How to tell the story of your life: Time to Remember with Samantha Stokotelny

How to tell the story of your life: Time to Remember with Samantha Stokotelny

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Every Canadian family – and every individual – is unique. At Arbor, we know that serving the families in our community is all about getting to know, and to celebrate, this uniqueness. That’s why we created a Time to Remember™ event: completely customizable themed end-of-life events that are all about sharing the story of a loved one’s life.

We spoke with a true champion of Time to Remember, Samantha Stokotelny, about this completely unique service. Samantha is the Managing Director of Janisse Funeral Home in Windsor, Ontario, and considers her work a vocation. She’s a beloved and well-known member of her local community. In fact - we gladly rescheduled our interview twice because each time, families in the community specifically requested Samantha’s help. The reason’s clear when you hear Samantha’s philosophy as a team member at Arbor: “We know that every life is unique. And we believe that every memorial should be too.”

It’s our pleasure to share Time to Remember with you through Samantha’s compassionate, expert eyes. To listen to the full interview, click on the play button below. For selected excerpts, please read on.


Emma (Arbor team member): Hi Samantha, thank you for agreeing to talk with me today about Time to Remember. Let’s start at the beginning: how do you usually introduce the Time to Remember concept to families?

Samantha: When starting to plan an end of life tribute for someone, I like to start the dialogue with the family by asking them what is it that they want to ensure that everyone remembers about their loved one. And I find that by asking that question, we begin to shape the occasion that is to come and create these incredible memories that will last a lifetime. Something that families will feel proud of when they reflect on it down the road when they begin to heal.

Emma: Does a Time to Remember have to be pre-planned or can the family come together and organize one for a loved one who has passed?

Samantha: No, a Time to Remember does not have to be pre-planned. However, pre-planning gives people the opportunity to be remembered the way that they would like to be remembered while allowing family members to focus on the grieving process. So that's something to take into consideration.

If the person who has passed did not pre-plan, the family is still able to create an event that is just right for that special person.

Emma: Can you tell me about what a Time to Remember looks like?

Samantha: The event is definitely customizable. And like anything else these days, people are faced with abundant choice.

We have different themes like one for someone who was passionate about being in the kitchen: a baker or a chef. And a really neat memento that I have seen many times would be a recipe card that we could give out at the end of a service. And in some cases, we've actually been able to take that person's original recipe with their handwriting on it, and print it out on keepsakes for people to take home at the end of the service. It's just so personalized, so special – whether it's grandma's favourite cookies, or someone's cornbread recipe – it’s just really personal to who that person was. And people identify that. You have to imagine people have tasted that person's cookies or their famous cornbread before.

So, it's really encouraging for families to be told what their options are and to encourage them to think about what it was that made that person so special. And then we can make sure that we're sharing that with all of the people who have come to celebrate their life.

Emma: What are some common questions that a family might ask you as they look at a Time to Remember?

Samantha: I hear from families a lot, is that actually possible? Is that something that we can do? And I find myself time and time again saying anything is possible. I often remind people: there is no one way to plan or host a Time to Remember. It’s a time to gather, to share, and of course, it's in the name: it is a Time to Remember.

We can still incorporate those long-established customs that we're all familiar with. It creates a lot of comfort for families that we can still have speakers: there can be a eulogist, there can be musical tributes, there can be a blessing or grace said before people eat, there can be a poem reading, there can still be candle lighting. It's really up to the family.

And then you couple those things with highly personalized and new-fashioned options, like a toast in honour of the life well-lived, and these unique culinary experiences, barbecues and picnics, and activities. We talk about the send-off: maybe a bingo game, a few moments of meditation, video montage and memorabilia. If the person was a hockey fan, you have their favourite jerseys set out on display. It can include all, some, or none of those things. The possibilities that I've listed are just that: they are possibilities. We are there as event planning specialists to help families make sense of those possibilities.

Emma:  Can you tell me about why Time to Remember services really move you as a funeral director and an event planner?

Samantha: A Time to Remember inspires me more than anything. We know that to experience the loss of a loved one – I know this speaking from personal experience as well as caring for people who have lost someone – can be exceptionally difficult. As funeral directors, we form a very strong bond with our client families. This gives us the ability to anticipate their needs and support them as they create meaningful remembrances and memorials for their loved ones – these memories that are going to last a lifetime. It's truly an honour to be a part of these experiences and to help make them happen for families during one of the most difficult times in their lives.

Something that I often reflect on with people when I'm sharing what I do, to put it into perspective, is that a funeral can be a single day in someone's life, but it is someone's entire life in a single day. It’s important that people are given the opportunity to begin their journey through grief, and healing, and it all starts by remembering. And I get to help people remember. That is so very special and so moving,

To learn more about Time to Remember and if it’s the right choice for you and your family, please click here. We also invite you to visit our location finder to locate your nearest branch and speak to a compassionate professional like Samantha.

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