‘Til death do us part

Southern Heritage offers a celebration of life room, in which the family can tailor a memorial service to the loved one.

“Instead of the sad funeral, they have their friends in there and are telling stories about the loved one they’ve lost,” Beavers said. “It’s a big help to people. We do themed events for them, if they’re an Alabama fan or Auburn, ice skating, pretty much everything.”

Another trend in the funeral home profession involves the weather. Both Charter and Rockco funeral directors agreed a rise in funerals follows the weather changing.

“Some (people) hang on until a symbol, like a birth date or a wedding date,” Caldwell said.


Once a person passes away and the family contacts the funeral home, the funeral home director takes the body into a room full of chemicals, tools and hair supplies such as hairspray and a curling iron.

“Behind the scenes is like you’re stepping back in time,” Caldwell said. “All the aesthetics are for the public.

“We keep everything sanitized and clean as we can keep it for our own health,” he added. “It’s like an operating room.”

Funeral directors prepare the body for the funeral, which includes setting the features and adding hair and makeup in some cases.

“We fix their features, the mouth and eyes, bathe them down and make the incision in the right carotid artery (collarbone area),” Gilliland said.

“Back when I started, gloves were non-existent, but with diseases, now we wear gloves and protective gear,” he added.

Caldwell said the chemicals change every three years.

“It’s a more natural appearance,” he said of the current chemicals. “You won’t have to use as much cosmetics. They look like they’ve fallen asleep.”

Gilliland said they measure the body from elbow to elbow to determine the casket size, and 23 inches across is the standard size.

Charter offers the only on-site crematorium in Shelby County.

According to Burdett, the crematorium can reach temperatures of 1,600 degrees or hotter and burns for approximately three hours.