Memorial Folders: a final tribute to your loved one’s life story

memorial folders for funerals

Every once in a while, I get to help share someone’s story in a unique way: a memorial folder for their funeral.

memorial folders for funerals
A personalized memorial folder gives families an opportunity to share meaningful memories, inside jokes, and favorite photos that are part of a loved one’s life story.

Working with professionals

I recently worked with Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf Funeral Directors to create a memorial folder honoring Megan Gearing. Now, I don’t know Megan Gearing, but Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf does a great job of gently gathering information. They gave me the details I needed to create the folder shown above. (Click the image to view a readable PDF.) The family loved it.

Mike Matthysse serves from the Grandville, Michigan, location of his family’s funeral home. I first met him in 2006 when a friend of my family, Marian Vredeveld, died suddenly. I met him again about three years later when Marian’s husband, Richard Vredeveld, died. In both situations, Mike and his team were compassionate in all their interactions with us, while efficiently taking care of details none of us realized were necessary.

As a matter of course, the staff at Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf “interview” the family to learn as much as possible about the deceased. This helps them convey the person’s story in a meaningful obituary. It also gives them insight so they can guide the family through planning the visitation and service. Marian and Richard’s children had pretty specific ideas about the services for both Mom and Dad, and I was honored to design the programs for both. (Richard Vredeveld’s memorial folder was one of my favorite projects of 2009.)

At some point, Mike realized that custom memorial folders should be an extension of Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf’s ministry to grieving families. We began working together to make that happen.

Sharing a story

Even if the funeral home serving your family is not as sophisticated as Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf, you can still share your loved one’s story, as the family of Del Dykstra did (below). Del’s wife Eileen wanted something simple to hand out at his memorial service. She gathered photos that gave people a glimpse of Del’s personality. (Click the image to view a readable PDF.) We chose a size small enough (4.25×5.5″) to fit conveniently in a Bible, yet large enough to comfortably display photos, captions, and meaningful quotes. This little folder became a keepsake treasured by family and friends alike.

memorial folders for funerals
Del Dykstra’s wife worked with me to create this small photo keepsake to hand out at his memorial service.

Memorial folders…treasured keepsakes

It’s difficult enough to share someone’s life story in a handful of photos and words. And the maelstrom of emotions surrounding a loss does not make it any easier. That’s why it can be so helpful to work with an experienced funeral director who knows what questions to ask. And a sensitive wordsmith who can craft your answers into a treasured keepsake. When the process is handled well, many people find healing in creating their loved one’s memorial folder.

Click on the samples above to see if a memorial folder is something you’d like to create in memory of a loved one. Then contact LifeLines for help with the process.


Business card samples

A lot of small business owners don’t think about the story they are telling with their business cards, brochures, and websites. They work hard to get the information right and to get it in front of people’s eyes, but they don’t think about what the writing style, graphics, layout, and medium might be telling people.

When they do put thought into these details (or hire me to do so), even something as small as a business card can make a big impression.

Leo Vela, the “Patch Man,” needed business cards that would tell the right story about his business.

Example 1—
“Reliable Tradesman”

When Leo Vela asked if I could help him with some business cards for the patching and painting work he does, I was happy to. He gave me copies of the signs he’d been using, which had his basic details and contact information, and I turned that information into some distinctive business cards that Leo is very happy with. The story Leo’s business cards tell does not have to be the same story an investment advisor would tell, but those cards should be telling people that Leo is a solid, hard-working professional. I think the solid black background does that, as does the font used for “Patch Man.” The image on the card is distinctive, and it communicates Leo’s specialty, particularly to contractors and other tradesmen.

Dave Brown’s family has been in roofing since 1926, and this is the first business card he’s ever used.

Example 2—
“Trusted Local”

Dave Brown (who often comments on this blog, and has even been a guest blogger here) also wanted some business cards that would tell the right story about his roofing business. Dave’s family has been in roofing a long time, and word-of-mouth is his primary source of new business. But Dave realized a business card would make it easier for customers and prospects to keep his information handy. Again, the image on the card immediately communicates what business Dave is in, and the colors reinforce his name, making it easy for new customers to remember.

Ann Schenkel’s business needed a higher-quality business card than what she was able to get for free online.

Example 3— “Health and Wellness”

Ann Schenkel is an independent Shaklee distributor, and she had been using business cards that she got for free online. But the cards were flimsy, and the stock images she was using were not distinctive. Ann wanted to upgrade the story her business cards were telling her customers. We chose bright, noticeable colors to convey health, vitality, and earth-friendliness. And we chose fonts that are readable yet refreshing. We also were careful to follow the guidelines that Shaklee has in place about using their logo. The cards were printed on 15pt card stock with a gloss finish, which gave them a much more professional feeling than Ann’s previous cards. When she received them, she emailed me, “They look just great!  You do amazing work. This is so out of my comfort zone, but I’m glad it is in yours!”

Example 4— “Friendly Confidence”

One more interesting business card story: Diane Wallander is a woman with a unique set of skills that she didn’t know exactly how to communicate. She has some martial arts training, and she teaches self-defense classes for women. But in speaking with the women taking her classes, she realized they needed not just the physical defense skills, but also emotional readiness. I came up with the tagline “Physical and Emotional Confidence Skills” to summarize what Diane was offering.

Diane Wallander’s unique business card design allowed us to include a “free sample” of her training tips.

Diane also decided to use her business card as a “free sample” of the skills she conveys in her sessions. It’s hard to tell from the small image, but the card actually unfolds to reveal “7 Quick Tips for Women.” (Click on the image to open a PDF of the card that you can save to your computer.)

What’s your story?

