“You are truly a sincere man doing noble work,” read the note from a grateful family to a staff member of Hosanna Bereavement Services (HBS). “Not only did your professionalism, compassion and dignified handling of the funeral arrangements make a difficult time a little easier to bear; it brought us a measure of comfort.”
Seldom are bereavement-related services are referred to as “noble work”, particularly in an Asian context where there is often a stigma attached to discussions about death. Death is considered a taboo topic in many cultures, and there is a deeply-ingrained distaste for talking about related issues – such as making one’s will, or end-of-life arrangements.
Mr Y. K. Chan, Administrator of HBS, notes: “It is not a business that one would like to talk about on a daily basis, but it is an essential part of our lives that we ought to recognise. Death is part and parcel of life and sorrow, and it is unavoidable as long as we have loving relationships with one another – the more we love, the greater shall be our grief when we lose a loved one. We are therefore called upon to comfort one another.”
Indeed, our Lord God is known as “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Bereavement services play an important role in ministering to those who are grieving, and should be seen as an opportunity to extend God’s comfort and love, rather than an industry to be shunned for cultural reasons.
A wholly-owned subsidiary of the Methodist Co-operative Society Ltd, HBS is one of a few Methodist-linked organisations that perform this critical ministry. The others are Christian Columbarium Pte Ltd (CCPL), which runs the Garden of Remembrance, and local Methodist churches that have columbaria on their premises: Faith Methodist Church with Queenstown Chinese Methodist Church, Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church at their TA2 building, and Trinity Methodist Church.
Christian bereavement-related services offer comfort through their focus on life, whether life after death, or the continuing of life on this earth for those who have been bereaved. CCPL’s vision is: “The Garden of Remembrance exists to serve the living.”
Mr Larry Han, Operations Manager of the Garden of Remembrance, said: “We are privileged to witness, repeatedly, how bereaved families find solace, strength, salvation and eternal hope in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are also honoured that we can be of assistance to the bereaved families during and after the wake services.” The Garden will soon undergo redevelopment and upgrading of its facilities to better serve its patrons and visitors.
Assisting grieving families with mundane logistical details is also a main concern of HBS, a social enterprise started for those who could not afford the usual cost of funeral arrangements for their loved ones, and had to seek alternatives during their already trying and stressful period.
Said Mr Chan: “We, therefore, not only provide funeral services, but also help bereaved families in the period of mourning, so that they may be led out from their grief into a new phase of their lives…We have always intended to serve as a ministry helping bereaved Christian families come to terms with their loss and grief, by providing a healing space through our bereavement services of care and love.”
And HBS has provided “healing space” quite literally in some cases. In addition to subsidising services for many under-privileged families, it also offers the use of a specially-designed Quiet Room in its embalming office, freeof-charge for families who cannot afford to have even a single night of wake services for their loved one, to spend their last few hours with the deceased before the funeral.
Mr John Cheong, Chairperson of HBS, noted: “We are part of the Methodist Church’s ministry… there is a need for an organisation to provide the best of comfort and services for the affected families.”
Ministry to the bereaved requires our support as much as any other ministry of the church. The Garden of Remembrance, for example, welcomes volunteers to assist in its twice-yearly memorial services (on Easter Week and All Saints Day), and through other handy work such as gardening and plumbing.
Mr Chan Kai Yau, Operations Director of the Garden of Remembrance, said: “Our motivation is to be servants of God and to serve people… in their times of sorrow and grief.”
May we partner in this ministry to the bereaved, to demonstrate love through our willingness to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).
Hosanna Bereavement Services Pte Ltd
A one-stop centre for bereavement and funeralrelated services (transportation, embalming, casket supply, tentage, press announcements, arrangements for supply of urns and niches, etc).
Tel (24-hour hotline): 6352-7797
The Garden of Remembrance (Christian Columbarium Pte Ltd)
Provision of venues for memorial services, niches, services like exhumation and urn transfer, and crafting of customised memorial products.
Garden of Eternal Peace (Faith Methodist Church and Queenstown Chinese Methodist Church)
Tel: 6479-8122 / 9670-9935
Faith Hope Love Memorial (Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church TA2 Sanctuary)
Tel: 6278-1323 / 6324-4001
The Chapel of Life (Trinity Methodist Church)
Bereavement services play an important role in ministering to those who are grieving, and should be seen as an opportunity to extend God’s comfort and love, rather than an industry to be shunned for cultural reasons
Grace Toh is Assistant Editor of Methodist Message. She put this article together with valuable input from Mr John Cheong, Chairperson of Hosanna Bereavement Services, and Mr Larry Han, Operations Manager of the Garden of Remembrance.