The Next Chapter

This coming week marks a milestone in my life. It is my last full week in my job as a funeral director. I am starting a graduate program at the College of Charleston, so I am taking a step down from full time work while I go to school. I am not sure what the future holds, but I intend to keep writing here. Who am I kidding?! … I will always write. I may not always write about death and funerals, but I will always write. 

As I take a look back to the beginning of this blog, I want to recount a story I shared in the very first post I published. {Read the whole post here!}

The story began nearly six years ago as I stood outside a church during one of the first funerals I worked. I met a lady who, among small talk, told me how she had worked hard all her life and how she wanted to reward herself upon her retirement. She stood there, glanced around at me and my colleagues as we held 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.”

I thought her words were snide and insensitive then, and my opinion has only grown stronger!

When I run the numbers, I estimate I have been personally involved in close to 2,000 funerals in the past 5 years. That is more or less 1 funeral per day (holidays included). So many obituaries! So many caskets! So much paperwork!

Many careers — especially medical and legal professions — put us in the paths of people from all different backgrounds and all walks of life. Some people are genuinely appreciative for the work we do, but some people are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

One of the most difficult parts of my job is to face the scrutiny of people who have never stood in my shoes. When I think back to the lady’s words which stung me on that church porch, I try put myself in her position. From her point of view, I was standing there not doing much of anything. She couldn’t — or wouldn’t — see what mattered.

The work of a funeral director is varied and situation specific, and it takes patience and adaptability to do it well. Some days the sheer volume of cases is crippling. Other days the sea of grief threatens to overtake. In the days following a death, many times the difference between what is seen and what is not seen is because a funeral director steps in between the two and bridges the gap.

The business which is so often said to be cloaked in secrecy is actually made up of long hours, midnight death calls, panic attacks about obituary typos, and countless tragedies which, to us, become every day occurrences.

I may not speak for every funeral director, but there are certainly things I wish I could change about the funeral business. I know, however, that this work and the families I have served have changed me for the better.

As I start a new chapter, I recognize that I will continue to wrestle with the cultural and spiritual attitudes toward death and funerals. Moving forward, I hope to honor the dissonance with my words. And with respect. Always respect.

Keep reading with me as I reminisce! 

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7 thoughts on “The Next Chapter

  1. I wish you the best in your new endeavor . You will certainly be missed in the “funeral business”.

  2. Caroline, whatever you do, I have no doubt that it will only add to the depth and complexity of your character. I always feel like I gain from your writing, and am glad you’ll be keeping it up. Sending you good thoughts as you begin this next phase.

  3. Wishing you the best as you step out into the next chapter of your AmAzing life 💕
    Sending you much love and prayers –
    Love Always- Becky

  4. Love you, sweet Caroline! I miss your face, but your words help bridge the gap. Thanks for sharing this. We’re praying for your next step. You’re going to do GREAT!!

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