If you are a business owner, be aware that every time your name is in front of a customer—on a business card, a flyer, a website, a coupon—it’s telling a story about you. It’s up to you to make sure the story is one you want to tell!

Let me know if I can help.

5 business benefits
of hiring a freelancer

I just had an email conversation with the owner of an independent bookstore in my neighborhood. I had visited her website and found that it was “under construction.” I offered to help complete it, and the owner emailed back:

“Thanks Melanie, but we are running in the red right now and we don’t have anything left for advertising. I’m able to pay our utility bills, taxes, and wages, and that is about it. I’ve had to cut my employees’ hours almost in half. I don’t know how much longer we can stay in business.”

This kind of email is really heartbreaking. And that’s what prompted me to take this blog out of my idea file today and get it posted. I don’t know if it will save my corner bookstore, but it’s worth a try!

5 business benefits of hiring a freelancer

1. Affordability
Sure, it’s nice to have a full roster of full-time staff, and there’s a lot to be said for the feeling of “family” that can develop among a group of on-site co-workers. But for a lot of jobs, it’s far more efficient (and just as effective) to hire freelance talent. A freelancer who works out of her home won’t have a lot of overhead costs, so she can offer you cheaper rates. A freelancer who is local to your business won’t have to figure travel time, mailing expenditures, and other costs into his rate, so you might get the benefits of face-to-face interaction without the expense. You probably don’t want price to be the only factor in deciding which freelancer to hire, but if you ask the right questions, you may be able to get Madison-Avenue work at Peotone prices.

2. Flexibility
The reason a lot of freelancers decide to freelance is, frankly, because they want to set their own hours. That kind of flexibility can benefit the client as well as the freelancer. Your freelancer might be updating your website, posting a blog, answering your Facebook fans, and brainstorming a list of direct mail ideas after you’ve closed up shop for the night. In fact, you might be able to email your freelancer a list of assignments at the end of the business week, and find that they are completed and earning you money by Monday morning!

3. Immediacy
Related to flexibility is immediacy, the sense your freelancer has of wanting to get the job done fast. Freelancers are small business people too, and the good ones know they are more likely to make a profit when they meet your deadlines, exceed your expectations, and move on to their next assignment. They don’t have time for water-cooler conversations, agenda-less meetings, or office politics. They just want to get the job done.

4. Experience
Good freelancers have a lot of experience with a lot of different businesses. Each job they work on and each client they work for adds more knowledge to their craft, more skills to their arsenal. You get the benefit of all that experience on all your jobs too.

5. Independence
One of the hassles of hiring new staff is all the time you have to invest in training before they are really up to speed and able to make valuable contributions to your bottom line. Freelancers, on the other hand, are used to working on their own. Yes, you’ll need to define your expectations clearly, and give them access to the company information resources they’ll need, but you won’t have to sit with them and explain everything. You’ll be able to focus on your own projects while your freelancer completes the assignments you’ve given her.

Investing wisely in a carefully vetted freelancer could mean the difference between black and red for a business that’s doing so many other things right.

Readers, what do you think? Is it too bold to claim that a humble freelancer such as myself could breathe life into a dying bookstore? Do you have any other advice for this small Christian business, which has been serving the community since 1947? Is there a next step I should take to help them?

[Story Break] The ProBlogger 7-Link Challenge

I’m taking ProBlogger Darren Rowse’s “7-link challenge” for this week’s post. He says, “The idea is to publish a post that is a list of 7 links to posts that you and others have written that respond to the following 7 categories.” So here we go:

1. Your first post

It was just about a year ago that I started blogging. I burst onto the scene with a stunning post titled Social Media Frenzy. I’ve learned a lot since then. Most important, I’ve learned how much I need to learn!

2. A post you enjoyed writing the most

My Photo essay: A week on the beach was not only enjoyable to write, but also enjoyable to re-read. And I appreciate the comments I got from readers.

3. A post which had a great discussion

When I posted When Christians and nonChristians Collide, the comments people left were lengthy, profound, and generally respectful in spite of how passionate people are about their religious views.

4. A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written

Joey Robert Parks of GhostWrite Pro authored the post Top 3 Reasons I Ghostwrite for a Living, and I really appreciate the clarity with which he captured some of my own feelings about writing.

5. Your most helpful post

This is an interesting category, and there are several posts I could choose as “most helpful,” depending on how I choose to interpret “most helpful.” In the end, I’m linking to my Thanksgiving Top 10 post. Not only was it helpful for me to review my past year of writing and thank God for the projects I’ve been privileged to be a part of, but also the post gave some helpful exposure to some of the great people I’ve worked with.

6. A post with a title that you are proud of

Honestly, I think Under the skin is a great title that I gave to Dave Brown’s post about cancer and race and unity. It has so many levels of meaning!

7. A post that you wish more people had read

In a sense, I wish more people had read Random observations about Classis Illiana. I think I said some important things, and it was helpful to have a forum to express what I was feeling. My unspoken hope was that this post might reach people in leadership levels in my classis and my denomination, that it might cause them to stop and think about how insular and trivial we often are, that it might spur some kind of revolution, calling people back to authentic Christian community. But I think the fact that it didn’t just confirms the feelings I had when I wrote it.

But that’s kind of a downer to end with! So I’m going to add another post I wish more people had read: From China to Glenwood: Adventures in diversity. This is a lighter, more fun post that still says some important things. It’s still about wanting to change the world, but it’s more about enjoying the process.

Thanks, Darren Rowse, ProBlogger, for encouraging us fellow bloggers to take the “7-link challenge,” and for giving us a forum to share with each other.

Fellow readers, were any of the posts I shared above new to you? Is there any topic you want to see more of? Less of? Let me know in the comments!