Local Faces: Lisa Gahan

By Aideen O'Flaherty

WHEN grieving families step into Staffords Funeral Home in Ballyfermot, Lisa Gahan is the first person they see – ready to greet them with assurance, advice and assistance about final arrangements for their loved ones.

Lisa, 53, has been the manager of the Ballyfermot branch of Staffords Funeral Home leading up to and since its opening in December 2017.

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Lisa Gahan (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

She takes pride in helping people at such a difficult time, and this is informed by the two decades she spent working in social care before she started working at the funeral home.

The mother-of-three is a Ballyfermot native, and she went to college in Maynooth University as a mature student in the early 2000s, where she studied adult and community education and earned a HDip in adult education.

Lisa spent 20 years working in the social care sector, both before and after she attended college, and gained a wealth of experience in helping people in difficult circumstances.

“I worked in secure care all over the country,” the past pupil of St Dominic’s College told The Echo. “I helped people who were in residential houses, and I helped people who were in secure care to reintegrate into the community.”

During her time working in social care, Lisa lived in Westmeath with her husband and their three children but, in 2016, after her daughter became ill with kidney failure and her mother was unwell, Lisa left social work and moved back home to Ballyfermot.

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Lisa Gahan (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

“My daughter was ill, I was in a stressful job, then my mother became ill, so myself and my husband were spending a lot of time between St James’, Tallaght Hospital and Beaumont.”

Lisa’s daughter, Laura, who was then 23-years-old, recovered after her brother, Glen, donated a kidney to her, and Lisa was enjoying being back in Ballyfermot when she found out about Staffords opening a new funeral home in the area, and successfully applied for a job there.

Through her social care background, Lisa is used to helping many different types of people from many different backgrounds, and she has a natural affinity for making people comfortable and putting them at ease during trying times.

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Lisa Gahan (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

When asked about the general perception that a funeral home would be a depressing place to work in, Lisa said, “Sometimes I have great fun with people, just talking to them about the person who’s passed away.

“It’s all about celebrating how the person lived their life, and it’s through laughter and tears that we all get through things.

“As soon as people walk in here, I take over from them, and I say, ‘Look, we’re going to get through this together, so you can go home, have a lie-down and take a deep breath’, because a lot of people are coming to the funeral home from spending days in a hospital or a nursing home.

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Lisa Gahan (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

“It’s like a weight has been lifted off their shoulders, because a lot of people have never organised a funeral before.”

Lisa encourages people to create slideshows with pictures of their loved ones for the funeral services that are regularly held at the funeral home, but the global pandemic has changed the manner in which funerals are normally held.

“What families have had to go through...some couldn’t see their parents when they were ill, and they didn’t get to see them in repose, which usually helps to give families some closure.”

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Lisa Gahan (Image: Aidan O’Neill)

She added: “We have a webcam set up, for people who are reposing and who didn’t have COVID, so that their family members in places like Australia or America can see them in repose and talk to their family.”

Lisa likes to get to know about the people who’ve passed away, and helps to select their clothes and likes to look at pictures of them, so that the make-up she applies to them in repose will match the make-up they wore in life, as an added comfort for the family.

“I always want the person to look their best,” she said.

Lisa also has other ways to offer comfort to the families of those who’ve passed away, for example, offering to get a lock of hair from their loved ones, and she helps people to select coffins for their loved ones.

“I’m the practical head at a traumatic time,” she said. “Sometimes we have people who want to get the best and most expensive coffin for their mother, who might be being cremated.

“And I’ll say to them, ‘What would you mother say, if she knew you were spending that much on a coffin when she was being cremated?’

“And usually they’ll say, ‘She’d go mad’, or ‘She’d hate it, she always loved a bargain!’

“I just help to guide them through the process, to support people through what is a traumatic time for them.”

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