Funeral Directors in their 20’s

Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Funeral Directors in their 20’s

Ryan BorykRyan Boryk, '18

Age: 21
Employer: Sweet's Funeral Home, Hyde Park, NY

When did you know you wanted to be a funeral director?

I knew I wanted to be a funeral director after I started working at my local funeral home when I was a sophomore in high school, I didn't truly fall in love with the job until my junior year. I don’t have any family within the business, my mother is a school teacher, and my father is a CAD drafter/ surveyor, although I do consider the people I work with a second family of mine because we know each other very well. When I started, I had two great mentors who I give a lot of credit to for showing me the profession and everything involved. I completely fell in love with the job, dealing with people, and the whole job itself and the amount of depth that you have to take to ensure that each funeral is perfectly suited for each and every family you serve.

How has this career affected your personal life/dating life as a 20-something-year-old?

This career hasn’t truly affected my dating life per se, but definitely my personal life since I knew I wanted to be a director straight out of high school, most of my friends have become accustomed to what I do, the many different aspects of my job, the ups and downs, and being available or not. Now that I have finished school before the rest of my good friends I find it very different when my friends are going to parties while still in college, and I’m working. I think that another aspect is because this job is so involved, your days are never the typical 9-5. I have found many times, having to bail on my friends, or events, because of a late night call, or because I am staying late at work. Thank god they understand.

What do you wish people knew about funeral directors?

I want most people to think of funeral directors as normal people because we are. We are the people you see in your neighborhood, and we are your friends. Luckily for me, I live in a small rural town, Hyde Park, New York, and I know a lot of people, so the idea of a community is definitely present, and the idea that a funeral director is a normal person resonates very well within my town. I see a lot of the people whose families we have had the privilege of serving, and they truly, appreciate everything you do for them and for the community.

Are there any industry trends you’ve noticed emerging recently?

I have noticed a couple of trends, I think the idea of a personalized funeral is the biggest one many people call it “cremation,” I look at it as a form of personalization because it is easier for families to wait and get everyone together in a month, or a couple of months, instead of just a week or so. I also see that there are many different things you can do with the ashes, such as have them at home (a sense of comfort,) or bring them to a place that the person frequented. It gives people a personalized touch - which we see going away in this technology era - during that, someone’s life being brought back. I think that we have to open up our minds and realize that as funeral directors. With that being said, I do appreciate a full burial, because I think it does give a sense of finality, and allows for people to have the factor of knowing that their loved one is in the casket, and this is the last time they will see them on this Earth. I think it also allows for the bereavement process to be fully involved.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do? Hobbies, interests, etc.?

When I am not working, I enjoy golfing, fishing, biking, going out with friends, watching a game on T.V. (big sports enthusiast) or just being around my family.

What area of your job would you like to improve upon, personally?

Personally, I hate this question. I think that in our profession, if you don’t have a desire to excel in every part of your skills - whether it be embalming, restoration, cosmetics, dealing with people, improving your personal skills, bettering yourself in the job, or profession you have chosen, then what is the point? Our job requires many specific skills sets, and if you don’t want to make them better and enhance your skills, why do the job? One quote that I go back to is, "you can learn something new every day, about someone, something, or anything."

What’s your favorite quote?

“Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.” –Yogi Berra 

This is a quote I have hanging on my desk. I am a big baseball fan, I don’t have a team, but I truly just enjoy the game. I grew up playing all my life and wore the number 8 because of Yogi Berra, it just so happened that he had a great, funny quote that also fit my career very well. The reason I enjoy this quote is because it's truly a joke, but it also has a lot of sense to it, if you go to someone’s funeral they can't come to yours, there is no possible way, but it also shows respect if you know someone, or someone in the family, go to their funeral - it does mean a lot to the family, more than most realize.

If you were asked for advice from another young person interested in pursuing a funeral industry career, what would you tell them? 

I would tell them take the chance, I did. “Don’t have any regrets in your life” – My father, one quote that I apply to many of my decisions. You never know what you're going to miss if you don’t take a chance. 

Has working in the mortuary field changed your outlook on life, or how you live your life?

I have always been a glass-half-full kind of person, but it has taught me to appreciate the little things, the moments, spending time with the people who are close to me, knowing that I have always been a person who thinks older than most, so that has some impact on the way I see things, compared to others.

What do you do to unwind after a particularly tough day on the job?

It depends on the day. I usually do different things, if I'm not on call that night, I usually enjoy a drink. If I am on call, I go home and relax. I don’t let being on call change my life much, I usually carry a change of clothes with me around when I am on call, but I will go out with friends and live a normal life. I think that is one of the things most people forget to do, is live their life while being on call.

If you could change anything about the funeral industry, or how it is viewed by the general public, what would you change?

If I could change one thing, it would be the outlook that people have on the industry. We are regular people. Yes, we see dead people, but it's part of our job, we are people just like everyone else. We are members of our local community, and we live lives with our families just like everyone else. 

What is a normal workday/week like for you, schedule-wise?

