Mark Allen, Executive Director and CEO
International Order of the Golden RuleWhen I was in elementary school, I discovered that one of my classmates was the child of a funeral home owner. I pitied this attractive, popular girl for having a parent that my 8-year old brain imagined to be a beady-eyed, sallow-skinned man who lurked around a cobwebbed funeral home on dark and stormy nights. One day she invited me to a birthday party at her home. I accepted despite dreading the thought of meeting her creepy father. To my surprise, on the day of her party, a man resembling Will Ferrell, not Bela Lugosi, greeted me at the door. He was funny, charming and warm. This was a funeral director? I couldn’t believe that all those Hollywood movies got it so wrong.
That early experience paid off a few years later when I had the opportunity to work for a trade association for independent funeral homes. I’ve now had the pleasure of meeting thousands of funeral directors. Rarely do I meet one who isn’t friendly, compassionate and caring, yet many adults still describe funeral directors as…well, scary. I believe this perception is a reflection of our attitudes toward death rather than a judgment of people who work in funeral homes. After all, several national polls consistently rank funeral directors in the top 10 of most trusted professionals. I’ve learned that they come in all sizes, shapes, colors and personalities. I also know that caring for families during the worst days of their lives is a calling, a 24/7 lifestyle, and evidence of their deeply-held desire to help others, even when that means sacrificing holidays, birthdays and anniversaries with their own families.
Today many people are unable to articulate why funerals are valuable. No one has explained to them that rites and ceremonies have tremendous power to help families cope with loss, regardless of how traditional or unusual those ceremonies are. Given this lack of information, it’s natural to choose the easiest path. For many, that means skipping any type of funeral ceremony. For others, it means throwing a party that has little connection to the person whose life is being honored and all but ignores the healing value of expressing grief among friends and loved ones. After all, who wants to be a downer at a party?
Acknowledging grief through gatherings that are meaningful to both the deceased and survivors is an essential step toward recovery. Have the Talk of a Lifetime was created to help families and friends start talking about what is most meaningful to them and how they’d like people to reflect on their lives. Not only does Have the Talk offer resources to start these conversations, but it also provides access to a network of funeral and memorialization professionals who are committed to using their expertise to help families create one-of-a-kind ceremonies. With proper guidance and planning, loved ones often find comfort in these ceremonies long after they’ve ended.
While the subject of death will always be at least a little scary for most of us, getting to know a funeral director is not at all scary. In fact, you’ll most likely find knowing them to be comforting and reassuring. Take a moment to find a Talk of a Lifetime expert in your area.