And So Begins My New Life

Join me as I embark on a new life and new career in Funeral Services.

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Location: Southeast, United States

I'm a Funeral Services graduate embarking on a new career. I graduated high school in 1981, served honorably in the United States Navy from 1982-1986, been married since 1986, and have one son. I've relocated to a new state and have begun working in my chosen profession of Funeral Services, and I've never been happier.

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Friday, March 31, 2006

Meet My Grandparents, Part Two

In my last post I introduced you to my mom's parents. This time I will introduce you to my dad's parents. My grandfather died before my parents ever married, so I never knew him. He was an iron worker and was killed on a construction site in Tennessee; my mother tells me it was the Ford building in Nashville. A few years before my Grandmother passed away (she died of Alzheimer's in 1992) she told me the story of how he died . Grandaddy was on the second story of the building, sitting on an I-beam. The crane operator was hoisting a new I-beam and swinging it into position. Unfortunately he did not lift his load high enough and it brushed my grandfather right off his perch. Grandma said he saw the beam coming and leaned over and wrapped his arms and legs around his beam, but it wasn't enough; he fell to the ground (concrete, not dirt) and broke his neck. My dad was in the Navy, stationed overseas at the time. He came home on emergency leave, and while he was in town, he married my mother (they had already become engaged before grandpa died).

Grandma was born Anna Mary Barrow, and she had a brother named Clyde. Anyone familiar with depression era gangsters might think, "Clyde Barrow, as in Bonnie & Clyde?" No, I'm happy to say. Grandma's brother was a Baptist preacher, but when he went to Chicago for a convention and signed into the hotel, half of the Chicago police department descended on the hotel, thinking they had done the world a favor and captured the notorious outlaw.
Anyhow, Grandma worked to support herself after Grandaddy died, and eventually retired from the IGA Supermarket (for you folks in Murray, it was the Southside IGA). Grandma loved kids and had pictures of family and friends all over her house; on the piano, on her secretary, on the coffee table, on the walls, on the mantle. And without fail she could look at a picture and tell you who was who and how they were related, if at all. Watching her slip into dementia and memory loss from the Alzheimer's was a tragic thing. I visited her about a month before she passed and she did not recognize any of us. It broke my heart; I had to step outside the nursing home and collect myself before I could tell her goodbye. Grandma was raised a Baptist, but for the love of her husband she joined his Church of Christ, and continued to attend regularly until her illness prevented it. I will also see her again one day, and I am looking forward to meeting the Grandfather I never knew.

Meet My Grandparents

April marks the one year anniversary of the death of my maternal grandparents. In their honor, I would like to tell you about them. My mother's parents are Aubrey "Red" Willoughby and Beatrice Jane (Thompson) Willoughby.

They were born around the end of World War I. Grandpa did every kind of work you could imagine; he worked with the Civilian Conservation Corps as a camp cook, sold life insurance, worked at a gas station, and owned his own auto parts store. He even ran for sheriff once, but lost, much to my Grandmother's delight. Whatever it took to provide for his family, he did it. Grandpa was a baseball player, a southpaw pitcher playing for farm league teams. He was an outstanding example of a good Christian man. Growing up, I spent many summers with him and Grandma, and every time I was there, I remember him reading his Bible and preparing for his Sunday school lesson (he was a teacher for years). He was also a Deacon in his church, Cherry Corner Baptist in Murray, KY. He helped found and served as President of the local Civitan club.

In late 1962 or early 1963, Grandma was in a horrible car accident and lost both her legs. She was ejected from the car, and the wheels ended up on her legs, still in gear and rotating, grinding her legs off. She never lost consciousness. She was one of the strongest women I've ever known in my life, and I'm awfully proud to have had her as my grandma. She never let her handicap slow her down, doing more with no legs in one day than many healthy people do in a week. I remember one time she told me she was always grateful to have lost her legs and not her hands, because she loved handicrafts so much. She knitted, sewed, embroidered, crocheted and did all different kinds of crafts. I remember she would take old soda cans and slice them up, then roll the strips with a pair of tweezers to make a pin-cushion throne, with the bottom of the can serving as the seat. She would make a little fluffy pillow to sit on the seat, and that would be where you stuck your pins. She was always doing something creative. Grandmother was just as hard a worker as Grandpa. At the funeral I heard for the first time how she worked in a mill, and when she had to stay home to take care of her kids, they would bring her machine home so she could work and watch the kids. She was faster than anybody on her machine, I was told. In early April of 2005, Grandma had a stroke and died a few days later. About three weeks later, my grandfather, her husband of 67 years, died of a broken heart.