Ha, this doesn’t exist, a normal work week. I have gone from weeks where I work 70 hours, to then 40 hours. This job has no schedule, death has no schedule, therefore neither do we. We are so unlike any other job, we respond 24/7. I always joke with my colleagues, let me know when your lawyer or accountant is going to answer your call at 3 in the morning, yet we are willing, and I say "willing," because we are professional, and it is our job to talk to someone if they want to call and discuss clothing for their family member at 3 am, or they finally found the information that we were waiting on for the death certificate. We are ready to talk to them or arrive at their house because someone has died, or they need the reassurance that the clothing they already brought in is going to be perfect for their loved one.  

What is the strangest request you’ve received?

The strangest request I have ever had - we had one person who wanted his dad to be cremated so he could turn the ashes into fireworks (he was a pyrotechnic), so that was an interesting one, but I have many different requests - it depends on how you look at it, some people may think that a guy being buried in a full suit with slippers is crazy, but if you talk with the family and realize he always had slippers on, it becomes normal, or a part of this person's life, so what is strange to one may not be strange to someone else. 

How would you describe your experience as a mortuary science student working toward your career?

I would say I'm living a dream come true. I love my job, the people I work with, and everything that comes with it. One thing that goes into this is my love of what I do, there is no greater reward to me than helping a family and being there for them at the time of their greatest loss of a loved one, and being able to help them through that time. 

Briannna Lincoln Brianna Lincoln, '16

Age: 23
Employer: Solimine Funeral Home, Lynn, MA

When did you know you wanted to be a funeral director?

I’m not exactly sure when the whole thought process of being a funeral director started. I knew two funeral directors that sparked interest when I was in high school, but some of my friends say I have been talking about this career since I was a little girl. I just remember all of a sudden looking into schools, applying, and starting my career!

How has this career affected your personal life/dating life as a 20-something-year-old? 

My personal life has only really been affected when it comes to time. You sometimes can feel like you’ve been in the funeral home for 24 hours and it can take away from spending time with friends and family. Dating can be tricky with scheduling and finding someone who understands that, a lot of times, work has to come first. My boyfriend is so supportive and understanding. He is always ready to listen to me when I need to talk about the emotions, or just the day I have had. Having strong support system behind you is what is important.

What is your favorite part of the job? 

My favorite part would have to be when a family tells you “Thank you so much for everything you have done.” It is a great feeling to know that  I put in all my effort just to make things a little easier on them. People always say, “what can I do for you?” when someone passes away, and I feel like I am truly doing something so helpful for them.

What do you wish people knew about funeral directors? 

I wish people would understand that funeral directors are comfortable with death. A lot of times people will say “Aren’t you scared?” or “Don’t you get sad?” I just feel like a lot of people don’t know much about death and the process that goes into a funeral so they think funeral directors are dark, scary people.

What personality traits do you feel are necessary to doing this job well? 

Patience is definitely key in this job. Compassion and understanding are also important because you need to realize that a family is going through  the worst time of their lives and aren’t thinking straight. Their actions, words, and requests can sometimes be a lot to take in, but as a funeral director you just have to make everything run as smoothly as possible. 

When you’re not working, what do you like to do? Hobbies, interests, etc.? 

When I am not at work my most important thing to do is spend time with my friends and family, but also give time for myself. I make time for the gym, and really make sure I am feeling my best. I also have a French Bulldog, Louie, that needs more attention than anything when I am not at work!

What area of your job do you find the most challenging, personally?

The most challenging part about my job is trying to not bring my emotions home. Sometimes, if it has been a rough week, it can really start to take a toll. I have plenty of nieces and nephews, and if children are involved it can get a little emotional for me at times. Bottling up emotions is one thing I try not to do. I also have noticed that in my life outside of work I have a hard time expressing sympathy to people’s smaller issues. I’ve had to work on realizing that everyone is battling something, even if it seems minuscule to what I see on a daily basis.

What’s your favorite emoji? 

I would have to say the girl with her hands up shrugging her shoulders. I feel like I am doing that a lot on a daily basis so I can relate to it.

Has working in the mortuary field changed your outlook on life, or how you live your life?

I try to really enjoy everything I do on a daily basis. Life really can change in a second, and spending my time just being happy is very important to me. I’ve learned so much in this career, and I have realized being happy is all that matters.

What do you do to unwind after a particularly tough day on the job?

I actually really enjoy going home and getting my housework done. Work can feel non-stop, and to be able to finally know I have nothing to do other than relax is a great feeling! 

Are there any experiences you’ve had thus far that have changed your perspective or changed the way you do your job?

I have realized that I cannot tell the future. You try to plan as much as you can but it can change way too fast. I just take my job step by step and make sure I am giving 100% effort.

What is the strangest request you’ve received?

Definitely being asked to take a picture of someone with the deceased!

How would you describe your experience as a mortuary science student working toward your career?

Being a mortuary science student was one of the hardest, and rewarding accomplishments I have ever gone through. It was so hands-on, because of the apprenticeship, it was easier to understand everything you were being taught. The teachers and fellow students all wanted everyone to succeed and were there to help every step of the way. FMC was the best choice I could have made for myself.