The average person doesn’t really like spending much time contemplating death. So, the thought of working in the funeral business probably doesn’t rank very high with most of us. But fortunately, there are those who choose this field – and they do so because they see it as a way of helping people during a most difficult time. They see it as their calling in life to be the final caregiver to those who have left this life.
Samuel Lay is one such man.
“I lost a friend in high school and saw what the family went through,” Lay says. It was that experience and his desire to help others in his community that made Lay choose to become a funeral director.
Members of Lay’s family grew up with and have always been close friends of the Crowell family, owners of Crowell Brothers Funeral Home in Norcross.
Even as a kid, Lay had an interest in the business. So now, at 22 years old and after nearly five years with Crowell Brothers Funeral Home, Lay says he is certain he made the right career choice, despite the occasional long hours.
“Yeah, there are times when I’ve missed holidays or spent all night at the funeral home,” he says, “but I have always wanted to help others.”
That’s a key characteristic of morticians – the desire to help others. Lay understands the needs of the families he serves; the emotions involved and the wishes they seek to have carried out for their loved ones. And an understanding of family psychology is crucial.
“I took family psychology in school and it was definitely helpful,” says Lay. “But despite all that you learn in school, actual experience is the best teacher.”
Lay says that, for many families, whether to bury or cremate is usually something that’s been discussed and decide on ahead of time – adding that about a third of the time, the wishes of the departed are to be cremated.
“But I think it’s generational,” Lay says. “It seems that while people were choosing cremation a little more during, say, my parents’ generation, many of this generation are choosing burial.”
Either way, Lay emphasizes that it is extremely important to be ever mindful of the traditions and religious protocols of the family because it brings comfort to the family during a special, private time.
One of the results of being in the funeral business is having a critical eye when it comes to cemetery maintenance. Lays says he often finds himself looking at cemeteries when traveling, especially in Europe, where cemeteries can be quite elaborate as well as historical.
“My family knows that when I travel, I’m probably going to visit the local cemetery,” he says, “because I find them interesting.”
Of course, the obvious question has to be – what is his opinion about spirits and ghosts?
“Well, I’m a Christian, so I have my beliefs about life after death,” Lay explains. “But if you’re asking do I hear things in the night if I’m at the funeral home…like doors shutting when I’m there alone…then I have to say – maybe.”
He laughs, “Of course, I also know that the mind can play tricks, so, no, I don’t believe in ghosts.”