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You Should Be Offended…Or Maybe Not?

Friday this last week my day started with a couple of emails and a phone call expressing outrage over a post on Connecting Directors. This one:

 

 

Basically, these contacts questioned my affiliation with a publication that would have the poor judgment to publish such a distasteful thing. I am both a guest author and a resident expert for Connecting Directors.

After responding to my inquirers and talking with the publisher, Ryan Thogmartin, I concluded it was best not “rub spots on the wall” and let it die its own death.

 

Then something else came across my desk and presented such a great opportunity for one of those rare life lessons that I simply can’t resist.

 

I see something happening in American society that concerns me and the reaction to the CD Article is a good example that has a secondary implication for DeathCare.

 

We have all become too quick to judge and then hide behind labels. In our society “The Race Card” of the 20th century is being replaced with the “hate card”. Label someone as, say, conservative and immediately you are permitted to accuse them of being a hater. This relieves you of any obligation to get to know them as a person and enables you to construct any evil imagining you desire so that you don’t ever have to imagine they might have anything in common with you. It might be of interest for you to know that is exactly the technique the Nazis used to reposition public attitude toward Jews in the 1930’s. But I digress. Our political parties are using this reverse bigotry to great advantage to keep the people (us) from actually talking through their differences.

 

Funeral Directors suffer from a form of this same “bigotry of ignorance”. The public makes an assumption about what we are like without ever giving us the chance by actually getting to know us.

 

The reason I like Ryan Thogmartin, the editor and publisher of Connecting Directors and Caleb Wilde the author of Confessions of a Funeral Director is that they are helping in their own way to break down this barrier. Yes, the article and the photo is distasteful and, as one commenter pointed out, wrong on so many levels. But should we really bury our head in the sand and shield ourselves from the outside? That behavior hasn’t helped in the last 3 decades. I am not sure it will help us in the next.

 

So, when many people saw the article in Friday’s CD their “knee-jerk” reaction was offense. Me too. Their immediate response was to leap to the conclusion that it was in such poor taste that it was a reflection on the publisher and the original writer. NOT ME.

 

First, one of the benefits of growing older is seeing others make bigger mistakes than I did. If you are older than 40 think about some of yours. If you are younger, well you have some interesting times ahead of you. Second, as a practicing Christian I like to think I look at the heart and not at the outward appearance. If you saw Ryan Thogmartin and me in the same room that would have a special meaning for you. But I often fall short and am quick to judge.

 

If you are not a subscriber to Caleb Wilde’s Confession’s of a Funeral Director I can only ask why not? Caleb is a young 6th generation funeral director who set out to become a missionary and found his mission in his family business. His commitment to his faith and to our profession is so profound that it startles me sometimes. As a theologian, he challenges my orthodox dogma in ways that occasionally trouble me. But I love the way he makes me think through what I believe. I end up with a stronger tested faith and deeper understanding of what and why I believe. I would absolutely love him as a pastor. I don’t doubt his faith. His transparency as a funeral director is so blatantly authentic that you would have to be a pretty cold fish as a consumer to not open your heart to the mystery and nobility of this profession.

 

Ryan and Caleb are our future generation. Stick my picture next to Ryan’s and it will shock you. I love them both for their passion and have hitched my wagon to theirs because their hearts are more committed to making a positive difference for all of us than almost anyone I know. But I am also amused. History repeats itself. I think about us 50 and 60 somethings and I raise one eyebrow as I recall our own zeal and boldness. I know because I was there in the 60’s and I have pictures!!!

 

Is their approach edgy? Holy cow! Yes!!

 

But maybe it’s time we got over ourselves and started to lighten up.

As promised here is a different perspective on the young man who originated this offense.

If you want to think of yourself as open-minded read it.

If you want to be proud of being a funeral director, read it:

Learning From Leaders: Caleb Wilde

P.S. I am going to stop here with one final point. I have been screaming at the top of my lungs for better than 6 months now that there is a global movement afoot to bring death out of the closet. That movement is using humor and art as its medium. In the next month or two The American Funeral Director will publish an article I wrote for them on this topic. It may offend your finer sensibilities. But you need to be prepared to get on board the laugh train because the public is already on it.

 

P.P.S. I met this guy at a McDonalds in Tennessee on I-40. He is a traveling evangelist who uses this casket trailer to open questions about life after death as a witness opportunity.

Alan Creedy

In addition to the weekly Creedy Commentary, I frequently contribute to industry trade journals and speak at trade conventions.Among my affiliations outside the DeathCare industry are The Center For Creative Leadership, The Performance Institute and Human Synergistics.
I believe in giving back and so was recently honored to serve as Chairman of the Funeral Service Foundation.

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  • Tim O’Brien

    Thank you Alan, I was there in the 60′s and have pictures too – of me with more hair! Excellent article.
    Ryan, Caleb and several others in the FSP are the future. It is good to be open, receptive and responsive to them. – tim

  • BT Hathaway

    Another jump the shark moment for the three of you then.

    Now Ryan’s article about Yelp! is a huge help to us all. I highly recommend it.

    http://connectingdirectors.com/articles/36122-we-hate-yelp-and-funeral-homes-should-too

    That’s why I read Connecting Directors.

    But if you want to post tasteless (and for plenty of people downright offensive) funeral “jokes,” there are other places and other ways.

  • Redneck FL

    I thought the article was hilarious and obviously meant tongue in cheek. (I would not be too surprised to see one of these in my neck of the woods either if you know what I mean.) While I am not a funeral director, I have worked with them for the last 17 years and agree that if funeral directors are to remain relevent to the the public at large, we all need to lighten up. Laugh a little, show the public that we are human too.

