At 14, Laura Martin chose a firm of funeral directors when she was given time off school for work experience.
“I already had a Saturday job and knew I didn’t want a career in retail,” she said.
She agrees that it was unusual choice and, if she could have had her way she would probably now be a dancer on the West End stage.
However, she returned to the funeral director’s office and as a result when her grandfather died after a long illness, she was able to take on most of the arrangements.
“I thought, if I can do this for him, I can do it for other families,” said Mrs Martin.
It became her career choice and at 18, the earliest age possible, gained her first qualifications. It is, she admitted, a bit of a ‘Marmite’ job.
“When I tell people what I do for a living you get one of two reactions. They will either ask loads of questions, like how, why and what’s involved, or they’ll say ‘I don’t know how you could do that’ and it’s the end of the conversation.”
Now 24, she has joined the Rosedale Funeral Home of Diss, working at its Attleborough and Wymondham branches.
“Traditionally, a man would always be a funeral director,” said Mrs Martin.
“Going back in history, very often the local carpenter would also carry out the role.
“Times are changing in this profession. There are still families that would prefer a man to handle funeral arrangements and that’s fine, but many are happy for a woman to do it. I find I relate particularly well with younger families who have never gone through the process before.”
Rosedale is run jointly by Simon and Anne Beckett-Allen, and Mrs Beckett-Allen said: “When a female family member dies it is not uncommon for her family to ask for a female family director to care for them and prepare them for the chapel of rest. That is something I consider a real privilege to be able to fulfil.”
The Rosedale branch at Attleborough is holding an open day on Wednesday, March 16, and Mrs Martin hopes it will help to break down some of the fear associated with talking about death.
“Death was openly spoken about in my family, because my grandfather was ill for some time and my aunt and mum were nurses,” she said.
“If people are willing to talk about it, such as their requests and types of music, then when a death does occur they know exactly what that person would have wanted. It just makes the arrangement a little easier for them.”