The unspoken role of a funeral director is the many hours spent in quiet solitude in the Mortuary. I have found over my many years in the industry this is the place where I feel most calm, most at ease and most comfortable. Many people I have spoken to see the role of a mortician as “creepy, cold and dark” not at all what it is. There is nothing scary, dark or worrying about working with the dead and in reality, it is the exact opposite it just depends on your perception.
Having the opportunity to give so much time and respect to the deceased is why I was drawn to this industry in the first place and even today after all these years I still adopt the peace of the people I am honoured to look after. I have been told many different family stories, tales of family vacations, dramatic situations, family histories, events and many stories of both people’s lives and deaths.
One of the reasons I find so much solace in what I do is that I find so much peace in death, there is a quiet calm and purity to the person in front of me and no matter what stories their life held, I have the chance to see them in a pure light, with no imperfections or flaws, just clean and free.
There is so much peace and comfort that comes from preparing people for the last time and for me it is a ceremony all in itself. From shaving their legs to straightening their hair, from brushing their beard to applying their lipstick, from tying their tie to setting their features it all brings a feeling of completion and satisfaction knowing that I am trusted with someone’s most precious loved one, but not always...
Since owning my own funeral home and being in control of every process from meeting with families and then following through with their loved ones mortuary care I have noticed another perspective, a sad and lonely existence of some of the people that I have looked after. People without the family support or love and care in their lives, people that die alone and then come to me for their final care. These people lay in front of me a little different, I feel myself not so much at peace but in turmoil, feeling regret that it had come to this, that I had not been there to support them in life as I am now. These people’s lives do not get celebrated, not a flower given, nor a eulogy thought of, could there be no words to sum up this person’s whole life?.
In the role I am given to prepare and arrange their final resting place it is not my place to do anything more, and yet I do. I spend time talking to them as I do their hair, painting myself a picture of who they might have been. I take time to give them the attention I feel they deserve, preparing them to be ‘just right’ even though no one will see them, they will have no funeral or no proper goodbye. This is where I add my own ‘service’ to give them a send-off that everyone deserves.
It may only be a few words, standing next to their coffin or placing a bunch of flowers in their hands or on the coffin just before the hearse drives away, it may be lighting a candle as I prepare them and saying a little something in my head as I think of them but in my opinion ‘everyone deserves something special’.
Our funeral home may not be the biggest, or longest running but I can guarantee that no one would give the standard of service that we give when no one is watching. Our care for what we do is based on the compassion I have learnt over the years, the kind of mother my children have taught me to be, and my heart that I wear on my sleeve. I will continue to give my all to every person that I take care of in death and after some thoughtful deliberations may just see me volunteer my time visiting people that are lacking that life support. I hope that I can be a small change to someone and give them the feeling that they are worth something special in life as I do in death.