You Do What for a Living??!! Part 3
Part three from our awsome funeral director Toni!
Congratulations, you’ve graduated with honors (if I can toot my own horn for a minute!)…now what?
Most of my fellow students came from a family of funeral directors or had jobs already lined up either back home or here in Portland. I did not. Luckily the corporate funeral home I had apprenticed at had an opening in the fall. I applied, got it and started in September 1998.
13 years ago Funeral Service was still very much a male dominated “pay your dues” industry. The newbie (me!) got all the grunt work. No jumping in and meeting with families, doing chapel or graveside services…nope….I got to do all the body removals, embalming and repair work on folks who’d committed suicide, been in car wrecks, had drowned or were just generally messy and needed cleaning and fixing. All excellent learning experiences as far as those items went. Yet I still did not know how to conduct an arrangement, help a family plan a meaningful service, write up a statement or all the thousands of other things that need to be done before someone is finally laid to rest. On the plus side, whenever friends or family asked how things were going, I always had interesting conversational material. But still, the part I most looked forward to was the family meetings.
After a year with this particular corporate funeral home, I had met with only one family and that was as an assistant/observer. This was not the “full” funeral service provider experience I had worked so hard for. There was, no doubt, satisfaction and pride in a job well done with my embalming and body/wound repair, but I wanted the whole package.
Feelers were put out; calls to friends and classmates were made. I landed a job at another (different) corporate funeral home. Soon I was meeting with families (and on occasion breaking up family fights in the arrangement room, but that’s another story) conducting graveside & church services, running the crematory…I loved it.
What I DID NOT love was the comprehensive emphasis on selling (or up-selling) every warm body that came through there as much stuff as possible. Whether they needed it or not, could afford it or not. Daily sales “pep” talks for all of us, chats with the manager about how to “get my numbers up”. This was not what I had envisioned when I decided to become a mortician. I lasted a little less than 2 years there before I got fired. The first job I’d EVER been fired from, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
I took a break from funeral service and worked for Safeway as a Floral Department Manager for almost 10 years. I met wonderful folks, made new friends and generally enjoyed my time there. But…missed funeral service too. I had paid to keep my licenses current for the last 10 years and thought to myself that it was time to fish or cut bait. I lined up some interviews and then called my old classmate & friend Steve to see “what it was like out there now.” I knew he would give me the straight skinny. Steve asked me to come see him first, which I did. We talked-a lot- about corporation versus independent and serving families. Our philosophy of funeral service was so compatible that when he made me an offer, I was jumping up and down inside. I told Steve I’d need to talk to Ray and would get back to him very soon.
Ray & I talked it all over. My hubby is great at helping me see the pros & cons of things as I am more of a jump right in and “git er dun” type. SOMEBODY needs to pull the reins back on me sometimes!
I called Steve and told him I could start right after Easter once I got my floral department through one last holiday. April 2009 finds me re-entering funeral service with Steve & Shelle at Family Memorial. Everything just seems to flow and I couldn’t be happier where I am right now.
What I do for a living is much more than just a paycheck. I love working at a “mom & pop” establishment. I love the personal contact I have with “my” families..hearing the stories, learning the history behind the person…and I truly love the satisfaction that comes from helping to make a difficult time easier, if only for a little while helping carry a burden no one wants.
Thanks for reading this….as always feedback is appreciated. If there is a topic you would like covered, let us know. Until next time….take care.