How I Became a Mortician

When people find out what I do for a living, the first question I get asked is, “How did you know you wanted to be a funeral director?”

I have been in the funeral business for 32 years.


He looks so natural.

I have directed thousands of funerals and embalmed about the same amount of dead human bodies. It is a profession that I consider to be one of the highest callings in life. To serve a family, and help them get through one of the most difficult times in their lives, is my incredible honor.

Let’s go back to when I was 10 years of age. (40 years ago, to be exact!)

That particular Christmas, my dad and mom, (God rest her soul), bought me a ventriloquist doll as one of my presents under the tree. His name… “Charlie McCarthy”. He was very popular back then. He also had a sidekick named… “Mortimer Snerd”. They were both the product of an incredible, talented gentleman named, Edgar Bergen.

I cannot remember for sure, but I think I asked for him that year because I wanted to learn how to be a ventriloquist.

I never learned the art of ventriloquism, but I did make real good use of that dummy and the box he came wrapped in.

(*Please remember… I was 10 years old.)

I would place the box on my twin bed in my bedroom. I would then gently lay Charlie McCarthy inside that box. I dimmed the lights in my room, and I played some organ music on my 8-track tape player real soft.

I conducted my very first funeral, at the age of 10, in my bedroom…  for Mr. McCarthy.

(My father, Tom Grissom, can verify every bit of what I am telling you in this blog!)

I knew 40 years ago that I wanted to be a funeral director.

As far as knowing I wanted to be an embalmer… well, there was a television show that came on every day after school that served as my inspiration to become someone who prepares corpses and performs the art of embalming.

That TV show was called… “Quincy, ME”. It starred a gentleman named Jack Klugman. The ME stood for Medical Examiner. He was one of the most intriguing individuals I had ever seen back then.

He could take a bone from a dead body and determine the age, sex, color and even hairstyle of what that person would have looked like. He drove around in a black station wagon. He wore a suit. He performed autopsies in a pair of green scrubs. He wore a white lab coat while he was in the forensics room looking through a microscope.

I know everything there is to know about “Quincy, ME”.

My senior year in high school, my father took me to breakfast one Saturday morning to meet the local funeral home owner in our town, Mr. Donald B. Jarka.

Mr. Jarka wore a suit. Mr. Jarka drove a station wagon. I was in Heaven!

I knew this is what I wanted to do in life and Mr. Jarka gave me that opportunity to begin my career in funeral service.

I graduated from Argo High School, Class of 1982, on a Saturday and went to work for Lawn Funeral Home in Burbank, Illinois the next Monday at 8 a.m. I showed up in a suit. There were four station wagons in the parking lot. There were white lab coats in the embalming room. I KNEW this is where I was supposed to be.

I have never, ever doubted that I am doing what God called me to do in life. I have never regretted my decision to become a licensed funeral director and licensed embalmer. Not one single day.

I love this profession. I love serving families. I love having the honor of helping folks after the loss of their loved one.

I know first-hand what they are going through. I lost my mom. I now can walk in their shoes.

On a side note… I wonder what my life would have been like if I HAD learned ventriloquism with Charlie McCarthy.

I guess I shall wait and ask Jeff Dunham how things are going for him!

God Bless all the funeral director and embalmers and all the service they do for grieving family members.

Until next time…


About Mark Grissom

Mark was born on the north side of Chicago in 1964. Raised a Cubs fan by his dad, he never had a chance in life. He moved to Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1988. While he lives closer to Atlanta now, he will never be able to leave the religion of "Cubbie Nation." Baptized as a Cubs fan at the age of five, he has no choice but to live the remainder of his life here on earth in mediocrity at its best!

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