6 Things That Make a Funeral Director Get Out of Bed Every Morning

funeral director out of bed

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.

Final thoughts

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.



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/

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  1. Larry Thompson

    Great article! You are so very correct when you said your heart leads you in this line of work. I am a small town funeral director and I know that everything I do is going to be remembered one way or another. I should hope it will be good memories of my service in the funeral industry when I leave. If you don’t have your heart in this job, it will show in how you perform and how your families and the community see you. I’ve been a funeral director for 30 years, and I would not trade what I do for any other job in the world. I too was called to do this job and have never had any remorse for answering that call.

  2. cfd130

    Very Nice-
    Jim Mockler 30 years Caribou Maine

  3. Sharon Garner


    Sharon Garner Class of 2013 Harrisburg Arkansas

  4. Wayne McWilliams

    Great Todd! After over 40 years still Passionate. Wayne McWilliams

  5. Jessica

    I love reading these articles whenever I log in to Funeral One! This one was especially motivating.

    I’m 24 years old and currently serving my internship here in Florida, not far from Todd Winninger, actually (over in the Orlando area)! After a few sleepless nights of having the phones and doing removals, re-reading this will be a good reminder of why I’m here.

  6. Steve Forrest

    Really Like this. This personifies everything I’ve been feeling for the last 22 years

  7. [email protected]

    Having been in this profession since 1969, this article pretty much expresses my calling. Describes very well why I get up and very thankful I can get up every morning! Don Daniels-Alabama

  8. Greta Barnett

    This was nicely written and is how I have felt about my calling. I have been in funeral service for 20 years and I find it deeply rewarding when I am able to lift some of the burden from the families I serve. I too hope that my action make a difference in their journey through grief.

  9. D Keith Fields

    Great Article

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    Lovely piece, but you forgot to mention that the notion of acts of loving kindness originate in the Old Testament and form the basis of Jewish Burial Societies for the last 2000 years.

    Following the example God sets in the Torah, as well as the examples of the first Jews, Avraham and Sarah, we are instructed to visit the sick, bury the dead, comfort mourners, provide clothes for people who need them, feed hungry people, and offer shelter to travelers.

  16. Wayne Johnson

    Excellent article! I know it was posted a few years ago, but I felt compelled to respond. I am in my late 20s and am finally beginning my trek into the world of funeral service. I have (somewhat secretly) wanted to do this since the age of 8, when I attended the arrangement conference and eventually the funeral service of my great-great uncle. In the subsequent years since then I have unfortunately been to too many funerals, often for people too young to die. But each and every service confirmed my silent belief that this was my calling. I was discouraged from the field in my teenage years by my father, who thought that I was weird for choosing such a field.

    As I am on my own and married now, I have taken another look at this amazing profession, and know that it is my calling. I am excited to pursue a career in this changing industry, and anticipate learning a great deal, and being part of the new generation of funeral directors. Thanks for the article!

  17. Kristen Z.

    Nicely said !!! Everyday I find another rewarding aspect of my life in the funeral service. I truly believe it take a special type of person to understand the beauty in this field

  18. Pam Janssen

    40 years- still my passion

  19. Yvonne Winch

    Great read. Have known since a small child that this is what I want to do…. Took me till I was 40 to get in and so worth the wait. It’s everything I expected and more. Enjoying the ride X