6 Things That Make a Funeral Director Get Out of Bed Every MorningJuly 18th, 2013
It’s funny, when funeralOne gave me another guest blogging assignment, I was flattered. But given the topic (we determined it was, in a way, sort of a “Rah-Rah” piece on the funeral industry), I thought it’d be a good follow-up to my previous blog post on the bleak future prospects of funeral service.
After reading my last post, one might be compelled to ask: why would someone get into this line of work? There must be a reason – or maybe more than one.
And given the challenges that go with the work, the reasons ought to be very compelling. So, why go into it?
The answer will be different for everyone, but from my experience, here’s 6 reasons why many professionals remain in funeral service. These 6 things, in my opinion, are what get us out of bed every morning:
#1: Answering “the call”
“I didn’t choose the profession, the profession chose me.” The highest and most fulfilling experience in life can be that feeling and recognition of following your calling. This might very well be the highest level of funeral service – and those in it for revenue or trapped by family tradition are probably miscast. In fact, given the long hours and low pay – the best survival strategy might be “only do it if you’re called, and try ignoring the calling first and see if it goes away.”
For me, it was a calling at age 12 that couldn’t be ignored, but it took me another 35 years to reach mortuary school. If it’s just a business or a legacy for you, it’s probably the wrong fit.
#2: The “Corporal Works of Mercy”
Works of mercy are expressed in the teachings of St. Thomas of Aquinas and The Bible, and are adhered to in the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist denominations. But, they are widely practiced by all Christians. Specifically, they are:
1. To feed the hungry.
2. To give drink to the thirsty.
3. To clothe the naked.
4. To harbour the harbourless.
5. To visit the sick.
6. To visit the imprisoned.
7. To bury the dead.
Essentially, what goes around, comes around – “blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7; the Beatitudes). Burial of the dead recognizes the misfortune of others, and your work is to alleviate or minimize the family’s suffering. Funeral service is one of the few professions or vocations where doing your job equates to “dispensing mercy”.
#3: Ancient traditions
Funeral service is one of the world’s oldest professions, with roots in the Egyptian Empire (chemicals, supplies, and facilities). The Romans, Greeks and Vikings all had rich histories in the profession, and here in the U.S., most practices developed during the Civil War. That rich and long tradition gives a proud feeling of being part of something larger than your firm or yourself, and makes you a part of that historic fraternity of Anubis.
#4: A variety of disciplines
Funeral service is a variety of disciplines which integrate into one successful practice. For those who had difficulty selecting a single major in college (or if you’re drawn to a variety of competing interests), funeral service offers a unique solution.
As a funeral home employee, you practice theology, psychology, chemistry, embalming, mortuary science, technology, marketing, and business everyday. For those of us who aren’t overwhelmed by the multidisciplinary demands, I like to think we sort of enjoy practicing our wide range of expertises everyday.
#5: Guardians of public health
One of the simplest and most important roles we provide is for public safety – and when I get irritated with licensing boards, I try to remember this.
Nobody else can do this. Nobody else wants to do this. But it must be done.
#6: A unique opportunity
Your work takes you to the lowest place in a person’s life, particularly if its tragic, sudden, accidental or violent. And you have the opportunity to lift that person up and out of that dark place – maybe not immediately.
Like a teacher, your efforts will be remembered, but probably seldom expressed. Satisfaction comes from knowing you did the right thing and rose to the occasion. It might not be said, but you will probably be remembered, in a good way, for years to come.
Funeral service isn’t an easy career to get into.
Half of the recognition or attention we get from people is negative. There’s always a new story on bodies being stacked up behind a crematory, graves being re-used, or processions stopped and decedents held for ransom until the bill is paid [cash please].
But what about the free burials, tending to the homeless, or the kind words and comfort we give, often everyday? Those usually go unnoticed by the press and most observers. The only one to notice and get satisfaction is probably you.
At the end of the day, all of the troubles and inconveniences of a career in funeral service lead to one thing: passion (or heart).
I didn’t follow my head into funeral service, I followed my heart. And if you’re here for the right reasons like I am, you’ll be here for a while. And boy, are we in for a wild ride – together.
Sign your name below if you’re happy to be a funeral professional like me, and plan to be here for a while.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
F. Todd Winninger has been in Funeral Service for twelve years, and is currently a Licensed Funeral Director with Aden Funeral Home, in Tampa, Florida. Prior to funeral service he was in marketing and sales for 25 years. He is the founder of “Funeral Shows,” an alternative to traditional services. Details: www.linkedin.com/in/funeralshows/