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“You only get one chance and it’s got to be right” – a day in the life of Gillotts funeral arranger Kirstie Holmes

“You only get one chance and it’s got to be right” – a day in the life of Gillotts funeral arranger Kirstie Holmes

Kirstie Holmes has joined the team at Gillotts Funeral Directors

Kirstie Holmes at the Kimberley branch of Gillotts Funeral Directors

No two days are the same in the life of a funeral arranger but for Kirstie Holmes the grieving families will always be at the heart of everything she does.

Kirstie is based at the Kimberley branch of Gillotts Funeral Directors and for her, the role is not a job, but a vocation.

Her day starts just before 9am when Kirstie arrives at the branch, in Main Street, and puts the kettle on for a cup of tea before anything else.

She then starts up the computer to see if there are any messages from overnight that need her immediate attention and checks the diary to see if she has anyone coming into the branch that day.

Kirstie added: “The days are always very different depending on the family who come in to see us. The main priority is that people feel like family when they come in and feel like they are supported.

“They walk in as strangers but leave as friends. They do tend to come in for a cup of tea afterwards. We genuinely care. It’s nice when they come back to say hello and they remember us.”

Another early job is to check the running sheet for anything which will be happening that day, which might include a funeral, to manage her time accordingly. Then she will go through all the arrangements to make sure everything is up to date and deal with anything that is outstanding.

She will maintain contact with families whose loved ones she is caring for and arrange any chapel visits.

If a family is coming in to go through arrangements, she will go through everything – there is no time limit and it is an opportunity to talk through the plans and pull all of the information together.

Kirstie said: “We offer guidance and advise on all aspects of the funeral arrangements with the family, so they haven’t got to go home and worry about it. We try to ease a little of the stress and upset by helping in any way we can.

If a family is visiting the chapel, she makes sure it is clean and tidy. Families are invited to come into the Kimberley office and view a loved one as many times as they wish.

Kirstie usually has a lunch break between 12 and 12.30pm but that can depend on the plans for the day. If she has a funeral that afternoon, Kirstie makes sure the flowers have arrived and will go through the running sheet to make sure the fleet is ready.

She will conduct the funeral along with the branch’s funeral director, Alan Winfield, as they ensure everything runs smoothly.

Kirstie has a box full of items like donation boxes, order of service, photographs and anything the family might like to be taken to the church or crematorium, such as a personal belonging like a hat, which might be placed on their coffin.

She will also talk to the hearse and limo drivers about the route they need to take to the family’s home and the crematorium or cemetery, as well as any other important arrangements.

“You only get one chance and it’s got to be right. You can’t go back on that day. We check and triple-check each other to make sure it’s right.”

Her final act of the day is to give the branch a final look-round to ensure everything is OK and direct the phones through to the main branch in Eastwood.

She said: “It means there is always someone on the end of the phone, and the next morning it all starts again.”

After a busy day at work, Kirstie spends time with her children.

She said: “We treat every family like our family – this is a vocation not just a job. It becomes a way of life, but I do have to remember that it’s not my grief, so at the end of the day I have to shut down and do something positive with my family.

“The day I think I don’t want to go to work I know I’m in the wrong job. It is a job where no two days are the same.

“The team at Gillotts are very supportive and always on hand to help everyone out. Because of the nature of the job, we talk to each other all the time through the good and the bad. It’s important to do that.

“This isn’t a job for everyone, but there are a lot of positive sides to it, especially since we hear stories about incredible people’s lives and we help to celebrate their life – whether it was short or long.”