patrick mcnally

Undertaker Patrick McNally is not a merchant of death

I am not a casket salesman. I do not attempt to make a funeral into a retail transaction.

What wasn’t the reason you became an undertaker?

I didn’t want to spend my life’s work doing something that just came along; becoming an undertaker was a conscious choice to do something important.

What sort of people aren’t suited to working in the funeral industry?

People who hope to make a lot of money, work regular hours, or hope to avoid emotionally challenging situations usually aren’t suited to working in the funeral industry.

What shouldn’t people say to a grieving person?

People should not say things to grieving people that attempt to ‘fix’ the situation, like “You’ll have another child” or “He’s in a better place”, or “It’s just her shell”.

People should never say that they understand what the grieving person is going through. They should listen and find out.

You say funeral services face a crisis of relevance. Why isn’t the funeral industry as relevant as it used to be?

The needs of consumers have changed, but the goods and services offered by most funeral homes have not changed to meet those needs.

Is there anything you don’t like about working in the funeral industry?

I don’t like telling a family that we can’t make a service the way that they want it, so I find a way to make it happen.

I don’t like seeing families choose a meaningless service or choose not to have a service, so I do what I can to explain the value of ritual.

What don’t want your own funeral to be like?

I don’t want ‘Amazing Grace’ played, I’ve heard it enough already.

I don’t want important things like the procession, wake, or reception skipped just because they may be inconvenient.

I don’t want anyone coming to my service in casual clothing. It’s a funeral, not a barbeque.

For more of Patrick’s insights into the funeral business, take a look at his blog The Daily Undertaker

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Meri September 10, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Having attended several funerals in recent weeks, I have thought a lot about appropriate and helpful ways of responding to grieving friends. I really appreciate Patrick’s thoughts in this section.

    • Max September 10, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      I’m glad he was of some help Meri

  2. Thomas Cotterill September 12, 2012 at 3:30 am

    A useful post, Max. I’m one of those people who always manages to say the wrong thing at the wrong time because I don’t understand what the other person is going through. McNally’s advice to “listen and find out” is very wise.

    • Max September 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      It is a good way to approach it. I always have an urge to “fix” someone’s situation, which isn’t always possible. And I think his advice shouldn’t just be in relation to grieving people, but anyone with any kind of problem.

  3. Jimmy Edmonds September 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    All very wise words …. undertakers should be like midwives (in fact up until the mid 19th century, they often were), people with special knowledge of entering and leaving this world, but a knowledge gained from listening rather than telling…

    • Max September 12, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      You have some wise words to offer on the subject as well Jimmy – very interesting comparison you make.

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