Funeral service is the loudest job I've ever had.
Updated: Dec 13, 2021
My husband stood in the hall with me and said,
"Do you hear that?
This is what I've always wanted you to experience when it comes to what we do."
Those voices connecting with other voices is not exclusive to the visitations for those who have lived a full and complete life and died in their sleep at age 96.
Even in the most tragic of circumstances, there's almost always a swell of voices throughout the halls of the funeral home.
When someone dies and we are called to make arrangements at the time of death, we say it's an "at-need" call (some people make prior arrangements before a death occurs: "pre-need“).
At-need is a term to make a distinction for a funeral director to know if there's something on file or not as far as arrangements ... but I like to make it mean something beyond that (of course ... that's what this blog is here for : ).
People who come to mourn in our space -- our home -- are at-need.
Some people prefer to have a celebration of life for a loved one in another place and time down the road, but there is something sacred about those few days following someone's death.
In my work, I see people at-need for a connection with other people when someone they know has died.
It's this human desire for the common recognition of what has taken place.
Another life has passed through this realm, and it means something to everyone who enters our funeral home.
There's a gravity to those voices in the halls that I think is different in the days right after someone dies.
I hear it and feel a mix of joy and sorrow that I can't really explain to you -- so I thought you should hear it.
Listen and maybe you'll understand, too.
From the "mailbag" (okay, so like 50 (maybe) people read this, including my husband, my parents, my sisters-in-law, a handful of friends on Instagram ... and me).
I read myself a lot and edit for your understanding and enjoyment.
Sincerely, thank you for reading.
I've written a lot of posts on different platforms over the years, but this has resonated more deeply with people than any of them.
Q: "It seems like you do a lot of funerals where you see the person in the casket, and there's a service for them at church or in a cemetery.
Do you do anything different, like cremation or green burial? I've heard you can be made into a tree, too, when you die."
A: Dear Reader --
These are AMAZING questions. I will write even more about all of this as life unfolds, but here's what I have for now:
- Yes, out of the 300+ funerals we do a year, quite a lot of them are “traditional burials" (everything you mentioned in that question), and people are also choosing cremation with or without some of the traditional aspects of a funeral.
There are funeral directors who will act like this shift in our field is (I'm just going to go there) “a kiss of death" because we are not always selling a casket.
I don't feel this way.
I think I’m here foremost to offer people a service and experience that means something to them, as well as meets the wishes of the person they loved.
That service we offer expands far beyond a piece of metal or wood merchandise, space to use in our facility, and a load of paperwork.
If you've read any of my blog posts, I think you will understand that I understand what I bring to the people who are trusting our family to help them.
There are so many ways to honor a life, and we offer a lot of different options; but most importantly, we assist people in creating options that are unique to them.
Seriously, that’s legit how we see it; it’s not just ad copy I lifted from a mortuary marketing firm (those exist, by the way).
As far as green burial and other methods of disposition that will enable us to become better stewards of nature and our environment -- that is one of the most significant options I want us to offer people sooner rather than later.
I am on a mission to get us there, but I understand I‘m still working to earn my license which we will enable me to have a stronger and professionalized voice.
I also live in a state that drags its feet when it comes to progress and legislation.
I really do believe, though, we will prevail in making green burial practices a part of our business just as much as traditional burial.
There will be an ever-growing demand that Kentucky will catch up to at some point when it’s no longer “just something people who live in Oregon do.”
It’s also the right thing to do, and for so many reasons.
TREE BURIAL -- Yes! You are correct -- that is a real and true thing.
It's also what I have expressed as my wishes that I want my husband and children to carry out upon my death.
Yes, they can have the old-school Catholic visitation (a “wake”) where I'm in an open cremation casket for viewing. Music. Food. Stories. Photos. Art. People I love. A short film of my life that people will watch. Also a Mass of Christian Burial at a Catholic church.
Then I wish to be cremated and made into a biodegradable pod so I will grow into a beautiful, majestic, oxygen-releasing tree.
That's quite a unique mix of rituals and practices, but that's who I am.
So there you go.
A screenshot of one of many video messages I send my husband during the days when I am working with another director on a service.
I'm pretty sure this is the day I was in the hearse wondering if the driver (who had gotten out of the coach to investigate when I was sending this message) led our procession to the wrong entrance of the church ... and what we were gonna have to do about that … along with the limousine and 35 cars trailing behind us.
It worked out just fine.
In this job, most of the time, no one else except the funeral director knows when something doesn't go right.
The key is to adapt, adjust --- or act like it's how something is always done.
Most of it's not a big deal anyway when you consider what our work is really about.
In other words, be cool. I'm doing a pretty good job here : ) .