Have you ever wondered what makes someone want to make funerals their career? We spoke to Zac, the latest member of the Beckford’s team to find out why.
‘I’m not really sure when exactly my interest in becoming a Funeral Director came from. I was confronted with death at an early age when a close childhood friend died unexpectedly at just 11 years old. I’m sure this influenced my decision in some way to look for work experience with a funeral directors when I was fifteen.
At age 22, I became a pall bearer – that’s the person that is one of usually a four man team who carry the coffin into and out of the church as well as being called out at times to collect a deceased from the location of passing and transport back to our chapel of rest or possibly the hospital’s chapel of rest, depending on circumstance.
That’s only a part‐time role though so I continued to work in the building trade. I’d trained as a carpenter when I left school because it fitted in with my wanderlust travels outside of term time – I spent several months in Ghana on three separate occasions, volunteering at an orphanage about 30 miles north of the capital Accra, as well many trips to the USA. It was very rewarding seeing how things like getting the children their breakfast, taking them to school, helping them with their homework and being there for them as a friend made a difference to their lives. Once my life seemed to settle down, based in Guernsey, I rejoined the building trade and gained my Diploma in Site Management while working at a well‐respected local company.
When the role of Trainee Funeral Director came up at Beckford’s earlier this year, I decided to apply. Opportunities like this don’t come around very often and I feel really lucky to have got the role, despite still only being 26 I feel my life experience is quite extensive for my age, which I believe has created a personality and character perfect to suit this line of work. I know it’s been said before but to work in a career that makes a real, immediate and personal difference to someone’s life is so rewarding and incomparable with anything else I have done previously.
No two days are ever the same and you can never predict what each phone call will bring. On the day of a funeral, we start getting ready about 2 ½ hours before. We will secure the coffin, after the coffin has been checked by two different people to make sure everything is in order. People can take comfort in knowing that we check everything at least twice and in my case, I am constantly going over things again and again. I’ve even lost sleep in bed at night, making mental check‐lists! We have what we call a ‘funeral entry card’ for every single funeral we do. It contains all the details, so that any one of us in the office can check at any time and we will be fully up‐to‐date with what has been planned.
I am always at the church one hour before the service - to ensure final preparations can be completed as well as meeting and seating the congregation as they arrive. The hearse will typically turn up to the church about 10 minutes before the service is due to start.
We make sure we have sufficient staff on hand to take the names of the mourners, as well as our pallbearers awaiting the arrival of the hearse. Once permission to bring the coffin in has been granted, we proceed with bringing the deceased into the church. Then, whilst the funeral is in progress, I tend to stand at the back of the church making notes. After approval by the family, we make sure these notes, comprising all the details of the service and who attended, are sent to the Guernsey Press. They aim to publish within six weeks of the funeral.
You definitely have to be a people person to do this role; to like talking to people, helping people, supporting them and taking over all the administrative strain of organising a funeral. It’s such an intensely personal time in people’s lives and to be allowed to be a part of it and help them remains a deep honour and in all honesty is what brings you back in each day.
Outside of work, I’m on the committee of St Pierre Park Golf Club and am also a member of L’Ancresse Golf Club – you could say I like golf! Being on the committee means you have to be organised and sociable, both transferable skills to my professional life.
Experiencing so many different funerals means I’ve obviously thought about my own! When I go I want my funeral to be a happy, joyous affair and a celebration of my life. I’m not intending to go any time soon but mum, if you ‘re reading this, I’d like people express themselves how they feel comfortable. There would be no obligation to wear a suit and tie, as long as they come to the after party and have a great night and most definitely raise a glass or two for me, I’d be happy!’