We might not think about how much is involved with handling a death, but funeral directors do.
I recently worked with John Evans, the funeral director of Evans Funeral Home and Crematory at 314 E. Main St., to understand what is involved with his job.
Funeral arrangements are decided by the family and their wishes; Evans leaves out his opinions, letting the survivors have the final say.
Something I especially appreciated was the “when they’re ready” aspect. When a funeral is being planned before the person dies, Evans tells the family to “call us when you’re ready.” This allows the family to spend as much or as little time in the room as they wish with their loved one before the body is taken away. Then, when they call the funeral home, Evans and his team are ready for the next step.
Since death does not have a 9-to-5 schedule, funeral directors and employees do not have set hours. Whenever the phone rings, the process begins.
During my day at the funeral home, I witnessed a cremation. Evans explained the science behind the process and checked temperatures multiple times to make sure everything went smoothly. Because this is a sensitive subject for some people, I won’t share any more details about cremation.
Bigger cities can do several cremations and funerals in a day, working more like a business than a comforting service. Funeral directors in a smaller city such as Norwalk are able to provide more of a personal touch, Evans said.
Because staff can be limited, especially when several deaths occur in a small period of time, our local funeral homes assist each other, rather than act as competitors, Evans said.
Funeral directors do not know what moves families to choose one funeral home over another. Evans said he is mainly concerned about who his clients are and how he can assist them.
Evans meets with families who are interested in using his funeral home and they go over arrangements and planning. Being a funeral director involves a lot of paperwork, such as death certificates, permits and obituaries. If the families do not write their own obituary, the funeral home staff asks the right questions so they can handle this step.
Other duties include helping the family with casket, coffin or urn selection, planning and arranging the funeral, making sure everything runs smoothly and even being a good listener.
During my day working with Evans, we were joined by a funeral director apprentice, Kelsey Yantz, of Bellevue. An apprenticeship is a requirement for someone seeking to become a director. She filled out the paperwork to plan my future funeral while Evans was in a meeting.
Yantz decided she wanted to be a funeral home director after her great-grandmother died. She hopes to give the same kind of help that she received.
While we talked about the arrangements for “my funeral,” hypothetically, in the year 2099, I decided to be cremated and have my ashes made into fireworks so I could go out with a bang. That’s a real option, by the way. It felt strange to edit my own obituary and plan the arrangements.
Family members have many options regarding what to do with ashes, how the funeral is prepared and other matters. Some offer their own unique ideas. For instance, one family gave out envelopes with ashes and flower seeds, encouraging the recipients to plant them.
The funeral home directors are there to make those ideas a reality and to be flexible and open with whatever else the family wants.
Our world has many different cultures and beliefs and part of being a funeral director involves being open to those and respecting them.
Evans developed a web broadcast system for his funeral home. This allows family members and friends who are far away to “tune in” for the funeral service, if the family wishes to have this option available. This was fascinating to me and seems like a great idea, especially for international families.
Because the “my grandmother died” excuse has been overused, some employers are hesitant in granting workers time off for funerals. This broadcast option can be useful for those who have to work.
Dealing with death is stressful. I have a lot of appreciation for how much effort funeral directors put into making sure families are able to honor their loved ones how they wish.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The “Mad about…” series involves day-in-the-life stories about local workers. Reflector Correspondent Madeline Roche spends time doing their jobs and then tells readers what it's like. If you would like your business to be featured, call 419-668-3771 or email email@example.com.
Position: Funeral home director
Qualifications: In Ohio, a funeral director must possess a bachelor degree and a state license, along with completing a minimum of a one-year apprenticeship. Embalmers must complete mortuary college and have a national license.
Pay range: $32,000 (apprentices) to $70,000 (license-holders) per year.