The next generation of funeral directors?


Students from Benton County Career and Technical Center visited Coleman Funeral Home on Jan. 12.

A Health Sciences class from Benton County Career and Technical Center visited Coleman Funeral Home in Oxford on Thursday, Jan. 12. The students got an eyeful and an earful about what’s involved in serving families who’ve lost a loved one to death.


Instructor Bethany Pipkin and school counselor Karen Patterson accompanied a baker’s dozen of students as co-owner Glenn Coleman led them on a tour of the facility.

After entering the Great Hall, where food is served for visitations and other events, students saw the chapel/community room set up as it typically would be for a funeral. After walking quietly through the visitation parlors, they crowded into the casket display room and asked questions ranging from the average cost of funerals (somewhere above $7,500 nationally) to who can perform a funeral (practically anyone the deceased designated or that survivors choose).

Most students seemed fascinated by the (unoccupied) prep room and Glenn Coleman’s explanations of processes, products and respectful procedures used to prepare the deceased for their family to see one last time.

Health Sciences students from Benton County schools tour the casket display, asking Glenn Coleman about funeral costs, procedures and other issues.


The final stop on the tour was Coleman Funeral Home’s crematory, where students saw the equipment used to cremate pets and people, respectively.

“For most of them, it was a unique experience,” Coleman said. “How many times does the average teenager get to see the working side of a funeral home?”

The visit has already yielded a potential future funeral professional, he added.

“One girl who is truly interested in forensics and possibly in working in the funeral industry has already set up a shadow day to see more of what we do,” Coleman said.

Our ‘quiet celebration’

Coleman Funeral Home hosted a Christmas memorial on Dec. 4 for families we had served since opening our new building in November 2015.


In what will be an annual offering, the event was a quieter celebration of the sometimes overwhelming holiday. A blazing fireplace, beverages and hors d’oeuvres complemented the setting of wreaths, poinsettias and a blue-bedecked Christmas tree as traditional music played serenely in the background.


The memorial was planned as a way for grieving people to acknowledge the season and its meaning without ignoring their loss.


“We wanted people to be comfortable being part of the holiday without having to hide their emotions,” said co-owner and funeral director Glenn Coleman. “From the comments we heard, it seemed to serve its intended purpose even better than we had hoped.”


In addition to Christmas music playing in the background before and after the short program, tenor and Ole Miss baseball player Brady Bramlett sang “O Come, All Ye Faithful” and “O Holy Night.” Pastor J.D. Shaw of Grace Bible Church emphasized in a short message that Christmas ultimately points to the hope of the Resurrection. It is a comfort for those in mourning, he said, which often gets lost in the holiday’s more festive facets.



One special feature was the presentation of memorial ornaments to those in attendance. Several recipients wept quietly as they read their loved one’s name and life dates inscribed in glass.


The program ended with Brady Bramlett leading us in singing “Silent Night” and National Guard SPC Steven Smith playing “Taps.” The smiles and tears evident on faces in the audience proved an ancient truth once again: Joy and mourning can live in the same hearts.


Especially if 2016 has been a difficult year for you, we wish you a merry – and meaningful – Christmas.

Grieving through the holidays

The first holiday season after the death of a loved one is almost universally one of the hardest hurdles in mourning.

That fact is simple to understand: We invest both Thanksgiving and Christmas with so much personal and family tradition – not to mention cultural expectation – that one person’s permanent absence may well make celebrating seem anything from merely difficult to agonizing.

One starting point for everyone suffering loss is to acknowledge that the holidays will be both different and difficult this time around. The “different” part is permanent; mercifully, the “difficult” part will likely ease with time.

If decorations are too much trouble, skip them this year and know it’s OK. Same thing with gifts. Others’ expectations must submit to your capabilities.

Grief makes us fragile at times. A quote from the opening of C.S. Lewis’ notebook, A Grief Observed, written after his wife’s death, illustrates this:

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

For some, celebrating the holidays while actively mourning may be a hurdle too high to cross. Normally joyful sounds, in the emotional fragility Lewis addressed, can become a bothersome din. Enduring parties, concerts and other formerly enjoyable events morphs into the hard work of wearing a happy face over a broken heart.

Even large family gatherings may further stretch already overtaxed emotions. Constant reminders of a loved one’s permanent absence – his customary place at the table, her favorite decorations on display (or their absence), that funny little tradition shared with only him or her – can be too much to handle soon after their death.

If that’s your situation, graciously decline most invitations and don’t feel guilty. Even escaping to a resort area is helpful to some nuclear families so they can both grieve and celebrate on their own terms – especially if the death they are mourning coincided too closely with either Thanksgiving or Christmas.

On the other hand, guard against falling into seclusion as a habit. Each person’s and family’s grief is unique but not exclusive. You may be part of other people’s healing just as they are part of yours.

There aren’t any easy answers for mourning – especially through Christmas – but here we share several suggestions we hear over and over:

• Go easy on alcohol. A customary glass of wine, under the pressure of grief, can become several before you realize it.
• Others will want to help but may not know what you need. Telling them will be an act of kindness to you both.
• Be good to yourself, even when you don’t want to. Eat, rest, and exercise in balance. Don’t neglect taking medications and going to clinical appointments.
• Weep when you need to, whether you’re at a party or on the soap aisle at the grocery store.

