Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Post Two Hundred and Seventeen: Until Then.

Love. Love hard, and without hesitation. Love your way. Connect with love, because when everything else fails be it with your environment or your dollar bills or your mental and physical health or your material distractions, true and honest love will be the only thing that you will wish not to let fall from your fingers if you have just a minute left to live.

After five years of burying and cremating people, this is what I've gathered as my richest insight. I have substantial evidence that through the height of our grief for each dead or dying person, the legacy that one leaves behind seems to perpetuate the balance of pain and happiness for us left, for those still living. 

Directing memorial events, washing, treating, suturing, dressing and coffining dead bodies, giving information and assistance to grieving people, driving hearses and body transport vehicles; these are tasks that the average funeral director may execute every day. Sadly though, a funeral directors role (or at least in Australia), is considered an unskilled labour. The salary is underwhelming, the hours can be unbearable, and the support systems hollow.

Now hear me in this. Funeral directors in Australia do what they do as a sacrifice, be it for good or for something else entirely. An individual collecting trolleys at the supermarket brings home $5 an hour more than the professional who might collect your grandma from her deathbed. The funeral director who will roll her gently with dignity and respect to tuck a sheet around her. Who places a rose on her chest as a gesture of appreciation before taking her into their care. Who will answer your calls in their own time at the gym, at the supermarket, at their child's birthday party, at the dinner table, on the toilet, while they are supposed to be getting sleep. The funeral director who will clean your grandmother's soiled body and rest her with care as if she is in fact their own family member and still an individual walking amongst us. And this is just the beginning of the relationship between funeral director, funeral commissioner and deceased person. With little care of sounding conceited, I sure as hell believe that the role of the funeral director is in fact one of immense skill and great dedication. I sure as hell believe that a funeral director should be respected as the professional that they could and should aspire to be.

There is always a but, and this blog entry cannot escape such extension. Not all funeral directors feel such motivation in their role. Some seem to not think about death, or loss, or love. They go through the motions, generally well. They wear the same suits and drive the same vehicles, but their disconnection to reality and the gravity of their role in the life and in the death of others seems to pass them by unawares. Perhaps this is why some aspects of traditional funeral custom are slowly changing due to consumer awareness and rejection, and thus the antiquated views of the stern male funeral director in tails and a top hat, smoking outside the chapel are slowly being shaken off.

I quit my job as a funeral director on Friday.

I have resigned from this career because my understanding of my potential as a funeral director has divorced from how the varying duties can be honestly and ethically executed within the current Australian death care system.  It has been a difficult decision to step aside from my experience and a unique skill set. It is disappointing that I have to start from scratch, perhaps doing something that I am not as intrinsically excited and inspired by, because the basic conditions of the job have not allowed for my pursuit of self actualisation. I would stay in the job, but I cannot honestly do that without my basic needs being met. I need to grow, I need to be able to pay the bills and save up to pursue my goals, and I need to be able to rely upon the experience and dedication of other funeral directors who should by the very nature of the role share the same altruistic traits as myself. It is sad, and maybe I'm a giant wanker for expecting others to meet me up there, but I expect the highest standards of a business that makes money from such an unavoidable circumstance as death.

It's not there yet. When it is, I'll be back. 

Until then, unless it kills me in the mean time,

Peace and love.


  1. Always beautifully expressed, I'll be sad to see you go, but walk out the door and run towards your life. xxx Bless.

  2. May you find the fulfillment in your new vocation that we all deserve to experience every day. I have left good jobs for a lot of the same reasons; you did the right thing.

  3. A very enjoyable piece. I'd send it to the minister for death & aging, but they haven't thus far proven they show these sentiments. More thrust into the role on the way to something else. Although they have little funding. This will be an election issue in 5 yrs, you should perhaps be an advocate for change in the department? Change careers by changing your old career perhaps.

  4. Bummer. But reading your posts these last few months was showing that you were increasingly moving away from it. It looked like too much stress was being put on your well being. You can't let death overshadow your life.