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Jefferson State Community College Student Essays
By Samantha Brown Gibbs
In 2019, I lost both my parents seven months apart each to cancer; (my father to leukemia on May 26th, 2019, and my mother to breast cancer on December 22nd, 2019). Before that year I had no up close and personal experience with death or the planning and decisionmaking process of a funeral. I was hurt and lost all at once, but somehow drawn to the details of the process in a mysteriously intense way that I couldn’t put into words at that time. I just wanted to know more about everything that funeral service involved, what all it took to carry out this task from the other side of the desk. Somehow, I was prompted to pay close attention, even through my pain, to something that I had never taken a part in or didn’t really understand for that matter; but all I knew is that I now wanted to understand with a passion that was so intense that it couldn’t be ignored. This desire first became apparent to me when my father died in May, but I didn’t act on it, instead, I just picked up the pieces of my life without my dad and went on as best I could, but never forgetting my newfound interest. Life happens as it often does, I didn’t have much time to think, act or grieve before more bad news was delivered. Two weeks later my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Now my dad opted out of any treatment, chemo/ radiation that was offered to him, based on wanting to just live out the rest of whatever life he had left in the best condition possible; not sick, weak, tired and drained. So, I respected his decision and supported him in the way that he would have me to, but my mom was a different story. She wanted to fight by any means necessary (whatever that meant); so we started her journey to survive. But by her third round of chemo things took a turn for the worst and she lost her battle with breast cancer.
While my family and I were planning her funeral I became sure of what I had to do, it was no longer just a fading curiosity, no longer an option for me to ignore what God was showing me about what I was really put here on earth to do (MY PURPOSE). Soon after my mom’s funeral on December 28th, 2019, I was finally able to put into words and state out loud what I had discovered about myself and what I had to do as a result. So I stated to my new husband my new revelation (Not knowing how he would receive or feel about this information), I stated “I think that I have to go to school for funeral service”. He asked me why I thought that, I explained my reason and he stated “Okay, I will support you if that’s what you feel you have to do”.
2020 came in, I was hoping to just be able to breathe, grieve, heal, and once again pick up the pieces but this time it would be without my mom or dad, so I knew that I was going to need the type of strength and energy that only God could give me, to even get started on the task ahead. So I did what normally works best in my life (I prayed) asked God for what I needed. Then I got up, did my research, and started my journey to become enrolled in a funeral service program. I spoke with the owner of Hardaway Funeral Home (whom we had entrusted to provide funeral services for our parents), shared my plans/my reason, and asked if he would allow me to do my apprenticeship at his facility when it was time; and he stated “Yes”, So I placed the first phone call of many to Dr. Ennis at Jefferson State Community College; who for the next year pleasantly talked me through step by step what I needed to do to become Jefferson State Community College Student Essays Samantha Brown Gibbs is a nurse and is married with three children and two grandchildren. She currently lives in Demopolis Alabama and is enrolled in the Funeral Service Education program at Jefferson State Community College, Presently, she is serving an apprenticeship at Hardaway Funeral Home in York AL under the guidance of Judge Eddie Hardaway, Jr. Why I Chose Funeral Service as a Career 14 Southern Funeral Director Magazine w January 2022 enrolled in the Funeral Service Education program. I listened, took notes, and followed instructions; but then the pandemic happened and I told myself that I couldn’t go to school and start something new in a pandemic. So I carefully placed all of my progress into a folder in a filing cabinet, closed it up for another time, and tried to be at peace with not pursuing what I now knew to be my purpose. I carried on just trying to adjust to and survive the unknown just like everybody else but as 2020and the pandemic continued, so did my desire to become who I am supposed to be; somehow, I knew that if I was going to make it to what was awaiting me on the other side of all this uncertainty, that I would have to trust God to allow me to move in his protection within a pandemic. I knew that I couldn’t wait any longer, I had to move right then, So I prayed and trusted God and moved right back to that drawer and my journey.
I finished my prerequisites at Shelton State and was then able to enroll in the Funeral Service Education program at Jeff State (Fall Semester 2021). So here I am making lemonade out of lemons. As tragic as it was that I lost both of my parents within one year’s time, (although nothing could ever replace them) it was through that tragedy that I found my purpose. Leave it to my parents they didn’t leave without looking out for me just one more time, giving me one last gift; the gift of a new direction. So the question was, “Why did I choose Funeral Service as A Career”? The answer is simple, it was my parents in their own way that helped me to choose this path, and to honor them; I will graciously take pride in being able to help other families in their time of need.
