And So Begins My New Life

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

My Photo
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.

Email me

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Unfortunately, We Just Can't Give It Away

Today was the end of a two week-long saga concerning the final disposition of one of our bodies. We picked up this body the 18th of this month. The person owned a burial plot, but didn't have enough money to buy even the least expensive casket. After nearly two weeks of trying to raise the money for a casket, with the body lying in our prep room the whole time, the family finally settled on cremation. We took her to the crematory this afternoon.

This, to me, is one of the more difficult aspects of this business. On the one hand, you know the families are in mourning and are trying to do the right thing, but when there is no money to be begged, borrowed or stolen, we can't just turn around and give away our services and products. A business that does that won't be in business very long. So where do you draw the line between compassion and expenses? I'm not looking forward to facing families and telling them they have to come up with some money. I know I'm going to have to, but I'm not looking forward to it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Little Mermaid

We just saw a commerical for The Little Mermaid 2 Disc DVD which will be released in a few days. Seeing this commerical reminded me of the cover art for the first release of The Little Mermaid on VHS all those years ago. We didn't know it at the time, but there is a "surprise" embedded in the image. The rumor we heard was that it was placed by a Disney animator as a joke. If I remember right, this person didn't think anyone would notice. Or perhaps they were disgruntled and wanted to get some revenge. Don't see it? Have a closer look.

How 'bout now?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's Been An Interesting Week

What started out as a slow weekend has evolved into a very busy week. As of Saturday we had no calls, then I take a death call. Me and the returning employee made that removal. I had the phones all weekend, and Sunday morning we get a call from another city. The family was there, along with the deceased, but they wanted to bring the body here for the funeral. We ended up losing that call to another funeral home, or so we thought, but apparently the other funeral home made promises they could not keep, and we ended up with the call after all. Right in the middle of all these phone calls and attempts to organize a funeral via long-distance, we get yet another call from the hospital, and I went and got that body. So in total we had three calls over the weekend, culminating in two visitations and three funeral services. It's been a busy week and I've learned a lot from fielding phone calls and listening to my superiors and watching how they deal with families.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

An Interesting Conversation

Me and the owner had an interesting talk this morning. He told me himself he is very pleased with my performance, and that there are certain areas he would like to work with me on. Specifically, sitting with families and arranging or preplanning funerals. Then he made some constructive comments about my manner. He said I was too polite and too nice. I understand what he means; when I start sitting with families, I need to be polite, but I also need to project confidence and authority. If I'm too polite and too subservient, the families will have less confidence in our firm and possibly try to take advantage in order to get a better price. He also told me I have the potential to "rise to the next level" but that I am holding myself back. This one struck me as peculiar, because right now I can only do so much with the knowledge I have. He says the potential is there for me to do exceedingly well in whatever I choose to do, I'm just limiting myself. I'll have to ponder that one and maybe figure out how to "rise."

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Couple Of Photos I Took Today

Here are a couple of photos I took this afternoon. The stained glass window is in a mausoleum at a nearby cemetery. The crucifix, which is shown positioned in the cap panel (the inside of the lid of the casket) is the kind we use in Catholic services. My boss sometimes refers to this as "Jesus on a stick." To quote Hank Hill, "that boy ain't right."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

No Wonder My Comments Are Down

I just read the Blogger Buzz and found out that bloggers who are not using Beta Blogger could not comment on Beta Blogs. The same holds true for Beta Bloggers; they couldn't comment on regular Blog sites. However, that issue has been fixed, so hopefully I will start seeing some comments. I switched to Beta Blogger about a month ago; I kind of wish I had stuck with the regular blog version. Beta will not import my links, and I'm not clear how to go about adding them; so even though I'm in Beta blog, my template is still regular blog, so I can't use all the nifty features Beta Blog is supposed to have.

