Two years ago at this time, I was in the initial phases of applying for an apprenticeship license in funeral directing and embalming. South Carolina state law requires this two year training period and the successful completion of National Boards Examinations before issuing a full license.
Then, I knew precious little about what it is like to work in a funeral home, and even less about how the funeral business in a broader sense operates. Now, two years later, I’m filling out my last set of quarterly reports for my apprenticeship and am on track to get my funeral directing and embalming license by the end of the summer. I’m far from being an expert on the funeral business, but I’ve at least got my feet wet. I’ve been on a steep learning curve for all things embalming, cremating, and funeralizing. And I’ve soaked it all in. The small town funeral home where I’ve been working has served around 500 families since I’ve been there. That’s about 500 bodies, 500 funerals, well over 500 phone conversations, and 500 opportunities to be a part of something bigger than myself.
When people ask what I do for a living, I say, “I work at a funeral home,” and then brace myself for the reaction.
Some respond with questions like, “Oh wow, really?! What do you do there?” or “I bet people are just *dying* to see you!” or “What made you decide to do that?”
Some just respond with silence. Others change the subject.
One of my favorite responses is, “I guess you’ll always have a job! Somebody’s gotta do that kind of stuff.”
The “kind of stuff” we do in the funeral business, however, is as varied as the day is long. Things can be absolutely crazy or absolutely dead. Pardon the pun.
For example, a “typical” workday can begin with a peaceful walk down a country highway to collect road signs from in front of a family’s house. There may be time for a leisurely jaunt to the post office or to catch up on some paperwork or for cleaning out the supply closet. The same day, however, can also hold a funeral or two or more, embalming and dressing bodies and doing cremations. In between all of that, we write obituaries, answer phone calls, deliver flowers, file insurance claims, make memorial videos, drive to hospitals or nursing homes, navigate tricky family dynamics, and attend to details of planning multiple funerals all at once.
It’s not for the faint of heart.
These two years of my apprenticeship have been an adventure beyond my wildest imagination, and I’m about to embark on the next phase of the journey. Next week, I’ll be starting a new job at a much bigger funeral home in a much bigger city. Instead of 250 funerals a year, there will be over 1,000. My day to day responsibilities will be a little different, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to work alongside some great people. I’m looking forward to the move and to all the new possibilities down the road. I hope you’ll continue to meet me here as I move forward into this transition!