Anatomical Donation: A Personal Perspective

It’s outside most people’s comfort zones to consider their own mortality. There’s one related decision you can make, however, that can make that uncomfortable contemplation quite satisfying.

Donate your body to science, and it can be your final public service. As a bonus, Coleman Funeral Home will provide a free memorial service.

My parents decided to sign up for the University of Mississippi School of Medicine’s Anatomical Donation Program. Mama, known to others as Sarah Lou Castens, made her decision when I was at University Medical Center after a serious accident in 1978. Even then there was more need than supply for bodies for medical students to study. She talked it over with people she trusted and then made her wishes known in writing and face-to-face. Daddy, aka Lynn Castens, agreed with Mama’s reasoning and made similar arrangements.


The University of Mississippi Medical School uses donated bodies to train the next generation of healthcare professionals.
The University of Mississippi School of Medicine uses donated bodies to educate the next generation of healthcare professionals about human anatomy.


Both my parents lived many more years, and both spent their last days at home with my wife and me. The evening Daddy died, our wait for the UMC transport van driver afforded us a pause for relief and reflection. For those two or three hours, my wife and son and I sat around the kitchen table with Daddy’s hospice nurse and our coroner, Rocky Kennedy. I told stories about Daddy, and we made a toast with a bottle of wine I’d been given years before. It was a genuinely comforting time.

Without burial-related time constraints, memorials for my parents could be held on weekends when it was convenient for faraway friends and relatives. When the medical school was done with their bodies, cremated remains were returned to me so Mama and Daddy could be buried in the rural churchyard in which six generations of our family are laid to rest. (If you prefer, your remains can be buried during a memorial ceremony on the UMC campus.)

It’s Our Honor

As a physician, Coleman Funeral Home co-owner Tom Fowlkes knows the value of anatomical donations to medical education. That’s why Coleman Funeral Home will provide a memorial service for any resident of Lafayette County or DeSoto County who donates his or her body to the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. It would be our honor to furnish the venue (and the menu) for your visitation and memorial service at either our Oxford or Olive Branch location, and to help you or your family plan the service, write your obituary and handle scores of other details – all without charge.

Helping train the next generation of medical professionals is a worthy public service that costs the donor nothing. If you want to consider it, call UMC for details at 601-984-1649 or visit

If you decide to donate your body, send a copy of your confirmation letter from UMC to Coleman Funeral Home, 601 Commerce Parkway, Oxford, MS 38655, and we’ll confirm in writing that you’re registered for our services.

Business Expo shows Olive Branch’s vibrancy

Olive Branch Expo 3
Coleman Funeral Home CEO Glenn Coleman, left, and Pre-Need Advisor Frieda Acy McDonald visit with Olive Branch retiree Richard Pounder during the Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Business & Community Expo. — at Northcentral Electric Power Association.




Olive Branch Expo 1
Brooke Adams of the Olive Branch YMCA leads (from left) Tameka Davis, Rosia Lipsey, and Amanda Roberson in a “Silver Sneakers” fitness class during the Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Business & Community Expo.

Members of the Coleman Funeral Home family were delighted to join other members of the Olive Branch business community on Wednesday, October 12, at the Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 Business and Community Expo.
The event brought hundreds of people and dozens of exhibitors into Northcentral Electric Power Association’s headquarters, offering information on services from banking and investments to fitness and fire protection, along with hospitality, healthcare and hockey. Business services, building materials, car sound systems, and safety products were other featured products and services.
“I’m in corporate sales, so I’m trying to get people to bring their business team out to the games,” said Austin Pilkington, an outside sales executive for the Mississippi Riverkings hockey organization, which plays home games at the Landers Center in Southaven.
Among specific exhibits, Northcentral EPA and TVA promoted energy efficient homes and businesses while Belhaven University, Northwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi told Expo attendees about their educational opportunities right here in DeSoto County.
Brooke Adams of the Olive Branch YMCA borrowed a handful of young adults to illustrate a condensed version of the “Silver Sneakers” class she teaches, which uses moderate movements and resistance exercises to help older adults maintain strength, balance and flexibility.
“They help with everything from reaching up into a cabinet to having to bend over to pick up something – a lot of everyday activities,” Adams said.
Angela Green, a stay-at-home mom, said she came to the Business Expo to learn more of what the town offered.
“Olive Branch is a great community,” she said. “It was a great event with a lot of information. People here are easy to talk to and very friendly.”
Jeremy Roberts, events coordinator for Coleman Funeral Home, set up our booth in a burlap-and-blue theme. He spent most of the day visiting, giving away shopping bags and coffee mugs with our logo, and scouting for ideas.
Frieda McDonald, Coleman’s pre-need advisor, answered a steady stream of questions about pre-need policies and memorial options.
“This is a great event,” she said. “We’ve been really busy.”
Perhaps the most frequent question for our folks was when Coleman’s new facility in Olive Branch will open. Dirt work and drainage installation are well under way at the construction site on Parkview Boulevard next to the YMCA and Maples Memorial United Methodist Church.
“The definitive answer is, ‘Soon,’” said Coleman Funeral Home CEO Glenn Coleman. “But not as soon as we’d like.”