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This week I received a message from a former student of mine who today is a success in our profession (no thanks to me having been his professor). His message caught my attention and once again I sat in my office asking myself questions about the state of the state of this great profession.
Here is the situation my former student encountered. In one week two former casket company sales representatives and executives from two separate casket companies died and my former student received the call to serve both families. I gleaned from his message that these two men had worked in the casket world for decades, and between the two many decades of work had taken place, and I was of the thinking that thousands of casket had been sold to funeral directors who in turn sold them to bereaved families.
Both casket representatives were immediately cremated. No casket, no embalming, no flowers, and no nothing save for the incineration of the dead human remains, and an instruction from the descendents of both families concerning the disposition of the cremated remains. There you have it in a nutshell, and this made me start thinking.
I have the firm conviction that it is anyone’s absolute right to choose what they want. No question, I mean this is American – freedom reigns supreme. The funeral profession and cemetery activities will not fold up because two former casket sales reps, or someone else for that matter, decided to do what anybody finally decides to do. Options and alternatives are quite popular in our society today and the insightful funeral profession offers scads of options and alternative. This decision concerning the two casket representatives is not the end of the world. There are many more important issues confronting the human experience than what happened to two casket reps who sold caskets thousands of times.
However this situation just started my brain thinking again about the state of the state of this world of death that we all live in. Here are some unanswered questions that I have, and as I always like to learn stuff about my profession, so I openly ask for anybody reading this to jump in the deep end of the pool and educate this old fat grumpy undertaker as to why these things continue to go on. Remember these questions come from Todd, so don’t expect too much sophistication.
Here are some questions:
1. Why would someone who has sold caskets for decades to hundreds of funeral directors upon their own death would not utilize a casket?
2. Why would a funeral director, who has conducted hundreds and in some cases thousands of funerals in their career, upon their own death not have a funeral? I remember several times in my own limited career that some mighty prominent funeral directors died and nothing was done. No ritual, no ceremony, nothing. Why? Does this not strike anyone else out there funeral land as something to question? When a funeral director does not have a funeral for themselves what kind of a message is sent to the community that they have served faithfully for years? Is it not an oxymoron, the funeral director might just not like funerals?
3. Why it is less expensive to cremate a dead human body than to dig a grave usually? Crematories require thousands and thousands of dollars of equipment and facility investments, and cremation requires certifications, training and expensive on-going maintenance, and has significant liability and is a time consuming procedure, and then the post cremation activities are involved and requires meticulous attention to detail, but yet to dig a hole in the ground with a mechanical digger, which takes much less time than to cremate, and if the grave, God forbid, is dug in the wrong place the error can be quickly corrected (an error in cremation cannot be corrected), and there seems to be no certification and formal training to dig a grave, so why does this cost more money than to cremate?, And if you die and want a burial on a week-end the cost can be ten times what a cremation costs to accomplish. So here is my question: why is digging a grave so much more expensive than cremating a dead body?
4. Why is it that embalming a dead human body is cheaper than digging a grave? A dead human body was alive, lived life, and influenced others. In some religions the human body is sacred. Learning the art and science of embalming is not a snap. It takes time, several years of college education, mentorship, internships, study, examinations (tons of them) skill, knowledge and expertise. Embalming a dead human body appears to me to be ten times more intricate and requires ten times more skill and knowledge than it does to dig a hole in the ground, no matter how important that grave might be. Why is this?
These are four questions that just baffle me, and I ask for and am extending the right arm of fellowship to any reader that can help me fill in the blanks concerning this stuff. I am obviously missing something here, but then missing stuff happens to me all the time.
I am asking for insight, for education, for your thoughts out there in the funeral/cemetery world, and please don’t give a thought if your answers establish that the person (me) who generated these questions is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, many people have concluded that fact years ago. Your thoughts, honest candid thoughts, are welcomed, and at my stage of life and career, well, folks, when you have been shot with seventeen arrows the eighteenth one does not hurt very much. I hope to hear from many of you good folks.