Top 10 things I’ve learned while working in a funeral home.

Working in a funeral home, I get to see and do a lot of things that your average folks don’t get a chance to do. Some people might view this as a good thing, since no one really dreams of working in a funeral home. Well, being the low percent that did dream that dream, I consider myself to be very blessed. Besides for the fact that I get to help people in a time when they need it most, I’ve learned a lot of good lessons along the way. I feel the need to share some of these lessons with others and that is why I’ve composed this list of my top ten best things that working in a funeral home has taught me.

10. You can never have too many pairs of black shoes.

I’m one hundred percent serious about this one. I wish I’d learned this a little bit sooner than I had. You see, when I started working for Lakeside Memorial Funeral Home, Inc. thirteen months ago, I had three pairs of black shoes. Two were your normal pair of black pumps, the last a pair of black wedges. I’ve broken four pairs of shoes while being employed at Lakeside. I’ve never broken a pair of shoes before working in a funeral home. That’s a pair every quarter. And let me tell you, when you need to find a pair of black high heel shoes that aren’t stripper-ish, it’s impossible. That’s why ladies and gents, if you see a great shoe sale, stock up. Because you’ll never know when they’ll come in handy.

9. Names are important.

People are really uptight about their names. This isn’t always the easiest thing for me, since I had a speech impediment growing up. I’m not kidding. I guess that it got so bad that my parents finally said “Screw it!” and hired this lady to come to the house to teach me how to talk. Well, maybe they didn’t say “Screw it!” but they did hire this lady. I guess it worked because I like to think I can speak just fine, but I do have my moments. This also isn’t always the easiest of things to do when you come into contact with someone of Polish heritage. I got lucky, since my last name is basically Poland with an SKI attached to the back if it. But man, if I get those Z’s C’s and Y’s in there, I’m crying. So what do I do, you ask? Well, when I meet someone, I’ll ask them their names, and here’s the kicker! I’ll actually LISTEN. That’s right! People get offended if you get their names wrong. So take the proper steps to ensure that you won’t.

8. Always wear appropriate clothing for the appropriate situation.

Now, I’ve touched on this before in my There’s a time and a place for CFM shoes, but the funeral home isn’t it. post, but it’s seriously that important. If you’re going to a funeral wear a freaking sport jacket (men). I don’t care if it’s too hot, it’s appropriate and very respectful. If you’re going on a job interview wear a shirt and tie. If your going downtown to drink wear whatever you want because you’ll be drunk within ten minutes anyways. People will judge you. You may argue that it’s 2012 but people will still judge you. And don’t act so surprised because you judge people as well. We’re human and it’s a flaw. I mean, think about it. What would you think if you saw a school teacher wearing seven inch high heel shoes and a skirt cut so short you could see all of Victoria’s secrets? You’re allowed to be yourself. You’re allowed to be unique. But there are still circumstances that require a certain dress code. Please, abide by those dress codes.

7. It’s all about THE attitude.

I look young. I can’t do anything about it unless I pay a lot of money to a doctor to cut into my face and change that. And frankly, I owe too much money for school to worry about it. Plus, have you seen my mother? She’s in her fifties and she doesn’t look a day over forty. So I’m pretty proud to have my awesome genes, even if it means I look eighteen right now. And believe me, I’ve heard it all. People are surprised when they come into the funeral home and see me. I think my favorite line up to date was when I was standing next to my boss and this lady looked at me then looked at him and said, “Well Charles, I didn’t know you were hiring eighth graders!” I’m serious. But do you know what I do? I talk with them. I answer their questions. I hug and comfort them. People have said that I’m wise for my years. I don’t know if I agree with them because the oldest I’ve ever been is twenty-two. But I will say this. When I’m working, I’m in work mode. I can have fun and relax, but I’m dealing with people in a delicate state. That’s why it’s all about your attitude and how you present yourself. If you act professionally and speak professionally, people will take you serious. If you’re confident and can offer knowledge and information people will look to you for guidance.

6. It’s all about YOUR attitude.

I’m fully convinced that any situation can be a positive situation if you let it. I will never ever forget this one experience I had in an arrangement conference. This little old lady had just lost her husband and Mark went over, kissed her cheek and ask how she was doing. She told him “Good!” He said, “Good?” And she goes, “Well yes, you see, you must go on!” If you have the right attitude you can take it one day at a time. The weight of the world may at times seem too much for you to handle. Just remember, keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you do that, you’ll have no where else to go but forward.

5. It’s okay to cry.

Which brings me to my next topic. It’s okay to cry. I remember when my grandmother passed away I didn’t cry. During her wake I didn’t cry. During her funeral I didn’t cry. At least, I didn’t cry until I had to get up to say her Eulogy. Then the tears came. And they poured. I don’t know if I was trying to be strong. I don’t know if I was ashamed. I just know that I didn’t want to cry. Now I cry all the time. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve become emotionally unstable ever since I started to work in a funeral home. I mean, being around sad people all day can defiantly rub off sometimes. But I do know one thing. I’m not that afraid to cry anymore. If I make a mistake at work, I cry because I’m upset at myself. I think this sometimes freaks out Charles, but he lets me cry anyways. He’s a good boss. I always feel so much better after I do. Why would you want to hold in those emotions and just bottle them up? Let them out. You’ll thank yourself later.

4. Be nice to everyone.

You hear this all the time as well, but I know I often forget it. People may be fighting a battle you know nothing about. You’ve heard that said as well. It’s true though. I may have just worked the funeral for that lady’s father who just snapped at you. Unfortunately, some people just don’t know how to deal with their sadness. Please always try to be nice. If everyone honest to goodness treated others as they wanted to be treated this world would really be so much better. And here’s an idea for you. Do one nice thing for a person everyday. It could be paying for someone’s coffee or holding a door open. Nice people really are just so much…nicer.

3. Save money for a rainy day.

If it’s for a broken car, an unexpected bill or to pay for an unexpected death, it’s always good to put a little money aside. I work in a job where I could make crap loads of money one month and next to nothing the next, so it’s a good thing to budget. You know, people don’t die Monday – Friday 8am – 4pm. No, they die whenever they want. Most of the time people like to die in groups so they have pals to hang out with at the funeral home. They also do this so they can look down at me from Heaven and laugh as I pull my hair out trying to get everything done. Or they don’t die at all, leaving me to fiddle my thumbs wondering why the human population decided to all be healthy together. But you get the point. It’s always good to have a little cash stashed, just in case.

2. Always kiss your mom and dad.

Listen. You won’t always have mom and dad there for you. Parent’s grow old and they pass away. Sometimes they don’t even grow old and they still pass away. And teens, let me fill you in on a little secret. You’re not always right. Actually, you’re mostly never right. It will take you a while to learn this unfortunately. And it’s not your fault, you see, you just haven’t seen as many years as your parents have. Life experience really does count for something and they’ve gone through what you’re going through. And even if mom and dad are your enemy right now hug and kiss them anyways. Do it for me. It’ll make them happy. And you’ll be happy you do it, too, because one day you’ll cherish those times you’ve had with them. So you’re welcome, in advance.

1. Love what you do.

This is probably the most important thing I’ve learned so far. My job is more than a job. It’s a vocation, really. I’m on call all the time, and sometimes it drives me crazy. But you know what? I honestly love what I do. And I’m going to be working for a very long time. I’d rather love what I do and have crazy hours and not make as much money rather than working for a job I hate with great hours and a lot of money. Money after all isn’t everything. So love what you do, and be happy. Life is too short. You should be nothing but happy.