The Friendly Funeralista

Archive for the ‘expressions of sympathy’ Category

Highway of Heroes

With Remembrance Day approaching, I wanted to talk about the Highway of Heroes.

Here’s the clinical definition:  

The Highway of Heroes is a designated route used to transport the bodies of dead Canadian soldiers from the Canadian airforce base in Trenton, Ontario to the Coroner’s Office in downtown Toronto.  Once in Toronto, a forensic examination is conducted after which the body is returned home for funeral services.   All soldiers killed in action are required to be examined by the coroner in Toronto and as a result will travel the Highway of Heroes.  

Here’s the important stuff:

Upon arrival at Trenton airforce base, the family of the soldier will join with a party of Canadian dignitaries to receive the casket from the aircraft.  Together this small group will participate in a short service of remembrance.  The family will then be escorted to a limousine(s) and together with the funeral coach carrying their loved one they  will travel for 90 minutes to Toronto.  Unlike the ceremonies that take place on the tarmac, the procession along the Highway of Heroes is public.  The cortege is accompanied by a police escort and the route is cleared to allow for the procession to proceed unencumbered.  Along the way the family will be supported by hundreds and thousands of Canadians who come out in droves to stand on guard, to share the grief, to take responsibility, to bear witness, and to offer thanks for this ultimate sacrifice.  Here in Canada the death of one of our soldiers is taken very personally.  

Here is a Highway of Heroes tribute for you to watch.  Lest we forget.


Joannie Rochette takes to the ice this evening in a quest for an Olympic medal from the Vancouver 2010 games.  Sadly, Joannie’s mother and number 1 fan died suddenly on Sunday while attending the games in support of her daughter.  Despite this personal tragedy, Joannie had the skate of her life, delivering a flawless performance during Tuesday’s short program competition.  Joannie has become Canada’s daughter, and tonight we will all proudly watch her bravely strive for a place on the podium.   

I didn’t know Joannie’s mom,  Therese Rochette, but I know I would have liked her.  Anyone who could raise a daughter to have such “grit” despite the pressures of Olympic competition and personal grief is a woman worth knowing.  Well done, Therese … thank you for giving us a true Olympian. 

Watch Joannie skate this evening at 8pm EST or visit  for more details.



Canada’s Joannie Rochette reacts after performing her short program during the women’s figure skating competition at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010.


Well, it’s snowing here in Toronto and today seems like a good day to make some chili.  This is an easy recipe for a week night dinner but would also be a great dish to bring to someone who is bereaved.  I am also sending a shout out to those who have been recently widowed … make up a pot of this chili,  freeze it, then zap it in the microwave when you just don’t feel up to making dinner.  To really lift your spirits … while preparing, put the Gypsy King’s “Volare” on the stereo (do we still play music on a stereo????).   Here’s the link to watch on you tube

Comfort Chili Recipe


1 lb of ground beef (my Mom calls it Round Steak Minced … go figure?)

1 28 0z can (796ml) of diced tomatoes

2 10 oz cans (284ml) of mushrooms (stems and pieces)

1 can (not sure the size, bigger than the mushrooms, but smaller than the tomatoes) red kidney beans

1 envelope of  Taco seasoning mix (I like Old El Paso right now because they are giving away Air Miles)

If you like onions, chop some up and throw them in there too!


1. In a big pot brown the ground beef.  If you are using onions, throw them in and brown with the beef.

2. Drain the fat from the beef, then throw in the tomatoes and kidney beans.

3. Drain the water from the mushrooms and add them into the pot.

4. Add the envelope of taco mix.

5. Turn up the heat to medium and let the chili simmer on the stove for 10 minutes or so.

6.  Enjoy with some great crusty bread!

* Another idea … serve chili on top of rice*

Here is a great recipe to make for a post funeral gathering or to simply serve as a side dish with ham.  Apparently, this recipe got its name for being a staple at luncheons served after Mormon funerals.  I lived in Kentucky for a time, and remember the funeral directors telling me that funeral potatoes were one of the traditional dishes served post funeral as well.   

