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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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Not Going To Worry About It

In my previous post, someone left a comment asking me if I had any further training. No, I haven't, and I've decided I'm not going to worry about it. If I make a mistake, so be it. If I total up the price wrong, or forget to add in a price and undercharge, too bad. I've been asking and asking for weeks now to be shown how to do these things, but apparently I'm more valuable as a painter, landscaper and janitor.

Sorry, I don't mean to sound bitter, but I would much rather be doing funeral director tasks than Joe Handyman tasks. But, I do realize that when business is slow, you've got to take advantage of the opportunity to get some needed work done. We aren't doing these things because the Owner is trying to give us "busy work." Still, I wish he would understand that it's also a good time to sit down with your intern and teach him a few things.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Next Big Project

We bought new doors for the front entrance to the funeral home. We spent all day friday sanding them, staining them, and finishing them off with a coat or two of urethane. Once we get them hung, which will be this weekend, then we will take off some of the interior doors and sand them and re-varnish them. Hopefully this will not interfere with any further training I may receive.
We've hit a slow-down, with only about 16 or so calls for November. Most of those were direct cremations, but I did not sit with any of those families.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Things I Am Thankful For

I guess since it's Thanksgiving I should go ahead and list things that I am thankful for. Usually we do this around the dinner table, but this year it will be just me and my wife and son, instead of the whole extended Granimore clan.

I am thankful to God for watching over me ever since I arrived.
I am thankful to be doing work that I love, and to have a great boss.
I am thankful I am out of retail forever, and that I don't have to work retail this Black Friday, or any other holiday. Ever.
I am thankful to have a supportive family who came with me on this move from another state.
I am thankful for my family. Period.
I am thankful that I'm starting to be taught how to sit with families and make arrangements.
I am thankful we are done painting the funeral home (except for some minor trim work).
I am thankful for my Funeral Service teachers, David and Dedrick, who always had faith in me.
I am thankful for the wonderfully crisp weather we are experiencing this holiday season.
I am thankful I can finally enjoy Christmas, because of the third item in this list.
I am thankful that I have found happiness and enjoyment in life, after living the past 8 years without it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I Finally Got Some Training

The owner finally sat down with me today for a couple of hours and walked me through making arrangements. I learned a lot, including the fact that I have a lot more to learn. I still need practice, and would like to sit through a few role-playing scenarios until I become familiar with and comfortable with the process. For now, though, I'm just grateful to have learned what I did.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Almost Finished Painting

We've worked our tails off this past week and we're almost finished painting. Just two more walls, and part of the front. Maybe two days work, at the most. I'll be glad when it's done. Perhaps then I can get some training in. I told my wife the other day I felt like the Karate Kid:
"Mr. Owner, can I be a funeral director?"
"Sure! But first, unmulch my landscape."
"Ok, it's done, now can I be a funeral director?"
"Sure, but first, lay down new mulch."
"Ok, I'm finished. Can I be a funeral director?"
"Not yet, first you've got to unmulch my home landscaping."
"All right, but after I'm done, can I be a funeral director?"
"You bet!"
"Ok, I've pulled all the old mulch off your landscaping at your house."
"Good! Now just lay down new mulch and you'll be ready."
"Great! I'm finished, can I be a funeral director now?"
"Sure, but first, let's paint the funeral home!"
Apparently my boss is Mr. Miyagi.

Monday, November 13, 2006

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

I was talking to the owner today about a call that I took this weekend. A funeral home up north wanted us to receive a casketed body and take it to the cemetery for burial. No viewing, no visitation, just direct burial. This type of service is what we call a "drop in." I took the call and they started asking how much do we charge, and how much does the cemetery charge for opening and closing the grave? I told him I would check on our prices, and then I gave him the number for the cemetery. While I called the owner to get the price, they called the cemetery. The owner tells me I should have called the cemetery, because now they will call the cemetery, which also operates a funeral home, and the cemetery will get all the business. Plus, we had the opportunity to try to sell a vault ourselves instead of letting the cemetery sell the vault. And, of course, we ended up losing the call.

