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, May 25, 2007

Five Calls In Six Hours-I Got No Sleep Last Night

My boss is getting married this weekend. Effective yesterday at the end of the day, I am covering the phones after-hours until he returns from his honeymoon. All was quiet until about 1:45am. We get a call, a person has died at home. So I call my on-call guy and send him out. A few minutes later I get another call from a hospice house. My guy is already on a house call, so I make this removal myself. We run into each other as we return to the funeral home with our bodies. We both go home, ready to get some more sleep until it's time to come back in at 8am. About an hour after I get home, I get another call. An elderly lady is calling to tell me her husband has just passed away in a nearby hospital. I ask her if the hospital knows they are supposed to call us, and she says yes. I reassure her we will help her through this difficult time, then I call the hospital to make sure they know we are the funeral home of record. The hospital tells me that the local organ/tissue bank has been called, and we will be called when the body is ready. Usually this process takes several hours when the tissue bank is involved, so I wasn't too worried about having to go back out in the early hours. By this time, it's about 4am. I get off the phone with them and slowly start to drift back into sleep when the phone rings again. It's the hospital, the body is ready. I look at the clock and it's 4:45am. I ask them if the body is in the cooler, and can we come get it later this morning? They tell me yes and yes, so I go back to sleep. I finally drift off to sleep, only to be jolted awake about 45 minutes later by my alarm. I hit the snooze button a few times, then roll out, shower, and proceed to the funeral home, where I get in the van and go to the hospital for our latest call.

I get back to the funeral home and have a few cups of coffee while waiting for everyone to come rolling in. Two of the three calls we got called for embalming, so we start getting the bodies ready. A few minutes later the owner comes in and begins helping. About 15 minutes into that process, the secretary comes knocking on the prep room door to tell us we have another call at a different hospital; one without a cooler. Apparently, like my previous phone call, this was the family calling to let us know. So we call the hospital to see if the body is ready for release, and the hospital asks us if we can hold another body until the family is notified of the death. As I said, this hospital has no cooler or morgue, so when they lose a patient, they need someone to pick up the body quickly. We don't mind doing this, because 90% of the time, if we have the body in our possession, the family will let us handle the arrangements.

So I proceed to the hospital, but we have only one stretcher available to us, as our second stretcher is in our van, which was at the airport delivering another body for ship out. I make the first removal, come back to the funeral home and unload, and then make the second removal. So now we've had five calls in about six hours, plus we are scheduled to meet with a family from a call we took two days ago! In addition, one of the dual-hospital calls was also an embalming. All of this and short one funeral director, who is getting ready for tomorrow's nuptials. It was quite a busy day. On top of that, two of our calls wanted to see their loved one that same day. One viewing was without embalming, so we put the body on a table, closed the mouth and eyes, made him look presentable, and gave the family some time alone with him. The other viewing was an embalming, which we did about 11am or so. We got her ready and had her available to the family by around 4pm. In the meantime, we're meeting with all of the families (a total of six), scheduling funeral masses, memorial services, etc. It was the absolute most hectic day on the job since I started.

The good news is I was permitted to sit with one of the families, and everything went very well. I was not nervous at all, I needed no help from my superiors (good thing, too, as they weren't available), and the family was satisfied with the arrangements. The downside to all of this business, however, is for about the fourth weekend in a row (and I'm supposed to be off for this one), I'm having to work. We have a Sunday afternoon/evening visitation. We are officially closed tomorrow for the wedding, which is highly unusual for a funeral home to do. We will be answering the phones and making removals, we just won't be meeting with families after lunchtime, and we did not schedule any services at all for tomorrow. This also solves the problem of our employee who felt like he didn't have to be on call tomorrow night or all day Sunday; there is no way he can get out of his duties now.

To summarize; five calls in about six hours, three embalmings, two same-day viewings, and making arrangements with six families, all while short one funeral director.

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