So you want to be an undertaker? Get out your black pens because blue is illegal, make sure the doctor signs off on the cause of death between the lines the first time, and for the love of the dead use spell check. After meeting with the family, put on your liaison hat and begin to file all the paperwork required by your state for a burial or cremation permit.
In addition, you will be fulfilling every promise you made to your families, so make those phone calls ASAP. You may find that most likely, that specific priest will be on vacation, or the pianist may have raised their fee by $200.00 and the church is already booked the day you booked your funeral. Yes, there is stress. Hopefully you are also going to get skilled at embalming. If so, it’s time to go take a moments solace in the prep room. It’s quiet there; always dependably quiet.
Perhaps by now the deceased has arrived at the funeral home and, if the family has chosen to view their loved one, it is a good time to view the body with a mind toward the preparations you are going to have to make. If you were meant for this career, you will feel like it’s Christmas morning as you unwrap the body from the plastic wrapping and sheet. In most states, embalming is not required by law, and generally it is the policy of the funeral home to require embalming for an open casket public service.
For the families you are caring for, it means you are with them from beginning to end, and there is a lot of comfort in that. During the first call you demonstrate to them that you are a capable professional; in the arrangement you will gain their trust, and at the first viewing by the family, you become someone they will never forget. You made grandma look beautiful. She hadn’t looked that pretty since before she became ill. In your desk is a stack of thank you letters verifying their gratitude and trust in you.
If you are an embalmer it’s time to glove up and get down to business. For the next couple hours or so, depending on the condition of the deceased and how they died, you will be getting up close and personal with death. The prep room is part salon and part surgical suite. This is the reason it smells really funny, but this sacred space demands respect and everybody becomes your own kin. You likely never imagined lovingly plucking grandpa’s ear whiskers, or sudsing grandma’s poodle perm, but here you are. What’s even more bizarre is that you take great satisfaction and a sense of pride knowing that you are caring for the dead in the most honorable way possible. You’ll be here too some day; hopefully under the same skilled and kindly care.
At the end of a long day you fall into bed. Only for the phone to ring and for you to pop out of bed, take down the correct information, and be off in your non-descript van with a gurney and a smile.