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Meet The Team Spotlight: Al Hari

Maria Vassiliou
Maria Vassiliou
May 24th 2024 - 7 minute read
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Eirene is composed of remarkable individuals who are dedicated to making a
difference. This series delves into the lives of the people who drive Eirene
forward—the ones who answer phone calls, respond to emails and offer unwavering
support and compassion to the families we serve. Discover the moments and
influences that have shaped them, and explore how their diverse experiences
contribute to the rich tapestry that is the Eirene team.

Al with her boyfriend and dadTell us a bit about your career

Eirene is composed of remarkable individuals who are dedicated to making a difference. This series delves into the lives of the people who drive Eirene forward—the ones who answer phone calls, respond to emails and offer unwavering support and compassion to the families we serve. Discover the moments and influences that have shaped them, and explore how their diverse experiences contribute to the rich tapestry that is the Eirene team.

Al with her boyfriend and dad

Tell us a bit about your career path and how you entered the death space. What inspired or motivated you to pursue a career in this industry?

In my professional journey, I've tried several different career paths and a multitude of fields. Regardless of how many pivots I've made, I never felt passionate about my work. I was constantly faced with that sinking feeling in the morning when it was time to go to work. I thought that was normal.

While pursuing another degree in a different industry, it dawned on me that this "idea" I've had to pursue being a funeral professional wasn't such an unattainable thought as I once thought it was. I took a chance on myself and enrolled. My life has never been the same.

Once enrolled at Mount Royal University in their Funeral Services program, I suddenly found myself among like-minded individuals, learning about fascinating topics such as chemistry, business, and human psychology. I had found my niche.

Towards the end of my schooling, I worked at a local funeral home doing meaningful work. They taught me the intricacies of hands-on work for almost two years.

Once I felt I had absorbed all I could from them, I left the inner city funeral home and moved to a rural family-owned funeral home. In joining their team, I learned an entirely different skill set, which helped me become a well-rounded Funeral Director. Without the experience I had at that funeral home, with such close connections to the community, I wouldn't be the Director I am today.

My move to Eirene was motivated by wanting to be a Funeral Director who evolves with the ever-changing culture, offers unique ways to complete arrangements, and is transparent with their community.

What do you find most rewarding about your role?

The most rewarding aspect of my role is being able to "meet families where they are" (emotionally, not physically).

When I was in a traditional funeral home setting, I didn't enjoy watching families take time off work to attend arrangement meetings during OUR business hours. That seemed counterproductive. We are supposed to be serving THEM.

Finally, it's rewarding to be part of a company that does not shame consumers for wanting direct cremation for their loved ones. At traditional funeral homes, direct cremations aren't prioritized as they are the least profitable arrangement. This thought process is unhealthy, and we are trying to change it with Eirene.

Can you describe a particularly memorable or meaningful experience you've had while serving families?

I don't have any exact stories from one family I can share, more so generalizations. For example, when families tell us that, because of their limited funds, they didn't expect to find such dignified, caring, and accessible cremation services within their price point.

Families are accustomed to receiving less care within the death care realm, if their budget is low. Being able to provide a price that doesn't dictate the type of care a family and their loved one receives is what makes the Eirene experience memorable and meaningful to me.

How do you approach supporting grieving families?

I approach grieving families with EMPATHY. The most important thing to do when speaking with a family is treating them like that is YOUR mom/dad/aunt/brother/etc who's passed. They deserve THAT level of care.

Funeral Directors need to take on every family like our own. It's so important to remember that WE do this everyday, but for the family calling us, this is likely the first time they are doing this - and they are TERRIFIED! And confused.

We are the experts, not them. Even if I don't know the answer to their question, I will assure them I will look into it. They need an advocate. They need to know they're on the right track. These are very serious arrangements and it's for their loved one. This is major. We can never forget the seriousness of what we do.

Can you share a piece of advice for individuals who may be considering a career in the death/funeral industry?

Get a job at a funeral home as a funeral attendant for AT LEAST one year, full time, before enrolling in Funeral College of any sort. Funeral college/university will not teach you the day-to-day flow, specific nuances, and industry-specific challenges that hands-on work will teach you.

What made you choose to work with Eirene?

My move to Eirene was motivated by wanting to be a Funeral Director that evolves with the ever-changing culture, offers unique ways to complete arrangements, and is transparent with their community.

Outside of your work in this space, what are some of your hobbies or interests?

I enjoy baking, playing with my two cats, watching The Real Housewives, reading thriller novels, and spending time with my family in beautiful Southern Alberta.

Can you share a favourite book, movie, or TV show that has had a significant impact on you?

  • Perks of Being a Wallflower
  • Dazed and Confused
  • 10 things I hate about you
  • Dark knight
  • Polar Express
  • Joker
  • Breakfast Club

I also read a TON, but a lot of it is scary thrillers, which may not be the most comforting book recommendations to read from your friendly neighbourhood funeral director, hahahah!

Do you have any favorite quotes or mottos that you live by?

A motto I live by and that has changed my life: "Everything in life either goes well, or it's a heck of a story!" So..... do it anyway! Those are two great outcomes.

Another very meaningful motto (or maybe a quote) for myself is:

"You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just, literally, 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it." --Benjamin Mee, (We Bought A Zoo)

The 20 seconds of courage line has motivated me to take A LOT of chances on myself over the last 10-15 years. This quote is deeply life altering if you fully commit.

Can you share a meaningful life lesson you've learned through your experiences in this industry?

  • Never burn a bridge
  • Never speak ill of someone trying their best, this industry is extremely taxing and we need to give each other grace. Sometimes we have less in our cup to pour from, but we are giving our 110% regardless.
  • Prioritize developing personal hobbies and interests. Don't let your work envelope you and your whole life.
  • Never judge a person for who they are whilst grieving. That is not their true self.

Al Hari is a Managing Funeral Director for Eirene in Alberta. With every family she has the privilege of serving, she strives to offer flexibility, compassion, and complete honesty. If you're interested in learning more, or arranging with us, you can contact Al via email at al@eirene.ca.

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