The Beauty of Being A Forward-Thinking Funeral Pro

funeral pro

Dear funeral professionals,

I can’t tell you my name, or where I’m from, or why I’m here, but I want to share with you a story that I think you’ll like. Perhaps it could even inspire you, too.

It all began on a sunny summer Monday morning. I’m slowly strolling down the street and decide to walk up to a funeral home. I feel like I should be nervous or scared, but I’m not. It looks and feels familiar – like a far away place I’ve seen in a dream. It doesn’t appear to be your normal funeral home. It’s a really big, beautiful Victorian home with lots of windows and bright, happy colors outside. And it smells good from afar, like mom is in the kitchen cooking dinner, with a faint smell of lavender and vanilla making its way through the air and into my nostrils.

I’m not sure why I’m here, because I’m not mourning anyone, but I feel compelled to open the bright yellow door, so I do without hesitation. I’m immediately greeted by a woman with a warm smile who could very well be my mother in a past life. She’s not wearing any black or a suit,  but rather a soft, wavy pale pink dress that goes just past her knees. She tells me welcome, and asks how she can help me today.

I barely mumble the words “Uh… I’m not sure” and it seems like she’s used to hearing these words, and shows me to a sitting room with plenty of sunlight and calls to what seems to be an intern for a cup of hot tea. “Peppermint tea ok for you?,” she asks. “Yeah, sure,” I reply softly. And after I sit down I look around and see that there are books of poetry by sufi poets, Mary Oliver, and other titles like  Grave Matters and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes lying on the coffee table, right next to a Home Funeral workbook.

I feel very confused, but excited. I’ve never had an interest in death, especially my own, but this environment makes me want to learn more. I want to find that woman and talk to her. I want a tour of this place! What goes on behind those closed doors? This doesn’t feel spooky and eerie like a normal funeral home, so what in the world is going on here?

My mind stirring with questions, the friendly, motherly figure approaches me again, this time with the hot peppermint tea. “I hope you didn’t want lemon,” she said. “Anyways,” she continues, “what is it that I can help you with today?”

Not sure what to say, I simply reply, “I’d like a tour of your space. I was just in the neighborhood… and felt compelled to see what this place was. It’s beautiful.” She smiles warmly and says “Thank you, it is beautiful isn’t it? Let’s have a look.”

We make our way to the backyard first, and it sounds like a celebration is going on. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was a wedding. No one’s wearing black, there are drinks, hors-d’oeuvres, smiles, and then I see the wicker casket. “We celebrate life here. Living this life is a big achievement, so why not celebrate all you’ve experienced?” I agree and nod silently, observing the people laughing and dancing, crying… just like a wedding.

She continues to show me the highlights of the space, and although I’ve never stepped foot into those “closed doors” in a funeral home, everything feels way different than it should be. One room that stopped me in my tracks was a room where families can help prepare their loved ones for their final resting place; surprisingly, it was quite beautiful.

We ended our tour in the showroom, where I only saw about 5 different caskets. It was less of a “showroom” and more of an interactive display of the many options people like me have for celebrating life.  I caught myself looking through the music list for tribute videos, skimming through green burial options, and chuckling at the many celebration package options there were for funerals. I kept having to ask myself if I was in a funeral home or a wedding planner’s home. Not once did someone try to sell me something. It was like a conversation, not a monologue. And I learned so much.

In awe by all the many amazing ways someone can be sent off, I felt a sense of curiosity towards my own death. It seemed more real, but less scary. The comfort of this place and the array of options there were for celebrating your life made me feel a little more complete inside.

Satisfied, I began to head for the door as I waved and said “thank you” to everyone I had met that day. They were all such amazing people – so friendly, warm, caring, and not salesy at all. With a wave to my new friends,  I was headed for the door, when the door opened itself, and there was a bright, blinding, white light, so I walked towards it…

Don’t worry, I didn’t die. But, it turns out the light was my consciousness, and this was all a dream. My dream. For the future. And you know what? I feel compelled to make it happen. And I believe many funeral professionals out there have the capacity to have the same dreams.

I’ve never embalmed a body before, nor have I comforted a mother who has just lost her child. Heck, I haven’t even stepped foot into a class on how to do any of those things. Yet, for some reason, in my dreams, something or someone has sent me a message that I am, indeed, a future funeral director. And I’m going to change things for the better. Just you wait. This dream, combined with many others’ dreams, will manifest into reality.

