I had an opportunity to work at two funeral homes in my life, one was for only a year, which was my foot in the door within this industry.
In that year, I learned quite a bit and got to experience tending to visitations, picking up the deceased, driving the hearse, go to and have an opportunity to tour the medical examiner’s building, cremation process and some preparation work. I realized when I could do all of those things and then sit down with an intern for the funeral home while studying for her test to be a director, I was intrigued even more. I really do not think many could read, look at most photos to learn plus snack on Combos (pretzel and cheese), like popcorn at a movie. Wow, but we both did this and discussed matters. I, of course, thinking that night on my long drive home, that this was not normal while smiling because I enjoyed learning and looked forward to working again.
All the while working for this firm, on an as-needed basis, trusting and allowing me to be so involved, it was my desire to be at another funeral home, which was closer to home plus I knew the family owning the funeral homes. I was patient, as I drove to and from, and I would pray telling the Lord of my desires.
One rainy day, with flash flood warnings, and being home tending to our old house and basement area which was having an issue with water backup and draining, I was a mess. A mess not only in frustration trying to solve the issue but standing in water trying to redirect the water to another drain. Of all days, the telephone rings and it is the funeral home I want to work at asking if I could come in for an interview, that day. You bet!
Just that, I proved that I could go from one extreme of a soaked mess to one in a clean, looked like a put together woman and off I went. Strangely enough, I learned through the years in this business, death does happen twenty-four hours a day and those on call are basically like Superman in changing, minus the telephone booth. A telephone booth, I bet most young people today would not even know what that is, now I am really showing my age.
I was hired on a part-time basis, mostly for visitations of opening doors as a greeter for those that come and offer their condolences, keeping the coffee pot full and keep restrooms cleaned and stocked. Other times, before a funeral, it was nothing for me to clean and shine the hearse while wearing a nice suit and in heels. I am woman, hear me roar. Not really, just that I am not afraid to work, scrub and clean. I always worked and gave my all, knowing the Lord would bless me with more. My patience and faith grew trusting He knew the desires of my heart.
My as-needed position being a jack of all trades, I soon graduated into a full time position in the office and still being a jack of all trades. One minute typing and organizing and then helping with other details managing the funeral home. My favorite was when the embalmer would ask for my assistance in the back, in the embalming room. I had two embalmers that taught me how to do embalming, train and allowed me to have hands-on experience, and at all times always out of respect. This is not a position for everyone but I loved every moment of my time at the funeral home, whether in the office, opening doors and tending to visitations and funerals with the public, meeting with and hugging or even praying for those that had just lost a loved one in their time of grief or assisting in the back room wearing my very own lab coat to taking the trash out and sometimes plunging a toilet. I really enjoyed my job and I have so many fond memories of family members and caring for them in their time of need.
My time with this funeral home lasted nine years and I was on my way to be a Funeral Director, which was my next step and discussed at my yearly review, to serve my apprenticeship. In my life then or that year, my marriage was basically dead so I myself was dealing with grief, but of the living in my marriage. Due to family issues of not just one but two estates and being the Executrix of each, several in the immediate family would have loved to see me dead due to their greed and bitterness. At times, you can only take so much and emotionally I was a wreck. I learned quite well how to leave my bucket of tears at the door when coming in for work. I could not be an emotional mess greeting grieving families so wearing a mask became a part of my life. Strangely enough, I was trained in my childhood of how to stuff my feelings so in a way, this helped me in my employment, as I learned later in counseling. It was when I answered the telephone one day, I held it up to my right ear and realized I could not feel my ear or the side of my face, as it was numb and now I had a ringing in my ear. I flicked my ear and cheek with my finger, feeling nothing.
Thankfully, I knew an ENT due to my son’s previous sinus issues and he saw me that day, I believe. After testing, my hearing was okay and he ordered a MRI. I received a call soon after from his office to come in ASAP, which was not a good sign. I had a stroke, I was only forty-seven years old. Remember all the stress mentioned, apparently my blood pressure was soaring through my family member calling and harassing me at work often and at home, along with everything else, which all added up.
With all the stress and pressure, now knowing I had a stroke, I knew that if I did not leave the funeral home, I would soon be on the table in the back room myself. The funeral home business is quite stressful, more than people realize. My dream of being a funeral director was not worth losing my life over, or leaving my boys.
The Lord is so good and if you acknowledge Him in your daily walk, He is real, He is there and will He will help you. I am living proof. During this time, a friend of mine called me about her office position as she was leaving and asked if I would be interested, and I interviewed with her boss. It was the worst interview I had ever done, I was at a low point in my life, my health was suffering and in so many other ways. I felt as though I was a walking zombie each day. As I walked toward the office, I just said a short prayer, Lord it is up to you. I had no joy, I felt totally hopeless after being verbally beaten down to a pulp from a few family members, I had a husband that was non-existent emotionally and my only hope was in the Lord and living for my boys. My present boss, now of twelve years, hired me that day.
Many times though, when driving especially, I have fear. There was news this week of two families reported of their car being hit and death of all four on contact. In a second, our life can end. Having a stroke thirteen years ago, fear of having another one is always on the back of my mind, especially if I get a rare headache or a tingle in my face, my A-Fib starts or just knowing I could die at anytime. Fear! Getting older plays a part in this also. Within the funeral business, I have heard and witnessed a lot, knowing I am not exempt or is my family and fear grips me and the enemy loves when I almost totally become a ball of nerves with anxiety and freeze in this fear.
I am thankful that I know to snap out of this negative-fear mentality, as it is just that, fear. Can all those fears happen? Certainly, but most are lies and we must live our life in faith, knowing that whatever we face, the Lord will be with us and will go through any heartache, grief, death, etc., as He is with us also in our joy, peace and daily life. I cannot dwell on death, I want to live. Even more today than ever.
So, I often wonder if my experience of my work history in the funeral business warped me. Maybe though, it was to make me more fully aware that I am to live life to its fullest.
Faith/Fear vs. Life/Death — I choose FAITH and LIFE
Please Note: If you have read my blog and experiencing grief due to a recent or present loss, please accept my condolences. Just know that there is no time limit in the grieving process.