Ed Horn's picture


Having completed Dan Brown’s newest novel, Symbols it occurs to me how our profession is dependent upon them. Reliance upon symbols is universal. Though many do not comprehend the significance of symbols we all rely upon them.
Symbols can be translated to mean signs or secret language. They are often ciphers that we recognize accepting their meaning. The Madison Avenue equivalent is “branding” or the passé “logo”. Few among us fail to identify the polo player on a charging pony as Ralph Lauren.
The apocryphal story of Betsy Ross sewing the flag of our nation as a symbol to rally the troops while earning the hearts and minds of the Colonists to the cause of liberty was a necessary step in the forging of the United States.  History is full of events centered upon rallying to a symbol. Remember the Alamo!
The recent news that Wal-Mart will sell caskets may be upsetting to those who rely upon the sale of caskets to turn a profit. Yet our profession is much more than commodity sales. Perhaps Wal-Mart’s decision to enter the marketplace will spur those who are reliant upon commodities to alter their business models.
Michael Kubask statements in Ed Defort article of October 3rd entitled “Star Legacy, Casket Supplier to Wal-Mart” understands that this alleged threat is of no consequence when viewed appropriately. Kubask is quoted saying, “It is evident that anyone can supply a casket, but very few people or companies have the skill, the ability to provide the sensitive, expertise and the experience and the know-how that funeral practitioners possess in dealing with death and helping say goodbye.”
We tailor our services to the Clients we serve. Diversity of cultures, religious beliefs, ethnic and racial expectations demand we listen and respond. We are required to provide a meaningful service to each family regardless of what our own choices would be.
Every service reflects the choices of the family. It may be a religious symbol or as avant-garde as a beer truck passing out the deceased favorite brew. Flags, incense burners, religious icons, attending pets, motorcycle hearse or a musical send off are signs that define and signify the live lost, loved and celebrated.
Our profession is so much more than a casket or any commodity. We are service providers who must disconnect from the sale of goods. Our clients and our competitors are insisting that we evolve to fulfill the obligation we willing accepted when we joined the profession.
It is noteworthy that CANA predicts that in 2015 46% of deaths will be cremated. In 2025 it is projected to increase to nearly 60%. The present dread voiced by certain people over Wal-Mart wilt in comparison to increasing cremation rates.
By understanding our role in the process of death and remembrance there is no threat to our profession or economic vitality. When we narrow our vision concentrating on commodities forgetting how to bring solace to the grieving we have turned our backs upon our clients. For those who understand the power of symbols and how these comfort our clients the future holds no fear.