9 Lessons Learned From Switching My Career to Funeral Service


To make a long story short, in the year 2000 I lost my father.

I turned to Thomas Miller Mortuary to take care of him and my family, and to this very day I still remember the great lengths the owner, Chris Miller, took to make sure we had the best funeral service experience possible.

A few months after my father passed, I started a limousine company in his name. I wanted to offer my customers on-time service, along with the best limousines the industry had to offer.

After 7 years in the business, I sold my company and sat down with Chris & Rhonda Miller, the owners of Thomas Miller Mortuary (which ironically, was also one of my accounts when I had with my limo company).

After our chat, Chris & Rhonda extended me a position at Thomas Miller Mortuary. They told me that this job was not for everyone and if it didn’t work out, there would be no hard feelings. But of course, I stand here today and I still enjoy my job as if it were my first day.

I had no idea how much I would learn from embarking on this new journey, but looking back, it’s bittersweet how much switching my career to funeral service has transformed me into a better person today. Along the way, I’ve learned some pretty valuable lessons about life, character, and what it means to offer a truly valuable service to someone.

Here are 9 of the most important lessons I’ve taken with me over the years:


Lesson #1: The most important skill you can have is passion.

When I first met Chris Miller, I noticed that he had a certain kind of passion that not many people obtain, and it was contagious. That passion has translated into hundreds, if not thousands of happy families coming back over and over again because of the service we offer. Above any other skill or amount of intelligence you may have, if you want to succeed in funeral service, passion should be your #1 tool.


Lesson #2: Funerals aren’t for the dead.

In my years in funeral service, I’ve learned that beyond sanitation, dressing and cosmetology, funeral services have very little to do with the deceased. Instead, they’re about the surviving family members. Helping them through their journey of grief and providing them with valuable resources is where our value lies.


Lesson #3: It’s all about working with the right people.

I have seen firsthand how in this industry working with the right people helps 100%. Everyone that I work with does their job very well. We all work together as a team with the one thing in mind: “families come first.” This has been the key to our success here at Thomas Miller Mortuary.


Lesson #4: The freedom to create a memorable service is priceless.

The one thing that helps us is being given the freedom to create a memorable funeral service. That includes having an up-to-date facility and an owner who continues to offer nothing but the best that this industry has to offer.

A few examples of this are a newly remodeled mortuary, high definition TVs in our chapel, a state-of-the-art sound system, props, the best vehicles in first call vans and hearses… and the list goes on and on.  Having these things makes it easy for us to never have to say “NO” to a family, which brings me to my next lesson…


Lesson #5: Never say “NO”.

I’ve learned that you should be able to create any kind of service the family wants, no matter how crazy it may sound. There isn’t a book that says what a funeral service “should be,” so use your creativity and the rest will take care of itself.


Lesson #6: You’re not just serving one family.

During a funeral service, it is not just the one family you may be serving, but those attending the service as well. These attendees could potentially end up coming to you for help in the future, so make sure everyone has the best service experience possible. In the end, the more people you impress, the more opportunities you create for future business.


Lesson #7: The most important thing in the future will be information.

Through community involvement (activities, events, services), funeral directors can build a friendly and warm relationship with members of the community in the future. Death is enviable and letting the public and our communities know that we are here to help when the time comes is key.


Lesson #8: You can’t ignore what’s happening around you.

Cremation has become the main choice in light of the economy, and those who kept their eyes and ears closed when this all happened paid the price. Ignorance isn’t always bliss. Keeping up with the most current products and different ways a person can be remembered is the best way to pave a successful road in the funeral profession.


Lesson #9: Life is a precious, precious thing.

Changing careers to funeral service has made me more alert to the fact that life is a precious thing. No one knows for sure how long they will live, and because of my profession, I try and make sure that I live my life every day to the fullest. I never let fear stop me from doing anything because I want to be remembered for the life I lived – not the life I was too afraid to live.


Final thoughts

People always ask me why I work in funeral service. They usually say something along the lines of “your job must be so depressing.” But, in fact, it is quite the opposite.

Being able to create a memorable funeral service for (and most importantly, with) a family is priceless. And if I ever do get down, the handshakes, thank you’s and hugs of gratitude I get are what keep me going.

In the end, changing my career to become a funeral director has become one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Funeral service isn’t just a career, it’s my life’s passion.



Rob Obbink moved to California back in 2000 from Holland Michigan after his father passed away. He started a limousine company called Lynco Limousine named after his father Lynn and owned and operated for 6 years. He served Thomas Miller Mortuary in that time and built a solid relationship with the Miller family. After selling his business Rob decided he wanted to give working for Thomas Miller a try in March of 2008. Thomas Miller Mortuary was built on the same standards and values that Rob had applied to his Limousine Company. Rob knew that he could put his talents to work for the Miller’s and continue the traditions that they had started 40 years ago. Rob looks forward in serving the community and helping families in the years to come.


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  1. Raqs

    What type of education did you have to acquire to mke the move. I am looking into this myself

  2. Robb

    Exactly! Well said Rob!

  3. Rob

    When i started in this business i had no training what so ever just hands on. I did take a state test that makes me a funeral arranger and enables me to meet with families. I just don’t write any pre-needs and i do not embalm. I do however do pretty much everything else. I wear many many hats. Thanks for the inquiry. Good luck to you

  4. Rob


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  6. Diana

    Thanks for the insight. I am hoping to make a change in my career path and its nice to hear about those who have been successful in doing so.

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