Funeral Industry: We Can Make Great Things Happen ? Part 1
As funeral professionals, we can make great things happen. Not just once, which might be considered a fluke, but every time a family walks through the front door of the funeral home. I am convinced this is true. The other thing I am convince d of, is that funeral directors are not salespeople. Their role is to advise and share their knowledge and expertise about our deathways, not to sell merchandise. The merchandise will sell itself.
No one believes that funeral directors are magicians and can change the reality of death. Death is a fact of life, which comes to each and every one of us. At some time or other, we are going to have to sit across from a funeral director to make arrangements for ourselves or for someone we care about. For many people, the days which follow the death of a loved one are days which are lost to grief, which thankfully numbs the pain just enough to allow the bereaved to begin to make plans. Frequently, the first step to mending a broken heart is made with the help of a funeral professional.
Recently we had a family call the funeral home to inquire about pre-planning a funeral. The caller was the son of the soon to be deceased. This family?s saga begins five weeks before the phone call and concluded five days later at a windy cemetery. There is a saying that you can never really understand until you have walked a mile in someone?s shoes. I would like to share the footsteps of this family, who we will call the Jones, with the hope of helping another family.
The initial call came on a Friday afternoon. It was clear the caller was seeking pre-planning information. Following a brief discussion, the funeral director suggested that he have the funeral home?s pre- arranger call them back immediately to set up an appointment. Because death was imminent, the family decided to come to the funeral home and meet with the funeral director. The wife and one son arrived around 4 p.m.
Every family has a story. It is their story to share. Most want to share, if only because sharing some how lightens the load they are carrying. Five weeks ago, open heart surgery was performed on an otherwise healthy 61 year old man. Initially the recovery had gone well. One minute changed everyone?s life dramatically ~ the chest was opened, the heart massaged and for a short time, it seemed that this was just a blip on the recovery radar. Sadly, this was the beginning of the end. When the family sat across from the funeral director, they had no idea that the end would be mere days away.
Funeral directors have approximately 5 minutes to win a family?s confidence. The fact that a funeral director is a professional who deals with death crisis issues is very comforting to a family. They have come to the right place; they are working with a knowledgeable, trained and licensed professional. Equally important, is the demeanor with which the funeral director carries him or herself in those first few minutes. If they not only look but act the role of what the family believes is appropriate for a funeral director. Occasionally, a family is taken aback by the youthful appearance of some of the younger directors. A firm handshake, a few reassuring words and most family members realize the insight and knowledge held by even young funeral service professionals.
In the course of any arrangement, the funeral director asks every family for information used for vital statistics, age, occupation, birthplace and family history. This information often opens up a deep well of personal information which will enable the director to assist the family in personalizing their choices. As well, information is gathered concerning the family?s religious affiliation which turns the discussion towards the subject of the funeral or memorial, type of disposition for the body, purchase of plots or niches, embalming or not, open or closed casket, music, personal clergy or assistance in finding a clergy, flowers, readings. The mantra of the funeral industry is 2 words ? personalization and choice. Funeral directors offer choices to families. Some perceive this as selling choices. I prefer to think of it as laying out options, singly or in packages for individuals to choose according to what suits their needs best.
The Jones chose a traditional funeral with one day of visitation. They chose embalming because they wanted an open casket during the visitations. The committal would be at the graveside. The Jones family is nominally Anglican and shared the fact that their church, a small country church had fallen into disuse a number of years ago. As such, they had tried a number of other churches but were unable to find exactly what they were looking for. They stopped attending church and discovered they were able to rekindle a sense of spirituality for themselves which the church no longer provided. They chose not to have a member of the clergy they did not previously know. Yes, they would want a traditional funeral service followed by a burial. They chose not to have an organist to play at the funeral. They chose to have a video and they chose to use several CDs.
When the Jones family left the funeral home late Friday afternoon, they did not realize how soon the arrangements they had begun to make would be put into play. Two days later, on Sunday night, the funeral home was called. At 10p.m. a funeral director returned their call, reassuring the family and arranging to meet with them on Monday morning. A wise funeral director once shared with me, that families need to feel that by making that call that everything is being looked after and that they can rest easy. They and their loved one are in good hands.
Tomorrow, we help families make great things happen.