This honest conversation is with my friend Rachel. We work together as funeral pastors and so I wanted to chat with her a bit about that as well as all just some other wonderfully honest chit-chat! We can’t quite both remember when we met each other but I think we knew of each other at mutual friends and it was maybe at the birthday part of a mutual friend’s daughter! All I know now is that I love her very much, it’s such a privilege to work with her and she’s one of those friends I feel like I don’t get enough time with but often we have messages going back and forth on WhatsApp. So, here you go…
How are you finding lockdown?
Honestly it really depends on the day. Some days I’m bursting with energy and positivity – there’s lots of really wonderful things that have and will come out of all of this. Other days are harder – stuck at home with two small children is no picnic. But even saying that seems ridiculous as I know people have had to be separated from their children, which I really can’t imagine. I try to count my blessings and know that many people have it much worse.
What’s one thing you’ve learned in lockdown?
I’ve learned a lot. The main thing I hope to keep with me is not to take my freedom and all the great things we get to do for granted. I’m also listening to a book called Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer on Audible, and it’s blowing my mind a little bit. So I am learning through that, although it’s not lockdown related!
Why did you become a funeral pastor?
Truthfully, it fell into my lap at a really good time as I needed something that would fit into the shifts of a police officer and small children. I knew I wanted to do something meaningful where I could make a difference, and use some of my creativity, but this job has been a blessing in endless ways I could have never foreseen.
What is one thing you love about being a funeral pastor?
So many things!!! My favourite thing right now given the current lockdown situation, is the moment I drive up to a beautiful cemetery on a sunny day (which they all seem to have been recently!). As I drive up, I take a deep breath and thank God for the job I’m doing and the family who’s about to say goodbye to a person they loved.
What is something that is difficult about it?
Right now, it’s the low numbers allowed to attend services. It is very hard to watch a group of 4-5 people who all know and love each other stand two meters apart, each weeping but unable to comfort each other.
What thing do you love most about parenthood?
Watching a baby develop into a real person with thoughts, opinions, personality, likes, dislikes, pain, love (endless list obvs) is the most astounding privilege.
What thing do you find hardest about parenthood?
I think this question is so personal because everyone has a slightly different experience (going back to work or not, having lots of support or not, having good sleepers or NOT as the case may be). For me the hardest thing is the lack of freedom. I do work, but only for a few hours at a time here and there. I don’t really have a moment that’s not filled with children, funeral planning or housework. Living the dream, I know! I do actually love my life, so I wouldn’t change anything. I can see a time when it will be different, but I definitely have moments when it feels quite overwhelming.
What are you most passionate about?
Loving people! Ah, that sounds so cringey. I wouldn’t say I have a huge circle of people I even love. I think it’s really important to be a generally decent person and treat every person you meet with love and respect. But what I’m good at is loving my close people. Or what I try to be good at. That’s what I think is the most important thing anyway. I believe we get placed in life with people we might not necessarily choose – family, church people, friends of partners, work colleagues etc – but that it’s the people we’re placed in life with that we’re called to focus on. Well, for me. I wonder if I’m making sense.
What’s your biggest fear?
My entire life, it has been the idea of losing everyone that I love. It has been a terrifying and crippling fear at times. I wouldn’t say it’s the same now, I think it’s losing my children. Obviously I wouldn’t want to lose anyone, but that is the fear that nuzzles itself into my brain nowadays.
What is one of the most useful things you’ve learned in adulthood that you wish you knew before?
Chill the f out! I spent so much time worrying what other people thought of me, how I came across, how skinny I was, what my face looked like, etc etc etc. Maybe it’s adulthood or maybe it’s just motherhood, but I have chilled out about all that stuff so much. It makes me so sad when I think of the time I wasted, and how many children/teenagers/people in general are spending so much time focussed on what they should change.
What makes you feel the most nervous?
Hmm, my life sometimes. I’m always worried about dropping a ball. I’m the admin for my family’s life and so that can be quite stressful at times. I get massive anxiety if I don’t feel like my organisation is under control.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
The list is endless. I can’t lie, I have a wonderful life. I guess the thing I’m most grateful for is the family I’ve grown up in and how close we all are. There were definitely some bumps along the way as there always are with families, but doing the job I do makes me realise how much different it could be. I’m incredibly grateful to know that I’ve got such a wonderful support system.
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life so far?
Aside from any relationship in my life, I will say learning to drive! Is that lame? I really had no confidence that I could do it, which seems silly as everyone can! I got my license in April 2019 and I feel like since then I have gained an all new independence and confidence in what I can achieve.
What do you value most in a friendship?
Really hard question. Honesty, loyalty, the ability to not take oneself too seriously.
What is your saddest memory?
I don’t want to answer this, but the question did make me think. It’s funny how even when you’ve moved past something completely, the memory of it still holds sadness. The memory I’m thinking of is around an old boyfriend, so it’s just funny that as happy and grateful one can be about the place they are in their lives and with the way things turned out, there can still be sadness attached to moments that led to where we are.
When did you last cry?
I cry all the time at the moment. The other day I cried in a crematorium car park. I used to try really hard not to cry, now I try not to hold it back at all.(Bar inappropriate circumstances, like leading a funeral service…) But I think it’s really good and important thing to do. I always feel better afterwards.
What are the most amazing things you’ve achieved in the last year?
What is “achievement” really? I have managed to raise two healthy, beautiful, happy children while maintaining a job that I love. My husband is a police officer and having to fit my job around his shifts means our life requires an incredible amount of organising and balancing. (Most days) I feel a huge amount of achievement that we manage so well.
What one thing do you wish people would talk about more?
Death. Do I have to say that because I’m a funeral pastor? But honestly, I mean, in my family it’s spoken about quite a lot, not just because of what I do. It’s tragic when I meet with families who’ve never spoken about it and haven’t a clue what their loved ones would have wanted. My mum has been telling me how she’d want to be buried for years! I think there’s lots of things people should talk about more, particularly with their friends and family.
Don’t dance around topics or bury feelings. Time slips away from you and before you know it, it’s too late.