Michelle O’Hara has joined the staff in Utica to exclusively help people plan their funerals in advance. While she’s had customized training in the field she says the thing that prepared her best for her work was her experience as an elementary school teacher.
“I’m using my education degree but in a different way,” she said. “It’s with a different age group and different subject but the satisfaction is just as great.”
Michelle and her husband live in Richmond with their two boys, age 6 and 14 months. They’re an active family, playing sports, going to the beach.
“We like to be busy,” she said. She and her husband are “Big foodies” who both love to cook and shop at farmer’s markets.
Like many of our other professional staff, a family connection sent Michelle into our business. In this case it was her husband, Jonathon, who is a funeral director elsewhere.
“It’s just so nice to be able to bounce ideas off each other,” she said. “He’s a wealth of knowledge for me.”
When people pre-pay for their funeral they are actually buying an insurance policy, so Michelle is licensed by the state of Michigan to sell insurance. But there’s so much more to it than that, she says. She learns about their lives and helps them discover the things that will make their funeral uniquely their own.
“We put so much thought into the other landmarks of our lives: Birthdays, graduations, weddings,” Michelle said. “We should make this one just as special.
“Some people will write their own obituary, pick out pictures and choose songs or music for church,” She said. “My own grandmother wanted Frank Sinatra music at her funeral. My parents and aunts and uncles wouldn’t have thought of that.”
Michelle stresses the importance of telling family members about your wishes. Hers isn’t a nine to five job. She visits families in their homes evenings and weekends. She encourages people to have their next of kin with them.
There’s one other thing that funeral planning shares with teaching elementary school, Michelle said.
“I got hugs when I was a teacher and I get hugs in this job.Even if someone comes in quiet and uncomfortable, I love the fact that I will get a hug at the end. It tells me I made a difference.”
Watch for Michelle’s next story, with specific advice on the benefits of advance planning and pre-paying for your funeral.