20 October 2017
The ‘Death Industry’ is not one that most people are familiar with even though everybody will eventually need it. It may not be as glamorous as banking or as appreciated as teaching but it still plays an essential role in the fabric of society. This may be a result of how people tend to avoid topics that are uncomfortable and this is especially evident in Asian society where bringing up the topic of Death may be considered taboo.
At Ang Chin Moh Group, we believe that education around this topic could help people overcome the barriers to discussing what is a natural part of life. In this series, we share stories of our employees and what is going on behind the scenes when death occurs.
Mr Sanusi, or Sam, as most people call him, has been part of Ang Chin Moh Group for close to 6 years. He first joined the group as a hearse driver where his main responsibilities involved transferring the “beloved” (this is a term we use for the deceased) onto the vehicle and transporting them to the funeral service and then to the designated area for burial or cremation.
A hearse is a large funeral vehicle used to carry a casket/urn through various locations throughout the entire process of a funeral. While driving the hearse may seem like an easy task, a key part of the role includes carrying the casket onto the vehicle and off it for the funeral service and repeating the task again at the point of burial or cremation. To put things into perspective, a casket typically weighs between 45 to 130 kilograms. Even operating as a team, that is no walk in the park!
In addition to the physical aspect, working in this profession also takes an emotional toll as employees have to face grief, loss and death.
How then do you keep yourself motivated considering the length of time you’ve spent at Ang Chin Moh Group?
“For me, I get to interact with a lot of families because of my role. Sometimes, you see how a little act of kindness or just offering simple words actually console the bereaved and those are the moments when I find meaning in my role. What I enjoy here is serving the families of all race and religion and knowing that I’ve played a part in helping them find some measure of peace when sending their loved ones off,” Sam reflected.
One of the fondest memories that Sam kept close to his heart was when he got to speak with a family member of the beloved during a funeral service. He shared with a grandmother about how Death is part and parcel of life and how to come to terms with the passing of her loved one.
“A few years later, the grandmother whom he spoke to passed away and the family actually requested for me to be part of the funeral service because they remembered me from before. Of course, it’s sad that another death happened in the family but it’s good to know that I’ve made a positive impact on them from before and that left a lasting impression,” he fondly recalls.
Nicknamed ‘man with the smiley face’, Sam’s easygoing nature does not reflect the hardships he’s faced in his life. He was recently affected with a spine problem (a nerve issue) and is under the strict orders of the doctor not to do any heavy lifting. The Group then moved him to a position where he was placed in charge of the store. His responsibilities include managing inventory, maintaining the quality of the equipment, and ensuring that the logistics are run efficiently.
“While I’m now taking on a back-end role as compared to before, I think of my role as still serving the families by ensuring the smooth operations of the funeral services by making sure that everything is in good condition. I am thankful for the opportunity I got at Ang Chin Moh Group,” Sam commented.
He recollected how Ang Chin Moh Group offered him a role back when he was retrenched and couldn’t find a job.
“I used to be a Director of a small company and had to take on many odd jobs after I filed for bankruptcy. I worked as a taxi driver and even a hawker center assistant! I was unemployed for two years and many companies I interviewed for didn’t offer me a job because of my bankruptcy. This is why I’m thankful to Ang Chin Moh Group for giving me a chance when most companies did not.”
As a self-termed “lone ranger” – Sam is not married, one reason he enjoys working at Ang Chin Moh Group is because of their emphasis on teamwork and mission to serve the community. The Group organizes regular visits to nursing homes as part of volunteerism.
“I really enjoy visiting these homes because like them, I’m also a senior citizen!” he quipped.
On top of the voluntary work, Sam also really looks forward to company organized activities to foster team-bonding. Annual chalet, team-bonding activities and even Zumba were some of the activities that he listed which allowed him to get together with his other colleagues and enjoy a more active lifestyle.
What’s next for you then?
While he did mention he wasn’t entirely sure of his plans for the next few years because of his health, he did give us a preview of what life would be for him after retirement.
“I like fishing! I also stay in a nice location opposite Punggol reservoir so maybe after I retire in a few years, I can also go jogging or cycling. But as long as I’m strong and healthy enough, I would like to continue working here!”