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

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Like Father, Like Son?

My son is not sure what he wants to do with his life. I've suggested he join the military (I would like him to go into the Navy) but he has no interest in that at all. He does plan to return to school sometime after the New Year. In the meantime, I asked him if he would be interested in a career in Funeral Services. He said he might consider it, so the next time we have a visitation and/or funeral service, the owner said my son was welcome to work with me and see what's involved. I'm looking forward to introducing my son to what may be a line of work for him to consider.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Christmas At Ground Zero

Here is a link to the video of one my favorite Christmas songs. I hope you enjoy it, I know I do.

Why I Love My Job

Actually, there are a lot of reasons: It's not retail, a field that I am immensely grateful I no longer have to work in, I get to help people, the work is fascinating, and you never know what the day will bring. Today is absolutely a perfect example of the last. I went in to work this morning, after having yesterday off. Since I was off, I had no idea what to expect. Did we get a body yesterday? Will we be embalming? Is a family coming in to make arrangements? The answer to those was Yes, No, and No. We did get a body, but it was a direct cremation, and the family came in yesterday. So I figured today would be another day where we clean and do other "busy" work.
About 9am we get a call from the owner. He needs someone to take him and his friends to the airport in the limousine. I end up with that job, which is good because I get a $20 tip from the owner, and it gets me out of the funeral home for at least two hours. However, today the trip included lunch. So instead of hanging around the funeral home all day, about noon we leave to pick up the first passenger, then proceed to a country club to have lunch with the second passenger. The dining room overlooked the practice area, and I had a wonderful view of the golf course and the chipping and putting range. After lunch we proceed to the airport, where I drop everyone off and return to work. I get back around 3:30, at which point we're all just sitting in the lobby chit-chatting and killing time until it's time to go home. I love my job.

P.S. I finally got my intern license and will soon be sitting with families and arranging funerals.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


I was watching "Miami Ink" last night (I usually don't, but nothing else was on) and one of the workers, Yoji, is an apprentice. He had a customer come in and specifically request him to tattoo her. He was surprised, and nervous, and wondering if he would do a good job. This would be his first tattoo on a true customer. Apparently, he had been practicing on pieces of pig carcass and doing small jobs for friends. It occured to me, then, that I will be having "first" moments, also. My first solo embalming, my first time sitting with a family, leading my first procession, being in charge of my first funeral ceremony. It was a sobering thought. I believe I'm up to it, but I know I'll be like Yoji; nervous and wondering how I will do.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Halloween At The Cemetery

This is the children's section at one of our local cemeteries. The families have placed decorations on the graves of their children.
A lot of times I will see balloons, stuffed animals, angel figurines, all kinds of mementos. I cannot even begin to imagine how painful it must be to lose a child.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Missing Caskets

We received the rest of our large casket order today. We took delivery on 9 more. It was to have been 10 but we sent one back due to damage. However, in between these two deliveries, we had sold three caskets, so we only had to find room for 6 more, which we did. We moved three into the vacancies created by the sale of the previous three, then we put the rest into a storage room inside the building.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Casket Delivery

We received our order of caskets this week. We ended up with about 37 instead of the 45 we expected. I'm not sure what happened to the missing ones. These are pictures of our three car garage before we received our order.

Here are some pictures after the order arrived:

The caskets are taking up one full garage bay. They are so tall we had to close the garage door, then unplug it, because trying to raise the door would topple them all, or at least bang the heck out of them.

Thankfully, about the time the delivery truck pulled up, I had to leave to go to the airport and pick up the owner and his family.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Why My Boss Frustrates Me, Sometimes

From the minute I started working at the funeral home I was instructed on how to answer the phones properly. For example, if the owner was out to lunch or gone for the day, or simply unavailable, I was taught NEVER to say they were out to lunch or gone for the day. I was told to tell callers they had stepped out of the office momentarily, and ask to take a message or try to help them myself. Seems simple enough, right?

