55 Plus is a publication of the Times Colonist, providing items of interest to seniors and their families across Vancouver Island

Have a nice day

It is a privilege and an honour to assist in any way we can for those in need
Laura Van Sprang, Manager of Sands Funeral Chapel of Victoria

Written by: Laura Van Sprang, Manager of Sands Funeral Chapel of Victoria

When people find out what I have chosen to do for a profession by working in end of life care as a funeral director, embalmer and now a manager, I am often asked how I do it. Many people will comment on how depressing it must be dealing with bereaved people everyday and the morbid and scary thought of handling the deceased. People feel awkward asking me if I am busy at work, assuming that would be a bad thing, as being busy must mean a lot of people are dying. And it is rare someone will say “have a nice day”, without following up with, “well as nice as it can be working at a funeral home”.

Once people have given me the time to explain a little bit about why people become funeral directors and the daily running of a funeral home, I am always met with comments of, “wow, I never thought of it that way” or “that is very different than I imagined”. So, if you have a moment to continue reading I would like to share with you a little bit of the how and why we do what we do and the incredible trust and honour it is to serve a community through funeral service.

First of all, yes, people are sad, yes, people are grieving and yes, someone they loved has died. It’s never easy for a family to come in to make arrangements and the realization of the immense loss that comes with it. But then, we get to know each other and once we have gathered the required information needed to register the death with the government… we start to chat. We get to hear all about these amazing people who have passed away, where they came from, what they did for a living, their hobbies, their accomplishments, their passions and the list goes on. There is always a fresh box of tissue in the room and it is used, however once the door is closed it is usually not long until laughter can be heard and you know a precious memory or story has been shared. And we so appreciate the trust and openness of our families to share these with us.

Then there are the decedents. They are not “dead bodies” to us, they are someone’s, mother, father, sister, brother, child, relative or friend. Yes, we talk to them, yes, we call them by their name and their dignity, respect and proper care is of the utmost importance to us. Don’t forget we also just heard all about this person, so it is even more of an honour to care for them and give the family the best possible experience for their final goodbye. What an honour to curl a woman’s hair for the last time, pin a medal of honour on a veteran or even just place that special family photo in their hand to hold forever. We do not take this privilege lightly.

Finally, if you ask me if we’re busy at work, and we are, it is actually a good thing. It does not mean more people are dying, we have no control over when and how people die. It means the families in and around our community are choosing us to care for their loved one and serve their family. It means we are doing our jobs properly, it means we are providing the important and necessary care and guidance that is so needed when a death has occurred and it means our community trusts us enough to pick up the phone and let us in to assist with one of the most intimate and important moments in their lives. We feel honoured when we are chosen and will do everything we can to assist with our support, guidance and professionalism.

Our days are like most people in the working field, in any field. Some days are tougher than others, some days are busier than others and it takes a team of committed individuals to make each day be as positive and productive as possible to fulfill the role we have chosen in the community. And as previously mentioned, it is a privilege and an honour to assist in any way we can for those in need. So please do not hesitate to tell a funeral service professional to have a nice day, we do have them and it is appreciated.

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