New York State Funeral Directors Association

There’s No Shame in a Nice Grave Site

A photograph of this grave site near Russia shows a life-sized statue of a man, sitting comfortably at a table.

Other graves in this cemetery, apparently in Russia or Ukraine, have grand marble reproductions of the cars they drove – symbols of the achievements these departed people accomplished before they passed on.

Some included life-sized etchings of themselves in their favorite shirts or suits, many smiling as they did during life.

Image of Planet Earth via NASA

It’s not a huge revelation to say that a lot of people have an internal yearning to come up with something new – whether it’s needed or not.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter what activity people engage in - there’s always somebody out there looking to come up with a new way to do it – and burial of our beloved is not immune.

Art in Loving Memory Memorial for Chrissy Rossi

A young mother reaches towards the sky to touch tree branches forming the shape of a heart – a young girl looks down from the heavens.

The child in the painting represents Heather, a vibrant youngster claimed by a brain tumor at the early age of five.

During her short life, Heather left memories that couldn’t be captured on a headstone or a funeral prayer card – so her mother turned to Anna Laruccia’s Art in Loving Memory in hopes of capturing important features that symbolized elements of her daughter’s life.

There was the mimosa tree Heather played beneath as a toddler – and the favorite Annie doll her mother clung to after she died. Three large white birds represent her three sisters and a peacock, watching all of them – depicts her father.

Re-creating colorful details of a loved one’s life is now a passion for Laruccia, an accomplished artist and photographer who started her Art education at an early age and in a unique place – cemeteries near where she grew up.

Laruccia is helping people face grief and embrace the love they shared with their departed friends and family from her home-based business Art in Loving Memory.

Her goal is to infuse important aspects of loved ones’ lives onto canvas – leaving friends and family with a memorable memorial fit for display.

Memorials of Life

Laruccia recalls packing lunches with her brother Johnny when she was 7 or 8 years old. They’d head off on bicycles to Long Island sites like the Frost Family Cemetery and the Underhill Cemetery.

Some headstones were too old to read -- others revealed names, birth and death dates and sometimes a small message.

All of them left an impression on the young Laruccia who would eventually travel thousands of miles to view some of the grandest memorials people have established for the ones they love.

Sisters Taryn and Gillian View Artwork Honoring their Late Sister HeatherLaruccia recalls slipping through a broken fence at the Locust Valley cemetery near her elementary school.

She’d bring her classmates to tour graves during recess, and she recalls her parents were a little concerned about the habit.

“I was very attracted to spending time at the cemetery,” Laruccia said.

Anna Laruccia“I wasn’t having problems, I was just curious.”

Decades of life and years of education later, Laruccia has moved from learning about how people remember their beloved to helping them do it.

Much of her art now aims to reflect the thoughts and memories people have of their loved ones.

Through conversations with family or friends, Laruccia gathers ideas about frequent pastimes, favorite animals, peculiar symbols and other images that marked the lives of the dear departed.

And she turns these objects and thoughts into works of art suitable to stand as a monument of the love people want to express for these loved ones.

Weeks of Work

A painting can take weeks – but Laruccia isn’t looking to get rich off of memorializing the dead. She uses a “sliding scale” to determine compensation for her time.

“It’s not always about the money. It’s about comforting people that come to me. If there’s a way I can help … I will make it work,” Laruccia said.

For her, helping people cope with grief and embrace those they’ve lost is a gift she embraces.

Anna Laruccia“It’s rewarding for me to know I did something for someone to connect with someone they lost, and all the paintings do that.”

Laruccia’s efforts to draw out the essence of a subject give her the sense that the deceased are helping to guide her work that’s aimed at easing the pain for those left behind.

“I somehow connect with the person who passed,” Laruccia said.

That’s how she explains why she kept seeing fireworks while working on a scene in honor of a girl who passed away.

She asked the girl’s mother if there were any rhyme or reason to fireworks and the question left the mother in tears.

Laruccia learned there were fireworks underway as the family left the hospice the day the girl died.

“When I’m done with the painting the message goes away. It’s almost like `we know you’re trying to help the person who misses us so much.’ They know that we’re all on the same page,” Laruccia said.

People come to Laruccia at different stages following the death of a loved one, she said.

“Some people walk in a coma for months, they still can’t process what happened to them especially if it’s a child. Those are the people that call me the most because they want to keep their child alive,” Laruccia said.

Laruccia outlines her capabilities and offerings from the Art in Loving Memory website – a site with the motto “Every Painting Tells a Story.”


EdsPhotoEd Munger
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association


 

Video: Slaves No More

New York's Capital Region honors, re-buries Colonial-era slaves. Found by accident in an unmarked cemetery, scientists pinpointed their African origin and the community held a wake and funeral.

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