Compassion, Patience Required In Funeral Director?s Day

August 11, 2009
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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

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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.?

Thisall 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.

Ford,

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.

After

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

pattern.
?This is the tedious part of the job,? Ford said.

Afterfinishing 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.

Ford 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

hours.

?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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