The heart of our operations
Our heart is one of the most important organs within us. It lies in the center of our circulatory system and is connected to all parts of our body. Like the beating heart that helps our body to function daily, who are the ones working hard behind the scenes, enabling our operations to run smoothly?
At Direct Funeral Services (DFS), three dependable men form our team in the operations office. Together, they handle all the administrative procedures required for the wake and coordinate the flow of funeral events across all the departments in our company. Despite the fast-paced and ever-changing environment, they remain undeterred by the pressure and work towards one goal – a smooth funeral process for your beloved one.
Today, we sat down with our operations team leader, Htae War (aged 36 years), operations crew Kelvin (aged 41 years), and operations officer Jack (aged 24 years) to learn more about their job and experiences.
How did you get into this industry and what made you stay or keep motivated?
JT: I was pondering about my career choices during my national service (fresh out of junior college) and I knew that I wanted to do something meaningful. That was when I came across videos of young funeral directors and I decided to give it a shot. Knowing that I can help to support the families who are experiencing grief and convey the emotions that they have makes it memorable and meaningful for me. This is what keeps me going.
KV: I have always wanted to join the funeral industry. Back when I was 21, I wanted to join the trade but my parents were against it. In my 30’s I expressed my interest again and this time, they encouraged me to pursue it. That was when I saw a job advertisement from DFS and ended up applying for it! Besides finding meaning in what I do, the colleagues that I worked with made me stay. Everyone’s quite open to teaching and will help each other out when in need.
HW: I was working as a deliveryman when I saw staff from the logistics department collecting flowers from the floral shop. I grew curious about them and decided to join the company as I wanted to help people. After trying the job out, I found joy in helping people and decided to stay. This is already my 6th year in this company!
How does your expectation of the job (before joining) differ from reality?
JT: Initially, I thought the most significant or crucial part of the job would be the funeral day’s events. Reality was that there are more layers to the job with many things done behind the scenes to ensure a smooth funeral process. These things are actually more important and take more effort as compared to the actual funeral day.
HW: As I am from Myanmar, the way funerals are held is very different from Singapore. For example, we usually don’t embalm the deceased nor apply any makeup on them. After death, the deceased is placed in an electric fridge at wake locations. So coming to Singapore and experiencing embalming was an eye-opener for me.
How does your job scope differ from the other operations crew?
JT: An operations crew is usually on the grounds with the family while the operations office focuses on the back-end coordination and planning. All of us here started in the logistics department followed by a few years of training as an operations crew before we took on duties in the operations office. If there is a lack of manpower, we will also head out as an operations crew to help out on the grounds.
Can you walk us through the process from the moment you receive a case?
HW: When we receive a case, we will first dispatch an operation crew to the hospital or home to collect the deceased. Next, we will confirm the family’s preferred timings with the funeral directors and allocate manpower to send the deceased to the wake location. Lastly, we will notify the rest of the company so that they can proceed with the necessary preparation on their end.
KV: While waiting for the deceased to arrive, we will start on our administrative duties like the booking of cremation and inland ash scattering slots. We also prepare all the wake notices, posters, and safe-entry QR codes that are required at the wake location and begin assembling the coffin.
JT: Once the operation crew arrives with the deceased, we will proceed to check the white card (a card tagged to the deceased that is filled by the funeral directors at the hospital or home) and confirm the deceased’s details. We will also check for electronic devices before handing the deceased to the embalming department.
HW: After the embalming process, the embalmers will hand the deceased back to us. We will double-check the family’s grooming requirements with the embalmers and confirm the casket model with the white card. Afterwhich, we will place the deceased in the casket and tag the casket with the serial number written on the white card.
JT: Lastly, we will hand the deceased to the operations crew who have been notified by us to send the deceased to the wake location. The operations crew will take over from here and head to the wake location to assist the family.
Are there any things to note or avoid while preparing the deceased for sending to the wake location?
KV: We have to ensure that the casket is prepared correctly. The ornaments you often see on the casket are nailed in by hand and the type of ornaments we use depends on the religion of the deceased. Besides using the right ornaments, we have to make sure that the ornaments are nailed in at the right spots. We only have one chance to nail it right!
JT: Preparing the right deceased for the right casket for the right address are the key things for us to take note of. We also have to ensure that all the requirements by the family are met (for example, the grooming and attire).
HW: It is also very important to check if there are any pacemakers in the deceased or electronic devices left in their pockets or clothes (For Buddhist and Taoist cases, some family members will place a chanting machine with the deceased). This is because the electronic devices could result in an explosion in the cremation machine.
JT: Yes, and ultimately we have to treat the deceased with respect. So we always avoid leaning on the casket. We will also place the deceased in a private area away from the public’s eye so as to ensure safety and privacy.
Have you picked up any skills or lessons here and can they be applied to your personal life?
KV: Yes, I’ve picked up Microsoft Office and basic coding for our website here. These are skills that I will take away with me.
JT: Yes, there are a couple. Firstly, decision-making skills. We often have to make decisions quickly and these decisions need to be well thought of and forward-looking. I’ve also brushed up on my communication skills here. I’ve learned the importance of clear communication as it could lead to dire consequences. Both these skills can be applied to my personal life as well.
HW: I’ve picked up some important life lessons here. Working in this trade has changed my priority to my family. Besides this, I’ve forged friendships with my colleagues here and we often share our experiences. My manager especially has shared many valuable pieces of advice that have helped me to be a better man in my family.
What do you wish people outside of the funeral industry knew about your job?
JT: Many people have the misconception that this job is for the uneducated but this is not the case! This job’s for the compassionate who wish to help the family members of the deceased as they experience grief in the loss of their beloved ones.
KV: Sometimes when I take a cab to work, the cab drivers will ask me if I get scared as I am working in the funeral industry. Working at a funeral company’s the same as working in any other company. As long as you don’t imagine things, there is nothing to be afraid of.
HW: There are no spooky encounters of ghosts here. Many people have asked if I have seen or experienced any and I have not! Honestly, it’s the living that’s scarier *laughs*
*all photos posted here were taken pre-Covid
If you or anyone you know needs emotional or psychological support please contact Samaritans of Singapore, 24/7 helpline 1800 221-4444.
This article is part of a series of interviews with our colleagues in the various departments of our company. Check out our Funeral Insider Funeral Insider page to get an insider’s view on what life is like in the death industry!