3 Things We Say at the Mortuary

3 Things We Say at the Mortuary


Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BrianAJackson

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BrianAJackson

Usually when people think of the funeral profession they think about the sadness associated with our position and have trouble going (or don’t want to go) beyond that. But beyond the grief that surrounds my job, I’ve found that death brings clarity to our perspective and at O’Connor, this perspective is ingrained in how we treat each other and the families that walk through our doors.

I’m just about to wrap up my first year at O’Connor and I thought I’d share with you some of the unique mantras we say to each other here at work.

“Be Flexible”

With all service-oriented professions, curve balls are thrown at all hours of the day. There are many people involved and with all the preparation that goes into planning a funeral service, there are still events that take place that you can’t plan for. By having an attitude that can “be flexible,” it allows us to improvise as the family needs us to and helps us to not get hung up if something unexpected happens or if something does not go as exactly planned.

When Dr. Bill Hoy came to our mortuary this past September for a staff training, one of the topics he discussed was giving yourself margin. This means building into your daily schedule a time-buffer between events. This way if things don’t turn out “as scheduled” – and you can usually rely on that happening – instead of being stressed, your margin gives you the time-flex needed and helps you maintain a calm mind as you move into the next event.

“Slow is Fast”

There can be some anxiety when you feel you have to get something done perfectly. When I first started directing funeral services, and it still happens on occasion, I would walk really fast to get something done or I would have a look of panic on my face because I was paranoid that I was forgetting something. Rushing to do something only allowed people to sense that I was stressed and anxious.

It took some time and experience to find the balance between getting it done quickly and doing the job right. My action plan now is to get the details taken care of, set-up for success, let the day take its course, and breathe!

“Relationships First, Task Second”

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/alexh

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/alexh

Sometimes I find that in needing to complete a task I focus too much on the logistics and execution of the project instead of the people I am trying to help.

It’s unfortunate that our profession has a reputation of too much business talk and not enough personal touch. With the aim of changing that stereotype, “Relationship first, task second,” is truly the top priority here at O’Connor and a huge part of why I love working here. To have chiefs and staff that believes in and practices this attitude helps us to practice it genuinely as we serve families. And really, the task is going to get completed. Task schmask. It’s people that matter.

If a year at a mortuary doesn’t give you a new perspective on life, nothing will. I want to encourage you to practice these lessons in your own daily life. Live in a way you won’t regret & don’t lose sight of the value of a relationship.

Death:  It’s not business, it’s personal.


What do you THINK . . .

If you applied just one of these mantras to your professional/personal life, how would it be different?

What is your “work mantra”?

By | 2014-01-07T23:11:07-08:00 January 7th, 2014|Self-Help|25 Comments


  1. Fitz January 8, 2014 at 6:25 am - Reply

    Hi Molly,
    Great blog and reminder of our core competencies. John Wooden, the great UCLA basketball coach, was famous for saying, “Be quick, but don’t hurry”. I think of this as well in our business as a tie in phrase to “Slow is Fast”. It’s about being proactive but having that “Slow is Fast” attitude to make sure we’re doing the job so the families are 100% satisfied.
    The “Relationship First, Task Second” to me is the most important. Because it’s not just the relationship with the families we serve, it’s the relationship we have with our team members as we are serving the families. Being respectful of each other as we work together will lead to success in serving the families when they need us the most.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Lauren January 12, 2014 at 9:06 am - Reply

      John Wooden definitely continues to be an inspiration!
      Being there for each other during the hard times makes all the great times even more of a pleasure.

      Thanks for sharing Fitz!

  2. Lori January 8, 2014 at 6:57 am - Reply

    Boy, can I relate to the “Be Flexible” mantra. That has been one of the biggest areas of growth for me over the last four years. I have typically been routined all of my life so to first start working on a part time basis where I might have an hour’s notice before I have to be at work was a big change for me. I needed to be more flexible, for sure.
    I might be walking down the corridor thinking I’m heading to do one thing and get pulled for something else. That’s what keeps each day new and I love it.

