Why I work in the funeral industry…

Posted on June 30, 2023 by Rev. Pam Reidy under death, Miles Funeral Home
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Recently I met someone new who casually asked what I did for work. When I responded that I work in funeral care, the woman quickly countered, “Why on earth do you work in a funeral home when you could work in so many other places?” I acknowledged that funeral care is something everyone needs and no one wants, and that she is correct in concluding the average person doesn’t hold the funeral industry in high regard. I countered that these circumstances don’t deter me in the least. She wondered if it’s depressing to always have death on your mind or if being around death made me fear mine. These were great questions that I enjoyed discussing. Thinking about my work renewed my desire to do it well.

The intrinsic rewards that come from accompanying people through the hardest days of their life are immeasurable. Grieving souls are so generous in sharing their pain, so trusting in allowing someone they have never met to guide them through the pain of loss. Being with the dead and those who grieve them has shown me the preciousness of our time on earth, the positive influence one person can have on another, and the natural need humans have to connect deeply with others. Being so close to death all the time has caused me to wonder, not fear, the mystery of life beyond this world. The opportunity to face the magnitude of life each day is a gift of the profession.

Most people quickly conclude that working around death is morose, but death has much to teach about life. Life is short, life is good, life is an opportunity, and above all – life is precious. My desire to work with in funeral care stems from a deep belief in humanity, from a strongly held conviction that each life is a gift and that when someone dies it is good to pause to contemplate that life, to honor them, and to comfort those whose loss is deep. In the face of losing someone deeply loved, each person has a right to good grief support. This includes proper disposition of the body, rituals that express the significance of that life, and accompaniment that is helpful and sympathetic. I am proud to work with a team of professionals whose mission is to provide funeral care that is personal, meaningful, and is carried out with deep concern and expertise.

As with any job, we weigh its challenges against the good that we can do while finding personal  meaning.  As a minister, the work I choose to do must also fit into my vocation to serve. My new acquaintance inquired why I wasn’t working in a church, hospital, or prison, – “Why,” she asked, “of all places a funeral home?” I told her it comes down to using the same measure I have used for any other job I have held. It is articulated well by Parker Palmer in his book, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, as he says, “Vocation is the place where your greatest gifts, meet the world’s greatest need.” At the end of the day, the best answer to the woman’s query, is that I work in a funeral home because my gifts are needed, because I receive the reward of experiencing life as meaningful, and because people need to grieve loss well and make peace with death.





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