Kathy Baril
Scholarship Winner, Spring 2009

Essay: An Easier Transition

I began the journey toward my new career in funeral service long before I knew I was even traveling at all. I have always had compassion for people when they lost a loved one, but I never really knew the traumatic effect death could impose in your life until my senior year in high school. When I was eighteen my father suddenly died and it threw our family into a tailspin. The medical staff said he had no brain function and told me, my Mom and older sister that we had to make a decision about whether to withdraw life support. That was the hardest thing I had ever dealt with up to that point in my life, but things got harder.

Over the course of the next few years, I slowly watched my Mom implode. Whether it was in the beginning and all of the paperwork and forms a death brings or the overwhelming grief she felt after losing her partner of 34 years, she began to shutdown. My dad had not planned on dying, he had very little life insurance, leaving us with not even half of his yearly salary and we had to sell the house I grew up in. We suffered many secondary losses and life was hard. I was young and didn’t know how to deal with things. I wish I knew then what I know now about grief and counseling. I could have helped my family and myself more. My Mom had many health issues after my Dad’s death, I think form unresolved and masked grief. She recovered from breast cancer only to be diagnosed with terminal lung cancer five years later. I watched her linger and fade away.

I think that my professional life experience of having a business degree and being a hair stylist for 19 years, along with my personal brushes with death have been leading me straight to funeral service without me even knowing it. I know how to make people look good, I know how to listen and I have some idea about how a business runs. I know what it is like to have the shock of a sudden death and what the pain of watching a loved one slowly die feels like. The Funeral Directors that worked with our family were so calm and comforting. They helped take control of a chaotic situation, when we didn’t even know how to breathe, let alone what or how to make the decisions we needed to make. I want to be that person of strength for someone; I want to make the families I serve have an easier transition through a death experience. I want to help them understand what feelings to expect and how they should feel them not shut down like my Mom did. I think that I can help people and be empathetic to their losses. The idea of comforting someone after a death makes me feel worthwhile, that I am actually doing something important for people. All of these aspects of my old life seem like a perfect match for my new life and I just need some help in reaching my goal.