Alabama's Organ & Tissue Alliance

Celebrating Funeral Directors and the Extraordinary Role They Play in Donation

When you think of a profession that is available to help 24/7 364 days out of the year, funeral professionals may not instantly come to mind. But that’s the service they provide. March 11 was National Funeral Director and Mortician Recognition Day, which gives the organ and tissue donation community an opportunity to thank funeral directors for their commitment, professionalism, compassion and expertise in serving families who have lost a loved one. It’s also a time to highlight the critical role funeral directors play in saving lives through organ and tissue donation and supporting donor families.

“Funeral directors are so centric to guiding families during a time when they can’t always articulate their feelings,” said Emily McGlaughn, Legacy of Hope manager of partner services. “Their main focus is the continuation of care so that donor families are forever comforted by their loved ones’ heroic organ and tissue donations.”

As a licensed funeral director and embalmer, McGlaughn knows first-hand the importance of honoring a donors’ heroism and working with families to not only celebrate the life of that person – but also their life-saving contribution to the lives of others.

Which is why it was important for Legacy of Hope to develop liaisons with the funeral professionals they work with so that the process is continuously improving. And an efficient process is absolutely essential especially when it comes to preserving life-enhancing tissue. When somebody passes away and is a donor, their donated tissue has to be recovered within 24 hours, which means time is of the essence.

“We’re both trying to serve those families who select organ and tissue donation,” said Jzyk Ennis, Ph.D., funeral service educator for Jefferson State Community College. “The same family we’re making arrangements with is working with Legacy of Hope for the donation. If either one of us doesn’t do our job, then the grieving process of that family is complicated and it can hinder their recovery. It’s absolutely critical for us both to come together like two halves of an apple so that the family is best served.”

Communication, teamwork, and consistent education helps to ensure the process goes smoothly. And having a day dedicated to celebrating funeral professionals helps, too. “Funeral directors are often the unsung heroes,” Ennis added. “Nobody wants to think about their own death. I think having a day where funeral professionals are placed in a positive light is appreciated. What they do is a very important function in our society.”

And without the partnership between Legacy of Hope and funeral professionals, an opportunity to honor a loved one’s wishes could be lost. “They are part of saving lives,” said McGlaughn. “It’s important to celebrate them. They give a lot and they carry a lot.”

In recognition of funeral directors and their extraordinary service, we say thank you. We’re proud to work with you every day.