Only a Mortician Thinks About…

I imagine every career set has little details that only professionals in that field ever really consider. I bet cosmetic surgeons look at everyone and consider how they might “fix” them, or how to replicate them. Stoneworkers and masons look at every stone job they see with a critical eye. Was that job done right? Maybe a certain stone should have gone somewhere else.

I’m still green in the mortuary business. I’ve been at it nearly a year now. But sometimes my own thoughts as a newbie make me laugh, and make me wonder. Well here are some of the lovely little thoughts that go through a funeral director’s mind throughout a given day:

“I wish I was doing that celebrity funeral.” When Nancy Reagan passed recently I was fascinated by her funeral. A friend asked me if I was experienced enough to handle such a big event as that. Honestly I don’t know, but I sure would like to try, or I would have liked to help. Then sometimes I think of other funerals in the past, before I was an FD, and consider what those FD’s did to put them together. Imagine what I would do with a Michael Jackson funeral! I would really like to do Alice Cooper when the time comes. Should Vince ever read this (Alice’s real name) I hope he gives me a preneed, because I’ve been a lifelong fan.

“I wish I was licensed in a different state, to help a special someone.” This one hit me hard with the death of my father. He lived in New York. I am licensed in California. There was nothing I could do to help other than offer to help with the paperwork etc.. When a family member dies I feel helpless, we probably all do. But to have the skill set to assist my mom with dad’s arrangements, and not be able to execute any of them, with the care and perfection that I hope the NY mortuary Wattengel Funeral Home, used… well that’s a whole different level of helplessness.

“That person is going to be hard to handle.”  It’s not a weight thing, though weight plays into it for sure! Some folks are just built differently or have handicaps that make it difficult to provide aftercare. At the Las Vegas airport last year I sat confounded, watching a double amputee male who was quite robust. When the time comes (and it will for all of us) the funeral home he chooses will have some real difficulties picking him up, transporting him, he may even need a custom casket. My mind wanders to questions like “Should our funeral home charge more for truly difficult removals? Would that be ethical? Do they even make caskets that would fit him?” Well, with the caskets anyhow, the answer is yes. Custom caskets are very much available in all sorts of sizes and weights.

“How does she do her makeup/hair like that?”  Care and preparation of a body for a funeral service is one of my favorite parts of my job. It’s hard to describe, but if you’ve ever helped a bride or groom get ready for their big special day, it’s a lot like that. All eyes will be on the person you’re preparing. Everything needs to be just right. This may be how many family members remember your case. It will certainly be how everyone judges your service as a funeral director… Sometimes it’s HARD AS HECK to get a lady’s hair just right.

There are other details too. Some less printable. We think about smells a lot. Pacemakers. Bionic knees and ankles. Organ donation.

But that’s the gist of it.



Funeral Etiquette: Is it okay to share funeral pictures on Facebook?

This funeral is making waves on social media:

Mom Shares Photo of Her Husband’s Open Casket to Show the Realities of Drug Abuse

Funeral etiquette varies from place to place, from culture to culture, and it even varies within the sects of individual religions. Funeral etiquette can change rapidly too. Just within the last century professional embalming has changed the entire funeral process. In our media focused culture, it isn’t surprising that someone would post funeral pictures on social media. What is shocking about this photo is the smiling faces on herself and the children. That’s what offends people.

According to the article Eva Holland in Ohio says she is trying to make a statement about the realities of drug addiction. She shared a photo of herself and her children beside her husband’s open casket, smiling. Since she posted the pic it has been shared more than 250,000 times as of 9/16/2015. Some viewers have commented that she is brave for posting it. Others are upset at the idea.

I do think this is an awkward memory to make and share, your smiling face at a family member’s casket. It does lead to the idea that you’re happy he’s passed away. I’m sure someone out there is going to make a snarky comment about insurance money. And I’m not entirely sure the grinning faces do anything for her message that addiction leads to tragedy. There’s nothing tragic looking about the pic. They look pretty happy.

While this instance is a little off-putting I don’t think there’s anything wrong with funeral photos on social media. Assuming the pics are tasteful and respectful. But that leads to the question, would you want a picture of your deceased self floating around social media? Personally, if the embalmer did a good job and I look gorgeous, I don’t think I’d mind. But please no smiling.