Al Jazeera Correspondent

Death in the Family

A personal look at the funeral industry and how a traditional family-run trade is being overtaken by big corporations.

Dying is big business. In 2014, the United States funeral market was estimated to be worth $20bn. With an average of 1.5 million deaths a year and the number of Americans aged 60 and over expected to rise by 19 million by 2020, large corporations are taking over the funeral industry.

For a long time, however, it was a family business, and no more so than for Blake Sifton.

READ MORE: Death at the dinner table

Born into a family that cares for the dead, Blake’s family has overseen many of the funerals in the small town of St Thomas, Canada, for the better part of 90 years. A veteran of the first world war, Blake’s great-grandfather built the family business in 1926 and both his grandfather and father have dutifully carried forward his legacy as independent family funeral directors.

This film explores how, for Blake, the death business was a normal part of life. As a child, he was taught that mortality isn’t something to be afraid of or obsessed over. It’s as natural as life itself and should be acknowledged, understood and respected.

READ MORE: The dead’s favourite poet

But Blake had different ambitions. He wanted to leave his small town and do something different. Now though, when his father retires the future of the family business will be uncertain, and Blake feels a strong sense of guilt for not continuing the family tradition. Several large funeral corporations now dominate the industry in North America and pose a threat to family run homes. He worries what their increasing influence could mean for the future of his family’s business and his community.