I love my grandparents very much and miss them dearly, but I know I will see them again in Glory.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

I Passed The Arts Section!

I have just returned from taking the Arts section of my National Board Exam. I passed with an 88! Some of the questions were tricky and challenging, but overall it was a reasonable test.
What more can I say? I'm thrilled!
Now for the Sciences section next week. One thing for sure; I'm going to have to study study study! {blech}

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Relaxing Before The Big Test

Tomorrow (March 30th, 2006) I take the first section of my National Board Exam. I am confident and relaxed. I went over the material again while waiting for my son to get out of school, and I was very comfortable with my results. I am spending this evening relaxing, reading random blogs, listening to my MP3s with Winamp and learning a little about HTML. If you want to modify your template and make any significant changes to your blogsite, you're going to have to do a little research on HTML. Perhaps when I get settled in my new state and new job, I can seriously study up on it. For now, I am content that I was finally able to figure out how to insert a couple of blank lines between my Bible verse and my Links heading. My next project, down the road, will be to figure out how to change the colors of my hyperlinks, and change the fonts in my sidebar without affecting the fonts in my header. However, that is a rather ambitious goal for me, as I know next to nothing about HTML programming.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

There's A Lot Going On In My Life Right Now

Despite winding down my school career and preparing to graduate, there is a lot going on in my life right now and sometimes I wonder if I can deal with it all. I have to prepare for my National Board Exam coming up in a couple of days. I have to make plans to move to a new state; reserve the truck, get things packed up, and all of the other tasks essential to a successful move. I have to help my wife with her schoolwork, I have to train my replacement at work. And not just train her in the everyday tasks of work; she will be replacing me as assistant manager, so once I get her trained to do the normal tasks, then I have to take it a step further and train her to run the computer, print the reports, closeout the register, do payroll, weekly summaries, etc etc etc.
I wish I could just quit right now, right this minute, and use all that free time to get some of this stuff done. But I'm obligated until the 21st of April, so I'll just deal with all these things as best I can.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

An Example of Why I Despise Retail

As I write this, it's Saturday night and I've been home from work less than 30 minutes. My previous post was written just this morning, and it mentions how much I despise my retail job. This is one reason why:
I arrived at work shortly before one o'clock, and not five minutes later I get my first, and worst, customer of the day. This gentleman comes in with a watch he purchased elsewhere and asks if we can adjust the band to fit his wrist. I tell him that we can and the fee is ten dollars. The rest of the conversation went something like this:
Him: Ten dollars!?
Me: Yes, sir.
Him: Is that for one link or as many links as it takes or what?
Me: Whatever it takes to make your watch fit, it's ten dollars.
Him: Why is it ten dollars?
Me: Because that's what we charge.
Him: You know, I've bought any number of watches here over the years, have all my batteries changed here...I thought you guys could take care of me, that's why I made a special trip all the way out here. {then proceeds to start walking away}
Me: Sir, I'm sorry, but I can't possibly recognize every customer and know what they've bought over the years.
Him: {takes a step closer} You know, I don't mind paying a fee, but not this time!

I just let him walk away. As if I'm supposed to recognize every single customer and know immediately how much they've spent over the years. We've been in the same location for 15 or 16 years, and I've been in that store for 9 1/2 years. What do people expect from us?
I should have told him I look forward to serving him in my next career.

