Death is still seen as a taboo subject in Singapore and many other societies. We don’t usually associate ourselves with it or think about planning for our funerals at all. Even when our loved ones are in a critical condition or fighting for their last breath, we tend to hold on to every glimpse of hope to prolong their life. So most of us only begin to look for funeral services after our loved ones have passed away.
This is a mindset that Angjolie Mei seeks to change and wants to highlight about pre-planning funeral arrangements to help families prepare for their loved ones.
In the beginning
Her journey began when her father, Ang Yew Seng, a well-known funeral director passed away. According to an interview with AsiaOne, she was the most eligible sibling to help with the family business so she quit her job and went to help her mother in the funeral business for one year, before she was kicked out of the company. Her mother told her to leave because she felt that her daughter was inexperienced and did not want her to face the same consequence as she did when she married her father, such as being rejected by her friends and people having the perception that there was an aura of death around her. She was worried that her daughter would lose her friends and social life.
According to The Life Celebrant’s website, Jolie returned to the funeral industry in 2009 and took the opportunity to travel to a few countries to broaden her knowledge on different funeral cultures and it motivated her to reform Singapore’s traditional funeral industry. During a funeral exchange programme in New Zealand, she got to experience being one of the funeral assistants that attended to a family who had a funeral celebrant service, instead of the conventional Buddhist monk, Taoist priest or Christian Pastor. The funeral celebrant was the officiant of the funeral and focused on the life of the deceased. While memories were recounted, there were laughter and smiles through tears during the service. She mentioned that this experience brought about immense meaning and healing power through the commemoration. It spurred her onto getting herself certified in year 2010 in Sydney. Now, Jolie is the only Funeral Celebrant in Singapore.
The Life Celebrant
Angjolie Mei started The Life Celebrant (TLC) in 2010. With reference to their website, TLC has not only extended services to families of other faiths, but also organised secular (non-religious) funerals where a funeral celebrant focuses on the life of the deceased person – catering to each family’s unique customs, needs and budget.
Their newly renovated funeral parlours of the Ang Yew Seng Remembrance Hall have been given a new look with air-conditioners, improved toilet facilities, smooth marble finishes, warm brown rattan furnishing, and crystal chandeliers.
Being very customer-oriented, she ensures that the customers feel comfortable when they enter their office by providing a peaceful atmosphere with calming music. She further extends her service for families by giving them privacy, complimentary wifi, toiletries, snacks and even has a vehicle to transport family members directly from the hospital to their home because she understands the difficulty to drive while grieving.
Besides managing the funerals, Jolie has also played her part for the environment by importing new environmentally friendly urns for those who would like to disperse their dearly departed’s cremated remains into the sea which would sink into the sea and disintegrate within a few hours.
In summary, TLC’s services includes pre-planning funeral arrangements and pre-arrangement of one’s assets before one’s death (e.g. Wills), organising funerals and post-funeral administration.
Challenges She Faced
Starting a business from scratch is never easy and Jolie’s path in the funeral industry was nothing near to a breeze for her too. Unlike other funeral directors, she had little preparation to be one as she did not learn the ropes from her father when he was around. Even though she had her mother to help her, there were certain aspects of the business that she did not understand too.
Furthermore, being young and female did not form a good impression of a funeral director for her too. She mentioned that it was difficult to gain people’s respect and there were even instances where a client’s family would be rude to her and her mother, until she revealed that she was Ang Yew Seng’s daughter. Her father left a legacy and garnered respect from many people and it helped in gaining credibility and getting her out of complicated situations.
Besides educating the public about the funeral industry and hoping to break the taboo on the topic of death, Jolie aspires to combine the funeral and financial industries into a one-stop “cradle to grave” service to the community as she is also a financial advisory representative too. She hopes this would enable her to continue her father’s legacy of “Ang Yew Seng Funeral Parlour” and better it together with “Life Celebrant”.
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