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Archive for April, 2011

So maybe my last few posts didn’t sit too well with some funeral directors. I get that. I may have pushed against the core beliefs of what much of the funeral industry professes these days. That the preparation and display of a dead body is vitally important to the grief process. That’s what we are taught in mortuary school. That’s what the NFDA traveling road show, “Good Death, Good Grief, Good Funerals”, with authors Thomas Long and Thomas Lynch is trying to preach to the public. That’s what we assume to be true since after all, we (the funeral industry) have been doing this successfully for 100 years. So we can’t be wrong, can we?

No, you aren’t wrong, completely. Just misguided. Society is not made up of people who all act and think the same. Dozens of different cultures, traditions, emotions, and norms exist. Where many funeral directors  are wrong is in assuming that there is just one “right” way to do things. That there are either/or answers to everything. Either you do things this way or you’re in trouble.

As a fourth generation funeral director much of what I learned was passed down from the generations before. Get things done now because you might get 3 new calls tonight. Put the flags on the right hand side of the cars so you can open the doors for the ladies at the cemetery. Tilt the head to the right so people can see the face. Don’t pre-judge people. Make sure the casket is centered on the church truck. And dozens of other tricks of the trade.

My father and grandfather were compassionate and treated people with care. They had a wonderful talent of mixing in humor at just the right time to make people feel very comfortable. I like to think I learned some of that from them.  They ran great funerals. The whole crew performed like a well oiled machine.

But as I reflect back on things they said, I don’t remember them ever talking about grief. Ever.

Our job was to make things happen. Our job was make things look good. Our job was to do things for people so they didn’t have to think about the details. And when we did all of those things it allowed the people to be with their family and friends and share stories. And that is what’s important. Because when people gather together and share the stories it heals their hearts.

So if the rest of the funeral industry wants to spend all their time and money trying to convince people that they need to do things like we used to do them because it will help them with their grief recovery, go right ahead.

But I’m going to spend my time watching what people are doing and listening to what they say. Then I’m going to invest my resources into providing the products and services that they are asking for. So when they say “Just cremate me and then throw a party” I can say to them “That’s great. I know just how to help you with all the details of that party. Let me show you what I can do for you.”

I’m Dale Clock. Thanks for listening.

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