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I have been asked several times over the years about the hardest part of being a funeral director. Being a funeral director is challenging enough; to own and operate a funeral home in a very small town adds to the complexity of answering this question. I had an older mortician friend of mine tell me once, "you don’t bury your enemies". The deeper meaning of what he said is one of the toughest parts of what I do for a living. Consider these three points:
I bury my friends and family. Over the past twenty plus years of working in the funeral industry I have personally cared for family members, former employees, my pastor, and many friends. It’s a difficult thing to wear two hats at the same time – as one who is grieving and one that must be the professional in charge. There’s a fine line between expressing feelings of grief and maintaining professionalism in my job as a funeral director.
It’s common to hear workers in my field say that providing services for the young are the hardest thing they deal with. For me, I’ve had situations that were extremely hard to deal with involving angels that were taken far too early. But at the same time, also extremely hard to deal with has been witnessing the young express their grief in the presence of one they’ve lost; perhaps for me that has been even tougher.
There are days I don’t work but I can't clock out; I live death 365 days a year. My obligation to the profession, for over twenty years, has been virtually 24/7. My time has, with few exceptions, never been my own. There is no hour my phone hasn’t rang, no hour I haven’t left my home and family to serve another, no holiday that has been exempt. I totally accepted this requirement when I took on the work – so did my family. Over my career I have had three traditional vacations. That’s not only been hard on me but also the family that supports me. This career demands a sacrifice of time and putting the needs of others before the needs of your own.
Am I complaining? Certainly not; I love what I do and consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to step into a family’s life at the worst time…and help make it a little bit easier to deal with. Of all the things that make it "tough" or "hard to deal with" one thing makes it all worthwhile – a simple expression of thanks. Sometimes it’s immediate, other times it’s a year later when I meet someone I’ve served in the grocery store. It doesn’t matter and it never gets old; knowing I’m making a difference makes it worth every sacrifice. Now, back to work…