*Originally published by the Independent Funeral Directors of Florida Independent Weekly Newsletter, Volume 6, Issue 40
Author: Amanda Marie Eilis King, CFSP & MBIT
The language we chose in this career can bear a heavy weight with the families we serve. My mentors stressed this with me and instilled in me to carefully choose the words I say – as it especially reflects upon our professionalism. I think of this often, as this is a career field that I have seen fight for its right to be called a profession ever since the turn of the 20th century. As times change, I also see it slip as our language morphs – however these are two terms I strongly believe need to still have their weight considered before we speak them out loud. Death can have moments of being gentle, and so can the language we chose to utilize around it.
When we say we are doing a “removal” within earshot of the decedent’s loved ones, that term can often come off cold, and unintentionally make them feel that something, or rather someone, has been taken from them – despite death already doing that. Let’s take a look at these terms and their alternative meanings. To “remove” means to take away, to eliminate, to get rid of, to do away with, and/or to have a degree of separation. I guarantee their loved ones already feel this way as death took away the person they loved. But if we look at the term “transfer” it appears much more neutral. It means to move from one place to another, to change to another place, the act of moving something or someone, and/or means of transport during a journey. Isn’t that what we’re truly doing?
Even though many believe the physical body to be a vessel, it still is an essence of the decedent’s personhood. Bodies will always matter more than we think they might. And their personhood will persist where it palpably no longer resides – our language that we use in this field should reflect this. We must treat this crux tenderly as professionals. And this is why I challenge you to reconsider the next time your lips want to let slip the term “removal,” and say “transfer” instead – even behind closed doors and amongst colleagues.
Amanda Marie Eilis King, CFSP & MBIT, is an Embalmer and Funeral Director holding licensure in multiple states, as well as extensive training in postmortem reconstructive work. Currently, she is a Funeral Director and Embalmer for Bailey Family Funeral Homes in CT, does freelance work as AMEK Graphics, and is an embalming specialist with Frigid Fluid Company. She is also an educator who specializes in and teaches reconstructive work and cosmetic application, and her contributions in the field outside of the funeral home include articles, illustrations, and photography for trade journals.