It’s not a subject a lot of us like to talk about – but death comes to all of us. It is one of the few things in life that is guaranteed. Some of us plan for it, some of us don’t. The wise among us plan.
Coleen M. le Pere is an professional After Life Service Coordinator. Yes, she’s the person that you would work with to create a memorable memorial service for your departed loved one. She is self-employed and has been doing this work for decades. It is an interesting profession that takes a certain amount of strength and resilience to do. She shares her experience with us on Women Move the Soul.
The After Service Coordinator (ASC) does not work with any one funeral home. Normally, we receive referrals from private parties, word of mouth ,various assisted living residence, hospices, ministries, social clubs and funeral homes throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey.
Once a referral is made to The After Service Coordinator (ASC), one of our trained specialists will meet the bereaving family (person) to ascertain the needs of the family. During this sad time, quite often members of the family are distraught and in need of guidance. We walk the family or appointed person through the step by step process, while being sensitive to their needs and budgetary concerns. ASC offers a variety of affordable packages: some include day of services, travel arrangements for out of town and in town loved ones, personal shoppers, barbers, cosmologists, caterers, etc. We pride ourselves in being a “one stop coordinator.” We operate very similar to a Bridal Consultant.
ASC has been fortunate; to partner with a diverse group of women owned businesses to be able to meet ALL of our clients needs. Women owned businesses that maintain high levels of customer service, integrity and tenacity. Just last week we partnered with another woman owned business; who assists in the burial choices of the deceased.
How do people come to contact you for your services? How are you found? Is it word of mouth, do you advertise or do funeral homes recommend you?
As stated above, our contacts come from the north, south, east and west, word of mouth marketing referrals etc. Recently the trend has been by attorneys’ of estates (wills), pre-arrangements. My first contact with a living person to do repast arrangements, seemed to be a bit morbid, however, this person knew exactly what he wanted and did not want to happen at his repast. His wishes were to have “a ball”, one in which folks dressed to the nines and danced the night away. The After Service Coordinator (ASC), made it happen. His repast, seemed as though he was there saying well done, in between “the soul train line” and doing” the swim.”
How did you get started with providing these kinds of services?
The After Service Coordinator (ASC) was birthed by myself. Believe me this birth had a long gestation period. I have coordinated many events from baby showers, golf tournaments to weddings and of course repast. My earliest recall of a major event was at the age of 10. I had coordinated a surprise anniversary party for my parents. Fast forward, in helping family and loved ones with repasts, I noticed there always seemed to be loads of confusions, misdirections, and additional pain pertaining to repast. I always stepped in and volunteered my services to help things run smoothly. From beginning to end I was there until the last pot was washed and dried. I enjoy this type of service. I had continued volunteering my expertise for nearly 10 years while working as a non-certified Spanish teacher in the pubic school system(s). Around the 10 year mark , I noticed that I had less and less hours of teaching each year until one year I was “bumped” because I was non-certified. I laugh now because I believe that God has a way of having you walk into your “calling” when you’re doing your best to avoid the call. Instead of becoming angry with my situation, (last son in graduate school at New England Conservatory and a pre-teen daughter to feed) I prayed and ASC is the results.
A lot of people are afraid of death and all the connotations that go along with it. How come you’re not?
I believe that death has a comma, and not a period. We are only passing though this earth with a body made from dirt. Earth was not created to be our final destination.
How do you deal with providing this kind of service to people who are very emotional and distraught? Is it easy for you?
Providing services to people who might be very emotional and or distraught can be a challenge. I find that I have this great peace about myself, and the ability to show compassion and empathy. One must expect the unexpected when dealing with emotionally drained overwhelmed individuals. “Folks will grieve the way they see fit”’ as my Auntie Mae would say. Other words there is neither right nor wrong way for people to grieve, they all grieve in accordance to their needs. I recall early in my business, I had a second cousin of a deceased woman enter into a sterile kitchen and verbally aggressively abuse me, going up the front of me and down my back. I was “prayed up” and I know the God that I serve. I was able to hear her pain and give her words of comfort and walk her back to the reception hall to join her other family members. This job is not for the emotionally weak. I select my employees carefully and prayerfully. I present all types of scenarios to my employees, as well as training to be empathetic. During one of the repasts I recall with a smile on my face as I share this – a 88 year old “mother of the church had pasted. My head server came to me with tears behind his eyes stating “the deceased friends are upset because we don’t have any coffee.” They made known that the deceased loved coffee and that “she would be mad and raise from the dead if we did not serve coffee.” I apologized to these wonderful women who were between 75 and 90 sent the server for decafe coffee and all were happy.
The word “repast’ means meal or southern U.S. states it refers to a meal after a funeral. What does this word mean in your business and how did the terminology come about?
The word “repast” to me means; going over- celebrating-remembering and living.
What is the most difficult aspect of providing these kinds of services for people?
One of the difficulties that I encounter is when family members aren’t on one accord. I mean really, at odds with each other and unable to make good decisions together. This is where I or my trained specialist will gently guide them to work as a unit and or appoint one person who will be in charge of all proceedings. The second difficulty is that I am “the first and original” after service specialist in business realm. As a small business of 10, I have found that the larger establishments have no qualm of using my intellectual property. The main thread that I see when this happens are with funeral homes. The funeral home tries to duplicate my services but they really are in this business for “self”. ASC customer service approach is truly uniquely different. ASC forms collaborations with various businesses and non-profit agencies. The collaborations include working with different “job readiness” programs to hire “unemployable persons”. By hiring persons with either no work history and or blemishes on their resume, I allow these persons to use my business as a step to launch into the workforce, while maintaining support of their “readiness programs”.
What is the most rewarding part of your business for you?
I actually have two rewarding aspects of my business. The first is having a grieving loved one who was walking as if in a zombie like state come to me in the middle of the repast and wrapping their arms around me sobbing on my shoulder saying thank you. When this has occurred I know that I have done my job. I have helped at least one person get back to living. The second rewarding aspect of my business is seeing the elation of a person who has paid her debt to society and unable to obtain gainful employment in 10 years receive her first pay check with tears of accomplishment.
Where is ASC in ten years?
In ten years, I see ASC, having several offices nationwide. I wasn’t given this gift and business not to use it to its fullest. I am hopeful that I will be able to continue forming collaborations and expanding.
Coleen Le Pere can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.