Not everyone thinks of funeral directing as a potential career. But it is a vital role in society, and Oamaru woman Rose Gard is enjoying being part of it. She talks to Daniel Birchfield.
Newly qualified funeral director Rose Gard believes death is a natural part of life and should be talked about openly rather than being swept under the carpet.
Ms Gard started in her role at Whitestone Funerals in July 2016, but it was only a few months ago she gained her qualification – a diploma in funeral directing, from Weltech in Wellington.
While the bulk of the course was done via correspondence, she spent three blocks of two weeks in the capital to study the practical side of the qualification.
She said becoming a funeral director was not a lifelong ambition, but rather the next step in her working career.
“I have always worked in the service industry, so I’ve always enjoyed helping people, I guess.
“I have a background in the ambulance service, which is helping people in dire need .. I think this was a natural progression from that.
“I didn’t wake up one day and think ‘I want to be a funeral director’. It just felt right.”
Sending off a family’s loved one in the best possible fashion was Ms Gard’s priority, from when she took the first phone call from a grieving family to when the dead person was cremated or buried.
That meant an element of trust was involved, not only to make funeral arrangements but to also take care of the dead person.
When someone contacted Ms Gard to tell her a family member had died, her first job was to find out how that person was related, ask questions about cremation or burial, and when and where the family would like to meet to discuss arrangements, arrange the transfer of the body to the funeral home, and arrange the preparation of the body.
Then there are the finer details, such as who will conduct the funeral, publishing death notices and arranging flowers, music and catering.
“There’s a lot to do in a short time,” she said.
A funeral was held, on average, four to five days after death.
Ms Gard said every family was different, an important factor when it came to planning a funeral.
“You treat everyone differently because everyone is different. Making that first contact is one of the challenging things and knowing how you are going to prepare for that.
“It’s also about being open-minded, really, and not going in there with preconceived ideas, really, because you can get tripped up by that.”
She believed it was important funeral directors were able to control their emotions, and that was not always easy.
“You can help get people through it, but you can’t take on their grief. You do a wee bit, but can’t let it take over you.”
While a lot of hard work was involved in a short space of time, she said it was always satisfying when a funeral came together.
“It’s just so rewarding. You feel you have done the best you could for them.”
Ms Gard believed death was somewhat of a taboo subject for some.
She thought people needed to be more open about it, especially when it came to explaining it to children.
“People need to talk about death more, even though they don’t want to. It’s a huge part of life and affects everybody during their life.
“Some people have to go through many deaths in their lives and some people don’t.
“I think it’s something you should not hide from children, either. You have to make it as normal as you can.”
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