The death of a celebrity has throngs of the curious and fans emotionally involved in a life only seen at a distance and through filters. Regardless of our personal thoughts about Michael Jackson or Walter Cronkite their passing was a family loss. Friends of a lifetime shed tears with those left behind.
The differences between celebrity and the man on the street deaths are little to the families we serve. The insecurity and fear are palpable. Hushed conversations invade our facilities. We are relied upon to insure the wishes of the deceased and the family is realized. The trust that is handed to us mostly by strangers empowers us creating obligations and responsibilities rarely offered.
In place of hordes of grief stricken strangers seeking recognition of a life now passed our profession demands we acknowledge the identity of the deceased. Representing the family we seek to honor the deceased in memories and stories that provide reflection and comfort. We are family historians.
We are judged, and create life long relationships by our success in fulfilling the wishes of others. Though we constantly stand in the shoes of the families we serve calloused responses never define us. Each life brought to us becomes part of our own. As others bring a new life into the world, our profession comforts those who have a life that has departed.
When we serve families of ordinary people rather than the famous we replace the crowds. By doing so our obligation is harder for we replace throngs through our individual participation. In the end it is the families who determine whether we have served our purpose. Instead of public fanfare we realize our true purpose by a gracious handshake and a heartfelt thank you.