre-planning, organ donation and the funeral process from the perspective of a funeral director.

Some of the areas that will be covered include:

  • Funeral pre-planning tips and the literal and figurative investment
  • Myths, misconceptions and the differences between types of organ donation
  • Myths and misconceptions about funerals and cremations
  • “Everyone I know has died, why have a funeral?”
  • Life Celebration, Funeral or Both: Which is right for me?
  • Business matters that must be taken care of at or soon after a death

Our presenter is Bob Burhig, owner of Myers-Buhrig Funeral Home and Crematory in Mechanicsburg. Bob has presented locally, across the country and internationally on a wide variety of funeral service, end-of-life, and business-related topics. Much like Glen last year, Bob uses his wit and sense of humor to put people at ease to lessen their apprehension and heighten their awareness. At the same time, Bob’s nearly 30 years of experience in all aspects of the funeral business as a funeral director, embalmer, and owner, allows him to share his insight and knowledge to help people plan accordingly, clear up myths and misconceptions and address lots of difficult questions.

I would encourage anyone to attend this event. A wise man once said, “Not talking about death and/or a funeral does not prevent them from occurring.” I applaud men like Glen and Bob for their efforts and comfortable approach to address this very difficult and often taboo subject.

If you’d like to attend this event on Wednesday, July 26 from 5:30-7:30 pm in the Community Room at Messiah Village, please register by July 19 online at or by calling 717.591.7225.

Matthew J. Gallardo

Matthew J. Gallardo

Matt is the Director of Community Engagement and Coaching at Messiah Lifeways. He brings nearly 20 years of experience in counseling, advocating, and guiding older adults and caregivers through many of life’s tough decisions. His diverse background of working in hospital and rehabilitation settings, community services, and senior housing gives him the breadth and depth of knowledge to provide unique solutions, opportunities, and help individuals proactively plan for the future. He serves as the Lifeways Coach and as a writer, blogger, podcaster, and speaker for Messiah Lifeways, located in Mechanicsburg, PA.

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