That was then

Charles 7 Comments



“When the place was packed full the undertaker he slid around in his black gloves with his softy soothering ways, putting on the last touches, and getting people and things all ship-shape and comfortable, and making no more sound than a cat. He never spoke; he moved people around, he squeezed in late ones, he opened up passageways, and done it with nods, and signs with his hands. Then he took his place over against the wall. He was the softest, glidingest, stealthiest man I ever see; and there warn’t no more smile to him than there is to a ham.”

Mark Twain


  1. Charles

    The good FD is like the best silver-service waiter, always close at hand but never intrusive. Immediately available should the family want to catch his eye or need assistance.

    It’s one of the most delicate but rewarding parts of a funeral – for a funeral director. Takes a long time to master the art, some never do!

  2. Charles

    The best conductors are naturally good with people and with stress. If you’re not, don’t apply because even with lots of training you’re going to struggle.

  3. Charles

    Ha ha – I love it.
    Reminds me of the ‘I blame the Patriarchy’ post that still has me uplifted with its wickedly observant eye. Oft repeated here perhaps, but never bettered.
    As undertakers – while doing all that we need to – we do not really need to appear ‘other’, unless it is for our own professional enlargement or, possibly, personal protection.
    Thanks Charles.

  4. Charles

    Ah, James, that Patriarchy piece wins every prize for sharpshooting invective. Priceless and precious.

    The status thing is interesting. I think a great many undertakers idolise Carson, the butler in Downton. There are times when I think psychologists need to categorise a new personality trait: servile-aggressive.

  5. Charles

    Yes! Servile aggressive is exactly it. I flip-flop between the two most days! 🙂

    Yesterday, I was being serially abused by a client family – all because we dared ask them to pay their bill after several months of fob off.

    The soft-spoken Mr Nice that I had been at the crematorium earlier in the day – to a clearly delighted with our service family – had vanished in to the ether.

    1. Charles

      Ah, an interesting take on the term, David. I’d seen the agression within the very servility, as in, for example:
      “Your wife was clearly a wonderful and beautiful woman, lucky to have such an understanding husband who knows she would want to be seen only in our top of the range casket that we are so honoured to be able to supply for her.”

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