The PRWIRE Press Releases https:// 2020-10-08T23:47:07Z Celebrate life 2020-10-08T23:47:07Z celebrate-life In these times of doom, gloom and uncertainty, there is much to be concerned with, it is almost the glass half full mentality. In Melbourne, with now stage 4 restrictions and lockdowns, it is somewhat reminiscent of a science fiction thriller, albeit one we are slap bang in the middle of. Yet, there is another “half to the glass”, and our lives continue on, different perhaps but never the less continue.Living life and celebrating love doesn’t always need to be at full throttle and at these times can often make us aware of the small things in life that bring us pleasure. Travel, eating out, meeting up with friends, sport, even shopping is now all off our radar. So it would appear we have to look for other things to occupy us and bring joy.We can learn much from funerals, their relevance and meaning. Funerals are traditionally a time where we reflect on life and celebrate the life lived. Many of our forebearers lives have involved great adversities, wars, famine for some, financial depression, tragedy and loss. Yet, from these, hardships have grown tremendous resilience and shaped peoples lives. We often do not reflect on these things during the end of life service but focus on love, life and living.The “Celebration of Life” has become a much more common term used in the past decade. In contrast, last century funeral ceremonies reflected on loss and were mostly of a religious nature citing from standard prayer books, with little reflection on the individual and their life. As the focus of many families shifted to a “Celebration of Life” so did the style and type of service.Families once reliant on the church began using civil celebrants, “I recall most of the earlier celebrants did have some connection to churches and were often lay preachers, there was usually still some prayers within the service. I used to wonder if the family were taking our an each-way bet, a just in case clause when the got to the other side there was something.” The traditional religious service just didn’t seem to be adjusting to the changes in general life. Many wouldn’t allow certain music to be played and in some cases would not allow eulogies to be said during the service.Today’s modern civil celebrant is highly professional and expert in their field. They can perform two separate functions at a funeral, Firstly as master of ceremonies, assisting families to structure the proceedings into order and introduce speakers and audiovisual. Secondly, they speak on behalf of families in an articulate and accurate way. Mostly, celebrants will perform both functions.Combined with eulogies and reflections of love, life and loss, many other things personalise a “Celebration of Life” service. Location of service, Coffins, Environment, Audio Visual, music, printed materials, flowers, balloons, catering, photographs, paintings, jewellery, the list is as endless as your imagination. The key to the selection of these auxiliary services is the meaning and relevance to you. For without significance and relevance, much of the service can be lost on many.Most of life’s celebrations are performed publicly, funerals are often advertised in newspapers. Indeed a funeral notice is a public invitation inviting anyone to attend. Sadly, COVID19 restrictions have changed this, for now, Melbourne is currently restricted to a maximum of 10 mourners only attending funerals, resulting in many families having to choose which family members will attend services. Live streaming services, having been available for some time are now a regular occurrence on most funerals. From professional streaming companies to a family member with an Ipad or smartphone are streaming services locally and overseas to family members and friends that cannot attend in person.External catering and refreshment services that have become common on most funerals have but shut down, even families have not been able to return home for group gatherings. This is possibly one of the saddest aspects of COVID restrictions, as once the funeral has finished, there is little opportunity for family and friends to gather and reflect.Yet, amongst all this, wisdom comes from those personally affected by a loss. One young widow said after the funeral, “most people have said to me the hardest part would be only having 10 people at the funeral, in some ways I was kind of glad I didn’t have to mourn publicly. You, know the hardest part, was restricted hospital access for my young children and me during my husbands final days”. Celebration of life does not always need to be public, many families are choosing unattended or direct cremations services and opting to celebrate the life lost in a private and personal way. Life, love and loss do not always need to be celebrated publicly. Some see this as a sad option, yet those that choose this option are at ease with their choice as it has relevance and a strong meaning for them. It is often something that teh deceased would have wanted or indeed asked for.Working in funeral service people say many things to us, some focus on the macabre and bizarre, many wanting to know the weirdest things we have seen or been asked to do for a family. Well here is not the place you will read about that. For what is strange and bizarre to one person may be quite normal to another. Once again, relevance and meaning to the individual is where our focus is.Although times may be tough right now, “live, life and love” and above all stay safe.Robert Nelson is a fifth-generation funeral director and founder of Robert Nelson Funerals. Based in Moorabbin they service all Melbourne Areas, including Mornington and Bellarine Peninsulas. How do you see things? 