Michael Cox was 15 years old and living in Mildura when he did work experience with a local funeral service. He didn’t like the encounter much – and was actually scared of the mortuary.
How things have changed for Michael, who now leads family-owned Gardenia Funerals in Melton. “I didn’t think for a second that my work experience would wind up as my career. I wouldn’t have wanted to know about it back then. And, considering my initial fear of the mortuary, it’s ironic that I went on to become an embalmer!
“These days, running a funeral home doesn’t even seem like work to me. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love my job.”
Michael says that while his role – and those of other Gardenia consultants – is to give comfort where possible, and listen carefully to what people want for their loved ones, he often shares a laugh with clients.
“People tell stories about their friend or family member and they’re often very amusing. We hear what the deceased was like, even a bit of friendly gossip – real in-family anecdotes. I reckon it’s good for everyone to tap into humour if they can.
“One of the best parts of our job is to have people come to us after a funeral and say ‘that’s exactly what our loved one would have wanted’. That’s both our pleasure and our privilege. It’s absolutely what we’re about.”
Gardenia Funerals can be made particularly memorable through their creative, clever and sensitive use of digital technology. Michael says so much is possible – and clients value the results.
“Not all funeral homes offer this … we can take even an old cassette tape and transfer audio to our sound system. It might be an excerpt of the loved one speaking special words. Old video footage or, say, a YouTube clip can be digitally projected in the chapel to tell a story.
“Sometimes these old technologies are all people have, so to bring those stories back to life amidst death can be so helpful to families.”
Because the Gardenia Funerals team includes people from 26 to 70 years old, the approach is similarly diverse.
Goodbyes can take a more traditional line, while others are a modern celebration – or cultural traditions can inform proceedings. Gardenia welcomes them all.
Michael encourages anyone wanting to “have a sticky beak” to drop in for a coffee and chat.
Gardenia Funerals, 29 Reserve Road, Melton. Opens 8.30am-4.30pm Monday-Friday. Inquiries: 9329 4024 (24/7).