RICHMOND, Va. -- It's a job that has become vital during the pandemic but is also one that is often forgotten about.
This week marks National Funeral Directors and Morticians Appreciation Day. The day grew out of a Congressional resolution that was passed 14 years ago.
Lacyn Barton knows that her job isn't the typical 9 to 5. She and her team spend their days lifting up families who are at their lowest, dealing with the pain of losing a loved one.
Barton runs Woody Funeral Home and Cremation Service and Nelsen Funeral Home.
Her interest stems back to her teen years when a severe horse accident left her in a coma and her family in a dire situation.
"I suffered a traumatic head injury. Was in a coma and my parents were told to plan my funeral because I wasn't going to live. I decided to help people who found themselves in the same situation my parents found themselves in," Barton said.
Barton is well aware of how difficult the job can be for funeral directors and morticians. During the pandemic, she remembers how responding to the deaths of COVID victims brought additional stress to those in the profession.
Many were saddled with compassion fatigue.
"We aren't immune to death. We are helping and we are grieving with these families," Barton said.
Barton noted that something that also grew out of the pandemic was a spark in interest in the funeral profession as some are looking for more meaningful and fulfilling work.
It isn't lost on Lacyn, especially during Women's History Month, that many of those who are expressing interest are women in what has been a traditionally male-dominated profession.
"About 60% of mortuary science students in the United States are women. Many have discovered they have the traits to be a funeral director. The communication skills, the compassion, the desire to comfort families through grief," Barton said.
She said that though the past few years have been especially traumatic and challenging for funeral workers, she is heartened by the recent interest in funeral careers.
She adds that she is grateful those interested can use their gift of compassion to lift others out of some of the darkest times in their life.
Barton says here, they will celebrate their workers by hosting a special meal. They will also address the growing interest in the profession and conduct tours for potential employees who want to get into the field.