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In the business to serve

Death happens. That's life . . .
by: Barbara Adams, Estacada Funeral Chapel Director Rob Gaskill stands by during a service at George Cemetery. Along with his varying duties, he also helps plan and oversee funeral and graveside services.

Rob Gaskill is in the business of being there for people during a time most people don't think about until it comes.

Gaskill has been the resident funeral director at Estacada Funeral Chapel since July 2005.

He's the one who gets the call in the middle of the night when grandma dies of old age. He gets out of bed, drives to the house and picks her up. He's gentle and kind to the family. The next day he prepares her for a viewing, if that's what they want. He styles her hair, applies makeup and gets her dressed. He helps the family write her obituary, and he guides them through the funeral planning.

'I love serving people,' Gaskill says. 'I get the opportunity to help people at the worst time of their life and, hopefully, make a positive difference in the grief process.'

Helping people plan ahead

'I already have my burial plot,' a woman wearing a green blouse says.

'I have mine all paid for us in Zion. I just need the date put in,' says another woman, her keys jingle around her neck as she shifts in her chair.

'Let it not be too soon,' Gaskill tells her. Today he's meeting with a group of residents at Whispering Pines to talk over burial and cremation options.

A man named James bites into a chocolate chip cookie and says, 'I don't want to be put in the ground. I'd like to be swept up and put in a garbage can.'

Making funeral, burial or cremation arrangements in advance is more for those left behind, Gaskill says. 'Our body does a wonderful thing when we're experiencing grief-it shuts down.'

Gaskill talks over prepayment plans, the advantages to having obituary information organized, and why having a memorial service is important. 'There's a purpose to having a service, so that people can have some kind of closure. Even if it's a party at the house-it doesn't have to be at a church,' he says. Without a service, some loved ones may be left without closure, with unfinished business, he explains.

A part of life

Talking frankly about dying is a part of life for Gaskill, who has been in the business for 22 years. He graduated from Sam Barlow High School in Gresham in 1984, then went to Mt. Hood Community College where he earned his degree in funeral service education.

In 2002 he was hired by Ken Hallgren, owner of Sandy and Estacada Funeral chapels. Last year he became the director in Estacada and moved into the house next door to the chapel with his wife, Kary, and their two children, Justin, 14, and Heather, 11.

As director, husband and father, living so close to work has its advantages, Gaskill said.

'A lot of times, people want to avoid their children from being around death,' he said, adding that, as a result, imaginations take over, and the natural grieving process is interrupted.

'I want my children to be around death because when the time comes, I don't want it to be this horrible, scary thing,' Gaskill said.