2020-09-16T05:36:44Z how-do-you-see-things Are you the glass half full type of person or the glass half empty? I guess at times we are both.Recently I was pre-arranging a funeral for a client, her elderly mother in the final stages of life and sadly like many with dementia. She hadn't seen her mother or held or hand for many months, COVID restrictions saw to that. On the surface, it just appeared to be a very sad situation.As we began to talk and I started to learn a little about her mum, my client described how her mother had always been full of fun and laughter and these are the memories she would carry with her, not the sad ones.She told me a story of when her mother in her 70s and wheelchair-bound, but still full of life had an appointment with her neurologist. The prognosis wasn't good and the specialist explained to her mum the ramifications of her diseases. She sat quietly in her chair as he explained as well as he could what to expect. After he had finished talking she sat silently for a few minutes. Concerned, the doctor walked over to her chair and knelt in front of her. Her eyes suddenly lit up, like a light bulb had just been switched on as she casually queried the doctor, "would sex therapy help?" Startled but as quick-witted as her, the doctor fired back "well, do you have someone in mind?" with that twinkle still in her eye she replied, "do you have a younger brother?" Needless to say, the room erupted in laughter.It got me to thinking, even at the worst of times, it is the way in which we choose to deal with a situation which will dictate the manner in which we move forward.COVID restriction has unquestionably thrown great hardship on many people. For me, I have been amazed at the manner in which families have accepted and dealt with loss during this time.So maybe next time you are faced with what seems an insurmountable challenge in life, remembering the story of my elderly client might just bring a smile to your face and maybe assist you in looking at your situation in another way, Who is Your Funeral Director -Part 2 2020-09-05T22:18:09Z who-is-your-funeral-director-part-2-1 Who is your funeral director? Where do they come from? What is their expertise? What does the future hold for the industry and people who work in it?In previous blogs, I have written about my experience and what led me into the funeral industry. In this blog, I look at some of the changes in the industry in recent decades, giving you insight into who your funeral director might be and how they got into the industry.There wouldn't be a day go by someone tells me I'm working in a "bulletproof" industry. They think that because everyone dies, there will always be work for me. It's not surprising that other people want to be part of what they too believe is a 'future proof" industry. So, as the industry draws in new people, questions arise as to who these people are, their qualifications and what they contribute to the industry as it changes over time?The funeral industry has undergone a significant change in my lifetime. I grew up in a time when some funeral directors still manufactured coffins and caskets rather than purchased them from large manufacturers. Many staff came to the industry from the factory floors. Funerals were typically religious. The most significant difference between funerals was whether they were catholic or protestant. Burials were the main form of disposition.In the 1960s and 70s, with immigration beginning to shift from European countries to also include new arrivals from Asia, we began to see new religions appear. This diversity meant changes particularly in terms of ethnic customs and traditions. Funeral homes had to adapt quickly and most did so quite well.At this time, few of our new Australians had the desire or will to work within the funeral industry. Over the following few decades, not much changed. Sure there are more new arrivals from a wider range of countries having different traditions and cultures to those we had become accustomed to. This has meant funeral staff have had to acquire a better understanding of the needs of our changing Australian industry and above all else, flexibility.The funeral industry was changing behind the scenes. Larger family businesses were absorbing traditional family-owned business. The centralisation of mortuaries and garaging enabled significant cost efficiencies. Much smaller family-owned business did not have family members wanting to carry on in the family business. Something not unique to other industries, but with 24 hour 7 day a week commitment, the funeral industry does not have the appeal of many others.For those starting a career in the funeral industry, there was a hierarchal ascent. Similar to an apprenticeship but without the formality. Staff would begin as a hearse driver working alongside the most experienced member of the team, the conductor. Typically, conductors have years of experience and have undergone a similar "apprenticeship". Previously, there were very few women in these roles. Indeed there were few women in funeral service altogether.After a few years working alongside a conductor, the hearse driver would progress to the coach driver, the third person in a funeral crew. The coach driver has the job of collecting and looking after the family on the day of the funeral. The coach driver would then become a conductor, and the cycle would begin again.Funeral staff would be involved in the delivery of a diverse range of funerals, rosaries, viewing, and other services such as transfers of deceased or body collection from Nursing homes, hospitals or coroners, etc. All staff were required to be on rotational 24/7 after-hours