Comfort in a Call

By Becky Jane Newbold, Associate Editor, Lewis County Herald

As her grief-stricken friend held a tight grip on her composure, one a friend, another an acquaintance, consoled the new widow.

Debbie watched as one by one they cried, laughed and remembered but knew too well the heightened emotional state would prevent her friend from holding onto the stories family and friends told at the funeral of her friend’s husband who passed away from cancer.

With thoughts drifting back to her childhood loss, Debbie knew the hunger people feel when someone they love is taken and there is little to hold to except memories.  When her own father died, Debbie Landers was 10 years old.  Growing into adulthood, she

Debbie Landers demonstrates Comfort Calls at McDonald Funeral Home where friends and loved ones sit at a computer screen and pick up a phone to leave the family a message about the deceased. “So often, the grief is overwhelming,” she said, “and you want to remember everything people tell you about during visitation, but you just can’t remember it all.” Comfort Calls records your message and the family takes it home to keep forever.

often wished she knew more about the man who sang to her and held her on his lap when she was young.

Months prior, at the local funeral home one evening, after most of her late aunt’s family and friends had gone home, her last living uncle on her daddy’s side started talking.

Amazed and scrambling for paper and pen, the family drank in the stories with a thirst for family history not to be matched.  Unsuccessful at finding writing materials or a tape recorder, they sat back and listened as he unwound a lifetime of tales about a childhood with Debbie’s father and a life none of them remembered.

Years later, seeing her friend along with the grandchildren, try to capture the stories told of their loved one, a man who as a missionary started orphanages and churches in far-away lands, she knew it was time for a solution.

And like an answered prayer, she began forming an idea.

While in prayer, she had a desire to create jobs in her hometown for people struggling to make ends meet and Comfort Calls was born.  A simple concept, Comfort Calls was placed in a Made-in-Hohenwald “phone booth” at McDonald Funeral Home in Hohenwald for a test run.  Funeral Director Richard Tate was all in.

“We are more excited about being in on the ground level than anything,” he said.  “This service helps families during the hardest time of their life: when they go back home.”

Response has been wonderful, Debbie indicated.  Families are appreciating having a CD recording full of all the stories people can remember about their loved one.  Families can keep the CD forever and a computer data base backs up the files if the CD is lost or damaged.

“What we most appreciate, is the feedback we have received from Lewis County,” Debbie said.  “The local help is really what we need to make sure this is a valuable service for the rest of the world.”

If Comfort Calls really takes off, Debbie anticipates a lot of work this summer to get the new company off the ground.  At the basic level, construction of phone booths could be necessary, she said, then there would be shipping and numerous other jobs too.

Comfort Calls will be launched state-wide in June.


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