Walking away from a successful career in film and television production, Walter Carter Funerals newest recruit Jasmine Cameron embraced every experience that came her way during her first week on the job as an industry newbie.
By Jasmine Cameron
I don’t come from a ‘funeral family’. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone who worked in this industry.
It wasn’t an obvious career choice, but it’s something I’ve long felt I was meant to do. When I was 16, my teacher even organised work experience for me at a local funeral home – but it fell through at the last moment. Was someone trying to tell me something?
Over the next few years, I developed a passion for film and television and in 2010, I moved from Hobart to Sydney with dreams of becoming a famous producer. Apart from the odd moment of curiosity, I’d largely forgotten about my original dream of working in the funeral industry.
Fast forward a few years and I found myself restless, unfulfilled and – quite frankly – bored. Was this really what I wanted my life to be? What was the point of what I was doing? Who was I helping? It wasn’t the life I wanted to imagine in front of me.
So 10 years after the disappointment of missing out on work experience at a funeral home, I found myself sitting in the foyer at Walter Carter Funerals waiting to be interviewed by the CEO, Dale Maroney.
Do you have any funeral industry experience? No.
Has anyone else in your family worked in the industry? No.
Why do you want to work in a funeral home? I just knew this was where I was supposed to be, but how do you explain a feeling to someone you’ve just met? I can’t recall the words I managed to string together, but they obviously worked! I was ecstatic when I was offered a job as a Funeral Assistant.
A week of firsts
My first week on the job was all about jumping in ‘feet first’ (to borrow a funeral term), and I made a promise to myself to make the most of every single ‘first’.
As I walked through the doors on my first day (complete with first day nerves) I wondered how long it would be before I saw my first dead body?
23 minutes. That’s exactly how long it took.
How did it feel? In a word, fine. I can’t explain it, but it felt oddly familiar. The day also saw me assisting on my first funeral. I wasn’t sure how I’d cope around so many grieving strangers, but I was relieved to find I was able to keep it together in such an emotionally charged situation.
Over the next few days, I worked with my mentor, Steve, on a complete funeral journey – from transferring the deceased person into our care through to leaving them at the crematorium at the end of the service.
I’ll never forget the experience. My first ‘start to finish’. I guess everyone remembers their ‘first time’. It gave me confidence that my decision to work in this industry is the right one.
My only moment of hesitation was when we drove away from the crematorium. It felt quite abrupt. And it felt so final. I admit, my eyes welled up. Steve looked at me and simply said: “It’s OK to care.”
Behind the curtain
Everything I did during my first week placed me firmly ‘behind the curtain’.
Most people prefer to stay planted on the ‘nice’ side, with only those brief glimpses behind the curtain they’re forced to take when they lose a loved one.
I understand that instinct.
Death is hard. And there are some aspects of preparing a body after death that just don’t bear discussing for most people. I’m honoured and grateful I’m now in a position to take responsibility and make all these things happen and spare people the stress of seeing what goes on behind the curtain.
Choosing that as a career
“Why on earth would you want to do that?” is the question I’m most asked when people find out I’ve started working in the funeral industry.
Yes, I do that. And I’m proud of it.
I feel like I’ve found my place and I’m looking forward to learning everything I can about this industry in the coming weeks, months and years.
If you want to find out more about working in the funeral industry, email [email protected] and we’ll help you find the information you need.
This article was first published in the March 2017 edition of The Australian Funeral Director (the official magazine of the Australian Funeral Directors Association).