On The Topic of Loss From an Unlikely Subject

We spoke to a local mortician about why he chose—and loves—such a difficult job

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 | 8:56 pm

Saying goodbye to a beloved friend or family member is one of the most difficult aspects of life. Planning the service itself can be even more challenging when it seems the business of death is all about huge profits. Funeral costs, from burial to cremation to other services you might not have ever thought of, can be astronomical.

It’s not often that you hear from the mortician’s point of view. Local mortician and owner of Cedar Hill Mortuary David Estephan explains how he got into such an emotionally demanding and perhaps not very attractive sounding business, and why it’s about everything but the money for him.

Estephan and his family originally emigrated from Lebanon to Pasadena when he was in high school, and he didn’t speak a work of English. Although he briefly attended Pasadena City College and hoped to become a police officer, he still ended up working in a field where he was helping others.

His mother was adamant about keeping her son out of harm’s way. “No, you’re going to get killed. You cannot go,” she had said to him about becoming a police officer. Little did she know he’d still end up working in such a grim and challenging field.

Estephan’s brothers had been working in the mortuary business for a while, which is why he originally decided to join them. He saw an opportunity to help other people without going against his mother’s wishes.

While it’s rare a young man would enjoy working in such a field, he soon found a real purpose working alongside his brothers.

“It’s not about money with us. Believe me,” says Estephan about working with families dealing with the death of a loved one. “It’s about helping families in need.” Estephan occasionally even offers services for free because he understands how difficult it is to say goodbye, let alone to go into debt to do so.

“There was a young man in Verdugo Hills Hospital who didn’t have any money. I told him it’s okay, no problem,” Estephan says. “I told him we’d take care of it for him. We’ve offered a lot of free services for children, too. It’s the worst and very difficult to handle.”

Estephan’s service to local families has caused a lasting impact in his life. “It breaks your heart, believe me. Every time. 22 years in the business and it still breaks my heart,” Estephan says.

He knows that to belong to and care for a community, it’s important to help out and try to empathize with the tragedies families must endure.

“They send us letters of thank you, and that’s worth much more than any money in the world to me,” says Estephan.

Many of us can’t imagine saying goodbye to friends or family, let alone working in a field so saturated with loss. Let’s hope when the time does come for such difficult decisions, that there’s someone like Estephan to work with.

Cedar Hill Mortuary is located at 1722 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock. For more information, call (323) 255-0710 or visit www.cedarhillmortuary.net.


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