The Final Caretaker….Funeral Director/Embalmer

People who know me—or my writing—know I often focus on caretakers…the everyday heroes among us. The following is a young woman I first met when I was teaching.

I liken her to Charon, the mythical guide in Greek mythology who ferried the dead across the River Styx to the Underworld, for she, too, helps people “cross over” by preparing them for their final journey.

I had her as an English student in the 10th.and 11th. grades at Cranston East High School and we’ve maintained the connection, over the past 30 years. We meet for breakfast on occasion; she even wanted to take me paddleboarding which I told her “wasn’t going to happen.”

Why am I writing a story about her? Well, it so happens she’s in an unusual career (at least compared to women of my generation.) Amanda DiLeone Carsone is a funeral director/embalmer and she’s one of a minority who did not enter the field because her family was already in it (as is the case most of the time.) She chose this career.

To qualify for her profession, Amanda graduated from Fine Mortuary College in Norwood, Massachusetts, in Feb. 2018. She became a licensed funeral director/embalmer in May of 2018 and began work, while apprenticing at Nardolillo Funeral Home, in Cranston. She estimates that her education cost her approximately $50,000. To defray expenses, Amanda worked at another job, a transport company, to take people back and forth to appointments. (See a connection?)

In 2018, I’d written the story about Rhode Island’s first pilot shot down over enemy territory in the Viet Nam war—my brother-in-law, MIA Colonel Fredrick Mellor. My story appeared on the front page of the Providence Journal on Memorial Day of that year.

The forensics division of the military identified Fred’s remains one month after my story ran, 50 years after he’d been shot down. His remains were being returned to Rhode Island some months later. On that day, there was great fanfare; Fred’s family stepped center stage (I stayed in the background; I’m an in-law); the city streets were lined with school children.

In writing about Fred all those years (on my blog and in the Prov Journal story), I felt I’d done my part. On the day of his return, Amanda called to offer her condolences and tell me the funeral home where she worked (Nardolillo’s in Cranston) would be receiving him. She’d be part of the team to prepare him for interment. Somehow, that knowledge made it easier.

We were connected….again.

Amanda DiLeone Carsone went into her field because she wanted to help people in a most difficult time (i.e. loss of a loved one).

I know she’ll continue to be successful; she certainly fulfilled that for me.

The bottom pic is of Amanda, relaxing on her paddle board with her pooch; the top is a close-up of Amanda; the one below is when she was “casketed” at a funeral conference in Boston a few years back (a lifting device raises the body and places it in the casket.).

***Many people decide on financial matters with their families but forget to inform them of other final decisions.

 Things I Learned from Funeral Director/Embalmer Amanda DiLeone Carsone

  1. A person can order a casket and have it delivered to the funeral parlor of choice. Just know ahead that if you do this, the funeral home is not liable for goods (or services) provided by a 3rd. party. Most folks just order the casket through the funeral home.
  2. You don’t have to embalm the deceased; however, It’s a legal requirement, if you plan a public showing. Embalming is done for health, preservation and sanitation reasons.
  3. Many funeral homes provide a GPL, a General Price List of services beforehand to help you decide on casket, lining, cremation/burial. what type of service, etc.
  4. A church service isn’t required: It can merely be a gathering at funeral home for last respects and then on to cemetery (or not).
  5. A funeral director/embalmer is a trained and licensed individual who has spent 3+ years getting the training needed in his/her field. Apprenticeship or practical training can be concurrent.
  6. Many more women are entering the field. Average salary is somewhere between $42,000-$63,000, depending upon funeral home and/or region of the country. It is a demanding job, both physically and psychologically (you deal with family pain at most difficult time and a funeral director must position the corpse, move it, etc. though there is machinery that will help with “casketing” –see picture).
  7. “Cosmetizing” accident victims is often most challenging if family wants an open casket. This involves filling in lacerations/cuts, blending makeup to skintone, etc.
  8. If you choose cremation, you may provide your own urn/box or again, purchase through the funeral home.
  9. A high-priced, top-of-the-line casket can run between $12-$15,000, depending upon material used. There are many choices for interior: velvet, silk, tapestry, etc. You can also order a simple wooden box.
  10. If you choose cremation, relatives may opt to see the deceased directly before the body is placed into the cremation chamber….to assure it “really is Grandma Louise.”
  11. The traditional funeral in Rhode Island is (1.) wake, night before (2.) morning—short service at the funeral home (3.) church for ceremony/service and (4.) all follow to cemetery (5.) Funeral director invites attendees after to venue for refreshments.
  12. Average cost with no extras may run $7-10,000 but if add a fancy casket, that price could go way beyond that top price.

*****Now, has this gotten you thinking? A new family discussion may be in order.

I’ve had “the discussion” with my family. They are to have a simple service of family/close friends (if any are still alive); position a framed photo near my urn; my ashes are to be tossed into the sea (don’t let younger grandkids do it because they might suffer blowback and be psychologically affected for years). If I pass in warm weather, they are to charter sailboat/motorboat with capability for simple buffet, and cruise the coastline of RI where daughters will sprinkle me (not near any septic pipes). If I pass in cold weather, they can store my remains til the weather is better. I’m looking forward to that final cruise and I’ve left funds to cover all expenses.

By the way, it is illegal to toss ashes into the sea, so plan accordingly. Shhhhh!!!!

#Cranstonschools #Nardolillo’sFuneralHome #Cranston #RhodeIsland #FuneralDirectors #Embalmers

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