ParentCare » Vol. 38

Respect never goes out of style

By Stephen Gemelli

I have been honored to serve families as a funeral director for almost 30 years. In this time, I have seen many things change; some I think are great, while others bother me just a bit. Allow me to share a few of my thoughts, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

I think that it is wonderful that people laugh, talk and remember the good things about the life of a person while they are attending calling hours, memorial services or funerals. After all, I would want people to remember the good that I have done or the happiness I brought to their lives and to let it slide if I was ever on their bad side. I think playing slideshows and making collages of pictures is a fantastic way to bring people together and remember the life of a loved one. Music during calling hours or at a funeral has changed; no longer is it the slow dirge of organ music (no offense to my many organist friends). Meaningful music can stir up so much emotion, both good and sad, but it’s often very moving in either case.

sma_dunway_burial_at_arlington_national_cemetery_2008What I’ve seen change, though, is a sense of respect, and it’s too bad because it may be a sign of a changing world ~ a world that could be becoming a bit too casual. I can remember when people would “dress” to come to calling hours or to a funeral; while I think it’s more important that people actually come and pay their respects, it’s interesting to see how people come dressed to funerals.

I am not a veteran, but I respect and I am thankful to all the men and women who served in the Armed Forces to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy today. Freedoms like dressing however you wish or saying whatever is on your mind or simply taking a walk and not having to report to “Checkpoint Charlie.” Let’s show our veterans some respect by putting our hand over our heart during the “Star Spangled Banner” at the end of a funeral or pausing for a moment when a funeral coach drives by with a flag-draped casket and flags flying from the front bumper. These men and women put their lives on the line for us, and if they didn’t step up and fight for the cause of freedom, where would we be? Let’s all take a few moments ~ not just on the Fourth of July or on Veteran’s Day ~ to show some respect.

Speaking of rights and freedoms, I don’t begrudge anyone for being a cigarette smoker; it’s up to each individual to decide if it’s for them or not. However, I’ve been to the cemetery on many occasions and have noticed that people smoking don’t always respect the graves near them. Go ahead, smoke all you want, but take a moment to dispose of the butt in a proper place. The used cigarette butts don’t belong on the lawns and graves of the cemetery. A cemetery is a place of rest and repose; a place to be quiet and to pray. A cemetery shouldn’t be a place where someone finds butts on the grave of their loved one.

You may think that I ramble on a bit about this, but I just want to remind everyone about some things in life that can be quite simple. As simple as thinking twice before throwing away a cigarette butt, thinking for a moment of how proud your father or grandfather was to serve our great nation and then placing your hand over your heart, or thinking for a moment about how loudly you may be “whispering” in church. It’s about respect for the dead, respect for your fellow human beings and respect for yourself.

Stephen Gemelli is the general manager and director of Mercadante Funeral Home & Chapel, 370 Plantation St., Worcester. For more information, visit or call (508) 754-0486.

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