By Tracy Renee Lee
Funeral Service is a unique business. A funeral director meets her clients on the worst day of their lives and helps them traverse the daunting task of laying significant loved ones to rest. There are many decisions that must be made that affect the estate in which the survivor may now reside, legal issues involving wealth, dependents, and beneficiaries, and events that usher in and establish the effectiveness of closure, as well as the grief experience in general. These decisions are often made under the information shared through the knowledge and experience of one’s funeral director. For these reasons, it is immensely important that a funeral director is well informed, educated, and abreast of current trends, regulations, and laws.
Funeral service can be a thankless profession. If you are considering a career in funeral service, expect that once you begin serving families, your invitations to social events may dwindle and that the nature of your social invitations may significantly change. You should also be aware that friends and family, although continuing to love you, may not desire your physical attendance as they face the end of life. Rejection is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges you will experience, as quite often, the person dying, may very well be, someone significant to you as well. Once death occurs, however, those to whom your presence was previously imposing, suddenly cannot function without your assistance, and need you there beside them faster than the speed of light. It is wise from the get-go to understand that your life will significantly change should you pursue this profession.
Once interment/inurnment is accomplished, whether your client was family, friend, or stranger, you may find they may no longer desire your company; not because they do not like you, rather your presence stirs their pain and reminds them that life has changed beyond their desire, comfort, or expectation. Love is a spiritual emotion and eternal commitment. Due to these attributes, your physical self opens a highly volatile, spiritual emotion that is painful beyond expression in the soul of the survivor. It is a wound that the survivor is trying to heal. Seeing you rips the band-aid straight off of their heart without warning.
It is challenging to know and see that your presence causes others significant pain. There have been many occasions over the years, where I have had to excuse myself as I have witnessed the pain suffered by friends, family, and clients upon my arrival at various events. Their anxiety causes me pain, and so to save each of us from an evening of woe, I quietly leave the event.
The professional demands upon a funeral director increase yearly. Various clubs, as well as, professional and faith-based organizations often call upon funeral directors for their expertise, guidance, and counseling. I find that my professional calendar explodes with invitations to galas, professional interviews, and political and educational events. My time, indeed, is no longer my own. Should you have children, a spouse, or even a private social life, anticipate the struggle that will pull you in opposite directions. Prepare those whom you love to understand that others need you at inopportune moments and that their needs supersede entertainment, social, and other personal events.
Changing my profession mid-stream in life was a wonderful gift to my soul. Although I enjoyed the success and accolades of being a professional artist, being a funeral director gives my life a more significant purpose. Now when people become aware of my artistic talents, I am at liberty to politely decline their offers for commissions. I have the opportunity to paint according to my motivation rather than my need for support. That changes my choices in selecting the people for whom I share my artistic talents. It brings me comfort to paint and share artistic beauty as a gift rather than for hire.
Being a funeral director allows me to soften the pain experienced by God’s children as they suffer through the most devastating experience ever known to man, the loss of their loved ones. I am here to protect them through a time when they are unable to defend themselves due to the vulnerabilities that death places upon them, and hopefully shine a light on the beauty and privilege of time they shared with their loved one.
I cherish my work. It has placed love in my heart for people I would otherwise never have met, and new opportunities within my reach to serve the bereaved and help them live on. People often ask me why I changed my career from the glamour of being a successful artist to that of a funeral director. My reply is that my work has always been divinely influenced and that I am grateful for the opportunities to serve that each career has brought into my life. I wouldn’t change a moment or lose an experience in either profession.