January: the month of doors and gates. Christmas is behind us and most resolutions have come and gone by now. For us college students, January means new classes are started and new friends are made. For me, this month marks the beginning of a final semester at Presbyterian College.
Among other things going on at this time, such as trying not to freak out about graduation, deciding on plans after college, and adjusting to the fact that most of my friends are now married or soon-to-be so, I am embarking on an adventure this semester called an “internship.” I must warn you: this is not going to be your run-of-the-mill experience.
I am interning at a funeral home.
That’s right, I’m considering becoming a mortician. I realize that the words “undertaker” and “embalmer” just aren’t the kinds of words that pop up among things a parent dreams of for a child. Nevertheless, I am investigating the field.
I have spent a few days on the job this month already and I like what I have seen so far. It seems doable to me. Judging by the mixed reactions I get when I tell people of my current career goal, most people are just not cut out for this kind of thing. My answer to that: I am not “most people.”
In four days, I have attended more funerals than “most people” will do in their lifetime and I have already experienced a “diverse clientele.”
As the semester continues, I am sure I will have stories to tell and reservations to process, and I would appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and encouragement as I go through this time of discernment.
I will leave you with a final thought, an observation of sorts, that occurred this past week at a funeral I was working. It was a funeral for a young grandmother; a woman who had passed unexpectedly. Some out-of-town relatives arrived early for the combination visitation/service. As the day progressed, the rain began falling harder and harder outside the little country church and as more family and friends arrived, more and more of them went in and out of the doors to smoke their cigarettes. The other funeral home employees and I stood in the vestibule of the church, awaiting the end of the service when we would transport everything to the graveside service.
Between the visitation and the memorial service, one of the out-of-town relatives struck up a conversation with me. She told me about the mess her home was in from recent remodeling projects and how, since her kitchen was being torn out that morning, she didn’t know what she was going to cook for dinner in her microwave. She then proceeded to tell me how she had worked hard all her life and how she was doing these remodeling projects as a way to reward herself upon her retirement. She stood there, glanced around at us as we held the memorial bulletins in our hands, and said, “Yes, ma’am, I worked hard all my life. I didn’t stand around in a suit all day worrying about which way to hold my hands.”
Her words, snide and insensitive, considering the occasion, sparked within me an immediate desire to defend my fellow funeral workers. I chuckled and gently said that I hoped all the projects turned out well. When she turned to re-enter the sanctuary, I thought about what she had said and wondered if “most people” would agree with her sentiment.
I hope to never underestimate the power of maintaining respect and practicing integrity, and even if I don’t end up pursuing a career as a funeral director, I will never discount the importance of this profession. It is, in a way, some of the hardest work imaginable and I know now that it is not a decision to be made lightly.
Until next time,