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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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An Unexpected Trip

I was at work this morning, drinking a cup of coffee, when the boss walks in and announces that somebody is going to have to drive to the state capital to pick up a body from the medical examiner's office. We had known about this call for a few days, but the last we heard we had lost it to one of the competing funeral homes in the area. I don't know any of the details, but apparently we had gotten the call back. So I get my paperwork together and take off for the capital, which is about a two hour drive. I get there, find the medical examiner's office, get loaded up and head back. Along the way back I stopped at Burger King for lunch, (in case you are wondering how I had lunch with a dead body in the back of the van, I parked out of the way, walked in and got my food to go, then ate while driving-I would have used the drive-thru, but I had to use the bathroom) then called in to see if I should bring the body back to the funeral home or deliver it straight to the crematory. It turns that this case was a direct cremation, so I had to take some extra time to make the drop-off. In all, I was on the road about six hours, which suited me just fine. We have been so busy this month, it's unreal; 27 calls in 27 days.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Sitting With A Family

In many of my posts, I make references to "sitting with a family." Sank posted a comment, which I will share here:
Hi Granimore-

I've been reading your blog for the last year or so, maybe more than that. Anyway, just curious, in your business, when you say "sit with a family", what does that exactly mean? Is that where you work out the details of the arrangements? Is there counseling, consulting, selling involved? Is it something that you train for in school? Just wondering...

To answer your questions, yes, we work out the details, no, we don't counsel or consult, and we don't really sell; we show the families merchandise they may need for the funeral, such as caskets, urns, burial clothing, memorial books, etc. We cover this to a small degree in school, but it's not something you can learn from a book. I've sat in on many arrangements and listened to the way my bosses explain things to families. It's a skill, because you have to be familiar with your prices and explain them to the family. Not only what the cost is, but what it covers. For example, our contract lists "Errand Vehicle...$225.00." So we explain to the family this is the cost of running any and all errands associated with handling the death, such as delivering the death certificate to the doctor's office to be signed, picking up the signed death certificate, delivering it to the Vital Statistics Office, picking up the certified copies from Vital Statistics, and any and all other errands that may need to be run, such as picking up cremated remains from the crematory. You must also be able to answer any questions they have concerning the funeral and all the surrounding details. You may be asked questions about which cemetery they should use or how to go about having a burial at the National Cemetery in your state. You must also be able to explain the cremation process; how long it takes, what steps must be taken to obtain authorization to cremate, when the cremated remains might be ready, etc. You also have to be able to talk to the families in such a way that you put them at ease and project an air of confidence. Families are very emotional and worried and stressed at these times, so you want them to know you are going to take care of everything for them, make it as easy as possible for them, and that they shouldn't worry too much about the details. If you met with someone who stammered and fidgeted and kept pausing to consult with someone, or look up information in a handbook, or who answered every question with "I'm not sure, I'll try to find out for you" I daresay you wouldn't feel very confident that your loved one was being well taken care of.

Here is what "sitting with a family" covers. It is the first-time meeting between a funeral director and the family of the deceased. The family sits down with the funeral director and together they go over all the appropriate information. This is the general order we do it in:
First is the full legal name of the deceased, followed by the legal address (I say legal address because some people may be in a nursing facility or hospice house, yet still own a home in their name). Then the funeral director takes information on birthplace and date, occupation, names of parents, and social security number of the deceased. Most of this information is for the death certificate, but it is also used for the obituary. Then we take information concerning survivors (by this we mean family members still living) and any religious affiliations, clubs, memberships, civic groups, etc., such as Masons, Knights of Columbus, Veterans of Foreign Wars, etc. We then ask about military service and level of education, again, for purposes of the death certificate.

Then we get the name, address and phone number of the person who is supplying the information about the deceased. This person is referred to as the informant. Once all the vital information is gathered, we begin asking about funeral services; whether the family wants burial or cremation, whether they want a full service with viewing and visitation, a private viewing, or direct disposition. If the family wants burial, we proceed to the selection room to let them choose a casket, or if it's cremation we ask about urns. A lot of times families will select an urn at a later date.

If burial is selected, we talk about funeral services, if wanted, whether at a church or in the funeral home, or at graveside. We also ask about memorial packages, which is the guest book visitors sign, memorial folders or cards, and the Thank You cards. Once most of the details are worked out, we write up the contract showing the services selected and the prices, then we reach the awkward part, which is asking families how they would like to pay. Some use credit cards, some use life insurance assignments, some pay by check, some pay by cash. Some people have little money to spare, and those are the hardest of all to deal with. Our funeral home tries to be understanding and helpful in these cases, frequently offering our services at a reduced rate, or asking for a partial payment up front, with the remainder to be paid within a reasonable time frame.

Many times during these arrangements, the issue of benefits will arise. For example, the spouse of a veteran on full service related disability may have benefits due him/her. Or, spouses of retired government workers, or someone on Social Security Disability may be able to continue receiving a portion of those benefits. In the case of Veterans, we can file for claims to see if the next of kin is eligible to receive benefits. We also assist in filing for life insurance claims.

