Day 1 in a funeral home

What a day . No photos because… that didn’t seem respectful.

Unsurprisingly I’m exhausted after my first day back working. It didn’t help that I didn’t find it easy to fall or stay asleep last night either. It started with a hiccup – the wrong express train! I was due at Lidcombe at 8:30 to try on and collect the parent brand uniforms. Thankfully, everything I needed was available in my size: skirt, pants, dress, three identical tops, a blazer, a trench coat, a cardigan, a belt, 2 of 5 pairs of stockings and leather gloves and a black hat. All in black. Most of the suiting pieces in wool too! If I’d been a white lady, there was even pearl earrings and necklaces!! (In addition to white and fawn everything).

At 10, I was collected by my equivalent – I’m coming on board to halve her heavy burden and work load. She was taking me to watch a funeral and talk me through what I was seeing. We watched the matriarch and brand ambassador conduct a priest’s funeral – a conductor doesn’t run the service – that’s for a priest or a celebrant. Then there’s a hearse driver, who the conductor travels with. Then there’s any number of mourning cars, whether internal or hired cars with drivers, who collect the family or nearest and dearest.

After the service, there was a light lunch in the parish hall. After that, those closest to the deceased continue onto the cemetery for the burial. First for me – never been to a grave side. The hearse comes up to the grave site which has been pre dug. The conductor asked if the family and friends wanted to carry the coffin this one last time (it is wheeled into and out of the church on little concertina device).

From there, we all returned to our base. A garage that fits a surprising number of vehicles, wow, tricky parking, that’s for sure. Above the garage is where the stock of coffins are, where they are trimmed and prepared. When they are selected for a service, they have the decorative handles and thumb screws added, as well as a cross as appropriate.

On the other side of the laneway from the garage is the larger building with the office – full of arrangers. These are the people who meet the family and prepare all the details. It’s an old building, so it’s a real collection of rooms and corridors and stairs.

I’ve met most of my team – I met two at the funeral, one the hearse driver and the other a mourning car driver. Back at base, I met the person filling in for the mortician who is on holidays currently, plus two other men. They are all older than me – which did not surprise me (but the reverse may not be true!). One or two of the men have been in the industry for 20ish years, but the balance have 1-2 years experience, like my boss.

At around 4pm, after having a lovely afternoon tea brought over by the recruiters who brought me on board, the men went home, I did some final paperwork, and then had what I assume is an early mark. Not a minute too soon! I am feeling it after so many hours on my feet!

5 Replies to “Day 1 in a funeral home”

  1. Sarah, how amazing! What a contrast to your old job! I’ll admit it…I’m hook, line and sinker fascinated by the death industry. Last funeral I attended was several weeks ago and I just marvelled at the comfort they brought the family; the calm, soothing, remarkable way they eased such raw pain with dulcet tones, elegant eulogies and perfect handling of all details. Look forward to hearing much more!

    1. I’m cautious not to publish anything that might get me into any sort of strife – and also managing what I know can be emotional and very taboo for others. I’m glad to have some friends who are able to handle my dark humour and fascinating learnings. Perhaps I can set up a ‘ask me anything’ style of post, where readers can propose the questions – that at least guides what I talk about?

  2. I have to admit, I’m a little confused by this sentence: “If I’d been a white lady, there was even pearl earrings and necklaces!!” Is a white lady a position name? Someone who dresses in lighter attire in the industry?

    1. Oh sorry Cassie! Context is EVERYTHING! White Lady is a national funeral brand in Australia, and it’s tag line is something like ‘a woman’s touch’. Every part of their business has women involved (even the behind the scenes stuff). They wear (not surprisingly!) a white uniform, with a burgundy hat and shoes, and gloves. Whereas, the other brands in the big company wear more traditional black and navy.

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