Feast Or Famine

This week our work slowdown came to a screeching halt. By the time Friday arrives we will have held at least four different services and will have had at least five calls. Monday we actually embalmed two bodies, and Tuesday we embalmed a third. This is a radical change from our normal calls these past few weeks. The majority of those have been direct cremation with no viewing and no visitations. While a slowdown can be a good thing, in that it allows us to get the place back into sterling shape and our secretary gets a chance to get caught up on the volumes of paperwork, it's good to be busy again.

By the way, the 500+ pound body was cremated late last week. The container of ashes weighs twice as much as it should, which is not surprising. The crematory operator said that as soon as he cremated our large body, another one came in, this one at least 600 pounds.

Friday, September 15, 2006

News Stories

I never really thought about it before I started working in funeral services, but when you read a news story about a tragic car accident where people are killed, or a dead baby found in a dumpster, a funeral home will ultimately be involved in handling the remains. For me, I didn't realize this until I read a a similiar article in yesterday's paper, and this evening I found out we may be taking care of the funeral. I'm not used to actually being part of a news story. Usually, you read the story and that's the end of it. Not so for me. I read the story yesterday, and now, I will be in the middle of it. It just strikes me as surreal.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I Have The Phones

My immediate supervisor is on vacation all this week, and the owner has decided that I should take the phones every night. This means that I have to forward the phone from the funeral home to my cell phone at the end of the day, and take any calls that come in after hours. I'm just a little bit nervous; I don't mind taking death calls, I've done a few of those, but my concern is people who call wanting prices or questions answered. I'm not quite that advanced in my training yet.

Work has slowed down to a crawl. For the past week I've been in the prep room, where I've emptied out the cabinets, cleaned and painted them, then re-stocked them. Yesterday I spent all day scrubbing and cleaning a temporary prep table. I thought it looked pretty good until I put a little Brasso on it. Now it shines like brand new. Tomorrow I will finish shining the table, then I have a memorial service to attend at 1:00pm. It's at a nearby church, and I have to be on hand to greet visitors, make sure they sign the guestbook, pass out memorial cards, etc. It will be nice to get out of the funeral home for a couple of hours.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Adventures At The Crematory

Yesterday I picked up the 500+ pound body from the hospital and my boss and I took it to the crematory. We got a call this morning from the operator of the crematory. It seems the Environmental Protection Agency has banned the burning of certain types of body bags, such as the one our 500 pound friend was enclosed in. So me, my boss and the returning employee drove over this morning to remove the body bag. This turned out to be quite an adventure. Our first plan was simply to cut the bag away, leaving only a small amount underneath the body. This was vetoed by the operator, who refused to have any piece of the bag go into the retort. The first thing we did was move the body to the floor of the cooler. We got an airtray, which is basically a giant cookie-sheet shaped wood frame designed to hold a casket while it is being shipped. We rolled the body out of the bag and into the airtray, and then tried to lift one end up onto a rolling cart. We got the foot end up, but when we went to pick up the other end and slide it onto the cart, the tray broke. So we got two airtrays, one large one and one slightly smaller that would fit inside the first airtray. We got the body situated, but then we were wondering how we were going to get the body off the floor and onto a cart without a repeat of the first airtray breakage. We debated trying to move the body out to a stationary hoist, but were concerned whether the straps would fit around the body. While we were examining the hoist, we noticed a small dolly with an elevating platform. We asked the crematory operator if we could use that. His answer was he wasn't sure because he didn't know how much weight it would hold. Well, we tested it for him by getting the body onto the platform, jacking it up and sliding a couple of rolling carts under each end of the airtrays. We were on our way back to the funeral home in almost no time. When I write it out like this, it doesn't sound all that complicated. But in reality, rolling a 500 pound body around, trying to maneuver airtrays so we can roll the body back into it, move everything around to try to get into lifting position, well, believe me, it was a LOT of work, which we spent almost an hour on before we found the small lift we ended up using.

How Desperate Do You Have To Be?