And that hope, that thirst for change, that ambition, my friends, is the beauty of being a future-focused funeral director.

PS. If you’re an aspiring or current funeral director, and you’re just as thirsty for change as I am, join me in our mission of changing the funeral profession for the better. Learn about the many new ways people are choosing to celebrate life, the future of the funeral home business model, the trends that are emerging (especially the ones that will stick), and how other businesses paved the way for change in their industry.

It’s all happening, we just need to unite and take the first steps towards change together.

Love always,


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  1. Jeff Harbeson

    “A vision is only a dream without execution.” Bravo to the author of this post. The funeral industry is in dire need to move from dreams to actually making the necessary changes to adapt to consumer demand. #thefuneralcommander

  2. Cecil Compton

    Enjoyed your article. Undertaker

  3. Marie Luh

    I enjoyed reading your article. As a woman funeral director I feel change needs to occur. It diffintely is a man’s domain in the business.

  4. Donica Halcom

    This is the same feeling I had when I applied for my job here as administrative assistant. I felt completely relaxed and “at home” when I came for the interview. I knew immediately this was where I needed to be and the feeling is still there.

    We are a forward-thinking home, with a beautiful, but comfortable interior…a cafe with various flavors of DAVinci gourmet syrups and creans for coffee! Our staff is amazing…working together and with the families – striving for “knock your socks off” customer service.

    We are hosting a ladies luncheon and style show April 28…”Have the Talk of a Lifetime” here in our chapel. Our goal is to bring the community inside to experience our beautiful building and meet the staff.

  5. Karin Schuett

    Circle of Life Cremation and Burial Centre in Dundas Ontario is very much in keeping with this line of thinking.
    Emma,mourn little Miniature Schnauzer, completes the vision as our official greeter and therapy dog!

  6. Robert L Muratore

    I found it very interesting to read. And as much as I believe change is good and needed n most cases it sometimes is true when they they say if it’s not broke why fix it. Our industry has changed dramatically in the past 30 years I have been licensed. And unfortunately not for the good. Don’t you miss the neighborhood grocery store, hardware store & pharmacy. Well what happened , change occurred. Wegmans , Home Depot & Walgreens came in and put them out of business. Do I really need to say what happened to our industry. It seems quite apparent. As for the next generation God only knows what their feelings are on funerals. Most likely can we do it all online. Do I really need to come in to see my ” dead mother or father “. We have become such a society that it is a inconvenient to take a few days and properly mourn the loss of our loved one who took care of us their entire life. What has happened is that we get asked what is the quickest and easiest way of doing this. ” Yes I think cremation is the way to go “. That is the answer from the son or daughter to the way f celebrating a loved one. Because personalization takes to much time and the corporations that took over our industry and paid way to much for theses funeral homes cannot properly staff the funera home. They want someone right out of school and pay them the least amount of money so they are able to pay their bills. Who suffers, the family that are use to get SERVICE. Since it’s not provided the value and reverance of properly offering the traditional funeral is a thing of the past. Why waste valueable ground for a cemetery when we get out up nothing but professional medical buildings for doctors since the insurance companies is where all the money is. I do apologize for going on and on but it truly is depressing to have witnessed the collapse of the ” Traditional Funeral”.

  7. Nila Grant

    I definitely would like to see a change in the funeral business for families to consider. We have to shift our focus from grieving their death to celebration of their life. I strongly feel that life is tough, we all have our ups and downs, failures and achievements; each person has a story to tell and would like to share that with those who are willing to listen. I would rather leave a funeral in awe of a person life vs. sadness over their death. Aspiring post!

  8. Desmond Stephenson

    We represent LifeArt International here in the UK / Ireland. LifeArt products are a celebration/reflection of a life lived our designs are beautiful, made out of enviroboard which makes them eco-friendly. This is a good letter let us revolutionise the Funeral Industry together. LifeArt bringing tomorrow’s technology today.

