Sunday , June 12, 2016 - 6:00 AM5 comments
Folks who work in the funeral-services industry have always seemed just a little odd — what with all that death and grief and embalming and such. So what does it say when even these people find one of their own a bit too, well, weird?
Meet Wendy Green, a Pleasant View resident who calls herself “The Funeral Lady.” She admits she’s passionate about a subject many consider “creepy.”
For starters, Green loves attending funerals — she finds them to be beautiful, emotionally rewarding experiences. She’s fascinated with the process of embalming, and has several books on the subject. And Green thinks cemeteries and mortuaries are peaceful and comforting places — even in her youth, whenever she would go on walks, she would invariably end up in a cemetery.
“When I was stressed and having a hard time, I’d go to the cemetery and just sit,” she says.
Green even has some offbeat, funeral-related furniture in her home, including a bookcase converted from a “rental casket” that was once used for viewings of deceased people before they were cremated.
“People say, ‘How can you have a casket right next to your bed?’ ” Green says. “But to me, it’s peaceful.”
Green also used to have a coffee table shaped like a coffin, but she recently moved and her new place doesn’t have enough room for it. So she took it apart and used the remains to make a coffin-shaped headboard for her bed. Green is also in the process of getting a license plate that will properly identify her as The Funeral Lady.
Green credits her upbringing for her lack of squeamishness around the subjects that many find uncomfortable. She was raised in the foothills of central California by a single dad who, she says, “needed boys and had two girls.” Green says her father didn’t allow his children to have fears.
“We had to be brave,” she said. “He always told us he wanted us to be comfortable in any situation — we were not allowed to be fearful.”
Mark Thoresen, Green’s father, confirms that diagnosis.
“The kids’ mother was fearful of a lot of things, even rides at the county fair,” Thoresen said in phone interview from Prescott, Arizona. “I wanted the kids to be bold and fearless.”
Thorsen believes if you can overcome one of your bigger fears, such as heights, the rest don’t seem as scary.
Green has tried her hand at various jobs over the years, including freelance writing for the Standard-Examiner at one point. One day, she was talking to a neighbor who was a funeral director and the minute he began telling her about his occupation, Green thought, “This is it.”
“As soon as he opened his mouth and started talking, it was my lightbulb moment,” she recalled.
So Green enrolled in funeral-director school. But halfway through the program, life intervened. A difficult divorce, and raising six kids, led her to drop out of school. She’s tried going back a couple of times, but says other job opportunities kept coming up.
Then, five months ago, Green discovered funeral planning.
“For years, my dream job had been being a funeral director,” she said. “But doing this funeral planning, I’ve found my place.”
Today, Green sells funeral plans for a local mortuary. We say “local mortuary” because, frankly, her boss would prefer his company not be named in a piece about Green and her obsession. She’s been called “eccentric” and “definitely not mainstream” in an industry where eccentricity and deviation from that stream isn’t exactly the dignified image mortuaries are trying to project.
Still, Green’s boss admits she is both enthusiastic and very good at what she does.
Green, who can be reached at email@example.com, says her job is helping to make a dark day just a little bit brighter for her clients.
“That’s rewarding to me,” she said. “It’s an honor to be there when someone is born, it’s a greater honor to be there when they leave this earth.”
The funeral business isn’t the only thing that gets Green excited. She also has a “kick-butt shoe collection” (it once numbered over 200 pairs but is now closer to 100) and a minor obsession with the Eiffel Tower.
“The Eiffel Tower, funerals and shoes,” she said. “That’s what I’m about.”
Green says she’s heard that in some cultures, they make a cake that looks like the deceased and then eat it, concluding: “That’s just too weird.”
Even for The Funeral Lady.
Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal.
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