In response to the e-mail question posed by a well-known national funeral service consultant, “What do you like most about your profession?” I offer the following thoughts: First, with many choices available today for death care providers and types of services / ceremonies, those in our field must adapt, be pro-active and creative to remain viable. Death care in some form will always be needed, and maybe even more so if future mortality projections hold true.
Recently, we buried a well-known and beloved Catholic priest. After lowering him into the earth, sealing the vault and singing the Salve Regina in unison with some 50 brother priests in attendance, our Bishop approached me and offered these words, “Mark, you and your staff conduct your work with remarkable grace and attention to all the nuances of our tradition. It is impressive and truly beautiful.” A month ago, our firm handled the memorial service for a young man killed in a vehicular accident. The distraught family came to us because of our website. They appeared as total strangers – bewildered, indecisive and broken. They left our care as friends with hugs, gratitude and even an expression of, “you have rescued us from the deepest despair. We’d be lost without you.”
Reflecting on these two fresh experiences of countless over the years, I am hard pressed to imagine another profession where we get to do so much profoundly satisfying work. I suppose medicine and religion are right up there, but ours is more diverse, calling forth multiple skills – technical, theatrical, pastoral to name a few. For me, I’m drawn to the broad job description, having to wear many hats as an owner and practitioner. This work never fails to feed my soul and remind me why I got hooked up with Undertaking in the first place as a college kid. The opportunity to step into the middle of someone’s sad circumstances, connect and develop trust with a family who may be total strangers at the outset, and then to witness a budding friendship after the fact, is awesome and spectacular. In the words of my colleague Frank Dawson of East Liverpool, Ohio, are we going to engage in a “transaction” with our clients OR a “transformation?” The latter is enriching, meaningful and life-changing…..for those we help and for ourselves. The dynamics are the same regardless of the choices people make for services and ultimate disposition. Everyone is a “bag of needs” despite personal tastes and preferences, religious affiliation or cultural background. In many ways we have to work harder today to accommodate the great variety of requests but the payoff is always the genuine gratitude for making some difference as we seek to engage with our client-families at the deepest level. It is a privilege to walk on such “holy ground” day in and day out with those who come into our care. I intend to be about this calling of mine until I can no longer think, walk, remember my own name or draw breath.
Hall-Wynne Funeral Service & Crematory