standby for night work. When not doing funerals, staff were involved in coffin preparation, placing handles and writing names plates on coffins and sometimes lining them, there is always cleaning to be performed.Vehicles are the funeral directors' mobile shop front, and most companies spent a lot of time ensuring there showpieces were kept immaculate.Companies varied as to how these processes worked. Some would insist that all conductors were also funeral arrangers while others found that some staff were better at funeral delivery than others.The mortuary has always been a field on its own. Many funeral staff had no desire or will to work within the mortuary. Larger funeral homes typically had qualified mortuary personnel called embalmers. Smaller companies often had no qualified staff in the mortuary, and they may have had general funeral staff performing necessary mortuary procedures. Some of the larger funeral homes were big supporters of mortuary training and our family business at times had up to 12 or more qualified embalmers on staff. The training and encouragement to train staff have often been attributed to the principals or owners of the business. Those owners that had worked in mortuaries were more likely to encourage training than those that didn't. The early embalmers in Australia had either learnt overseas or were part of the early learning with the British Institute of Embalmers. Some funeral homes paid for embalming courses and tuition for their staff. Sadly today this is often not the case, and students are typically required to pay out the hefty course fees on their own. Television shows such as CSI have probably attributed the large numbers of young women now working within our mortuaries. The 1980s saw the introduction of the large foreign-owned companies become part of the Australian funeral industry, purchasing the larger family-owned groups. As a result, many companies that had often worked and helped each other out from time to time came to see themselves as competitors. The mutual assistance of the past died overnight. Corporatisation had arrived and quickly permeated the market changing the culture of funeral service forever. The traditional family names of the business often remained but the founding principles of many of these businesses didn't. The funeral industry, like many others, had moved into a financially driven market.In the past, the staff knew their employers as well as they knew their own families. Instead, with corporatisation, staff would either change industries or change allegiances based on money. For some, this also appeared to be a lucrative time to enter the industry. Subsequently, we have seen a proliferation of small independent funeral operators enter the market. Some have a laptop, and that's it.It is now possible to get trade services in mortuaries, deceased transfers, hire hearse and staff. While there are some excellent trade services around, there are also horror stories of sub-standard quality as the market is increasingly driven by price.An industry that had once moved to the introduction of nationwide infection control standards often now seems more concerned with the length of time that training might take rather than the benefits these skills may bring. Subsequently, few workers within the industry have ever undertaken any form of training in industry-based occupational health and safety.Many traditional operators have made calls for industry regulation and or licensing. This is not new, yet there never seems to be any consensus as to what needs to be regulated or how. Often these calls are based on minimum equipment and vehicle standards. It is difficult to find any evidence around the world that in the absence of any of these standards, any risk to public health exists. Often these calls are based on creating barriers to entry to increase start-up costs.Some say their unscrupulous operators out there. No doubt there is. Yet, in highly regulated professions these unscrupulous operators still exit. So regulation won't stamp them out.So who is your funeral director?Funeral operators are calling themselves many things these days, the latest is a funeral event organiser. Indeed a person may call themselves a funeral director but never handle a deceased. Some of these people may have spent years or even decades in the industry but never had to dress or prepare a deceased. Many of us have heard of instances, where new consultants are given a case and told to see a grieving family on their first day of employment, no experience, no training and no knowledge.A funeral is made of a broad range of services. Foremost the funeral director is engaged for the disposition of the deceased. For some funeral organisers, this is seen as a minor aspect of their services! Whilst there are many new services, such as catering, printed materials, audiovisual now on offer, we should not lose sight of the reasons a family would engage a funeral director in the first place.So maybe its time to recognise funeral directors who are skilled qualified and experienced in all aspects of the funeral industry. Not all funeral directors are the same. Many have spent their life perfecting their skills and craft.Maybe its time to recognise the "Master Undertaker" for their services.So when you engage a funeral service next time, maybe you should ask a few questions?Robert Nelson is a fifth-generation Funeral Director and Managing Director of Robert Nelson Funerals based in Melbourne, Australia, he is a member of the British Institute of Embalmers and has studied and worked in funeral service in both Australia and overseas. Who is your funeral director? 