What I Learned From Working at a Funeral Home

So everyone keeps asking me what’s it like to work at a funeral home. My response is “It’s normal.”

First off. It’s a home. Let’s start here.

James E. Churchman Funeral Home has the spirit of history running all through its veins. It’s artistic, homey feel makes me feel like I am right at home. There was a time when this place would feel eerie and daunting. Now it just feels like home. I find myself staring at the images on the wall in awe of the antique oil paintings of the founder dating back to the late 1800s. Five generations of service runs through the veins of this family. Giving back to the community, securing their legacy, and building on the foundation of the predecessors.

Going into work everyday has become habitual. The first few weeks of work was fast paced due to the current health crisis. There wasn’t a minute to sit down or to pause to take breaks. We were all working and working hard. It was an honor to serve with the Churchman family during the height of the health crisis. The nature of the work and the pace at which the funeral industry had to operate under the new mandates that were put into place and witnessing the essence of the establishment of Churchman Funeral Home has been an honored.

I’ve been indirectly connected to this family since I was an infant. They’ve buried everyone in my maternal lineage from my great grandmother, great-aunt, grandfather, uncle, and cousin. They’ll bury me.

The best part about working at the funeral home is hearing a family say how well the services where held and that their family has “been coming to Churchman for years.” This is the resounding echo of the families that we serve. I connect with them in that way.

There is a love within the walls of the funeral home. No matter how daunting or gloomy the funeral home may feel to some. There’s an essence that keeps everyone coming back.

Churchman Funeral Home has been a staple in the City of Newark for over 100 years and was established in 1899. The current manager Dr. Edith C. Churchman is the fourth generation funeral director and first-woman Funeral Director of the business.

Dr. Churchman’s kind-hearted yet stern nature makes you feel right at home. It’s motherly love. The one you need in moments of despair and chaos that says “okay snap back into it, there’s work to be done.” Her no-nonsense nature makes you feel loved, connected, and seen. This is her love language. She gives her love openly to the community and families she serves.

The highest honor has been to have the opportunity to work with and study under my favorite friend, Fatou Simone Churchman. She’s currently in mortuary school studying to become the fifth generation funeral director in her family lineage. It’s been the most amazing experience to watch as she provides the upmost level of care in her work with the families she serves. She’s a divine being and a pillar among stars. She understands the importance of transitions and naturally holds space for families during their time of bereavement. She is magic.

She’s also juggling school while helping to run her 121 year old family business. Her vision for funeral services is far beyond the antiquated rituals of the past. In the new normal Fatou Simone envisions family gatherings, celebrations, drums, music, and remembrance of those that have gone before us. It’s a beauty to watch the unfolding that is her. She’s a leader in the funeral home services and it’s been an honor to serve under her.

Here’s what I learned from working at the Funeral Home:

  1. Death is a continuation of life: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. After death there is more life or the being is transformed into something else.
  2. God is in the midst of it all: Rejoice for God is in the middle of it all. Even in the midst of darkness, God prevails.
  3. Light cannot exist without darkness: Light is illuminated in the presence of darkness. Accept it as an aspect of your being.

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