‘I’ve found my true calling’: The Lancashire woman who swapped English teaching in China for funeral care in Preston

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What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question asked a million times to a million children, often prompting eager responses of ‘astronaut’, ‘footballer’, or ‘doctor’.

But, for Laura Eaves, the reply came slightly more out of left-field. Because there was only one career for Laura when she left school, and that career was funeral care.

Due to its slightly morbid nature, however, friends and family baulked at the idea, insisting it was too dark an industry to go into as a young professional. And so Laura dedicated herself to pursuing her secondary career option instead, training to become a teacher.

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Little did she know, her career would soon lead her back to her initial ambitions.

Laura Eaves of Co-op FuneralcareLaura Eaves of Co-op Funeralcare
Laura Eaves of Co-op Funeralcare

Having always harboured an ambition to live abroad and immerse herself in another culture, Laura spent over a decade living and teaching English in Shanghai, China from the mid-2000s to the mid-2010s. When her grandmother died, however, her desire to work in funeral care resurfaced with a vengeance, so she quit her job and started studying.

“The funeral directors were fantastic in speeding up the process so my husband and I could attend and bid our farewell before flying back to China,” says Laura of her and her partner’s return to the UK for her grandmother’s funeral. “Their professionalism meant so much to me - I knew I had to change my career and follow my dream.

“I liked teaching but, as an English teacher, there was only so far my career could go and soon enough I’d reached the glass ceiling,” she explains. “Sure, teaching was helpful and fulfilling, but nothing could match the satisfaction of helping others during the worst days of their lives.”

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After undertaking a year-long online course with the National Association of Funeral Directors, Laura applied for a role in Shanghai but her initial attempts didn’t pan out, leading her and her partner to return to the UK where Laura started working for the Co-op Funeralcare in Preston.

Embalmer Laura Eaves Of Co-op FuneralcareEmbalmer Laura Eaves Of Co-op Funeralcare
Embalmer Laura Eaves Of Co-op Funeralcare

Then, in 2017, a new opportunity arose: maternity cover as an embalmer - a specialisation Laura suddenly found herself keen to explore. She graduated with qualifications in embalming just weeks before the pandemic.

“It must be mind-boggling to others how I ended up in funeral care but, once my grandmother had died, I just knew this was my true calling,” says Laura. “I allowed myself to pursue an old passion for looking after families during their time of bereavement and soon realised it was not the living left behind that I wanted to take care of, but the deceased.

“Dying can be the most isolating experience of your life, and I knew the second I joined Co-op that I would ultimately only want to be an advocate for the deceased,” she adds. “It’s a privilege to make sure they’re taken care of the way they deserve to be for one last time; I always had a really good sense of just how much our work meant to each family.

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“Don’t let anyone tell you funeral care is a dark, macabre career path to go down,” continues Laura. “It cannot be further from the truth - our job is a celebration of life. It’s the best, most rewarding job you can have.”