Who wants to be a funeral director?
Apparently, being a twenty-two year old female who works in a funeral home is kind of a hot topic. Or so my mom says. She always tells me how her friends and co-workers are fascinated by the fact that I work with dead people. Yeah, like I haven’t heard that before. (Refer back to “Why would you want to work with dead people?” or click here: https://littlemissfuneral.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/20/) Anyways, Erie Community College hosted this Career Fest today for local kids and families who wanted to go searching for their future profession. Being the interesting gal that I am I was asked to work it. Now, I’ve done some Health Expos with my funeral firm, but nothing like this. In the past, all I had to do was put on my best pair of funeral shoes, wear a dashing smile and let my sparkling personality do the rest. People like to talk to me for some reason. Or maybe I just like to talk to people and they’re just being polite. Anyways, this was different. I had to tell kids why they should be a funeral director.
Now, when I tell people why I wanted to be one they still look at me like my head is on fire. Even after I explain the extreme satisfaction I get out of my job and why I do it, they basically just nod their heads in agreement to please me. Most of the time, I had parents asking me questions while their kids day dreamed next to them. Some promising youth we have! Even though I knew they had no interest in talking to me, and would probably have rather spent the rest of their lives picking up dog poop then touching a dead person, they could have humored me.
Now, maybe you’re wondering what New York State requires a person to do before they become a licensed funeral director. At least most parents wanted to know. Well, reader, I’m glad you asked! Let me give you a quick lesson.
New York State requires you to have at least an Associate Degree in Funeral Services. There are about six or seven schools within New York State that offer that major. I don’t know about you, but with the list of schools so small, I would almost think that New York doesn’t like to teach about death. This may just be me being overly judgmental about my field of study and how other view it, though. After you graduate your choice of school with your two year degree, you are required to take a National Board Exam. Lucky for you it’s split into two sections. They are The Arts section and the Science section. It doesn’t matter which you take first. Oh, you passed your National Board Exam? Congratulations! You can now begin your required one year residency at a funeral firm that must be approved by the New York State Bureau of Funeral Directing. Pick a good one, because you can either be washing cars and making coffee runs or actually be doing real grown up funeral work for the next year. I got lucky and got the second. After your year, you have one final test. You have to take a New York State Law Exam. I’m currently studying for it. Have you ever read a law book? Well, pick one up and feel my pain. And if you think laws on dead people are any more exciting than normal law, you are horribly, horribly mistaken. Now, if you do things right, you could actually be a licensed funeral director in three years. That’s not so bad if you think about it.
It’s still hard to convince kids to do it. Sure, not a lot of school work is required, but you better believe a lot of physical and emotion work is. No set schedule and long hours are hard to sell to kids when all they want to do is make a lot of money doing nothing. I’m convinced laziness will be the downfall of humanity.
My night turned around however, when I met this young lad. I asked him if he ever considered being a funeral director, and he informed me that he had. I asked him how old he was. Fifteen. That made me smile, being I was a ripe old thirteen when I first told my parents my choice of career. I probably talked with this kid for a good twenty minutes. Actually talked. He wasn’t bored and he wanted to be there. That’s a miracle in itself. Oh wait! I didn’t even tell you the best part! He was mostly interested in embalming. Do you know how many kids are interested in embalming? Well, no normal ones. And he was dressed like a nice little fifteen year old boy, and he had no visible piercings or tattoos and he could speak in full sentences, so I mean, yeah, this kid was a winner. He even asked me how I knew how much color dye to put into the embalming solution to give a deceased person a natural color. I wanted to sit there and hug him and cry. I’m not even sure if my boyfriend knows what I’m talking about if I mention aspirating (It’s a part of the embalming process). Here is this boy, who actually knows the embalming process to an extent and different aspects that go into it. And he actually wanted to know more. It can’t get much better than that.
In my opinion, the best funeral directors are the ones that are always learning. If you are a funeral director, who works in a funeral home, and this is how you do things because this is how you’ve always done them, then please just retire already. Because you’re not going to get anywhere. Last time I checked, each family and death is different. That means different styles and different procedures. What works for one family doesn’t work for another. Death is not a “one size fits all” category. Read a grief book, talk to another funeral director, get different ideas and be open to change. Please be open to change. Because families nowadays want personal. They want a funeral custom to their situation. And if you’re not willing to work with them because what they ask is unfamiliar, then who are you helping? Funeral directors are in a service industry. If we can’t properly serve our families, then what the heck are we doing?
This young man, he had a thirst to learn more. And that made my night worth it. Because one day, he might be the future of the funeral profession. And if he has this drive now, well, I just pray to God that he doesn’t lose it. Because it’s very refreshing. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll end up being a funeral director.