Today the phone rings and I answer it. The caller was looking for the owner, who was not in. So I say something like, "I'm sorry, he stepped out for the moment, might I help you or take a message?" The caller gives me his name (only his name, nothing more...) and says to let the owner know he called. Simple. I acknowledge the information and hang up. My boss says, "who was that?" "Oh, that was Mr. X, he said to let the owner know he called." My boss starts in on me with, "That was the guy from the casket company about those two caskets we're trying to send back. You should have tried to help him!" So I pointed out that I had asked if I could help or take a message, and that the caller simply left the message. So my boss answers back, "but that was important. You should have tried to help him, or let me talk to him and see if I could help him." So I answer back, again, "but he didn't want help, he wanted the owner." My boss tells me that I should have been more specific in asking if I could help him and what an important call it was and how I should have passed the phone to him. I told him I had no idea who this person was or what he wanted, as I'm not only fairly new to the job, but I have never even lived in this part of the country before, so how am I supposed to know, by name only (not even a mention of the company he was calling on behalf of) who is important and who is not. It was very frustrating and put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

This is not the first time I have acted on his specific instructions, only to be chastised for doing what I was told to do. It pisses me off every time it happens. Thankfully, it only happens about once a month or so.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Friday The 13th

Yesterday was a Friday the 13th, but fortunately it did not live up to it's reputation. Everything went smoothly with the two services and visitation. I was incorrect when I said the second service was a burial. Both services yesterday were ship-outs, so after Mass we brought the bodies back to the funeral home to prepare for shipping. Everything went smoothly and we wound up in good shape for the day.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mass On Friday

Friday will be a very busy day for us. We have a funeral mass at 10am, which takes about 45 minutes or so. We will be bringing the body back to the funeral home afterward, so we can prepare it for shipping. As soon as we return from that mass, we will be getting ready for our next service, which is a Mass at 12 noon. That will be followed by a burial, so that means we will be gone from about noon until 2 or so. At 2:00pm we have a visitation starting, so what we will have to do before we leave for the noon mass is make sure the 2:00 body is out and ready for viewing. It won't be too bad, but this will be the most services I've worked in a single day, to the best of my memory.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Caskets And More Caskets

Today we received an order of 10 caskets. We stacked them up in the garage. Next week we will be receiving 45 more. That's not a typo, that's forty-five more caskets. Where we will put them all, I have no idea. Anywhere they'll fit, I guess.

Work has really taken off. We've had five calls since last Wednesday, plus a ship-in, which makes 6. This afternoon, we got our seventh call for the past week, which gives us a total of about 9 for the whole month. This puts us somewhere around 231 calls or so for the year, which is quite busy for a small funeral home like ours. Rumor has it if we break 300 we'll get a nice bonus. I hope this is true; I could always use a bonus.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Second Solo House Removal

I performed my second solo house removal today. The boss called and gave me the info, but I wasn't sure where the house was. He said "we" could check the maps at the funeral home, so I assumed he was coming in and going with me. So when I arrived at the funeral home, I waited a few minutes, and then he called me again to make sure I was there, and told me to go on ahead. So I did. I wasn't as nervous this time as I was the first, but I was still a touch on the apprehensive side. Things went fairly smoothly. The only thing I could have done better was the actual transfer of the deceased to the cot. That was a little out of kilter because this was a larger body, but overall I am satisfied with myself.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I've been thinking about what my boss said last week, about me rising to the next level. I believe he was talking about me in a capacity beyond work. It is my belief that he thinks (and is probably very much correct) that I am too timid and play it too safe. I'm not much of a risk taker. Relocating to a new state after graduation and starting a new career is the biggest move I've made since I joined the Navy after high school. I am not one to take chances, for several reasons. First and foremost, it helps to have a lot of money when you take chances, because if things go wrong, you are not left high and dry with no means of support. Right now we don't have that kind of disposable income available to us. Later, perhaps... Secondly, I have a family to provide for. At the back of my mind I know that I am responsible for them and their well being, and I hesitate to do anything that might jeopardize that situation. Lastly, I'm just not very courageous. Yes, I've done things that have required courage; leaving home for the Navy, getting married, having children. But these are things that billions of people all over the world do every day. What's so special about me doing it, also? I'm not one to put myself "out there" and risk it all for personal or financial gain.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Airtray In Action

During my post about the crematory, I mentioned airtrays. (The reason they are called airtrays is because this is what is used when shipping casketed human remains by air freight. They are also sometimes used for ground shipment, but air is the most common method. Uncasketed remains are shipped in a combo unit, which is like a cardboard casket reinforced with plywood.) Please allow me to elaborate on how they are used. In the first photo we have a brand new airtray on a truck (cart).

Here is the airtray with the casket cover removed. The truck is visible beneath the tray. The casket is placed onto the airtray, as demonstrated in the next photo.

Next a plastic sheet is placed over the casket to help protect it from scratches and other hazards of the journey.

Finally, the cardboard cover is placed over the casket and strapped down. The human remains are now ready for transportation to their final destination.