Content here represents the voice of SIGNATURE SUNSETS, an informational initiative designed to broaden and brighten horizons in the funerary domain.

The material is an outgrowth of a pre-planning reference book, Pondering Leaves: Composing and Conveying Your Life Story's Epilogue, written by the author of this blog.


Saturday, March 28, 2015


JOURNEY JOURNAL... Fort Pierce, Florida


For someone with a convincing imagination, strolling around the grounds of the Haisley Funeral and Cremation establishment might feel as if traversing the unconfined campus of a summer camp… minus the lakeside fleet of kayaks, tennis courts, and campfire pits.

The spread of several buildings suggests a history of their progressive acquisition, each for specific purposes.  Funeral home owners around the country have often purchased properties adjacent to their primary site in order to convert them for accommodation of additional funerary functions.  A former bowling ally, food market, or hardware store are the sorts of shops that may be proximally located, lending practicality for reconstruction projects that reflects burgeoning  trends.  Changed industry circumstances, particularly the steadily increasing rate of cremation curtailing a need for more traditional products and services, have prompted revised business strategies directed toward alternative revenue sources.  A wave of reception centers exemplifies this type of development. 

Here, modern design exaggeration is trumped by original character.  Rather than hopping on the radical reconstruction bandwagon, the vintage footprint has essentially been retained, lending a sense of classic old-world charm.

As is typical in general, a large sign in front of the building closest to the road identifies the name and nature of the enterprise.  

photo from Haisley website

Though the stone marker is beautifully enhanced by a surrounding flowerbed and prominent foliage, chances are, people driving by may barely give the actual name on it a second glance because it lacks titillation.

If attracting attention is an objective... hypothetically and whimsically contrived, this identity representation could be replaced by one that would aptly allude to the divergent complexion of the premises – the physical layout of the quarters.  A larger placard with the addition of an eye-catching slogan would likely command more than the fleeting glimpse ordinarily dependent on drivers’ peripheral vision.  It might declare definitively, “Haisley Funeral and Cremation Services… A Mecca for Healthy Living!” 

Probably upon catching sight of this oxymoronic proclamation, a perplexed reaction would invoke cogitation, conversation, and maybe even chuckles.  One doesn’t routinely equate wellness with a funeral home!  

By extending the scope of focus beyond the immediate signage, a clue is readily apparent.   
Another sign announces the presence of a fitness center on the premises.  Take a second look for verification because such an amenity for the hale and hearty is not something one is apt to find as part of a funeral home’s facilities.  Apparently, besides their usual patrons they must appreciate able-bodied clients! 

The building used for this purpose blends with the milieu on the cusp of a residential street.  The studio is located in the front section  – perhaps a former living room when it was someone's private home.    

photo from Haisley website

The inspiration for this zone of rejuvenating exercise came from the owner’s wife.  The site is perpetually alive with activity, as evidenced by a full schedule of regular pilates classes.  

photo from Haisley website

While standing near the front door, listening to an instructor energetically dictating the moves, it was obvious there were a lot of beating hearts inside.  

Let’s not ignore a more mundane aspect of this funerary business that promotes health.  It is simply the fact that this is a fresh air funeral home situated under sun-drenched Florida skies.  People who go there for various purposes are apt to walk outdoors for one reason or another rather than staying inside more conventional multi-purpose buildings that address everything under one roof. 

Mourners who arrive for a funeral or memorial service would likely go first to the chapel, which is the most prominent edifice close to the road.  A crematory is located at the back of it.

Basic wooden rocking chairs facing the entrance summon relaxation.  People may notice wreaths hanging on the front doors, as often seen at private homes, implying cordiality.  Perhaps these quintessential decorations are there to represent the circle of life or the notion of immortality in spite of death.  Whatever interpretations one might ascribe to such universally prevalent symbols imbued with multi-faceted meanings, they invariably signal a folksy welcome. 

After the service, guests might take a short walk to reach the reception site, located in the same building as the fitness studio.  Upon arriving at the screened porch where the entrance is located, one could easily feel as if approaching a neighbor’s home to ask for a cup of sugar.  

This gathering area invites further appreciation of the great outdoors.

photo from Haisley website

The room inside has seating for eighty people when there's a sit-down meal or it can accommodate one hundred folks less formally.  It is designated for affairs in conjunction with commemorative services, but it also serves as a meeting space for non-profit community functions.  Here, also, restorative measures for grieving individuals are addressed through monthly After Care meetings.  They are managed by a coordinator with a background in ministry, counseling, and education who has authored books about relationships; the funeral home’s chaplain participates as well.  Featured guests whose specialities relate to special needs during bereavement are invited to provide input.  

photo from Haisley website

The kitchen adjacent to both the fitness studio and the reception room triggers recollections of friends stopping by idly for an impromptu chat in days of yore before societal frenzy intervened.  

Tucked behind an apron of trees, a separate building might be considered headquarters for operations here.  Swings along the entrance pathway beckon a time out for the weary. 

photo from Haisley website

This is where people go to make arrangements at the time of a death.  Though  encompassing a small area, the room for discussions with staff is comfortably appointed.    

Anyone with the wisdom to contemplate advance planning is directed to a building specifically for that purpose.  

photo from Haisley website

Flanked by administrative office space on either side, the main room features a spacious area for consideration of options in a setting marked by all the comforts of home.  

The conveniently situated microwave and refrigerator advance a consistency of efforts to keep bodies energized and in full-steam-ahead mode… the healthful alternative to death!     

Increasingly, pet loss services are being incorporated into the array of provisions at funeral homes.  Here, simple or deluxe cremation packages are offered in addition to pet burial facilitation.     

Yet another building houses a cremation retort used exclusively for animals. 

A service vehicle transports pets from homes and veterinary offices to the facility.

The detached units of operation scattered on this property come together collectively as an enterprise defined by unpretentious, homespun warmth… akin to a patchwork quilt, of sorts.  A relaxed chat with a funeral director while absorbing rays of sunshine in front of the office, an interaction with a pre-need counselor who oozed jolly enthusiasm, and a prolonged outdoor encounter with the crematory operator when walking between buildings all contributed to this impression.  A flavor of gracious Southern ease prevailed.  

This impression was advanced also through observations of emblematic significance.  Ornamental pineapples festoon framed wall hangings, the roadside signs, a banner that flies from the porch of the fitness studio, and are configured as lamps flanking the chapel doors and on lampposts.  Conclusive evidence of this as a logo is recognized upon seeing one on the side of the pet vehicle and on business cards, as well.  Furthermore, a staple of grief support services in the form of a newsletter is titled, the “Pineapple Press.”

Probably this design element was chosen for a reason other than its salubrious attributes.  
Rather, these fruits of ancient lore attest further to the predominant attitude of this business.  “The pineapple is recognized as a traditional expression of ‘welcome’ throughout the South and in areas along the Eastern Seaboard.  Appearing on all sorts of d├ęcor – from door knockers to quilts – the fruit symbolizes those intangible assets we appreciate in a home: warmth, welcome, friendship and hospitality.”   Here, indeed, this funeral home is a “home” for funeral service… and a haven for healthful invigoration. 


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