With so much emphasis being placed on preneed both here and elsewhere and all the bandying about how it builds market share and who should be allowed to sell it. It would seem that everyone has forgotten or at least seems to be paying little attention to At-Need. Although I will admit that from time to time someone will pop-up and say, “Remember every Preneed becomes an At-Need”. Personally, I glad I get the reminder because I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Now, since I like to add my own mark on things let me also say weather we like it or not every life ends with a tragedy, it’s going to end badly, everyone dies eventually and that’s where the Funeral Director, the deathcare specialist comes in.
So, now lets take a good hard look at this very complicated individual we call a funeral director. I have been in funeral service at this point, and I hate to say it, over 40 years and have yet to meet a funeral director that has not been friendly, cheerful and out-going. Generally he is civic and community minded; always ready with a helping hand. He is some one who can be just as comfortable eating a Hot Dog from the corner vender as he would be at a Five Star Restaurant. He is someone who is dedicated. (How many doctors do you know that will answer their own phone in the middle of the night?) And, caring to a fault, just ask his wife. Ask her how many dinners went into the trash or parties and gathering she attended with the assurance he would catch-up later all because some one whom he doesn’t know has died. I can remember my own ex-wife, yes, funeral service can and does play havoc on many marriages, saying, “Why do you have to go? What do you have employees for?” An yet to detractors of funeral service he is perceived as a merchant of death, some one who looking to take advantage of anyone when they are most vulnerable.
A funeral director needs to be an individual who is mentally very stable, how else could he go for singing Happy Birthday with his five year old to caring and sympathy almost within the same breath. And yet those same detractor will say, “It’s just and act, he’s a phony.” Perhaps some of it is “act” it has to be. Certainly he has built up defense mechanisms otherwise the psychiatrists office would be standing room only. But, there is never a doubt he is caring and sympathetic. Just ask the families he serves. What I find interesting is, if you were to confront many of those detractors of funeral service and ask if all funeral directors were evil or bad, you would usually get an answer something like, “Well, there are some exceptions. The funeral director that took care of my ______ was simply wonderful. I could not believe how thoughtful and kind he was.” I ask you, “If all those detractors felt that way, where are the bad funeral directors?” I don’t know, maybe they’re on Mars. Okay, I better not die on Mars.
The fact is Preneed or not. When someone dies it’s always the same routine, well not quite. With a preneed you open the file scan it and begin the process of caring for the diseased and perhaps meeting with the family to review those plans they have already decided upon. Preneed is about as close as you’re ever going to get to, “Dying by appointment”
At-need is a whole other story. Everything seems to jump into high gear. Meet with the family. Arrange to pickup the body. Did we ever handle services for this family before? Get out a checklist, can’t afford to let something slip by. Will they want viewing? Which chapel should we use? Is it a big family? Its race, race, race. I’ve got to get ready before they come , I’ve got to make certain _____.
If you’ve ever seen the rehearsal and setting up of the orchestra for a concert you can get a fair understanding of what goes on behind the scenes to be ready when a family comes in for visitation. Perhaps, that why we’re called Funeral Directors.
Short comings and misgiving aside. I’m personally proud to be part of the noble profession.