“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”Maya Angelou



About two years ago, I was on a memorable first time trip to San Diego with just my grandmother and mom. The whole weekend was filled with singing “Wild Thing“, nonstop laughter, 40 ounce cans of Lime-A-Rita’s, and seeing new sites.

We were in California to see my cousin graduate from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot but we had plenty of time to get out and about for new restaurants and landmarks.

One of our trips was to the San Diego Zoo. In true great-grandma and aunt style, my mom and grandma wanted to make sure my cousin’s two year old son was able to feed the giraffes. We waited in a line for a little over an hour to get tickets and this is where the goofiness started.


There was a rhino cage right next to where we were waiting… I do not know if it was the sun or the rhino, but something caused us all to become giddy little school girls. After having the unforgettable experience of seeing this little boy and his parents feed a live giraffe, we set off towards the penguins.

We passed the sea lion exhibit and both my mom and grandma looked at each other with excitement. There was a children’s playground with a photo opportunity. There were children everywhere but that certainly did not stop them. On hands and knees, they got into the exhibit and asked me to photograph them through their laughter. I was mortified but could not help to be sucked into their joy.

To this day, they swear the exhibit was not for children, the other adults were just not as fun and outgoing as them. It is one of those small moments that I will never forget and it was one hundred percent because the two of them decided to step outside the norm.


Traditions and norms are not as relevant today as they once were. People are embracing their uniqueness and standing out. It is a beautiful thing to be able to be comfortable enough with yourself to not care what others think.

When I pick up a pre-planned file from many years ago, I can almost predict what is going to be inside. Serving in a traditional, Irish, Catholic community I know that they would have chosen a rose casket spray in either red, pink, yellow, or white. They would have chosen a holy card with either the 23rd Psalm or the Memorare on the back. And yes, they would have chosen to wear their best and fanciest suit.

Things are certainly changing in today’s world. People are finally choosing to embrace their personalities. They are wearing unique outfits (we just had a man wearing his auto body coverall and it was amazing), they are forfeiting flowers and choosing other items more near and dear to themselves (we had a woman who requested stuffed animals instead of flowers so her family could go to Children’s Hospital and donate them together) and they are sending other momentoes home with people instead of holy cards (we had a young man’s family design poker chips saying “He made his last deal with God”).


As a pre-planning specialist, it is extremely important to become a motivating factor in helping people to plan a unique service. Very few people have ever been in the arrangement room for an at-need service so everything they are hearing in a pre-need arrangement is brand new. Unless you give them the platform to make unique choices for themselves, they are not going to think of them.

There are so many resources out there to help families make unique funeral services but searching Google for anything related makes most people nervous.  They are very unlikely to find these ideas on their own so I t is your duty to your families to stay up to date on the new and exciting trends that they can utilize.

Yes, it seems a bit crazy to retain stories of bizarre and over the top stories but you never know what you may need someday. There are many things that are unlikely to fit nine of your ten families, but having it in the back of your mind will help that tenth family and they will love you for it.

The more you can focus on the person and the event, the less you need to focus on the financial piece and giving a value to the numbers. Plus, the most rewarding thing for a family to hear during a time of grief is that their loved one was thinking of them in a special way by planning a special tribute.

Don’t be the traditional pre-planner. Step outside the box and go play on the children’s exhibit at the San Diego Zoo.


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