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Monadnock Profiles: funeral home apprentice defies the odds

  • Jordie Lee Nelson of Mason is attending college to become a funeral director. She currently works at Michaud Funeral Home and Crematorium in Wilton. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jordie Lee Nelson of Mason is attending college to become a funeral director. She currently works at Michaud Funeral Home and Crematorium in Wilton. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • Jordie Lee Nelson of Mason is attending college to become a funeral director. She currently works at Michaud Funeral Home and Crematorium in Wilton. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Jordie Lee Nelson of Mason is attending college to become a funeral director. She currently works at Michaud Funeral Home and Crematorium in Wilton. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, August 09, 2018 10:20AM

Before her career even began, Jordie Lee Nelson was told the chances of finding a job in her field of choice were slim to none. 

Beg to cut their grass for free or whatever it takes to get your foot in the door, a guest speaker said during her orientation at FINE Mortuary College, a Massachusetts-based two-year college devoted to professions in the funeral industry. If you aren’t in the family, good luck finding a job as a funeral director.

“I thought it was BS… I was a little defiant. I knew right then that I was going to find a job immediately,” the 23-year-old Mason resident said. “… I wanted a career that was going to be there forever and the funeral industry – it’s going to be here forever.”

Nelson currently works as a certified crematory operator and a licensed apprentice at Michaud Funeral Home and Crematorium in Wilton. She intends to graduate from FINE Mortuary College in 2019 – following her graduation she will work toward her funeral director and embalming certifications. 

“A lot of people don’t understand how much work goes into it,” Nelson said. “You have to make everything perfect for that family so they don’t have to worry about a thing. It’s up to us to make sure the family is 100-percent content with what we did.”

Growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada, Nelson never thought of becoming a funeral director (prior to this, Nelson desired to become a tattoo artist). It wasn’t until the death of her uncle in 2014 and grandmother in 2015, and the subsequent death of of her best friend’s dad, that she considered a career as a funeral director. 

Nelson said she helped her friend a lot throughout the process, oftentimes giving her rides where ever she needed to go. After passing by a funeral home in Nashua, the idea stuck in her head. It was then that she began researching how to become a funeral director. 

“I’m going to be here [at Michaud] forever. I love it, there are so many opportunities,” Nelson said. 

In conjunction with going to college, Nelson has been an apprentice at Michaud for about two years now – though she completed all the requirements of her appenticeship within 16 months, according to Funeral Director Carl A. Michaud.

“Jordie has been a very good apprentice, she caught on well and she’s great with families... she’s my right-hand person,” Michaud said. “… I don’t want this to go to her head, but she’s one of the best apprentices I’ve ever had.”

Despite dealing with two major deaths in her life, Nelson admits she had never seen a dead body until working at Michaud, where she sat in on an embalming. 

“In that moment, you kind of just blank out everything,” Nelson said. “I was really curious about what it was – you can’t really YouTube how to do an embalming.”

Under Michaud’s guidance, Nelson has conducted embalming, cremations, paperwork, funeral planning, and restorative cases – making the body look presentable after an accident or other gruesome death. 

“The hardest part for me in this job is seeing someone in front of you that just lost their husband or wife or their dad or their baby, and they’re just so distraught – they’ve just had everything taken from them,” Nelson said. “No matter what I say or do, I can’t make them feel better in that moment. It’s the hardest part, because I love people. I love helping people. That’s really why I chose this career, I love helping people.”

Nelson said it is also a challenge to not become attached to the families and remain stoic during their most difficult of times, though she did become attached to a family a few weeks ago for the first time in her young career. 

“I didn’t realize I would be talking to people so much,” Nelson said. “One of the hardest things was changing my voice and how I talk to people… you have to really think about what you are saying before you say it. That’s the hard part for me, because I go about a million miles a minute when I talk, and I smile too much too… you have to have a switch.”

The daughter – who died in a car accident – was roughly her age and her siblings were similar in age to her sisters. 

“I have to keep a professional face on,” Nelson said. “I can’t be Jordie and hold them and tell them everything is going to be okay; you can’t say that. You can’t say its going to be okay, you can’t say I know how you feel, because you don’t.”

Nelson said she enjoys working with Michaud – even going as far as to call him her best friend. 

“We see each other more than our spouses and were with each other all the time. I really do feel like we are a family,” Nelson said. 

Outside the job, Nelson said she spends a lot of time with her boyfriend Kyle – a mechanic in Hollis – and her two dogs and one cat. Nelson tries to relax as much as possible, as she never knows when she will be called back in.

“I’ve been late to Thanksgiving and Christmas – those are just things you have to sacrifice,” Neslon said. “You have to sacrifice the fun things you want to do because somebody else just lost everything. I’m okay with that – for a long time I wasn’t – but I’m okay with that now.”

Nelson may be in the infancy of her career, but she already sees the funeral industry as something she would like to spend the rest of her life being a part of. She hopes to one day own a funeral home of her own. 

“It makes me think about things a lot,” Nelson said. “You really understand people better and you listen more. I think that’s what I really like about it – I really do hear people and I understand people better.”

Nicholas Handy can be reached at  924-717 2 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.