With Mother’s Day fresh in our minds, we thought it would be fun to celebrate a mother-daughter team from one of our valued funeral homes. We had a chance to catch up with Yvonne and Kendra Bryant of Bryant Funeral Home in Worland, Wyoming, and chat with them about how they are carrying on the legacy that Mike Bryant began.
Insights from Kendra and Yvonne
1. Yvonne, how did you get started in the funeral profession?
Yvonne Meeting Her Husband Mike
I met my husband Mike 6 days before my own father passed away. He was instrumental in saving my life…literally. He gave me a reason to keep going and pushing forward. When we were still dating he mentioned something about possibly becoming a mortician.
I told him to find a new girlfriend.
When I lost my dad, I was 17 and had to help the removal person take my father’s body out of my home…it was a terrible experience. I had no interest in living with that profession my entire life.
Advice here — be careful what you say you will never do!
While Mike was serving a mission in California, he wrote me a letter that in essence stated, “you once told me that if I became a funeral director, you would leave me, can you tell me why?”
As I read this I thought, “Oh. My. Goodness. He’s seriously considering this as a career!”
Long story made short, he was much too wonderful of a person to let slip away.
The Beginning of Her Husband’s Career as a Mortician
At first “his” profession didn’t affect me much accept that our home was always above a funeral home. The first place we worked as he was doing an apprenticeship was Deseret Mortuary in downtown SLC. Our “spare bedroom” had a doorway that led directly into the dressing room and was way too close to the embalming room. It took over 30 days before I would even enter the spare bedroom without him being home. I was a bit creeped out. But we brought our first child, Tandy into that home and that became her bedroom. He went to Cypress College to get his Mortuary Science Degree, again, we lived in an apartment above the funeral home but fortunately, there were no “back-room surprises here”. We were there for one year and our second daughter, Kendra had this apartment as her home for the first 4 months.
After his graduation, we returned to Wyoming where we lived above a funeral home in Buffalo. When our son, Quinn was 6 months old and the girls were 3 and 4, the owner of the funeral home moved us into a nearby house because I think the ruckus of kids running was a bit eerie for the folks coming into the office. Finally, we had a home that was not attached to a funeral home. I was elated!
Yvonne Learning the Business
I actually had little to do with the funeral home business except for doing odd end jobs for them until we moved to Worland and opened up our own firm. That’s when I began really learning about the business. So again…be careful to say that you will NEVER do something because God has a sense of humor!
2. What do you enjoy most about working at your funeral home and in the funeral profession?
Kendra on Working with Her Mom
I never ever thought I would come back to Wyoming and help with my dad’s business. Coming home though and being able to work with my mom, watch her overcome all the trials of continuing this business without my dad has been the best part of coming home. I love that I get to spend every day with her and see a whole different side of my mom that I never knew.
Yvonne on Supporting Families
I learned from my husband that owning a funeral home was much more than the scientific preparations. You have the opportunity to be of service to people when their whole world has just crashed in around them. You walk beside them and help them…start making decisions, start talking…start feeling. As you go through this journey with them, you watch them grow, gain confidence that they will be okay and that although all hope seems lost at first, that little glimmer of hope is still there and properly fed it will grow and blossom. It will become a strength that will help another who crosses their path at another time.
I love serving others and the challenge of helping some families put into words (an obituary) the story of their loved one’s life. Hearing their stories of how couples met, how employment was obtained, the military service they rendered, the people and activities they loved.
All of these things did not bring me much joy when I first lost Mike, my husband. I was going through my time of grieving and knew that I still needed to meet others’ needs. It was difficult, but my experiences made my counsel more genuine. Now that Kendra is here, I have someone once again to talk with and to brainstorm on ways to better serve our families. She has brought that “Families come first” Motto full circle. I will be forever blessed to have her and her family return home.
3. What can you share about your husband/dad’s vision for the home, and how you two have kept that vision alive?
Mike (left) and Kendra (right)
It was never about the money or about the business. He was an active member in the community (He was also the director of the ambulance) and he truly cared about every person here. Mom and I have really tried to keep that business motto going. Wyoming is much slower paced than other states I have lived in. We have members of the community come into the office just so they have someone to talk to that day. We are never in a hurry and make sure we are here if someone wants to just visit.