I cannot even begin to summarize this. It's best if you read it for yourself.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Our First Call Of September

It's been a very slow September. Today we got our first and second calls of the month. Both of them were direct cremations. I got to the hospital for the first call and the morgue attendant tells me I'm going to need a bigger cot and more men, because the body, in his words, "is at least 6 or 7 hundred pounds." He opens up the cooler and the body is in a body bag, but still in the hospital bed. This body was so massive they rolled the whole bed into the cooler rather than try to move the body onto a gurney! So I get on the phone and call my immediate supervisor and ask him how much weight the cot can take. I tell him what I'm up against and he assures me the cot can take it, what to look out for, how to secure the body in case the straps don't fit, and other useful information. So I tell the attendant the cot can take it. He kept asking me if I was sure, and saying things like "I don't think it can, this is a big one. " (The whole time we were getting ready to make the transfer, he kept making remarks to the effect that he didn't think the cot would hold the weight.) He asks if more men are coming. I tell him, "no, we don't have anyone to spare." {And even if we did, they were at least an hour away.} So he calls for some help and two or three guys show up. The whole time we're getting ready to transfer the body from the morgue onto my cot, all of these guys are asking me the same question in different ways: "Is this the only cot you have? Do you have a bigger cot? Will this cot hold up? Did you bring anything else?" And the whole time they're asking me these questions, the attendant keeps saying, "this is a big one...this is a big body. This weighs a lot. This is a big one..." Like I didn't hear him the first dozen times or something. With a little elbow grease and a lot of pulling, we finally slide the body onto the cot and everyone is asking me if that's it. I tell them I would appreciate it if someone could walk the cot out with me and guide the foot end. So the guy that volunteers asks me if I brought a hearse or a van or a truck or what. I tell him I have a van, and he says, "Does it have ramps?" By this time I've had it with their questions and doubts, so I say, "No, it doesn't. All we were told was we had a body down here and to come get it. They didn't tell us it was larger than normal; they gave us no indications at all that there would be anything out of the ordinary." So everyone finally stops with the thousand questions and we take the body out to the van and with a little muscle and some huffing and puffing we get it loaded. I went by the funeral home, where the supervisor joined me for the trip to the crematory. Once we got the body to the crematory, we, along with the crematory operator, were able to get the body onto a rolling cart and into the cooler. Our best estimate is the total weight was closer to 500 pounds. This is the heaviest body I've dealt with since I started working; the second closest was about 300 pounds. I'm just thankful we didn't have to get the body on a table, embalm and dress it and then casket it. That would have been a challenge and then some. Our second call came while we were returning from the crematory. It was a house call which my supervisor took because I had an errand to run for the owner and could not take this call myself.

On the way back from the crematory, we witnessed a five car smash up in the northbound lanes (we were southbound, on a divided highway). Two cars ended up on their sides, and three ended up with bashed fenders and quarter panels. I hope no one was seriously hurt. We saw that airbags deployed on one car that rolled; the other was facing the wrong way for us to be able to tell. I didn't actually see the crash; my supervisor said something and I looked up just in time to see the last car finish it's roll. Just a couple of traffic lights before that, we're sitting on the red when the car next to us just decides to go ahead and run the red! Like they said on "Hill Street Blues" be careful out there.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I suppose by now everyone has heard of the death of famed "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin. First of all, let me extend my condolences to his family. It's a terrible thing when small children lose their father like this. Now let me say that while I am not surprised he died doing what he loved, I am surprised he was killed by something so innocuous as a normally benign sting ray. From watching his exploits, in my family we assumed he would be bitten by a poisonous snake or attacked by the crocodiles he loved so much. Rest in Peace, Steve.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Three Day Weekend

I am still amazed that I actually get weekends and holidays off. Twenty years of retail has conditioned me to working every Saturday and most holidays. However, now that I'm no longer in retail, I only work every other Saturday, and that is just a couple of hours, unless we have a visitation or a funeral service, in which case I work as long as necessary. Holidays, such as Labor Day, we do not come into work, and whoever is not on call has to be on call only until lunchtime. I love not being in retail anymore!

This sign is at the house of my wife's Aunt. I think it's hysterical.