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I'm a sixth generation funeral director. I have a grad degree in Missional Theology and a Certification in Thanatology.
And I like to read and write.
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Posts by Caleb Wilde
The following post will be my attempt to destroy your dreams of becoming a funeral director. If you can make it to the end of this incredibly pessimistic post and your dreams are still intact, then maybe – just maybe – this “profession” is right for you. I know I’ll get push back from other funeral directors / embalmers who will say I’m wrong on this or that — or that I’m being too negative — but the purpose of this post isn’t to encourage you, it’s to help you see if indeed this work is for you.
One. Nobody who “wants” to be a funeral director will make it.
It isn’t something you want in the way that you want a boy/girlfriend or a new car. No. It’s more like marriage. It’s a commitment that’s intended to last. It’s not a job … nor is it just a profession … this business is a lifestyle. And if you’re not ready to marry it, then move to another job that demands a less committed relationship.
Two. Unless you’re born into a family business (God help you), it’s tough to get your foot in the door.
I don’t know which is worse: being born into a family business and being pulled into the death machine or actually wanting to enter the death machine on your own initiative. The irony is this: those who are born into it don’t always want what’s being given to them; and those who want to be in this business are hardly ever given anything … they’ve got to earn it.
And some will earn it by pulling the night shift; others will start with washing hearses, mowing lawns and making trips to Wal-Mart to buy a cheap bra for Ms. Smith (whose family forgot to send one along with her clothes); and still others will be stuck making pick up after pick up after pick up. Others may earn it by learning how much cream and sugar the other staff want in their Starbucks coffee.
And once you’ve put in ten years, you might eventually be allowed to do the meaningful stuff like meeting with families, etc. And then you’ll be able to command other people to get you your coffee! Power!
Three. You won’t make much money.
Funeral home owners make decent money. Unless you’re an owner, expect less than a nontenured public school teacher’s salary. I know, I know … everyone thinks we’re loaded with the bills, when actually we’re just loaded with school loans and a lot of caffeine.
Four. If you’re lazy and don’t have an intense work ethic, don’t apply.
You know what they call a lazy funeral director? They call ‘em dead. Because the only time most funeral directors quit working is when they die or get maimed by a unicorn.
Five. If you’re not a patient person ….
Have you ever been around grieving people? At times grieving people act like they’re out of their minds. And, there’s times when grieving people can act … well … they act kinda crazy. And it’s their right. In fact, it’s the reason WE exist. Their world has been pulled out from under them, they haven’t a foot to stand on and everything that they used to know is suddenly … gone. And you’re here to help create semblance in the crazy.
And if you don’t have the patience to walk with a person whose mind is clouded with grief then funeral service isn’t for you.
Six. You need to be a (somewhat) stable person.
I’m not really sure what a stable person is; but I do know what an unstable person is. An unstable person doesn’t know how to show up to work on time because he or she has been out drinking the night before with his or her friends.
An unstable person brings personal relationship issues into work. “OMG, I know exactly what it’s like to lose a spouse ‘cause last night my girlfriend left me. You and me are like soo going through the same stuff right now.”
An unstable person loses their cool too easily. “Hey you in the second row! I told you to turn your damn cell phone off during the service. You’re interrupting everyone!”
Seven. Getting your license can be complicated.
Each state’s (in the US) requirements for licensure is different. Some states make distinctions between embalmers and funeral directors. Some require three years of education, some less and others more. Some states don’t even have a Mortuary School. Most states (all states?) also require you to have an internship before you’re licensed. And then there is the state test and the national test that you have to take. And some states make you learn how to embalm a Sasquatch … because in some states Sasquatch actually does exist and it’s a well kept secret that Sasquatches like to be embalmed.
Eight. You hit your pinnacle in this “profession” when you get older.
Generally, you work with older people and older people prefer to work with people within their generation. So, it can be hard for a younger person to establish themselves in this business, but it’s very possible. There’s no 18 year old prodigies in funeral service because being a funeral director is about life experience, not business acumen.
Nine. It will be tough on your family.
Holidays. Baseball games. Weekends. Death keeps no schedule and neither will you. If you work for a larger funeral home, you may be able to work shifts. But shift work in the funeral business is not normal shift work. If you want to enter the funeral business, make sure both you and your family are prepared to see less of each other.
Ten. There’s bad smells.
You take those smells home with you.
If you made it this far with your hopes intact, click here for Ten Reasons I’m a Funeral Director.
Death brings out the best and the worst in people. During times of death, family and friends can create acts of love they never knew they were capable of doing. Acts such as forgiveness. Acts of grace and kindness.
But, death also brings out the worst in people. Or, rather it brings out the worst people. Without fail, when there’s a tragedy, there’s crooks. Like the people who set up fake charities for the victims of Sandy Hook, only to stash all the donations for themselves. And like this women (the story is below her picture):
62-year-old Joyce Christie points out objects to police in front of her home on Bluebird Circle in Belfast Thursday afternoon.
“Solar lights, figurines, a little humming birds and decorative weather balls. Stuff like that,” listed Belfast Police Chief Michael McFadden.
Police say she stole them.
“She actually literally dug flowers up off of grave sites and replanted them here,” he said.
Sunday, police say a man went into the station to report items missing from his wife’s grave at Grove Cemetery.
“It was really kind of heartbreaking and I was angry for him. I believe that you better be able to put something on your loved one’s grave and have it be there a 100 years from then,” said Chief McFadden.
That man wasn’t the only victim.
We spoke to another man who found things missing from his wife’s grave Monday.
He asked to not have his face on camera.
He said, “My thoughts were between anger and disgust. I just can’t describe, I just can’t understand the type of people who would take things from peoples loved ones.”
Police brought him to Christie’s home. He identified two items taken.
“I’ve been on cloud nine this morning since we saw them. Very glad to be able to finally get them back,” said the victim.
You can read the rest of the story HERE.
I hope this woman can get some help. Cause it just ain’t right.