Director of Green Pasture Funeral Services Desmond Mok provides empathetic and sensitive funeral services.
Contributed By Joshua Chang
Funerals are unwelcome events in life, associated with mourning, superstition and departure. Yet great detail and care has to be taken for the planning and overseeing of this ceremony of last rites.
Co-ordinating such an event with all its challenges is all in a day’s work for Desmond Mok, owner of Green Pasture Funeral Services.
“Anyone can be a funeral director, but whether you are suitable for the job is another matter altogether,” he remarked, referring to the unpleasant aspects in this line of work.
Obviously, one of these is coming into contact with dead bodies, some of which can be rather gruesome to behold.
“I once took charge of the funeral of an old man who had been dead for seven days before his body was discovered. The police had to come in and it was really bad; the corpse had maggots all over,” he said.
Morbid as it may sound, dealing with such cases are part and parcel of this job. Other unique and grisly occurrences include bodies that turn black due to kidney failure, or those which are crushed in accidents. Indeed, few would be able to stomach the sight, let alone physically handle these bodies on a regular basis.
Aside from an iron-cast stomach and nerves of steel, the job also requires him to be on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He often receives calls at odd hours in the early morning from distraught family members who are clueless about what to do when a loved one passes away. “It’s not a job for everyone,” he said.
Mok has always been one to take the path less travelled. He recounts that he has never been employed since the completion of his secondary school education. To support himself, he ventured into various businesses at a young age. He once owned a pastry shop and was involved in the food packaging business in Shanghai for six years. The frequent separation from his family got to him, and when a friend requested for him to help oversee a funeral business, he moved back to Singapore—much to the chagrin of his wife. After two years of gaining experience, the company was sold off. Mok then decided to start Green Pasture, and has not looked back ever since.
Contrary to popular belief that people tend to keep away from such an inauspicious line of work, the industry is actually highly competitive. Nevertheless, Mok remains unfazed. In fact, he sees his personal and intimate approach as a differentiating factor that sets his company apart from the big players that dominate the industry.
His approach is intimate in the sense that he is personally present with the family members throughout every stage of the process—from selecting a coffin to collecting the ashes after the cremation. Being sensitive and obliging to the requests of the family members, however difficult and not viable, are also necessary attributes; some requests include family members asking for the coffin to be decorated with roses and scented with perfume.
Being the middleman in these transactions also has its challenges. Mok recalls a case where the wake was conducted in an open, outdoor space for seven days, at the request of the family. As the coffin was placed in such a humid environment, fluid leaked out of the body on the fifth day and the embalming had to be redone.
Other than providing assistance, his job essentially requires him to ensure that every element comes together and the entire process runs smoothly. Arrangements for logistics such as the tentages, tables, chairs, portable toilets, and catering have to be looked into. The timetable for the proceedings of the funeral has to be carefully planned, from the time the coffin arrives to the time of cremation to the conclusion of the ceremony and everything else in between. This makes the whole procedure less painful for the family members as they are insulated from the unnecessary stress that may be caused by careless hiccups.
Due to the negative perception of the job, Mok often faces difficulties recruiting staff. He currently has two full time staff working from the company’s premises at Toa Payoh Industrial Park who assist him in various tasks such as handling phone calls and transporting the coffins.
Although the job may seem unrewarding to some, Mok feels a sense of satisfaction whenever clients thank him for assisting them during their time of bereavement.
Says Sharon Chew, who engaged Green Pasture to coordinate her father’s funeral, “Desmond was a huge help to my family during one of our hardest times. His professionalism and efficiency, coupled with much empathy, assured us that my dad’s funeral was in good hands.”
Adds Bryan Lim, manager of an events company, “He responded immediately when his service was required even in the wee hours in the morning. In times of distress, you need people who will help get things done and not try to make a quick buck out of you. Desmond is someone who is dependable.”
For more enquiries, contact Desmond Mok at +65 8233 0379.
A Funeral Procedure Guide may be downloaded from the City Harvest Church website at http://www.chc.org.sg/eng/downloads/Funeral-Procedure-Guide.pdf