Confessions of a funeral director
Personalising wakes and allowing families to help with preparing the body are key for this funeral company
She spends her days planning and coordinating funerals, so it is no surprise that Miss Ang Jolie Mei, 36, has planned her own.
The director of funeral company The Life Celebrant, said: "I love salsa dancing, so there will be a dance floor for my guests (and) playing (of) music that I love. I like red, so definitely red roses too.
"The outfit I always wear is the cheongsam, so I told my sister that if something were to happen to me, make sure I wear it."
Death is a family business for Miss Ang - her sister is an embalmer, and her late father, Mr Ang Yew Seng, ran his own funeral parlour, which Miss Ang's mother now runs.
The uniqueness of her business is in its name - celebrating life.
Miss Ang and her team not only help prepare a body for a wake after embalming, she also creates one-of-a-kind packages to help the deceased's loved ones get through the difficult process of grieving. She meets the family members to get a sense of the person he was and plans how the wake should look like and how the funeral should be decorated. She even suggests what the atmosphere could be like.
She has organised funerals that felt more like a party - one was for a young boy who loved playing sports and her team decorated the funeral with things that represented the boy's favourite activities, encouraging the attendees to recount their happiest memories of him.
A LIFETIME IN A DAY
Some might find organising 10 to 20 funerals monthly repetitive, but Miss Ang's sincerity shows in the way she remembers and recounts every funeral with vivid detail and enthusiasm.
She said: "I believe that a funeral should not be a day in the lifetime but a lifetime in a day." The Life Celebrant has a new service called Showers of Love, carried out at their new office, called the TLC Sanctuary at Geylang Bahru Industrial Estate.
Before watching the deceased go through the final rites, attendees can "collect themselves" in a warmly lit lounge, where they can write special messages on origami paper, have refreshments or rest.
They then enter the adjacent Showers of Love room, where Miss Ang's safe and hygienic procedures allow the families to be a part of the preparations.
The families are encouraged to participate in the rituals of preparing the body for the wake, which includes giving the deceased a facial, washing his hands and hair as well as dressing the body before it is placed in the casket.
The procedures are done under the guidance of the staff.
Miss Ang said: "It is important to allow them to be part of the experience and to touch the deceased one last time.
"This is something not everyone gets to do before saying goodbye. It is a simple act, but it is so meaningful."
Secrets of the trade
- Having a strong heart is necessary because dealing with loss and death on a daily basis can be emotionally taxing. Having an outlet, like Miss Ang’s choice of salsa dancing, helps.
- Grieving families can get very reactive and it is important to understand them as well as be patient with their requests.
- While travelling abroad, visit funeral parlours overseas as you could discover a practice that could be suitable for Singapore, too.