By Chad Boyd
What led me to choose funeral service as a career is a question I never imagined would be directed toward me. If you had known me growing up as a child, youth, and even up until I was in my early 30’s, I was the one who could see people in pain or blood and pass out in a moment. I never wanted to have anything to do with doctors, hospitals, or death and dying. I guess for my situation it is not really a question of what led me to choose funeral service as a career but more how funeral service as a career chose me. Well, based on my faith and work in the ministry as an associate pastor and my part-time position in funeral service, I would have to say it is more how God chose me for funeral service as a career.
I graduated college with a Bachelor of Business Administration-Management degree and was working in the banking industry. I had made it to where I wanted to be in that industry as a branch manager to one of our community banks and realized it was not the career God had intended for my life. I entered seminary and shortly thereafter I became the pastor of a small country church in Southwest Georgia.
During this first pastorate, I found myself constantly ministering to my members in hospitals and gathering around the graveside of a loved one. As the years passed, I soon realized that God had helped me to overcome my anxieties and fears of doctors, hospitals, and death. He helped me to grow to a place of ministering to families during these times in a way I had never thought possible.
My service to that first church lasted 8 years and during that time I was called upon by the church and community to assist in approximately 45-50 funerals, a figure I would later learn is not typical for a pastor in a small country church. I had a man in the community to tell me, when I left the church, that he hoped in my next pastorate I would have fewer deaths and funerals to perform. However, in looking back, he nor I was able to see God was accomplishing a different plan. I now see that it was through the church and the numerous funeral services of that eight-year ministry that God was moving and making connections that would eventually lead me to a career in funeral service.
During those years, I met Cullis Taylor and Randy Bentley with Parker Bramlett Funeral Home. I would be working closely with Parker Bramlett Funeral Home in ministering to the families within the church and community during their time of loss. At some point through this journey, Mr. Cullis or Randy asked if I could assist them in working a funeral, or it was me who offered to assist or a little of both, but I gained new friendships and through the years developed a love for the ministry of funeral service.
After years of ministering through the church I serve, working part-time with Parker Bramlett Funeral Home, and having people tell me after preaching a funeral service or assisting with a funeral service they could see how I was called into this ministry, I finally decided it was time to fully embrace funeral service as a career. As I stated in the beginning, I would never have chosen funeral service as a career, but I do believe funeral service chose me.
By Dakota Goodwin
My life can be best illustrated by the slow process of putting together a puzzle – the puzzle of my life’s calling. With every piece, I find myself wondering “How does this fit? How does all this connect?” Throughout my life, I have searched for an answer to two questions. “Why am I still here?” and “What is my purpose?”
My mother was treated for leukemia when she was pregnant with me. She did not know she was pregnant until she was three months along; for those three months, I was also receiving chemotherapy. Every doctor she saw refused to treat her because I only had a ten percent chance of survival without being severely handicapped; it was too risky. Against all odds, I was a healthy baby. But, that was not the end of my health complications. When I was three years old doctors discovered that what they thought was a small hole that actually was a hole that took over the entire back of my heart. I had to immediately have open-heart surgery. I was given a fifty percent chance of surviving the surgery. I survived the surgery and had a speedy recovery. However, my health has not been the only thing I have struggled with. Throughout my life, I have been in and out of a funeral. It felt like the grief my family experienced was never-ending. The death that impacted my family the most was the death of my Aunt Jessie; my mom’s younger sister was thirty-two when she died. Her death was completely unexpected and didn’t just impact our family, but the entire community. She was a nurse practitioner and dedicated her entire life to taking care of people. Her visitation and funeral were turning points in my life. I remember how helpless I felt the night of her visitation because I was too young to be able to do or say anything that would help or comfort my family. I remember how upset my mother was because my aunt did not look like herself. Not only was I dealing with my grief, but I was also seeing the grief of others who loved my aunt just as much as I did. On the day of her funeral, there was not a single empty seat. Because of her funeral, I saw how many lives she impacted. This was another puzzle piece in my life.
After her death, I immersed myself in my art. At thirteen I was a theatrical makeup designer and artist for a playhouse in Montgomery. I was on the right path to a successful career as a makeup artist, but I felt like God was leading me somewhere else. The summer after my sophomore year I attended a church camp, called Huntingdon Leadership Academy, that was focused on what our calling in life is. I was sixteen years old when I publicly announced at Huntingdon Leadership Academy on Closing Day that my calling was to be a funeral director. That week I reflected on those who I have lost, what I have survived, and why God has given me certain talents. It was not until the night before Closing Day that I discovered my life’s purpose. There was a purpose for my pain. There was a purpose for my grief. The puzzle pieces of major events in my life finally came together. I had to grieve, so I can comfort the grieving. I had to survive, so I can care for the dead. What leads me to funeral service goes beyond an interest; it is my life’s purpose.