Professional Funeral Provider Offers Insight into the Business

by M-Gillies

One will also learn ways to uniquely honor their loved ones and learn the secrets of an industry that for decades has operated in the shadows of our society.

The process is daunting, the experience emotional and while it happens more often than not, that taboo subject known as death tends to make most people grimace with discomfort each time it’s brought up. And rightfully so. Despite death being a phenomenon that has occurred for over a billion years, there has never been a crash course 101 guidebook in how to deal with, prepare for and organize a funeral, unless of course, you’re the funeral director.

It’s hard enough when suddenly we’re propelled into this emotional roller coaster ride upon the news of a loved one’s death, but the icing on the cake, that tipping point between emotional stability and uncontrollable breakdown is a sensitive teeter when bombarded with the overwhelming decisions of deciding whether to cremate or bury our loved one; inter them above ground or below; purchase a casket, vault or urn; decide if there is going to be a viewing, a service and then organize a time, place, music, transportation vehicle, well, let’s just stop there and admit, it feels endless, and when you’re grieving, it’s agonizingly strenuous.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Between the time of a death and the time of a service, few people realize the process that occurs while we’re busy arranging payments, contacting family and arranging dates for viewing and interment. However, Ryan M. Lee, an experienced professional in the funeral service industry, has highlighted the flaws and strengths of an industry everyone will use at one point or another, and further shows the susceptible vulnerabilities we experience as we’re faced with the vital decisions for our loved ones in his best-selling novel A Day in the Life of Death: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Mortuary Business.

Lee a veteran in the field of the mortuary business, began his career at the age of 17, when he took on a second job doing night removals to earn some extra cash. With his mother working as a nurse and his father a social worker, it wasn’t a surprise that Lee had been drawn to a field as a professional caregiver. In fact, for Lee, it was a job that he greatly enjoyed.

But for Lee, as a progressive and forward-thinking professional in the industry, he has noticed an impact affecting the funeral service industry. In the United States alone, the third largest purchase a person will make next to buying a home and a vehicle has been a funeral, but there is a difference between the purchase of a funeral and that of a home and vehicle.

“Most people will do a considerable amount of research before buying their home and cars,” Lee said. “Yet, there is a large disconnection with consumers when it comes to planning for a purchase that on average will total more than seven thousand dollars.”

With A Day in the Life of Death, Lee takes his readers on a journey through the funeral industry with an engaging, honest and compassionate narrative explaining the process of arranging a funeral.

“I complied parts of my book as a practical guide for those who know little to nothing about the mortuary business, to assist them in knowing what to expect, what questions to ask, what to look for in a funeral service provider and I also answer the questions that I am most frequently asked by people not associated with the funeral industry,” Lee said.

From how to embalm a body and pre-arranged funerals to how to save money and how to have the perfect funeral, Lee unveils an industry that for years seemed like an exclusive golden goose.

“(People) who are not familiar with the funeral business will gain greater insight into what services they actually receive in exchange for their money,” Lee said of A Day in the Life of Death. “Consumers will be granted the intellectual permission to question charges, negotiate prices and understand what not to attempt to do on their own.”

Lee, a promoter of do-it-yourself projects, stated that while there are some things a person may do on their own, the trick is to understand all aspects and avenues required before someone can undertake a project on their own.

“This book was written to inform the general public and to assist them in feeling more comfortable with their surroundings when working with their local funeral home,” Lee said.

Despite the book being a tool for the day-to-day individual, Lee ascertains that funeral professionals can benefit from his information also.

“Funeral professionals who read A Day in the Life of Death will gain insight in market trends, consumer behaviour and discover ways to better communicate with their clientele.” Lee said. “Those who are curious about the business or are even interested in possibly making the funeral business a career will gain valuable insight into what the day-to-day life of a mortician is like. People with such interests learn what questions to ask themselves before applying to Mortuary College or applying for employment with their local funeral home.”

And it is important to understand the questions. For Lee, who has been working in the profession for over 15 years as well as being a frequent editorial contributor and member of the advisory board for Funeral Business Advisor Magazine, his experience and dedication to the field is an indication of how funeral directors conduct services with their clientele.

“Funeral arrangers and directors are not trained therapists or counsellors, however they are often wonderful caregivers who direct families to the resources that will assist them,” Lee said. “Funeral service providers want to help the grieving and often times will do everything in their power to assist them, more often than not, funeral service professionals will point families in the right direction for assistance on matters that they are either prohibited from assisting families with or services that they are not qualified to perform.”

As Lee points out, it is routine for funeral service professionals to apply for Social Security Survivor Benefits’ on behalf of surviving spouses or completing the necessary forms to apply for reimbursement of funeral expenses from the Victim of Violent Crimes Fund and ensuring that the family of a veteran receives a flag, graveside military honour, a military grave marker, and interment in a National Cemetery free of charge.

While the aspect of having to deal with a death is the last thing anyone wants to think about, A Day in the Life of Death is Lee’s way of separating the ache of bereavement from the business of death.

“It’s difficult for people to feel comfortable in new surroundings and that tendency is amplified following the death of a spouse, parent or other loved one,” Lee said. “It is my hope that A Day in the Life of Death will help consumers feel comfortable and empowered while making the third largest purchase that they will make in their lifetime.”

Through empowering consumers in making educated decisions about their funeral options, Lee admits that “Personalization is the only way that the funeral industry will stay relevant. No one wants to attend the funeral service of a loved one and feel as if they wouldn’t have known whose funeral they just attended had they not been provided with a memorial folder at the door.”

Even Lee has taken into consideration how he would like his sendoff conducted, though he understands that some of his requests may require his family to contact Central Casting.

“I have planned a semi-traditional funeral service, combining my eulogy with the faith-based message, however, the music selected will be eclectic. My current musical selections are Gathering Flowers for the Masters Bouquet, none of my family or friends has ever heard the song, but I would love to have a female vocalist with a soft Georgian accent sing at my funeral,” Lee said. “I would also like to have an African-American gospel choir sing Eye of the Sparrow and finally, I would like the service to close with the early American western pioneer hymn All is Well.”

While Lee would prefer his interment to be private, he mentioned he’d like to have a memorable grave marker with a witty remark such as “I told you I was sick,” or “Either get off my grave or lose a few pounds.” Despite these seemingly odd requests, Lee also mentioned that he had thought about hiring B-list celebrities to attend the function just to add variety and distraction.

“I guess that is one of the advantages of dying in Los Angeles.”

Read more: | A Day In The Life Of Death

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