The urn Alexandra Davidge picked out isn’t selling as well as her colleague’s.
“Everyone always seems to be very shocked that someone my age, a young woman, is in this field,” she says calmly, sitting in a small office at the Heritage North Funeral Home.
To her left is a wall of decorative boxes, vases and ornate statues, all of which are urns for purchase. Everyone who works at the funeral home picked one out of the catalogue for the display – whatever they thought would be most popular.
So far, no one has chosen Davidge’s cream-coloured wooden vase. But this doesn’t bother her the least bit; there are more important things to worry about on the job.
As a third-year nursing student at the University of Lethbridge, Davidge’s summer STEP (Student Training Employment Program) position is giving her a unique take on nursing.
“It’s opened my eyes a lot to death, dying, grieving and helping others in a different way that I would never have considered before.”
Unsure of what field of nursing she would like to pursue, working in a funeral home has introduced Davidge to the idea of palliative care, nursing the terminally ill.
“You know they aren’t going to get better, but just do your best to help make their last days the best that you can,” she explains.
Heritage North is the only funeral home in the Yukon and it provides an essential service to Yukoners and their loved ones. As a funeral assistant, Davidge’s job isn’t always easy.
Calls to the home are unpredictable and the amount of work is just as irregular. Sometimes there are only one or two funerals a week while other days there are five.
All the same, Davidge has nothing but positive things to say about her work environment. She says her co-workers are great to work with. Heritage North has recently moved to a new location, a peaceful and modern building with everything the staff needs.
Davidge works in all functions of the funeral home with the exception of finalizing contracts. Before starting at Heritage North, two years ago, she’d only been to two funerals. Now, she can’t even recall how many she’s assisted at.
Parts of Davidge’s job definitely make other people queasy. She does removals, where she picks up the deceased. Sometimes she has to drive to different communities. Death is hardly ever pleasant and she admits to becoming emotional.
“Death is not something you talk about everyday,” she explains.
Not everyone reacts positively when she explains her job. What drives Davidge is knowing she is helping someone out.
Her family is full of nurses and she knew the career would allow her to work positively with other people. She finds satisfaction in the challenge and reward of helping someone’s loved ones recover.
“You never know what to expect from the different families or groups that you deal with because everyone reacts differently to grieving,” she explains. Her peaceful mannerisms are sure to help her play the role of a quasi-counsellor.
After graduating from nursing school, Davidge hopes to work for a few years as a nurse. She is considering eventually becoming a licensed funeral director.
“When I used to think of a funeral director, I would think of that older gentleman who is really serious,” she says, making a grim face. But Davidge has discovered the stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. As a young woman with a kind heart, she is perfect for the job.