  9. Shelly Payan

    I’ve been in the funeral industry for 28 years. When I started, I thought by the time I was 30, I would have made several career changes. I mean I was only ten at the time. Not one thought ever occurred to me to change Careers or companies; mainly because of one man, John E. Lindquist and the Lindquist Family who proved to be such caring and giving people. Not only do they continue to provide families with the support they need to get through a death, they give so much to the community, and they are so good to the employees. John E. was and still is a forward-thinking funeral director. Because of his funeral background and his acceptance and eagerness for change, he has made a huge difference in the funeral community. He started Great Western Insurance Co. at a time advanced planning money was being placed in a trust account with little to no growth. He is not a “yes” man and has always encouraged me and all others who came after me to play devil’s advocate. I have seen many generations of funeral funding policies developed over the years all keeping up with what would not only be best for the funeral homes we work with, but also their client families. For the first 10 to 15 years, it was obvious that most funeral directors were slow to change. In my eyes, I saw fear that if too much was changed or too much was published or advertised about funerals and planning ahead, client families would be put off. It takes a person like John E. who is not afraid and who listens and watches what is happening not only in the funeral industry but changing marketing trends and buying habits. In many cases, we saw complacency and funeral directors expecting that once a family came to them to bury a loved one that future generations would automatically follow. It actually took conglomerates who were buying funeral homes at the time for many funeral directors to realize they needed to be more progressive. The conglomerates came in with guns loaded. Not only did they raise funeral prices, but they heavily marketed in their areas and advertised pre-need. Many families changed funeral homes because they thought they could only pre-plan through those who were advertising. Individual funeral home owners had no choice but to start advertising and build solid pre-need departments in order to remain competitive. Great Western’s intentions are to offer pre-need funding vehicles to funeral homes. We don’t wish to have multiple products. AM Best has been encouraging GW to add more lines of business in order to improve it’s rating. John E. has said on multiple occasions he will continue to focus only on the funeral industry and will not add other lines just for an A rating. I was at the right place at the right time, and because of that, I am very passionate about what we do and honored to be able to work for such a fine family. We’ve always been in a growth mode and have suffered growing pains, but one thing is for certain, Great Western is a company which will be around for a very long time. I’ve often thought how John E. is somewhat of an outlier – he was the rebel child who surprised so many people, especially his parents, when he expressed he wanted to work for the family business. His dad did not create a job for him, he made John E. start at the bottom. John E. Is a licensed funeral director and truly has earned the solid reputation he and his mortuaries have. No one who knew John E. as he grew up figured he would amount to much, but he proved so many people wrong. He is successful because he utilized resourses available to him and is not afraid of change or to take risks. Now that clients are looking more for value and are so well educated because of the wealth of information available, the strong team John E. and now his son have built, GW wil continue to stay engaged with our clients in order to offer what they need – not what we think they need. Cremation is now on the rise, and I believe that will be the next big change as we move away from more traditional funerals. So we need to be creative and open minded in order to support the continuing changes. One thing that I can say about the Lindquist Funeral Homes, is that the caring staff and the genuine concern and commitment to provide the best funeral experience for every family will never change. I am proud to have been able to be at GW from the beginning of time and all that I have learned from John E. He has been a terrific mentor and taught me so much. I have my own sense of personal ownership because I was trusted and allowed to contribute to its growth. Our funeral home clients have been so great and so loyal which is rare in many cases. I can’t imagine any other opportunity at that time that would have shown me what strong integrity and lack of fear can achieve.

  10. Irene Lis

    Great article that speaks to my vision of a better funeral industry. I am a recent entrant to the funeral industry with many years of business experience in other arenas. The funeral business intrigued me because I could sense that it is on the cusp of change and I wanted to be a part of it. I was tired of seeing the “same old same old” being proffered by funeral homes that served the needs of the funeral home very well but not those of the families. It is refreshing it is to see that there are some funeral businesses that are starting to change and serve the real needs of their customers first. However, there are still too many that are stuck in the “buggy whip” days, and we all know where the buggy whip industry stands today.

  11. Alan Hillsberg

    The funeral home business is a complex one. Your just not running your funeral home but many are coordinating with various outside sources like crematories, transport and shipping, florists, etc. Having deep experience working closely with many funeral homes, I see some working towards the necessary changes to adapt to demand and personalized client wishes.It does take a lot to change a business model, especially for a funeral home but changes are happening as I see it with the many clients I serve and their commitment to offer the best for the families they serve.