Funeral Potatoes


  • 1 32 oz (900 grams) bag of frozen shredded* hash browns
  • 2 10 oz (284 ml) cans  Cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cups of sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (use sharp for better flavour)
  • 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups finely crushed corn flakes
  • 2 tblspoons butter or margarine melted


  1. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In large bowl, combine soups, sour cream, cheese, onions, and the 1/2 cup of melted butter or margerine
  3. Gently fold hash browns into mixture
  4. Pour mixture into pan
  5. Combine crushed corn flakes and the 2 tbls of melted butter or margarine and sprinkle on top of potato mixture
  6. Bake for 30 minutes
  7. *If shredded hash browns are not available, you can use cubed potatoes instead, but you will need to increase baking time to 55 minutes.


Sometines, people are unable to go and see the bereaved family face-to-face when a death occurs.  If this is the case for you, don’t miss the opportunity to acknowledge a death.  Write a card or letter of sympathy (also known as a condolence card).  You will feel great having extended this kindness,  and the family will be so appreciative that you took the time to write.  Here are some ideas:

1.  Think about a wonderful memory that you have of the deceased.  If you don’t know the deceased, think about a wonderful memory you share with the family member to whom you are writing.  You are going to share this memory with the family in your card.

2. Go and get a card — email is great for business, but in this case, go the extra mile and get a card — preferably blank inside with some sort of picture on the front that represents the memory you are going to write about.

3. Let me give you an example here …

my good friend in high school often tells me that she remembers when our school hosted their annual Father/Daughter dinner and dance.  Unfortunately, her father could not attend and my Dad could see how disappointed she was that she did not have a Dad for an escort.  Dad and I discussed it, and decided that I would attend with my big brother and that he would escort my friend.  Here is an example of how that memory would translate into a sympathy card.

On a card with a picture of a couple dancing I would write:

January 2010 (always date your card … the family may choose to keep this and re-read when they are having a sad day)

Dear Kate:

I was so sorry to hear about your Dad’s death, he was such a wonderful man who made a big difference in my life.  I remember when we were in high school and he took me to the Father/Daughter dance.  He recognized that I would have been left out of the fun and made sure that I had a Father that evening.  As an added benefit, he also taught me how to dance to Count Basie!  I remember him telling me before we went into the party, that I was to take his arm, to stand up straight, shoulders back, bosom out (I didn’t even know at the time what a bosom was!).  I felt like a princess on his arm, but more than that I had his assurance that I was beautiful, poised and valued.  I still remember your Dad’s advice (stand up straight, shoulders back …) whenever I go into a situation where I am uncomfortable and unsure of myself.  Making that small change in posture continues to give me confidence today.   I will remember him always.

4.  In the instance where you don’t know the deceased but want to comfort a member of the family I would suggest writing about a memory you have of your friend.  For example:

Dear Kate:

I was so sorry to hear about the death of your Dad, I wish I had known him better.  I do however know you and remember the time when you encouraged me to audition for the school play.  You worked with me for weeks going over the audition script and music until I mastered it.  I got up in front of that audition committee and aced it!  You gave me the confidence to overcome my fears and I sang and acted my heart out (and got the part, too!).  All of us are reflections of the people who have raised us.  Your Dad taught you well and I have benefitted.  I hope that you are able to see your way through this difficult time and can get up tomorrow, as I did so many years ago, to overcome your fear and sadness. Kate, your Dad raised a brave and generous woman and that is a wonderful legacy.

5.  If you do not have the address of the family, contact the funeral home that looked after the funeral arrangements.  They won’t be able to give out the address of the family (privacy laws), but will offer to forward your card.

Well my friends, that’s how to write a great sympathy card.  This has been a very cathartic exercise for me this morning, as I have had a few tears remembering my Dad who died 10 years ago.  He loved to dance, loved the colour red, ladies in hats and cried whenever he heard Peggy Lee sing or went to a parade.  He did take my friend to the Father/Daugher dance and toasted the Bride at her wedding.  Today, girls,  let’s all remember to stand up straight, shoulders back, bosom out and feel like princesses.


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