Funeral director Brad Hamilton finds life in the presence of death. Photo story by Seth Lower, Daily Photo Editor
You cannot see light without dark; life means nothing without death.To accept one’s own mortality is to embrace the beauty of life. But to live with death every day is another challenge entirely.
This is precisely what Brad Hamilton, funeral director at Muehlig Funeral Home in Ann Arbor, does for a living.
Seven days a week, any day of the year, death can call Hamilton’s home phone. One might wonder why anybody would choose to accept this burden.
For Hamilton, his youth shaped his eventual career path; a childhood friend’s father owned a funeral home where they played after school.
The man was highly respected in his community and it showed Brad that the generally misunderstood profession is an important aspect of society.
An average day at Muehlig might include picking up and embalming the deceased, making funeral arrangements, visiting with families, and delivering flowers.
According to Hamilton, the most rewarding parts of the job are “helping people through a difficult time and providing dignity to the end of a life.”
For family members or friends who need to talk, Muehlig provides bereavement support groups that can help reduce the anxiety and stress of grieving.
“After years of suffering, sometimes death can be a blessing,” said Hamilton.
“But there is a pecking order: the young should never die.”
He added that the hardest part of the job is dealing with these tragic deaths and the conflicts that they cause within families.
How does one deal with the constant presence of death and grieving? The key is to keep a sense of humor, as Hamilton puts it, and “appreciate the simple things, the bright spots from day to day.”
To help achieve peace of mind, he runs home from work, participates in church activities, participates in the occasional marathon, and spends time with his wife and two children.
His daughter Betsy, a sophomore at the University, talks about growing up like the girl in the movie “My Girl” and the blunt reality that death puts food on the table.
“At four or five in the morning he can receive a death call, and inevitably it wakes us all up. For about 17 years I learned to block it out – to roll over and think of it as just an interruption to my sleep pattern, but recently I started to realize what it really meant. It dawned on me that somebody somewhere was dealing with the shock of the loss of a loved one.”
“I suppose it has helped me to live as completely as I can so that if I could look back after I died I would be content with what I had lived, no matter how short. This is in essence what my dad embodies,” she continues. “As he sees everyday, you never know when it may end.”