These types of transactions and situations are a perfect example of things I have never been trained to handle. A part of me wants to complain that it's hard to learn these things when you're busy spreading mulch and painting the funeral home, but I understand these types of things need to be done. Still, it's very frustrating to be mildly chastised for mishandling this phone call. Not only that, but the owner told me that I will be sitting with the next family that has arrangements for immediate cremation. I knew that, and I understand it's coming, but he tells me that if I don't know the answer to a question the family asks, just tell them I don't know and I'll find out for them. This is in direct conflict with what my boss told me, which was to never tell them "I don't know" and that I'll "check into it for them."

The owner acknowledged he has not been diligent about training me. In his words, he's been trying to "semi-retire." I asked him, before he semi-retires, would he at least semi-train me? He chuckled at that, so hopefully I've made my point and can get some training, assuming our ongoing painting of the exterior of the funeral home permits.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Fast Year

This year has just flown by for me. I made my move and started my job at the end of April, and next thing I know it's almost Thanksgiving. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that I don't have to worry about Black Friday. For all of you non-retail workers, Black Friday is the shopping day immediately after Thanksgiving; you know, when all the shops open at 5am and such and people line up in droves to get those bargains. I am so thankful to be rid of that life forever.

Work is going well for me. I'm still learning a lot and taking on ever increasing responsibilities. I still haven't sat with my first family, and I don't mind waiting for that one. I've been put in charge of a US Navy Burial At Sea for the cremated remains of one our families. I've been in contact with the Navy base in our state that handles that. I anticipate sending out the cremated remains Friday or Monday, at which time the Navy will send them out on the next outgoing vessel. The captain, at some point in the voyage, will hold a burial ceremony and either scatter the ashes or commit the urn to the sea. Once that is done, the family will receive a letter noting the date and time, as well as the latitude and longitude at which the ceremony occured.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Thank God It's Election Day

The reason I'm glad it's election day is so those obnoxious, annoying, irritating, mud-slinging political ads will cease and desist!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

My Son's Day At My Work

Today my son worked the afternoon visitation with me. He opened the door for visitors, guided them to the chapel, invited them to sign the guest book, all the usual visitation duties. He also helped me put out the flowers before the family arrived, as well as clean the restrooms and get the place ready for visitors. When we had the opportunity, I let him put together a Memorial Book for tomorrow night's Memorial service and enter a case file into our computer.

Overall, he found it a bit on the boring side. I will admit, he is right. Visitations can be dull sometimes. I know he would rather try some in-depth work dealing directly with the deceased, such as making a removal or taking a body to the crematory, or assisting with an embalming. However, most respectable funeral homes (including ours) do not let outsiders assist with or witness anything to do with handling the deceased. This is to preserve the dignity of the dead and protect the privacy of the next of kin.

This was my concern while I was attending school. I was three years into a five-year education before I was exposed to my first body. I had been wondering all that time if I would be able to cope. I suspected I would, because I always enjoyed watching those shows on TV such as "The Operation" or other medical shows like "Miami Morgue" or "Dr. G, Medical Examiner" that dealt with medical procedures and handling the dead. I was grateful when I witnessed my first embalming and found it was work that I would be able to do. But the question remains, for those who are considering a career in this field, as to how can they get that initial exposure and discover whether or not they have the stomach for the job?

Friday, November 03, 2006

When I Arrange My First Funeral

I was told the other day that when I start making arrangements, it will be with families who have already made pre-existing arrangements for direct cremation. This means that when someone dies who has already planned for direct cremation (which is cremation with no ceremony, no viewing, no visitation), I will be sitting with the family and handling all the final, last minute details that need to be handled, such as buying an urn, ordering death certificates, taking payments (if not already pre-paid), arranging any memorial services, and so forth.

What this means, in a nutshell, is I could be sitting with my first family on a moment's notice. Someone dies right now, their plans are on file with us, and I'll be sitting with the family within hours. Not a lot of time to plan and prepare, and not a lot of time to get nervous. It will be intimidating, but not frightening. I can do it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Paint The Outside

Now that cooler weather has arrived, we are making plans to paint the exterior of the funeral home. This will take approximately one week, assuming we can concentrate on it. However, we may have to do it a bit at a time as business permits. We had a very busy October with about 27 calls.

My son will be joining me Sunday for a visitation. I hope he finds it interesting and gives serious thoughts to enrolling in Mortuary School.