Funeral Service Is A Calling

As I write this it is Saturday morning and I'm going to have to get ready for work shortly. Work that I despise, though thankfully I can number the days left to me, something I am extremely grateful for. I've been terribly terribly miserable in my retail job since before I started school five years ago. There were days where I would literally have to force myself to walk through the door and go to work.
But now those days are slowly drawing to a close. I believe I have been called of God to enter the Funeral Service profession. Partly to help families avoid the treatment my family received while laying my father to rest, and partly to be a witness for Him through this career.
One thing that was of concern to me was the decision to relocate to another state. It will mean leaving my church behind and leaving my cats behind (we cannot afford to take them with us; our new apartment has an outrageous pet deposit, and they only allow one pet, anyhow). However, after talking to many people, I do believe this is where God wants me to be at this point in my life. And since He wants me to be there, He will help get us relocated through the benevolance and support of family and friends.
Some of you reading this may wonder about the title of my URL,
Funeralis is Latin for procession, and as you probably surmised, it is where we get the modern word Funeral. We learned this little tidbit in our History of Funeral Services class. We also learned about Egyptians and their embalming techniques and the history and development of arterial injection and chemical embalming.
If any readers have any specific questions about these things, click on the email link on my profile and ask away. I'm a computer geek and regularly check my mailboxes, so you will probably get an answer within a day.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

National Board Exam

The rubber is about to meet the road, as they say. Today, I made my appointments to take the National Board Exam. This exam is the final step on the road to becoming an apprentice funeral director and embalmer. Without successfully passing this exam, you can't get your funeral directors and embalmers licenses.
I was hoping to take the exam all in one sitting, but when I made my appointments I had to schedule it over a period of two different days. The first section of the test, the Arts, I will be taking Thursday, March 30th. This gives me about a week to study. The Arts section of the exam covers a wide variety of subjects not directly related to embalming, such as Computers and Accounting, Funeral Directing and Merchandising, Funeral Service History, Management and so forth. The second half of the test covers Sciences, and includes Embalming, Chemistry, Pathology, Microbiology, Restorative Arts, and Anatomy and Physiology. I have been taking many practice tests at school and today I scored a 90% on the Arts and an 83% on the Sciences. 75% is the minimum for a passing grade. I will be hitting the books a little each night for the next week, and there is the possibility, if time permits, that I might be allowed to take both sections on the 30th. Therefore, I will make sure I am prepared for both sections. I am confident I will pass this test the first time around. If I don't, though, I'll have to cough up another $350 to retake it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Who'll Change The Light Bulbs?

I was closing up the shop tonight and I noticed some light bulbs need replacing. Since I'm the only one in the store that does those things, I couldn't help but wonder who will be changing the bulbs after I'm gone? As it stands now we have two men in the store; myself and a 78 year old part-timer. I know he won't be asked to climb to the top of a six-foot ladder to change the bulbs, and I can't see any of the women doing it. Not that women can't change a light bulb, it's just that one woman is very short and it would be a somewhat tricky and challenging task for her to do it, and the other, well, let's just say I can't see her climbing a ladder to change light bulbs. Well, someone is going to have to do it, 'cause I won't be there.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Welcome To My New Life

Very soon I will graduate college and get my Associate's Degree and embark on a new career as a Funeral Director and Embalmer.
For now, though, I have about a month left in my "old life" in retail, a life I am so thankful to finally be shedding. To see why, check out the website to read a few of my comments, stories, and journal entries.
To all of you non-retail workers (aka customers) who may be reading this, understand that retail employees are not mindless zombies created to serve your every whim. We are people, with hopes and dreams, feelings and families, and all we ask from you is the same respect you would show your children, your parents, your preacher, your pet, or anyone or anything you may care about.
Yelling at us will not motivate us to serve you better. Having a temper tantrum will not automatically result in you getting your way. Cursing is not the quickest route to achieving your goal. If you want better customer service, be a better customer, as one of my colleagues says. Be patient, be calm and respect the policies set out by the store. If the return policy is 30 days, with receipt required, do not come in 4 months later without a receipt and get mad when we refuse to give you your money back. Accept responsibility. If you bought something, and broke it the first week, do not return it and say it was "defective." If you are one of those customers who cry, whine and complain until you get your way, we make fun of you as soon as you leave the store. Having said that, this old life in retail will soon be a thing of the past, and I'm very excited to be starting my new career.

You may be wondering, "why on earth would this person want to do such morbid work?" Good question, and the answer begins with the death of my father. Without going into detail, the funeral home that handled my father's arrangements made one long series of errors in judgement and tact, and left me bitter and resentful toward them. After dwelling on this for a couple of years, I decided I could do a much better job than them, and found a school and started classes. It has taken me five years to earn a two year degree, as I was only able to attend school part-time while working a full-time job. But here I am, at the end of my school and about to embark on my new life. Wish me luck.