‘It is okay to smile through the tears’ | Vicky Meets
Vicky meets... Jason Corbin, funeral director at Reynolds and president of the Sussex Country Association of Funeral Directors.
• Funeral directors have worked throughout the pandemic. How hard has it been?
Very hard. I was tasked by the Sussex County Association to work alongside the Sussex Resilience Forum during the peak of the pandemic. Some very kind funeral directors from all over Sussex came together to help at a time when hospitals were struggling. It was a huge job; I was doing my job for Reynolds and also manning the emergency phone for the Resilience Forum. The sadness Covid caused and how it impacted on funerals was awful – no big turnouts, no wakes and having to say no to families visiting their loved ones.
• How did you become a funeral director?
I have wanted to be a funeral director since about the age of 12. My cousin worked in funeral directors near my home town and she would tell me about her job. Then there was a brilliant TV documentary called Don’t Drop the Coffin in the early 2000s that followed a London funeral director. That really inspired me. I began working as a funeral director in 2010, then James called me five years ago and I have been here ever since. Reynolds was always where I wanted to work.
• What are the essential qualities of a good funeral director?
You need to be a people person and a really good communicator. You also need to be empathetic, efficient, a great listener and have really good attention to detail. You also need to be good at reading people. We build relationships with families and we want them to feel comfortable with us. It’s a vocation, not a job.
• Have funerals changed?
Yes. It’s more about celebrating a life now. The industry has modernised, but the balance of solemnity and making the occasion personal is much more even nowadays. We don’t have to turn up in a tail coat and a top hat if people don’t want, although most like the sense of dignity that our formal dress brings. We can arrange all sorts of vehicles for coffins, including Land Rovers and motorcycles. We once had a request for all of our staff to wear Hawaiian shirts at the funeral, and we’ve also had a lady who was terminally ill book a comedy duo to perform at her funeral. Anything that a family wants, I’ll make it happen. Mourning is important, but it is okay to smile through the tears.
• What’s the best advice you can offer?
If I could shout one thing from the rooftops it would be for people to write down their wishes for their funeral. Or talk about them. One of the hardest things for us is a family having no clue about their loved one’s wishes. We invite people to leave instructions with us. It’s free, and even if your family chooses not to use us, there is a record we can hand over.
For more information visit www.reynoldsfunerals.co.uk