Yvonne (left) and Mike (right)
Yvonne — Mike’s Vision Was Always About the People
So many have commented that “after talking with Mike, you just felt better, no matter what the circumstances. He just brought out the best in folks.” He was always genuinely concerned for others. There was never a “quick conversation” with Mike. He liked to talk as much as he enjoyed listening.
As Kendra stated, we do have the blessing of living in a small community and we really strive to be able to take the time to visit with those who come through our door…or if we are out in the community we try to take the time to visit. Honestly, this is a little harder for me than Kendra. Sometimes I feel that I have so much on my plate that I am in a hurry to get to the next thing. I am learning that taking time for people is so much more important than any list of things that needs to be accomplished. I still lack my husband’s finesse in conversation, but I am finding my own way.
4. Looking back, what helped you the most during the time following Mike’s death? How did others best care for you, and how did you care for yourselves?
Kendra’s Advice from Her Dad Helped the Most
Wine. Just kidding 😉
Honestly, my dad’s advice before he passed away was what helped me the most. He told me that it was okay to be sad for a little while but then I needed to move forward. Being consumed in my own grief would not bring him back. It wouldn’t make things better. The only thing being sad every day would do is ruin that day. It would make me miss out on the moments that were still happening around me.
I still have days where I want to stay in bed and cry all day but those words truly helped me to live in the moment and enjoy the life that I still get to live. Mom and I both make sure we take breaks from work and go somewhere to get away from it all at least once a month. A weekend getaway, a spa day… something to separate us from the grief of other families and the constant reminder that dad isn’t here in the office with us.
Yvonne – People
People, good people who were put in my path were the greatest help. I have a very strong faith in my Savior, and I know for certain that His promise that we will not be left alone is true. I have been blessed by many people who came into my life to help in various ways. Not being a licensed funeral director left a huge problem. I couldn’t run my business without one. Situations occurred where I was able to keep the doors open and keep serving our community.
1. How does grieving the loss of such a huge part of your family change the way you view your work?
Unfortunately, you can’t truly relate to someone until you are “a part of the club.” You can feel sympathy, you can feel bad for someone, but until you have dealt with a tragedy first-hand, you just can’t understand what someone is going through. Having been through this myself I know the pain our families are feeling. They feel more comfortable in grieving around us because they know we have had those same feelings. Unfortunately, I get to welcome them to the club no one ever wants to be a part of.
2. What has changed at Bryant Funeral Home since Mike’s death?
My dad had superpowers. I have no idea how he was able to run everything by himself (actually I do, he had mom to pick up all the loose ends and run everything around him so he could focus solely on the business). Even with 4 of us in the office, we still don’t measure up to everything he did. We try really hard to keep all of dads dreams alive as we move forward. I am, however, helping move us into the digital age which has been a big adjustment for our small town old school community.
3. If there’s one thing you two are now doing that Mike would get a kick out of, what would that one thing be?
Honestly, just the fact that I moved back to Wyoming and am helping in the funeral home. Never ever was this something that we thought would happen haha.
Deathcare professionals spend lots of their time caring for the needs of grieving families in the immediate aftermath of the loss of a loved one. Read more on helpful ways to cope with compassion fatigue and focus on your wellbeing as you support others.
4. Burnout is a real issue in the funeral profession. What do you do outside of the funeral home to relax?
We love spa days! We also love to travel and try to make sure we take a few days every month to go visit family. Fortunately, my sister-in-law works for Disney World so we have fun places to go visit!
5. How do you see technology changing the profession in the future?
I love that we are breaking into the technology side of things. It’s so great to see the families that can share and get out the news of someone passing via Everdays. It has been so much more successful than our local newspaper, especially in my generation.
Kendra On The Power of Bryant Funeral Home Using Everdays
1. What made you choose Everdays for your client families?
We were just about done walking through the booths at the NFDA and had one of your reps stop us. At first, I honestly didn’t think it was something we would use. After learning about how easy it was and that it really didn’t cost our families anything though, I was sold. We had several people tell us after Dad passed away that they didn’t see the notice for his funeral and how sad they were that they missed his service. I would have loved to have something like Everdays.
2. What has helped you successfully incorporate Everdays into your process?
As we have our at need meetings with our family, I am on the computer filling out the Everdays info as our funeral director asks questions for death certificate information. Then we can send the text before the family even leaves the office. It helps prioritize our time and the families.
Join thousands of directors providing Everdays to their client families who ensure their home is in the center of every Announcement, where communities range from 100 to 10,000+ people. Click the link to learn more.