Being the object of someone’s misplaced grief and anger really stinks. It’s even worse if you’re that punching bag day after day after day.
Welcome to funeral service.
Every day funeral directors deal with people who are in crisis, often in shock, sleep deprived and balancing way too many things that our society now demands.
We know what it’s like. We have lives too, or at least we try to. But try telling that to an individual who strolls in fifteen minutes after your shift ends and demands to see you, knowing full well they’re two hours late for their appointment, causing you to cancel your own doctor’s appointment for the third time in a row.
We hear insults directed at how much our services cost, why we can’t create a multi-media extravaganza twenty minutes before the first visitation is supposed to start, or why flowers that were delivered half-way through a service didn’t make it to the front of the church.
We help people by doing work that no one else wants to do.
Funeral Directors pass mothers their babies and watch them kiss them good-bye. We see husbands and wives who have been with their spouse for their entire lives weep as they bury or cremate or entomb half of their own identity. We hold the hand of children who want to see their father for the last time and are afraid to approach the casket on their own. We tuck ultrasound photos of unborn babies in the hands of fathers who are laid out in their caskets while their pregnant wives are numb with shock.
Not a single funeral director came into the industry without giving the reason, “I want to help people,” when asked why they wanted to do work that most people shudder at the thought of.
Unless you’re dealing with an independent funeral home owner, we have nothing to do with price setting, policy or legislation. I know this might come as a shock, but just because we wear a tidy looking company issued suit, doesn’t mean we make a whole lot of money.
We do the work we do because we believe in honouring a human life lived. We believe in providing services so that our neighbours and communities can grieve in meaningful ways.
We also live within a culture that no longer values the necessity of slowing down to grieve, or provide support to the grieving.
Sadly, we live in a world that turns to “busy-ness”. Busy-ness fuels exhaustion, spiritual atrophy and general dysfunction; addictions, mental health issues, and relationship breakdowns.
“It takes a special kind of person to do what you do.” If every funeral director had a dime for every time they heard those words, we’d all be retired.
I used to pay little attention to this kind of pithy patronizing. But as the years have passed, I realize that it does, indeed take a special kind of person to do what we do.
You see, when I was a kid, the local Funeral Director was someone to be respected. He (yes, it was always a he back then) made everything better and kept everyone calm when tragedy struck.
But that’s changed. As our communities have grown, and our lives have gotten busier, the funeral director isn’t someone you recognize as a citizen in your town. You likely don’t recognize us because we’re either at work, or out and about just like you, caring for our families and trying to make ends meet.