Embalmer Fizzy has worked at Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors for over 20 years! Read on to find out some of the things she loves about her job
The roles within a funeral directors are more diverse than you may think! A lot has changed since Freeman Brothers first began in 1855. With branches across West Sussex in Billingshurst, Crawley, Horsham and Hurstpierpoint, our workforce comprises of 28 staff, most of whom are employed full-time and some who are on part-time or flexible basis. Some of our team members have worked for the company for a number of years, and others have joined more recently. As the business continues to grow, and the funeral industry changes, we are required to be increasingly innovative, and this means even more variety among roles and responsibilities.
Today, we’ve profiled Fizzy, one of our longest-serving members of staff. Read on to find out more about her role, and what her time at the company has been like so far…
How long have you worked at Freeman Brothers? 21.5 years and counting!
What did you do prior to working at Freeman Brothers? School! I did a brief stint at college before realising that I was ready for work instead, and joined the company having completed my school work experience there two years previously. I’ve only ever had temp jobs elsewhere, for example a summer job in a bank, and another in a local shop.
What made you want to work at a funeral directors? I was fascinated by certain things as a child – when my Mum was cooking fish, I loved helping prepare and gut them, and seeing how their bodies worked! I also enjoyed watching Silent Witness, and thought that I was destined for a career as a pathologist as a result. With this in mind, when it came time to do work experience via school, a teacher suggested I take a placement at Freeman Brothers – she had been aware that the placement opportunity existed, but hadn’t been able to convince a pupil to accept yet! I immediately enjoyed the experience, and knew I had to go back.
Two weeks after I completed my placement, my Grandad died, and I returned to help look after him. I think what really sealed the deal was that my Mum sent me in with cakes on my last day of placement, and sent cakes again after my Grandad’s funeral; I think Freeman Brothers actually really wanted an employee who would regularly bring cakes in! If that’s the case, they did get what they were looking for – luckily for them, Mum is still willing to supply cakes, and she’s often called upon to feed the hungry team.
Describe your role for those who may not know what it involves… I’m a fully-qualified embalmer, and I’m also a funeral conductor and operative – all of which means I’m multi-talented! I’m good at sewing, so sometimes I’m called upon to fix a suit. I can also be found furnishing coffins (dressing them with lining) and, of course, preparing Deceased persons for viewing – whether they need to be fully embalmed or just washed and dressed. I’m the last person to care for someone’s loved one.
Preparing Deceased persons has been a more wide-ranging experience than people may think. When I first started, people were typically dressed in their Sunday best, whereas now I’m often provided with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt by a family. Pyjamas are also normal now, I think families now want their loved ones to be dressed in what they were most comfortable in when they were alive, rather than fitting some sort of unspoken rule. I’ve had the occasional wedding dress supplied as someone’s final outfit, as well as other cultural-related clothing – one of my most memorable experiences was being asked to dress a woman in a sari. As I’m not experienced in putting these on myself, another lady kindly came in to help me learn – there are specific ways in which saris must be folded and arranged on the person, depending on their status, where they’re from and other things. It was important to me to get it right for the family, and learning more about how these work was really interesting.
What’s your favourite part of your job? Embalming – the satisfaction of someone looking nice when you’ve finished the job. It takes an average of one to two hours, depending on various things, so it’s also an in-depth process which is satisfying when completed.
If you could help people to understand one thing about your job/funerals, what would it be? That they should talk about funerals more. I’d also like to encourage people to talk about funerals with others – friends, family members, whoever is likely to be involved in organising it. You can take the opportunity of a funeral happening to discuss what you would like, rather than just going through the motions of the funeral itself. I’d like people not to have to go through the uncomfortable experience of finding a funeral difficult to organise before they appreciate that it can be a lot more straightforward.
Has your job changed your own approach to discussing death, dying and bereavement outside of work? My approach to discussing death, dying and bereavement away from work hasn’t changed since working at Freeman Brothers. My parents were always open about it, and that’s transferred to me; two of my grandparents died when I was young, then I had the experience of my Grandad dying just after I’d completed work experience at Freeman Brothers, which also opened the conversation. It was my grandmother who insisted I come in after my Grandad’s death – she wanted me to check on him!
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the funeral industry whilst you’ve worked at Freeman Brothers? Everything has changed during the last twenty years! For embalming specifically, the chemicals and technology are better now than they’ve ever been. For the funerals themselves, there’s far more choice than previously, with the increasing demand for greener funerals and natural burials, or direct cremations, plus the huge variety of coffins which are available.
What do you think funerals will be like in 20 years’ time? I wouldn’t be surprised if it all changed again! I think there will be more green burials, and a further increase in people choosing not to have a funeral service as those from the past would recognise. More people now are opting to combine a direct cremation with a bespoke celebration, thanksgiving or party, and there’s less religious content in services already compared to when I started, and I think this will continue to decrease.
And finally, which songs would you like to be played at your funeral/memorial? Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. I’ve got a specific request for the committal of my coffin at the crematorium too: I’d like the curtains to come all of the way around the coffin, rather than just drawing in front of it – it’s set up this way at one of our local crematoria, and every time I’ve seen it happen, the theme from The Magic Roundabout has played in my head, and it makes me smile, so I’d like this to happen for my funeral. Hopefully people will start humming along!
Fizzy is based at Freeman Brothers in Horsham, and is one of two qualified embalmers on our team, along with Vicky who is based in Crawley.
Tel: 01403 254590
If you have an urgent query, please call 01403 254590. This number is answered by one our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the quickest way to reach us.
Tel: 01403 785133
25 & 27 Brighton Road
Tel: 01293 540000
126 High Street
Tel: 01273 831497