Going Green: Your Last Heroic Act of Volunteerism

Barbara S. Giordano
8 min readMay 25, 2020

This speech received a Cicero Award and was written in collaboration with Elizabeth Fournier, Undertaker and Owner of Cornerstone Funeral Services.

When it comes to the environment, we Americans love to volunteer. Millions of us recycle, grow our own herbs and vegetables, and even clean our beloved parks and hiking trails. But have you given much thought to the ultimate act of environmental volunteerism? You know, the one gift you give after you die? Well, I have, and that’s because, for nearly 30 years I’ve worked in the death care industry.

Since becoming a funeral home owner in 2005 my mission has been to educate the public about the importance of — literally — “going green” as their last heroic act of volunteerism.

My career is a calling far greater than me, predestined perhaps. That’s because as a child loss defined my world. Over a brief span of three years, in the home we all shared, one family member after the next, died.

When I was six, my paternal grandmother passed. At eight, my mother. And just about six months after my mom, my paternal grandfather. By the time I was nine I’d been to so many funerals I’d become something of an accidental expert.

Since the age of 13, I knew I wanted to work in the funeral industry. So when I finally found the courage to confess this secret wish to my dad, he paused and said, “Not only is mortuary science a very narrow career field, but you probably won’t be able to get a date to save your life.”

The first 15 years I worked in the corporate funeral business. Out of all my responsibilities selling graves and merchandise were my least favorite. Up-selling a family deep in the throes of grief was the worst. Each time I tried to sell I felt pathetic twice; once in front of the grieving family and again when management pointed out my low casket sales in our weekly meetings.

In fact, I despised this type of high-pressure sales so deeply that when the chance to take over a rural, dilapidated and financially failing funeral home in Boring, OR arose I leapt at the chance! I could not wait to run things my way.

Not long after I took over I received a phone call from a woman who wanted to discuss funeral arrangements for her friend Wanda, who had passed away that morning.

I loved Wanda’s people. They were a close-knit group of gentle souls. While filling out the death…

Barbara S. Giordano

Three-time award winning speechwriter. Beyond writing I enjoy photography, gardening, hiking, reading and our kitties. storyworksla.com