I began my career with O’Connor Mortuary at precisely the right time. My boss, Neil O’Connor, is an idea man and to my benefit, one of his better ideas was that all of our orders for grave markers should be designed and processed by one member of our staff. He chose me for this role and three years later, I could not be more honored that he did.
A grave marker is the rectangular bronze or granite stone that is placed on the grave of a loved one at a cemetery. While the name is that of the departed, the marker is created for the family to remember them by.
Grave markers tell a beautiful story in a 28×16 rectangular space. Multiple photo tiles may be used to chronicle each decade of your beloved’s life. Custom emblems allow the opportunity for meaningful hobbies, clubs and organizations to be represented. Your relative’s signature can even be immortalized on granite for future generations to examine.
Some families come in with exactly what they want written on the marker. They select a basic design and we typically meet for thirty minutes or less. This same family will usually approve the first proof and have their marker delivered within a month.
Other families will take years to complete their loved one’s marker. Sometimes the process is too painful so they put it away for a period of time and contact me when they are ready to resume. Some families even create the artwork for the marker themselves.
I’ve noticed that many of my families are looking for someone to hear their story and help them develop a marker that is the perfect tribute. With these families I typically spend about 2 hours or more listening and learning about their loved one. This is where I have found ministry through memorializing.
I believe it is what I am made for.
My position is also unique in that I have ongoing contact with the families that I serve. During the weeks or even months that the marker is being designed, approved, produced and delivered, I am in frequent contact with the family. We share a lot during this time.
I have been invited to their children’s baseball games, family gatherings and lunches stemming from the connections that we made.
The most important element of my job is that families trust me enough to be transparent and invite me into their world and what they are experiencing each day. That is the heart of why I am so passionate about what I do.
Neil O’Connor gave me solid advice when I began this position: “Treat this like it is your own business.” It has ignited a fire in me that makes me strive to be the best I can be. Pride of ownership is a driving force but beyond that I have found my purpose and passion.
Have you designed a grave marker for a member of your family?
What was the biggest challenge in the design process for you?
What do you want your grave marker to say one day?