Death sits in paradox. In it we find impossible co-mixtures of intrinsic opposites. Perhaps, this is why death is the muse of so many philosophers and theologians. For example, in death we find the cohabitation of utter darkness and blinding light. The darkness of separation, of grief, of powerlessness; and yet the light of community, of togetherness and the power of love.
Do you think funeral homes charge too much for their merchandise and services?
Just to be clear, I — like most independent funeral directors — don’t like corporate run funeral homes. I think they’re bad for consumers and they hurt the already injured public perception of the funeral industry by perpetuating the money-hungry mortician stereotype.
But, I want to be fair in my treatment of corporate run funeral homes. Here are four reasons I hate them and four reasons I like them.
I work with both my dad and my grandfather. When I first started at the funeral home as a young, eager 16 year old, I told my Pop-pop, while we cleaned the storm windows with generic Windex, “I want to gain as much wisdom from you as I can.” He shot back, surprisingly, by telling me, “Don’t learn from me. I don’t have any wisdom.”
Val Patterson — a little known scientist from Utah — wrote for himself one of the more intriguing (and long) obituaries I’ve read. It’s epic. The confessions start in the fourth paragraph, but — if I were you — I’d read the whole thing. It’s packed with goodness and humor, and a dash of wisdom.
Fred Phelps died. A couple days ago, we learned that the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church – infamous for its hate filled rhetoric and base propaganda tactics – was dying; a fact that produced a number of us to reflect on Phelps’ life and feel some sense of satisfaction knowing that it was coming to an end.
I grabbed my suit, put it back on, drove to the funeral home, loaded the collapsible stretcher into the hearse and off I went to Such and Such.
I pull up to the front door of the nursing home. A new nurse greets me and tells me she doesn’t want me “dragging the body through her wing.”
Funeral photography, funeral selfies and “corpsies” via mobile devices are becoming more and more normal at death beds AND funerals, despite the fact that they’re seen by many as pure sacrilege. Huffington Post stated that such images are “evidence the apocalypse can’t come soon enough.”
I myself once felt uncomfortable with the idea of deathbed / funeral selfies, but I’ve slowly become more open. Here’s why:
Yes, firing a funeral director at this point in the game is like walking out midway through a haircut. But it can be done and it has been done. We’ve had a couple families who have fired their funeral home and call us. Thankfully, we’ve yet to be fired, although if the day comes, we’ll be understanding.
The funeral industry is too often known for its worst practitioners. The practitioners who take financial advantage of the bereaved in their most helpless state. Those who price gouge and exploit. Those who use the dark side of the Force.