When people talk about morticians, they often joke that it’s the only profession with job security. However, even the funeral industry changes: About 2.5 million people die in the U.S. every year; of those, 42 percent are cremated. In 1988, that figure was just 24 percent.

(American Cremation on Person Steet is one of several businesses offering that service in Durham; ironically, it has a sign out front that reads “Smoke-Free Facility.”)

Other trends threaten the traditional funeral industry: Green burials are significantly cheaper than traditional services. People are choosing simple (and cheap) pine coffins rather than fancy, tricked out caskets to carry their remains to the afterlife. DIY funerals, held in a home, cut out the funeral director altogether. With cemetery space in short supply, people are requesting that their cremated remains be used to grow trees, for example, or to make carbon diamonds (that survivors presumably put on a chain wear around their neck).

Mark Fisher (left) and Robert Curtis are attending the Funeral and Morticians Association of North Carolina’s 2014 Annual Conference, held June 16-19 at the Durham Convention Center. When I met them in front of Ellis Jones Funeral Home at Elizabeth and Dowd streets, Fisher said they had been “talking about the future, of being the second generation” to work in the funeral business.

The two had participated in a procession of 25 hearses that traveled throughout East Durham Monday afternoon to bear witness to the suffering of violence. Several funeral home workers later participated in a vigil for the victims of violence at CCB Plaza in Durham. It was sponsored by the Funeral and Morticians Association of North Carolina and Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham.