The First Draft Of My Thesis Has Taken Flight

August 21, 2009
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The first draft of my thesis has taken flight. It will spend several months going back and forth between the faculty committee which acts as my advisors and editors and me before it will be sent to the two outside readers for their comments. The completed thesis is 350 pages long and represents four years of participation observation research which was spent primarily at one funeral home. It has been a long learning curve , one which is not over because I have submitted my thesis.

I am grateful to the funeral directors who have openly shared with me of their time, experience and have been supportive in those moments of self doubt. Without the directors and their assistants who have been there every day with and for me to ask questions, bounce ideas off and who have allowed me to walk with them through the funeral service, I would not have been able to write with as much passion, clarity and I believe vision of the past, present and future. I am indebted to those of you who responded to my blog about the future. I have taken your words into consideration and incorporated them into my thesis, citing you as my sources. In particular, Shane Hessey, Denise Coultras, Thomas Poulton, Randy McCormick and of course Ryan are deserving of my appreciation. Where would I be without the countless number of families who have allowed me to share in their own journeys at the funeral home? As well, there have been members of the clergy who shared their ideas and beliefs. Of course, it should be mentioned that I have a following of parafuneral staff who work the cemeteries, the mausoleum and crematorium who have taken time to indulge me and show me how important their work is to the seamlessness of funeral service.

A thesis, as I have said previously, is something very special because it is a unique creation which represents hour upon hour of reading, reviewing , observing, writing and finally more writing to bring it to fruition. It has a life of its own and sometimes has taken me to places which I never intended but in the final analysis, I am thankful that it is a deep as it is broad. Sometimes, writing a thesis is a lonely process of working through texts, translating and putting together the pieces by adding a particular piece which is new. In my case, I chose to do fieldwork, to put myself out there day after day working the long hours, spending time on the front stage as well as backstage so that I could speak with some authority about the hours, the relationships that develop with other staff, bereaved families, the deceased and the clergy which was not based on hearsay but on actual experience. I have walked the walk in many ways and now , with the thesis doing the rounds, I get to talk the talk and more … lots more. I have refuted Jessica Mitford wherever possible, supported the insights of Vanderlyne Pine, as well as Mike Kubasak and Gary Laderman ( who wrote the most recent history of the industry in the US). I have found new ways of talking about the industry and personalized service which is more inclusive regardless of whether speaking about corporates or independents. I have looked at trends and discovered that the funeral industry is not dying a slow death of its own but rather that it requires some soul searching about the hows and whys of what is being done and to recognize that the future is coming quickly and that means change from inside to meet the demands being put on the industry by the babyboomers who are a different market breed than their parents. What I have learned first and foremost is that funeral service is about team work. There is no place for an ego, it isn?t about me or you, rather it is about them ? the deceased and the bereaved. There is no letter I in the word team. More than that, what I have learned is that if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to bury a (wo)man and that although my name will go on the thesis which is titled ?death becomes them?, there is a long list of others who have contributed to its growth and development ? in fact it took a village to raise the thesis from its infancy to its maturity .. Thanks to everyone !!

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