By Brianna A. Smith, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
The funeral service industry has long been a male-dominated one, but times are changing as more women are entering into the profession and breaking down stereotypes.
Madeline Lyles and Dana Taylor are staking their claim as the founders of the first mortuary service owned and operated by women in Memphis.
After Life Mortuary Services opened at 2207 S. Lauderdale St. on Oct. 8. The business mission is to provide services of embalming, storage and other preparations and to help those within the community who need assistance with funeral arrangements.
“After Life Mortuary Services believes that it’s time out for financial stress and struggles for families during their time of bereavement,” said Lyles. “It’s time out for fish fries, GoFundMe accounts and the embarrassing fundraisers that families have to do, in order to have the finances to bury a loved one.”
Lyles and Taylor are not new to funeral services.
“We’ve been in this profession for over a decade and people have been seeing our work throughout the tri-state area, at multiple funeral homes,” said Lyles. “It’s just a matter of them learning who has actually been behind the scenes creating the pleasing presentations they see at funerals.”
Asked why the funeral service industry has long been male-dominated, Lyles and Taylor embraced this reflection: “Because of the nature of the profession, one where much stamina and fearlessness is needed. From a historical point-of-view, men have always upheld that position.
“Decades ago, women were more reared and encouraged to be nurses, office workers, kitchen staff, etc. Being a mortician was a man’s position. Most women would marry into the profession.”
Lyles said when people learn that she and Taylor are morticians, their first comment often is, “Oh, I never would’ve thought you were a mortician. …They look at us and think we’re teachers or nurses, and if they see us in the funeral setting, they think we only do hair and makeup.
“It’s comical to see their facial expressions, especially when we do removals. It’s like, ‘A woman is here to pick up the body.’ Everyone runs to the room, to see it all take place.”
At After Life, said Taylor, “We go out of our way to provide exceptional service to each of our clients. We understand that everyone’s needs are different and can change at the last minute, and we’re ready to promptly and professionally provide services that will ensure your satisfaction.”
Big on outreach and community service, Lyles and Taylor provide an apprenticeship through their alma mater, Northwest Mississippi Community College, as well as a summer camp, for ages 13-18. The focus is on education regarding funeral services and the importance of knowing how to make funeral arrangements, having insurance, what a death certificate is and more.
“We know that planning isn’t easy, but we are dedicated to making sure your loved ones are properly cared for by us, and placed with a funeral service provider that will meet your current needs,” said Taylor.
“We have made a great mark in the history of our city, as well as in funeral services,” Lyles said.
“We are beyond grateful to have done so. God revealed our purpose to us, and through funeral services we will give back to those in need. We’re here to help and serve others.”