Compassion, Patience Required In Funeral Director?s Day
It was a cool and rainy Friday morning, typical funeral weather as
many would attest, and Daniel Ford was busy making sure everything
would go smoothly. It was July 31 and Ford was preparing for a 10 a.m.
funeral at Alderson Funeral Home in Waterbury, but he already had a
full morning before the service was even set to begin. Early in the
morning he received a phone call from one of the Alderson staff
members, stating that a client had died during the night. He had to
talk with Ford to discuss the personal arrangements that would be
occurring rather quickly. ?I?m on call every other night and every
other weekend,? Ford said. ?So, the times when I?m not on call, I never
know what to expect. It?s sort of tough to plan for.?
all took place before 9 a.m. but, around the time when most people are
heading into work, Ford already was in his black suit with white shirt
and red and white striped tie. He called it the ?alder-tie,? because
the staff at Alderson?s wears the same tie, rather than wearing
identification badges. Ford set up prayer cards and a registry book
outside the room where a brief service would be held in a little less
than an hour. The body had been cremated, and the urn sat in front of
the room next to an arrangement of pink flowers. As friends began to
arrive, Ford directed them to the service room. After a brief 20-minute
service, Ford announced to the visitors that a procession would be
leaving the Holmes Avenue funeral home in Waterbury for the Calvary
Cemetery a few miles away and that everyone was welcome to follow,
?just keep your lights and blinkers on.?
After the guests
entered their cars and got into a line, Ford hopped into a silver SUV
that carried the cremated remains and floral arrangements and led the
group to the cemetery. Traveling at no more than 20 miles per hour, the
drive took around 15 minutes and, at times, disrespectful motorists had
to be honked at as they tried to break up the procession. After 10
minutes at the cemetery, everyone departed and Ford was heading back to
the funeral home to prepare for the next part of his day.
the executive vice president of Alderson Funeral Homes, has been in the
business for more than 20 years, although he is only 35 years old. He
said he grew up in the business with his father and, since he was 13,
he has helped distribute prayer cards, hold open doors, and provide
other assistance during a service. He graduated from a mortuary college
in 1994 and now is the president of the Connecticut Funeral Directors
Association, which he said is an important job that takes up a lot of
his time. Ford retired from the Naugatuck Fire Department last fall
after 11 years on the job because working two different 40-hour-a-week
jobs wore him down and didn?t allow him to spend time with his wife and
two young children.
?I left the business behind, but above all else, I had to leave my family behind,? Ford explained.
arriving back at the Waterbury funeral home, Ford informed his staff
that he had a pre-arrangement meeting at 1 p.m. in Cheshire and would
most likely not be back in the Waterbury office. However, Ford always
carries a cell phone so he is never out of reach in a time of need.
?I have to be available at any beck and call,? Ford said.
After arriving at Alderson Funeral Home in Cheshire around 11:30 a.m.,
Ford had some work to do before his 1 p.m. appointment. There were two
services scheduled for the weekend and Ford began to set up registry
books and prayer cards for the Saturday morning service. The room is
very large at Alderson?s of Cheshire, but can be divided to give a more
intimate feel if a family prefers. Ford explained that, at the request
of a family, he can partition off the room, which he did for the next
day?s service. He opened up four partition panels and locked them in
place, and then began to arrange dozens of chairs in a semi-circle
?This is the tedious part of the job,? Ford said.
finishing up some preparation for the weekend services, some of Ford?s
staff arrived in Cheshire with two caskets that needed to be stored at
the funeral home. Ford assisted and wheeled the caskets into the
building where they will wait until the weekend burial.
had to prepare for the pre-arrangement meeting, which he described was
a ?blueprint? for a person after death. He said a lot of people ?face
their mortality? and decide to plan ahead as to not burden their
families after they die. Ford shows the person a list of services,
burial containers and caskets, and has it all priced out. He takes down
special wishes or requests and keeps the file on hand for the family
after the person dies, so they won?t have to worry about preparing a
service while in mourning.
?People usually plan ahead and get an
idea (of a service) and have a open discussion,? Ford said. ?It helps
them make an informed decision.?
Ford said he is often asked,
?How do you do it everyday?? and he confessed that it would be tough,
if he didn?t have such a ?tremendous support system? in place. He said
he tries to be supportive and understanding to whomever walks through
the door, but understands the different stages of grief and the forms
it can take. He said, if nothing else, a funeral director has to be
compassionate and put his ?heart and soul? into the job. He said his
belief is to treat a deceased person for whom he is providing a service
for as ?a member of my own family.?
?I sympathize with people. I
know what it?s like to mourn the loss of a friend or a loved one,? Ford
said. ?I can appreciate what people are going through, so I take a lot
of pride in providing this service.?
After his pre-arrangement
meeting, Ford was done for the day, but he still had his cell phone.
There were no other scheduled meetings or services, so he could spend
some time catching up on paperwork and thinking about the five funeral
homes under his direction and how he could improve them. He was
scheduled to be on call the next day, so Ford would have a better grasp
of what the weekend and beginning of the week would hold, but still, he
had ?no idea? what he would be dealing with when the sun rose in 14
?You never know what you?ll be facing in the morning,?
Ford said. ?But, you have to be able to adapt to what?s going on around
you. It could be a busy day or a not so hectic day, you never know.?
Source: The Cheshire Hearld
Article By: Josh Morgan
Photo: Alderson Funeral Director Daniel Ford Arranges Chairs Before A Service
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