I hope this has clarified the issue. If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of having to make arrangements for your loved ones, be prepared with the following information and documentation concerning the deceased:
Name (obviously)
Birthplace and Date
Names of Parents, including the mother's maiden name. If you absolutely do not have or cannot get this information, don't worry too much about it, but please do try to find out, if at all possible.
Social Security number
If the deceased is a veteran, a copy of discharge papers or form DD214, especially if applying for VA benefits or burial in a National Cemetery, which is free to all veterans who were not dishonorably discharged, and their spouses, with the following exception: A non-veteran spouse who re-marries is NOT eligible unless the new spouse is a veteran.
Life insurance policies. The actual policy is the most helpful, but if not available, at least the name of the insurance company. Funeral homes can usually verify the validity of a policy by calling the company.
An idea of any real estate holdings, investments, stocks, bonds, whether they used a financial planner, any automobiles, boats, did they own a home, bank accounts, savings accounts, etc. We won't necessarily need to know about those, but it will have a bearing on how many death certificates you might need.
And also, if you have Power of Attorney, that Power becomes null and void at the moment of death, at least in my state.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Welcome Back, Mr. Owner

The owner returns to work tomorrow after a couple of weeks off. It will be good to have him back, as we have been so very busy since he's been gone. Today is the 21st, and we've had about 18 calls this month, most of them during his absence. It will be good to have an extra pair of hands around, especially since we have three funerals in the next two-three days.

In his absence I have sat with one family, conducted one funeral, led two processions and assisted in the embalming of several bodies, as well as various administrative/paperwork duties associated with handling funerals and death certificates and such.

Friday, February 16, 2007


I got a rather startling surprise this morning at work. I knew we had a funeral, followed by burial at the National Cemetery. The services called for a limousine to carry the family. We were discussing who would be driving the limousine when my boss said to the guy who asked about the driving tasks, "you take limousine and Granimore can drive the hearse to the cemetery." I was stunned. I assumed my boss would be coming with us today, but once again he elected to stay behind and let me handle the procession. So for the second day in a row, I led the procession to the National Cemetery, handled the services up there, took care of the family, and made it back all in one piece.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Today was my first funeral, as you may know from yesterday's post. There were a lot more people than I expected. I thought it would be just the immediate family and a few friends, but there was quite a turnout. I was hoping for a two or three car procession to the cemetery, but we ended up with about seven or eight. Still, it went well, nobody got lost, we arrived right on time, and the family was pleased with how everything turned out. Thank you, God, for watching over me today.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My First Funeral

Tomorrow is the big day: my first funeral from start to finish. I will be responsible for getting the family to pay their final respects, exit the chapel and line up the cars for procession. I will be responsible for loading the casket and leading the procession to the National Cemetery. I will be responsible for unloading the casket at the cemetery and getting the family seated, and I will be responsible for getting them moving again once the ceremony is over. I think I can handle it, I hope I can, but you can be sure I'll be praying about it tonight.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Why All The Fuss?

Anna Nicole Smith is dead. I have sympathy for her friends and family, for those that love her, and for her newborn baby. But please tell me why the media is devoting so much time and attention to this event? What is she famous for? Nude modeling? Talk show host? Gold-digging after rich oil tycoons?
I don't see the media devoting this much time and attention to those of a lesser celebrity status. When Stephen Hawking, probably the smartest man on the planet, dies, will we be treated to a weekend of reflections, memories, acknowledgments and achievements of this man? No, I daresay we won't, because he lives his life in quiet obscurity, not showboating, not grandstanding, not seeking out every photo opportunity, not being outrageous for the media, well, you get the idea.
You may think I'm cold, cruel, heartless, uncaring, less than compassionate, unfeeling, but I'm not. I just question society's fascination with those who contribute less than others. I read an editorial letter recently that was addressing an earlier question about why, with all of our scientific advances and technology, were we not making better progress combating lethal diseases such as AIDS and cancer. The response was that American society places more value on athletes than scientists. How many high school football players attend colleges on athletic scholarships every year? How many intellectually gifted, yet non-athletic students attend colleges on academic scholarships every year? I daresay the numbers will be lopsided. As a result, that person or persons who might hold the key to curing these diseases may not be able to go to college and get the skills and training and degree needed to produce the cure, or contribute to it's discovery. We may not have the cure for cancer, but by God, did you see that Buckeye-Gators game a few weeks ago? Man, that was something! Do you sense the sarcasm in my voice?
That's my two-cents, my rant, as it were. Thanks for listening.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Another Trip To The National Cemetery

Today was a very good day for me. I had to leave first thing this morning to take cremated remains to the National Cemetery, where the family held a service. Afterwards, we were escorted to the actual interment site. I stayed with the family until everything was completed, then I excused myself as I had business with the cemetery office. After I completed my tasks, I drove through the cemetery and took a couple of more photographs, then I hit the road for the return trip. I stopped at one my favorite fast-food burger places and had a decent lunch, then got back on the road. The whole time I was traveling I had my music cranked and was seriously enjoying the tunes. I listened to: the soundtrack to Heavy Metal, the soundtrack to Phantom of the Paradise, and the soundtrack to Electric Dreams. I didn't realize until I wrote this list just now, but every selection was a soundtrack. I do have quite a collection, but I just grabbed those particular ones last night, almost at random. Still, I had a great day, it was a nice drive up and back (about an hour each way), and when I returned things were quiet, with only a couple of tasks to complete before quitting time. I love my job!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

No Bike Ride

The weather was too cool and wet to go biking, so we just stuck around town, ran a few errands and such. My sister is in town, so we've spending time with her. It's good to see her again; it's been almost a year since I saw her last.

Work is going well. We got three calls last night/this morning. All three were embalming cases, but I only assisted with one as two of those calls came after hours last night, and I wasn't on call. Those first two are ship-outs, but the third is a local service.

The owner is out of town for a few days, but we're still working as if he's standing right over us. And I know when he comes back he'll want to see the funeral home neat and clean. That won't be a problem, even if we have to work extra hard the day before his return.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Not Much Happening

There hasn't been a whole happening since my last post. For the month of January, we ended up with 25 calls. Not too bad for a month that started with only 3 calls in 8 or 9 days. This is my weekend off and my family and I hope to be able to go bike riding tomorrow, if the weather permits.