For the first 36 years of my life, I didn’t know what my purpose was. I’m not talking about being a wife and mom here; I think many of us grow up knowing that we will be partners and parents, but that doesn’t always make it our life’s purpose. I’m talking about the one thing that relentlessly nags at your heart until you muster up the courage to face your fears and do it. It’s the thing that lies inside a burning passion, and you just can’t seem to let it go. Pursuing it is almost a compulsion. Being open to where it takes you makes you a better person.
For 36 years, I thought I would never find my purpose. It was so elusive to me, and I thought that maybe I was just a renaissance soul destined to live my life never settling down on one thing that I love. I had fallen into marketing by accident years before and was quite good at it, but I found myself at my desk every day dreaming of something different. Maybe I was going to be a quilter, or maybe a writer, or maybe a full-time mom, but nothing ever seemed just right. I was never content.
Then my mom died five days before Christmas in 2014, and it turned out to be one of the most defining moments of my life. My marriage, the birth of my children, and the death of my mom: I can count on one hand the events that have changed my life forever.
I talk about her like someone talks about a relationship lost long ago that they still yearn for. At some point, everyone expects you to get over it. Here’s the deal, though: you never get over loss. Never ever. It will stay with you for the rest of your life and when everyone else has forgotten about how you lost a piece of your heart, it will still be as fresh as the day it happened, although somewhat blurred by time. In the loss of my mother, I found my purpose, and I am reminded of her in my work every day.
At the funeral home, I styled my mother’s hair and painted her nails. It was the last act I could do for her, as I felt a great need to care for her upon her passing. What I didn’t expect, however, was the moment where an indisputable idea came to my mind so simply and clearly, like it was there all along just waiting to be discovered: I am meant to be a funeral director. All of my searching for purpose in life came to an end in this moment, with my mother’s freshly manicured hand in mine. It was an epiphany without the fanfare. It was simply so, and that was that.
When I arrived home after the funeral a few days later, I sought out classes online and within a few weeks, I was officially registered for the dual license program at Piedmont Technical College, the only funeral school in SC. The next day, my brother told me that he was thinking about becoming a funeral director. Funny, I said, because I just signed up for classes. He signed up himself a few days later.
For the next year and a half, my life was a whirlwind of full-time school, serving a funeral director and embalmer apprenticeship, and being a wife and mom. It’s not the easy path, but it’s the right one for me. This August, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the funeral program, missing that elusive 4.0 by just a few tenths of a point. I worked hard because I wanted it so badly. For me, there was no other choice.
Every day, I wake up with gratitude for the gift of my mother and the path that is now in front of me. How lucky am I, to fulfill my purpose every day?