June 14, 2012 -
A gurney is rolled out of the back of a big black hearse. A funeral worker pulls back the heavy blanket covering a "body" and asks:
"Art, are you ready to do my job?"
My reply: "Oh yeah man, I live for this!"
Who says death is no laughing matter? Not the staff at Faith Funeral Home in Havana, Florida.
Scott Whitehead, the establishment's president says he knew this is what he wanted to do since he was a teen.
Says Scott, "I told my mom when I was 13 years old that I wanted to be a funeral director and she couldn't believe it. Actually her first words were, 'Let's just get you out of high school first.'"
Scott says a funeral director he met as a kid inspired him.
"He was the most incredible, compassionate human being I'd ever met."
So Scott pursued his dream and in 2003 opened Faith Funeral Home with Aaron Hall-- the home's manager. Hall takes a lot of those calls asking the home to transport a body.
The call can come in 24 hours a day. It could be a family or a hospital, or even the Highway Patrol at the scene of a fatal crash.
Kelly Barber is another critical member of the team here at Faith.
She says what she's witnessed over the years has caused her to ask some tough questions.
" When I was pregnant I had to help a family that lost a baby and that was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," said Barber.
I had questions as to why it happens to someone, and is it going to happen to me?"
Kelly's strength helping those grieving families find comfort.
Aaron does the same thing in his own way. He gathers old family photos and lovingly creates the funeral brochure and video for the service.
" You can watch a family go from tears to laughter and joy in just a matter of minutes, and that's touching," says Aaron.
Faith is a place where laughter and tears seem perfectly at home... even in the embalming room!
Here's a sample of the dialog between Scott and me as we hover over an unseen embalmer's table.
"Art, hand me that scalpel.
Here you go.
First we need to cut and peel this back.
See how I did this?
I see it!
We make an incision all the way through.
Ouch, that's got to hurt!
Not really, would you like a piece?" (Scott holds up a piece of apple!)
Thanks, I'd love one!
No one slices an apple like Scott.
" I actually had a body that rolled over. (On its own?) On its own! (What happened? It scared me to death."
Coffins can be scary too, but a new feature called a memory safe helps make the afterlife a little more familiar.
Scott says "Cigarettes are popular, golf balls, pocket knives."
There are lots of strange, funny and touching moments in this business, but the bottom line is helping family and friends
honor and remember someone they loved.
Scott sums up the devotion they feel toward their work with the story of a little girl who died, whose parents were told they'd never be able to view her at the funeral. Scott spent 16 hours restoring her, to make sure the family could say goodbye.
"When they see her and get the chance of seeing their loved one...to me that's what I live for. To serve them and to help them through a very difficult process."