New York State Funeral Directors Association

As human beings, we grow and change each day, our personalities conforming to our surroundings and our minds developing new coping strategies for the things that are beyond our control.

Most of the time, these changes are occurring completely unbeknownst to us.

As a newly licensed funeral director at the ripe age of 21, Captain Hindsight tells me that this was happening at far greater rate for me than your average human being.

Early Photo of Funeral Director Heather A. RauchI would have to assume that each and every one of you can look back on your earlier days, just entering into the profession and hum a little tune by the name of "Ooh La La" which goes: "I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger. . . "

Early on, we are thrust into a world of devastation, heartbreak and shock and we are supposed to be the knowledgeable ones who are there to guide the bereaved through their fog.

Despite the two years I had invested into my education and several brief stints shadowing funeral directors in various areas of the state, nothing could have prepared me for the first week of my residency.

I was living in a new town which I hadn't even heard of until just a few weeks prior. My internal GPS was nonexistent and had it not been for MapQuest, I wouldn't have been able to find my way around a cardboard box.

We received a death call early one morning which was always cause for an instant knot in my stomach.

Not knowing what to expect upon arrival was always frightening to me. I remember this particular morning being a cold one with dew all over the grass, paving the way to a much warmer day which hadn't yet arrived.

I jumped out of bed, threw on my far too-large, navy blue skirt suit and reported to the funeral home for further instruction.

I was informed that I would be heading to a local hospital with one of the licensed directors to pick up a six-year-old girl who was injured at home and had died in the Emergency Room.

The knot turned to a basketball.

I swallowed hard and wondered how my mind and my body would deal with such a thing. Before now, I had dealt solely with the elderly and was still learning to deal with even the most anticipated deaths.

We arrived at the hospital and my hands were cold with sweat. I took a deep breath as we proceeded to the emergency room and slowly entered the small white room where a nurse was waiting for us.

I thought I might faint but thankfully my legs continued to do all the work while my brain was off somewhere else doing its own thing.

We were all choking back tears but proceeded as professionals and did what we had to do.

Later on in the day, the funeral directors met with her family and I sat off in the corner as Residents do, taking it all in.

I was impressed with the way the directors conducted themselves and with the helpful guidance they were able to offer to her family throughout the next few days.

That was when I realized that as much as I had learned in school, there was so much more to know that can only come with experience.

Now, five years later, I value the time I am able to spend with other funeral directors.

Mortuary Science education is an invaluable base for the start of something much larger.

As mature and prepared as I thought I was then and think I am now, those little, unbeknownst-to-me changes that happen with every phone call continue to mold me into a better person and a more educated death care giver.

They say you learn something new every day and in this profession.

I think we learn many new somethings every day, even if we don't realize it.

This profession is wonderful in that each day is different and you never know what to expect.

As much as we do for the families we serve, they teach us just as much in return.