Before I even thought about working in the Funeral Industry I didn’t have much of an outlook on death. It was something I had thought of, very fleetingly, and always pushed to the back of my mind. Out of sight out of mind right? Don’t think about it and you won’t need to worry about it.
Whilst I had been to many funerals before starting in this industry, there were two that I will remember forever. The first funeral was for my Great Grandmother. I loved and adored her. She used to make the best Cornish pasties and the most scrumptious jelly cakes. When she died, I wanted to attend the viewing but wasn’t allowed to, I guess my mother didn’t want to upset me but that did. I felt like I didn’t get to say my final goodbye. I’ll always regret not having that opportunity to have the viewing.
The second funeral was that of my Papou (grandfather). He was really a one of a kind man, he was strong and strict but also had softened up in his later years, he was the centre of the family and loosing him, even though it was expected, didn’t make it any easier. When we went for the viewing prior to the service at the Funeral Home, he didn’t look like ‘him’. He had much too much blush on his cheeks and pink lipstick. It was horrible. We spoke with the funeral director who couldn’t understand why anyone in the family was upset (seriously???) and begrudgingly agreed to attempt to rectify it, but no guarantees were given. That gave me my first real experience with a funeral director, I couldn’t believe they just didn’t seem to care. They should have cared.
Now, having worked in the Funeral Industry for what seems like longer than it has been, my outlook on death and death care has changed. Where once I would push any thoughts of death back into the shadows, now I am confronted with it daily. Being confronted with death and grief has taught me something unexpected, I now appreciate life more than I ever had. Rather than going about my daily journey only focused on the destination, now I’m finding myself appreciating all the steps I take to get to that destination. I’ve also learnt that life can be devastatingly short, and while in my head I knew that, to come to grips with that in such a raw and heartbreakingly honest way was something unexpected.
I guess the sun shines just that little bit brighter now that things have been brought into perspective. I have a funeral plan in place and have had the conversation with my partner and parents because I think its important that everyone knows each other’s wishes, so when the inevitable happens that personal wishes are honoured and that’s important to me now. I never spoke about funerals or what to do with me when I die but now, I know that people know and my wishes about what I want for when I die will be taken care of.
My outlook on Funeral Directors has changed also since my experience with the one who ‘cared’ for my Papou (they never did really fix the makeup issue). Now, as a Brisbane Funeral Director I would never have even considered bringing a gentleman to a viewing looking like that, unless it’s what the family had asked for. When a family comes to me during a service to ask for something, ill will move heaven and earth to meet their request. The deceased and their family are my only priority in that moment. How it could be any different is something I just don’t understand.
I’ve met some amazing Funeral Directors and some that aren’t so amazing, I’ve heard tales that have blown my mind, I’m constantly baffled by how big companies can take advantage of families at a time when they are the most vulnerable and I’m forever thankful that I don’t work for a company like that.
What I thought death was and what it is has been flipped on its head since starting in this industry. The physical is still the same obviously, but what happens afterwards, and the raw honesty is something that I don’t think I could find anywhere else. To be able to comfort someone when they are stricken with grief is something I’m still learning, and that’s because every person is different.
To care for someone who has passed and treat them with the upmost dignity when they are no longer able to do it themselves is an honour. It’s definitely not a job that I could see everyone being able to do, but I wish I could give people a glimpse into this world. Perhaps then all the petty drama that some people are so consumed with or the stress and anxiety that causes so much angst could be let go. Life is so very precious. Ill never take it for granted again.
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