    Also, the relationship first aspect is what makes working at O’Connor extra special. I don’t think there are very many companies out there that take the relational health of their employees as seriously as O’Connor does. People say all of the time, “I don’t know what your owners do to find such nice people to work here.” I tell them exactly how committed they are to professional and relational development so that what they see is truly what they get. We ARE a family……
    Great post!!

    • Lauren January 12, 2014 at 9:18 am - Reply

      Thanks Lori!

      Working here definitely keeps you on your A game and allows you to try on different hats. I’m so glad to work with you and it really does feel like a family here!

  3. Molly Keating January 8, 2014 at 9:16 am - Reply

    I love the discussion and thought that your blog raises. I am a task person, I love checking things off my list and so often I find people to be “in the way” instead of seeing them as PEOPLE with souls and hearts and feelings. I love the perspective you throw out over this and I’m so delighted to be a part of a company that seeks to grow a culture built on these ideas.

    Thank you for sharing!

    My professional/personal mantra is: “Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.”


    • Lauren January 12, 2014 at 9:28 am - Reply

      It sometimes is difficult to shift the attitude from “just get it done” to “how can we work through this together in a timely and efficient manner.”

      Thank you for sharing that awesome quote!

  4. Anne January 8, 2014 at 10:06 am - Reply

    Great Blog, Lauren!
    These phrases you mentioned are truly in action here and part of what makes this such a wonderful place to work and at the basis of the strong desire we corporately have to provide flawless service and remain close to one another while doing it.
    There’s one other phrase that comes to mind. It happens to be the first thing that stuck for me soon after my arrival 18 years ago and it still has merit, I believe: “Do It Now”
    The way that one evolved for me was that often I was working on paperwork for a service that would not occur for several days. Still, we did it to completion right now. Reason: More often than not other families would come through the front door with huge time constraints and with those added deadlines, one could become stressed, but not so much if you had a “Do It Now” mindset and not a “There’s plenty of time” attitude.
    Even now, years later from my accounting seat, I see the great benefit of taking that extra few minutes to complete the entry, make the notes, keep up with the file now, instead of catching up later.
    Watching you work and interact here over the past year has been delightful. You are and will be such an asset to our mortuary family. I believe you were sent.

    • Lauren January 12, 2014 at 9:33 am - Reply

      Thanks so much Anne!!
      You are absolutely right about “Do it now.”
      There have been many times where it was 5pm and I knew I was on an early service the following day and there were a couple things that would make life a whole lot easier if I got it done then. Taking the time to do it at that moment ensured that I would not forget about it in the morning and have a clear mind to be attentive to the family in the morning.

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. Sharon Watkins January 8, 2014 at 11:43 am - Reply

    Great job on your blog Lauren!

    I can hardly believe you have been here a year! You are such a great addition to our team and we have all benefited by your style and example. It seems a natural progression for all of us to slowly adapt to our individual assignments here at O’Connor. We each have to learn how to do our job with the qualities and the mind set you wrote about. That is part of the learning curve and adventure of our profession.

    We are most fortunate to work with a wonderful staff that “get” very clearly what is important and what isn’t. I am grateful that I work for a company and with team members that understand and live the value that people are more important than things – EVERY TIME!

    • Lauren January 12, 2014 at 9:38 am - Reply

      “That is part of the learning curve and adventure of our profession,” I really love what you said and that is a great outlook at what we do.

      By having a positive mind set and working in our kind of environment only allows us to move forward as a company and grow personally.

      Thanks for sharing!

  6. Becky Finch Lomaka January 9, 2014 at 9:27 am - Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    What a perfect blog to kick off a new year. You and I started our employment here within a couple weeks of each other. I, too, reflect back on this last year and am amazed at how our “work culture” has made such a dramatic impact on my non-work life as well. Our “Relationship First…Task Second” mantra is the one I feel is so crucial to our health as a company.

    My personal work mantra focuses on the “Servant Leadership” philosophy of sharing power, putting the needs of others first and helping people develop and perform as highly as possible.

    Thanks for a great blog!

    • Lauren January 12, 2014 at 10:22 am - Reply

      There’s been so much we’ve learned and experienced this past year!

      What a great mantra! Thank you for sharing that!

