Putting the ‘Fun’ in Funerals

When people find out I’m training to be a funeral director, one of the more common questions I get asked is “Aren’t you depressed all the time?”

The answer is: “No.” (Imagine me rolling my eyes).

While I may be around death and bodies and people crying all the time, and while I may have attended close to 100 funerals this past year, my job is anything but depressing. It can be chaotic, stressful, and demanding, but it can also be really fun and challenging. Sometimes it is even slow and boring and we all get to go home early, which is fun too.

Creativity is key. What would you do if you were presented with a family who wants Dale Earnhardt embroidered on the inside of the casket panel? What about with a family who expects an open casket for a person who was decapitated? How do you gently tell a grieving widower that his wife’s bra is too big? (Disclaimer: I can answer all of those questions, though not from true personal experience. Yet.).

I have some really great co-workers and we are able to keep the atmosphere pretty light and productive. The truth is that our wheels are always turning and our minds are going so many different directions in a given moment that we don’t have time or energy to be depressed about death. Here’s a snapshot:

Now multiply that by 4 or 5 deaths/week (or 16 if it was the week before Christmas)… and that’s what funeral directing is like.

(Disclaimer: we always forget at least one thing.)

There are moments when I question my sanity. Like when I’m standing out at a graveside in a torrential downpour or sweltering heat. Or when I’m staying late to suture incisions in a corpse after a difficult embalming. Or when I’m on hold with an insurance company. Again.

At the end of the day, we all know that funerals are for the living. As funeral directors, we do what we can to make the process run as smoothly as possible and we cross our fingers that everyone is satisfied with the results of our labors. This is a service industry and it always will be, and I think it’s important to be able to have a little fun along the way. I can assure you we all have a healthy respect for the job we do and a distinct sense of reverence for the dead. Our serious moments just need to be tempered by humor every once in a while. It really is gratifying when you sit back and let it all unfold. Maybe somebody cracks a joke at a funeral or tells a funny story to make everyone laugh. Maybe you didn’t put up a tent at the cemetery because, “Mama always liked to see the blue sky…” and that was the one day in the week it wasn’t forecasted to rain. Maybe the music was just the right volume or the lipstick was just the right shade. On those days, I can walk away knowing I’ve done my job well. And who doesn’t like that feeling?

 

Photo credit: http://www.digdang.com/image/just_buried/5135/

 

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