2020-08-21T07:37:34Z who-is-your-funeral-director I was born in the early 1960s. My father was a funeral director, so was my grandfather and his father and his father too. This would later make me a 5th generation funeral director. My forebears came to Australia in search of gold finding their way to the Victorian goldfields, where to make ends meet began an undertaking business. As they were carpenters they were able to manufacture all their own coffins, hence the term furnishing undertakers.In the 1960s we still manufactured our own coffins and living on the funeral home during our early years providing a fascinating playground. Back then all of our coffins were made from solid timbers, not the composite timbers of today. Our funeral home seemed huge as a young child and out the back was our manufacturing area. Raw timber was cut and bent with hot water to make the shoulder of the coffin. French polishers were employed to hand rub and apply polish to the coffins and we even had our own die works where metal handles and fittings were cast. There was a special area where the internal coffin drapery was cut and stitched.There was lots of activity and smells and for a young boy, lots of nails and little nick nacks to play and make things with.For us living in a funeral home as very young children, life was normal and has always been, we were involved in what any other child would do with sport or hobbies. We were always aware of staying away from the office or chapels whilst families or mourners were there and to be quiet. I guess as a young child on a funeral home you inevitably see things you shouldn't and probably like any other child living on a funeral home you did. Going to kindergarden was fun, dad was sometimes busy so one of the drivers would take me in one of the big black mourner's cars, they were huge, you could lie across the back parcel shelf. No doubt some people would think this is weird today, but that was our life and it is what business our family was in. Coffins and caskets were everywhere in the factory, to us they were just boxes or things our family made, not receptacles for the dead. Back then there were no mobile phones, computers, fax, pagers etc. Phones could not be diverted. People had to live on the funeral home and it was very much a husband and wife affair. When the phone rang dad would need to go out and collect the body and later arrange the funeral whilst mum stayed home to answer the phone.When people die away from home dad would often go and collect the body from the county. I remember travelling with him on several occasions. As a child, I quite enjoyed these trips.As we got a little older, we moved off the funeral home and into suburbia and as children didn't spend much time around the funeral home. We did what any other kids did.During my mid-teens, I became involved in the business in a very hands-on way. The Victorian funeral industry had become quite militant (as had many other industries at this time) and the entire industry went on strike. People still keep dying and the work doesn't stop. Our company had contracts with the Coroners office to transfer the deceased to the coroner's office. Reportable death cases included homicide, suicide, road trauma and unknown causes of death.School didn't stop and often during these strike actions, I would assist in the collection of deceased on the way to school. Despite being around death from birth, it was a harsh introduction.I entered the funeral industry full time the day after my 21st birthday, I had worked in hospitality for the 3 years after leaving school. I couldn't believe how similar the two industries were. Although different types of events, funerals were events and there was lots of organising, preparation and skill involved. I dived into it headfirst and wanted to learn everything.For the first few years, I was a funeral directors assistant, collecting deceased, driving the hearse and assisting in up to 4 funerals a day, learning all the time from the most experienced conductors and taking it all in. A conductor is a supervisor and central point of contact for the family. Back then the conductor may have spent many years as a Funeral Directors Assistant before being offered the role as Conductor. They were highly experienced and knowledgable. Sadly today, people are often made conductors the moment they walk through the door, missing out on those years of experience and knowledge.I was fortunate to be able to travel and attend conference, seminars and training sessions around Australia and overseas. During these travels, I was offered training in The United Kingdom and spent a number of months working in funeral homes around London.On return to Australia, I studied and after a few years gained my embalming certificate and was accepted into the British & Australian Institute of Embalmers. In the United States, I trained and specialised in Mass Fatality mortuaries, still an area of interest to me today.Education, learning and knowledge in our industry are ongoing and a necessary part of our professional development sadly once again overlooked by many.Despite the erratic nature of call out work, spending time with my family is the most important part of my life. Happily married with a recently turned teenager we live a very active live and balancing work life is the most difficult thing we have to deal with.The days of the funeral family are fast disappearing with many children choosing not to follow on in their parent's profession. Corporate funeral directors are replacing them and sadly decades of experience and knowledge is also disappearing.So when you next meet a funeral director, you may care to ask them their background and experience.Robert Nelson is Managing Director of Robert Nelson Funerals Pty Ltd