  • http://twitter.com/JzykEnnis Jzyk Ennis

    Alan, thank you for your honesty and insight. I have known you for some time and guess that these two guys are great professionals and assets to our profession. However, I do disagree with you on a few points. First, we must look at people and know they are “good apples” on the inside…True! However, that does not excuse or explain our actions and consequences for them. Believe me, in my youth I made some stupid “funeral joke” moments, as well – Unfortunately, this made some see me and the noble profession I love in a dimmer light in the process. Second, you make the assumption that the general public views our profession like the picture and article explains. While I think the public likes to make jokes about us, when a death occurs close to them they want a true professional (or the image of one). While the consumer is changing (no doubt), I don’t think their expectation of professionalism is changingin the same way. As the discussion of profession vs. trade is pushed in the next few years…I doubt you would see many physicians, pharmacists, dentists, etc. or their reputable printed voices (magazines, papers, blogs, etc.) demean their profession in the same way that we do. While acknowledging humor and puns are fine, participating in them has consequences for us and the families we serve. While I enjoy many articles to educate and inform myself (inclduding on CD), I cannot say that this one did anything to entertain me or enhance me as a professional for the families that I serve.

    • alan

      Jzyk, knowing your heart as I do I take your feedback more seriously than most. But my point was that we all make poor choices. Rather than condemn without investigation into the nature of the people as some did.
      “we must not strive; but be gentle to all men; apt to teach, patient…” sorry couldn’t resist the temptation to preach.

      • http://twitter.com/JzykEnnis Jzyk Ennis

        Point well taken and agreed! I look forward to seeing you in Charlotte for the NFDA convention!

  • JackM

    Alan, thanks for your timely defense and comments about this controversial article. I also looked at it with unsettled interest and eagerly waited for the concluding paragraphs with expectation that it would compliment active funeral directors and crematory operators on the professional manner with which they process today’s cremations, but that part never came. As a standalone piece without those comments, it probably should not have been published. I would rather have read about the success stories as to how the evangelist was using this crude contraption in his lessons on life and death, and how his teachings might be encouraging support for today’s funeral professionals.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Staab/100000281354570 Jeff Staab

    It was a fun article and yes we all need to lighten up a bit. I am in some professional funeral groups on Face Book and I’m often taken back at how overly sensitive some funeral directors are when they ambush me and others for being inappropriate or distasteful for matter that would not offend most grandmas. We are here to share information and some of it is newer then the fifty year old text books we learned from. Ryan, Caleb and Alan are thought leaders and more important thought provokers, When your cutting the edge into the future their will be controversy. Its fine to disagree, but please don’t attack. We need these guys and we need your thoughtful and insightful responses as well so we can all learn from each other as we adjust to these challenging times. Lets share solutions, lets share whats working for you. Thanks to these three gentleman for doing what they do. I look forward to Alan’s article coming up in the American Funeral Director.

  • Paul Seyler

    Esteemed colleagues, here’s the thing I think we all miss sometimes. It comes in two parts, so bear with me:
    First, like every other serious topic out there, Death needs to be treated in different ways at different times — with restraint and reverence AT SOME TIMES, and with humor and downright irreverence at others. It’s basic human nature, a pretty undeniable force in human psychology. It’s how we keep the serious stuff from overwhelming us.
    Second, in this industry we spend virtually ALL of our time in the first mode – the restraint and reverence mode. We spend spend so much time harmonizing our feelings with the 0.83% of families each year who NEED the restraint and reverence that it’s hard to connect with the 99.17% who don’t. It’s a huge imbalance compared to the rest of the people out there.
    There’s just no way that imbalance doesn’t skew our perspectives. It’s just something to think about when we’re complaining about anything that doesn’t take us or our chosen topic as seriously as we think it should.

  • Caitlin Doughty

    From my understanding, Connecting Directors is a website dedicated to helping the industry understand the changing marketplace. A huge part of the change is the internet.

    Caleb’s post WAS the internet. It had a picture meme, it was written as satire, the cited news source was a RickRoll. If you’re someone who consumes the internet everyday, the post makes sense. You would never take it as an affront to the industry or professionalism because it would be very obvious the category of writing and humor it falls into. If Caleb had written “but of course real funeral directors are professionals who never would do somehting like this” it would have been an embarrassing transition out of satire and not as effective.

    It seems to me we don’t need another puff piece complementing the work we do on a daily basis or how much we care about families. We should KNOW that that is true. If we’re confident in our own professionalism there is no reason we can’t also laugh at ourselves.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rmmctata Randy McCormick

    Thanks for the laugh … the best one I have in 50 years in the funeral profession … note to all the small-minded readers … get over yourselves and allow a joke in now and then …

  • http://www.facebook.com/chrislemley Chris Lemley

    I guess the not-so-subtle (but incredibly clever) pokes at the trends of cremation and attempts of circumventing “full service” funeral providers went unnoticed, Caleb.
    More and more families are looking strictly for the lowest cost option that gets them out the door the quickest; and if we don’t combat this, we’ll all be out of work someday. It’s difficult to say this anywhere but on an industry forum, but ours is not simply a disposal service. It’s up to us to make sure it stays more than that.
    If you didn’t get that from his joke, well… maybe you need to read the articles on this site a little closer. :)

  • http://twitter.com/funeralfinance Jeff Harbeson

    I once heard a quote “I don’t create the news, I just report it”…we should embrace the opportunity to hear what’s going on in the world and how people try to circumvent this industry, not stick our heads in the sand and wonder why there is such a shift in societal views.