26-year-old excited by her work 

Stokotelny keepsake boxOne of Calgary's youngest funeral directors acknowledges her profession isn't one many would aspire to, yet the 26-year-old knew it was her destiny to work with people who had died and their mourning families.

Samantha Stokotelny is passionate about the work she's been doing for eight years. Her age still surprises some of her clients at Eden Brook Memorial Gardens & Funeral Home.

"People are just very shocked. They have a very hard time right off the bat understanding why I would want to become a funeral director. But I am proud of what I do and I embrace table conversation."

 

funeral1Samantha Stokotelny discusses what she loves most about becoming a funeral director.
Photo by Brittany Sackschewsky
Stokotelny recalls going to her grandmother's funeral at age 11 and being enamoured with the concept of the celebration of a funeral and the process behind it. Having been exposed to funerals at a young age and growing up in a Ukrainian household, Stokotelny showed no hesitation when it came to selecting her profession.

"Very often people will refer to my appearance and say ... 'Oh but you're so young! Is your family in the business?'"

The topic of funeral directing was consuming for her in her late teens. In her final year of high school she enrolled in a co-op program that opened the door to finally working in the business. She began her apprenticeship in 2008, which meant working more closely with families' loved ones.

"I was very excited. I remember I was combing (a gentleman's) hair and filing his nails and I took great pride in that. I didn't want it to end. It really is an art to embalmers."

funeral3Samantha Stokotelny gives a rundown of a typical funeral in a countryside funeral home.
Photo by Brittany Sackschewsky
When she first got into funeral directing she hesitated telling people about her profession. She would tell people she was in the healthcare industry. However, when Stokotelny became more experienced and confident in her field of work, she became at ease in dealing with people's discomfort. She knew how to direct the conversation about her job and her place among society.

"Death is not a taboo, it shouldn't be. I don't think it should be a secret, people should know we're part of the community."

Stokotelny says she really loves every aspect of her job, from using lavender scented soap, to first dealing with a grieving family, to seeing the celebration unfold. Stokotelny isn't afraid of death and understands it's a part of life and feels honoured to be able to take part in the final celebration of life.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story contained some inaccuracies and insensitive language. The Calgary Journal regrets the inaccuracies and has updated the story.