  7. Neil January 9, 2014 at 10:39 am - Reply

    Hi Lauren –
    I love your blog! You have been a quick student to learn the deeper meaning of our profession. I love the fact that you can internalize these mantras!! You do have a fast pace foot or feet, pretty funny to acknowledge it. Once you realize that you feet are moving to fast then you probably are breathing to fast, oh no here comes a misstep or accident. Getting your head around what we are really doing is key, slow is fast, being flexible, having genuine care and concern for those around you, client and co-worker. You have an old soul, I love seeing you care for our families and community. I am proud to be in your life, I see the joy you have in serving others. Namaste!!! XO!!

    • Lauren January 12, 2014 at 10:26 am - Reply

      Thanks so much Neil!!
      I’m so grateful to have such awesome teachers and people I look up to not just when it comes to work but on a personal level as well. Namaste xoxo!

  8. Michael Thomas January 9, 2014 at 10:42 am - Reply

    Cool blog Lauren!

    Ive found it sooo easy to start applying these 3 things in my daily life outside of work, being as that we strive so hard everyday to perfect each of them. Its nice to read something with a nice positive light shining on our profession, and that great service starts with great people with great morals! I’m personally working harder on what would be my number 4 thing to say which is “No detail is too small.” and I’m happy to say that I’m learning that from you! keep up the great work!


    • Lauren January 12, 2014 at 10:30 am - Reply

      Thanks Michael!

      It’s so great to be learning together and from each other! You bring so much care and attention to families.

      Sorry again about the bathroom.

  9. Christopher Iverson January 9, 2014 at 10:50 am - Reply

    Lauren, Thank you for putting words to purpose. In regard to being flexible and willing to adapt to each individual situation that we face, I’ve always said “Dream in pencil.” But ultimately we serve people and we should never lose sight of our calling.

    • Lauren January 12, 2014 at 10:32 am - Reply

      Thanks Chris and thank you for always reminding us of these words of wisdom during the morning meetings!

  10. Lauren January 12, 2014 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing Elsa!

    You do a great job at taking care of families with the highest level of care and proficiency and I’m glad to have you and all the other arrangers to look up to!

  11. Lauren January 12, 2014 at 9:47 am - Reply

    Thank you so much Carrie! Taking on your transitions has helped me learn so much. Thank you for your patience and guidance, you rock!

  12. Jeff Turner January 13, 2014 at 8:10 pm - Reply


    Thank you for sharing the “things we say”. It’s true, we really do and it is fun to read about it. These and other sayings are a part of our everyday culture and it is easy to become accustomed to them, to the point where we forget just how great these sayings are. They are only great because we believe it and intentionally practice them everyday.

    It is great to have you in the family Lauren. I look forward to seeing where your career in this profession will take you.


  13. Mark January 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    Lauren…..Thanks for reminding me that it is always relationships first and task second….on occasion I get so busy doing “things” that I forget its really about the people….Mark

  14. Chuck Ricciardi January 14, 2014 at 9:23 pm - Reply


    The student has become the master… I cannot believe a year has gone by so quickly, it seems like yesterday you were just beginning your journey. I’m so glad you and all of us on the team take these three mantras to heart. It really is all about helping and serving each other first, so we can serve our families as one complete team. Thank you for your take and insight, you have come a long way in a short time. I appreciate your commitment and desire to serve and be the healer of hearts, keep it up.


  15. Patricia Kolstad February 10, 2014 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Lauren . . . Well done, Grasshopper! I can’t tell you how proud I am to know you, to have you here, and to see all that you have accomplished in this past year. You are truly the “Next Gen” O’Connor professional. It is amazing to me . . and really, it shouldn’t be . . . that we have such accomplished, unique, and dedicated young women in our midst. Thank you for sharing your vision and how you have embraced the O’Connor Culture. The things we have learned here are truly life lessons and need to be shared. And in your words, it really is people that matter!

  16. Shayna Mallik February 13, 2014 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Another great blog. I think what you wrote here really shows what each of us are striving for here at work and for our company. You have come so far in the year you been with us and now you are seeing families. I am so happy for you and remember I am always here to help 🙂