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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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Plans For The Fourth

We will be celebrating Independence Day on the fifth, because my son has to work on the 4th of July. My wife and I, however, will be off. I have Wednesday and Thursday off, unless something drastic happens between now and then.

We did have a call last night; there were pre-arrangements which call for viewing and a mass. The family was talking about having the viewing and visitation on the 4th. The owner, who sat with them, mentioned they could do that, but since it was a holiday he would have to charge extra to cover the extra costs of holiday pay. You see, when we have a holiday, it's a paid day off. 8 hours. Then, if we work, we get the 8 hours, plus however many hours we worked. For example, I had to work Memorial Day, six hours. So my pay for that day was 14 hours. I had a good check that week.

As soon as I got back to the funeral home with the body, my cell phone rings. It's my boss, and we've got another call. So I put the stretcher back in the vehicle and head out, while my co-worker starts the preparations to embalm. By the time I got back, he had just started injecting the embalming solution, so I go to write up my calls, and when I come back he's finished cavity treatment. I sutured the incision closed and we called it a night.

Anyway, back to my plans. I got a new charcoal grill (our apartments don't allow gas grills) so we will be grilling ribs next Thursday. It's my first time, so I hope I don't screw them up too badly. I'll let you know how they turn out.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

I have just returned from my first major league baseball game in well over ten years. Why so long, you ask? First of all, prior to moving to my present location, for ten years I lived in a town that did not have a pro team, but was home to the minor league Greenville Braves, later the Bombers. I really enjoyed going to those games; the stadium was not overly large and there were absolutely no bad seats anywhere. The concessions included the usual fare like hot dogs and funnel cakes, but the topper was the buffalo wings. Prior to my move to Greenville, I lived in Atlanta, home of the Braves. I would sometimes get tickets through my work (we did business with Bulova, which sponsors the "first pitch" time announced at the start of each game.) But the last time the players went on strike, complaining about salary caps and God knows what else, I decided I was better off without baseball, at least of the major league variety.

Like I said, I really enjoyed watching the Greenville Braves play. Those guys were junior enough to still play for the love of the game, and put out their best performances day after day in the hopes of making it to the big leagues. It was not just a job to them.

Anyhow, after 10 plus years of boycotting major league baseball, both in person and not watching any on TV, I decided it was time to get back to the game. Me and my family left in what I thought was plenty of time to get there. The trip to the stadium was longer than I anticipated, then there was the very slow crawl in traffic to the parking lot (free parking on the stadium grounds!) and the long ticket line at the gate. Still, we were seated about 20 minutes before first pitch. The game was wonderful. We started off with a homerun in the first inning, and it just got better from there. The other team tied us in the last third of the game, but thanks to another longball, we reclaimed our lead and held it to the last. It was a very enjoyable day, and I hope we can do it again sometime. Now that I know what to expect, I'll be better prepared next time.

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Really Good Day

Today turned out to be much more spectacular than I thought it would. My duty for today was to take a family to the National Cemetery to bury cremated remains. It was my understanding they were to ride in the limousine, but when I get to work I see a note on the board that says they will follow me. So I'm thinking that they are going to drive themselves and just follow me up there.

Well, it turns out they did use the limo, plus they had three or four cars following, plus they had other friends and family meeting them there. The widow was quite chatty in the car and really very pleasant to talk to, sitting beside me in the front seat. The family was really nice and the ceremony went very well. We hit the road to come back and as soon as we got on the interstate they asked me if I could take them to a restaurant for lunch. They were halfway joking, thinking I had to go right back to the funeral home. I told them I was at there disposal, so we went to lunch! I got a free meal and a tip when we got back to the funeral home.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Lesson Learned

Last night I got called at 1am to make a removal in a city about an hour away. The family had pre-arrangements with us. By the time I got up there and back and was able to get back to bed, it was about 4am, and I had to be at work by 8am, so I got only a couple of hours sleep. My boss was sitting with a different family, so I had to sit down with this family. As I said, they had pre-arrangements, which called for no services, direct cremation and a few death certificates. At the time the arrangements were made, they had paid enough money for 7 certficates. However, since that time, the price of certificates have gone up. This is money the county charges, not the funeral home. So instead of being able to buy 7, the money set aside would have covered only 6.

This is where I made a small mistake, and I'll know better next time. What I told the family was that there were 7 certificates paid for. Technically, this was true, but with an increase of $2 per certificate, the family owed $14 more dollars. What I should have said was "there is XX amount of money set aside for death certificates. How many would you like? They are XX dollars apiece."

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Landscaping While We're Slow

There hasn't been much to write about lately because business has been so slow. We spent the last three days pulling the old mulch out of the flowerbeds and laying down new mulch. I'm glad to be done with that project. This morning about 6:30 we got our first call in about a week.

I spent the day working on inventory, taking a physical count of all the caskets in the funeral home and checking serial numbers. Final count was 82. However, while the quantity matched what the computer said we should have, the descriptions and serial numbers did not. Apparently some mistakes have been made when transferring items out of inventory into the "Sold" files, or wherever they wind up. We've almost got it straightened out, though.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

14 Miles! What Was I Thinking?

Today we finally got to go bike riding. This was the first time I've been on a bike in probably 30 years or more. We got up and had an early breakfast at Denny's, then hit the road. We drove to the bike rental shop next to one of the starting points of the trail. The guy working the counter told us that south would be a good direction to go, with a small town about 7 miles down the path. I was very intimidated by this, but the path was very straight and level, plus or minus a few very gradual inclines/slopes. So we decided to go for it. We got off to a shaky start, with me and my wife almost plowing into our son a couple of times, as he wanted to move out of our way as we were trying to pass him. As a result, he kept drifting right into our paths. Finally, I told him to think of it as driving a car. Stay in the slow lane, and if anyone wants to pass, let them by on the left. As promised, I took a few pictures along the way.

This first set is an old cemetery we passed on the trail. Of course, I had to stop and take these photos. What funeral directing blog would be complete without the occasional cemetery photos? Some of the graves were dated from the mid-nineteenth century. There were numerous children's graves from the early twentieth century. Ages ranged from a few days old to about 6 or 7 years old.

These last ones are an old railroad marker along the trail. It's carved out of granite. The other is a set of hitching posts at our turnaround point on the trail. There is a horse trail that parallels the bike trail. Perhaps next time we'll try some horseback riding. The final picture is a spooky old tree we saw on a side trail.

After resting at our turnaround point for about 20 minutes, we headed back up the trail. I knew I was in trouble about one mile back into our 7 mile trip. I kept experimenting with different gears, trying to find the perfect combination of easy peddling and good rotation. With the gears set one way, you had a very easy time peddling, but you didn't advance very far on one rotation of the pedals. At the other end, you could propel the bike a few feet with just one revolution of the pedals, but it took some strength, which I was rapidly running out of. Anyhow, I found a suitable gear and struggled back to our starting point.

After we got back in the car we were discussing our route home, and lunch (it was about noon; we biked for two and half hours.) Since we weren't too far away, I decided to take the family by the National Cemetery where we do a good deal of our burials, and show them around. We headed over there and looked around some. I paid my respects to some of our customers, then we hit the road for lunch at Cracker Barrel, where I found a collection of Pink Panther cartoons in the gift shop.

All of us were so beat when we got home (we had been gone about 9 hours) that all three of us fell onto the nearest padded surface and promptly took a nap. Still, it was a very enjoyable day and I'm glad we went, despite the price my legs and butt will be paying the next few days.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Finally, Some Time Off!

May was a very busy month for us. We had 29 calls, with five of those on one day. During the last few days, we were short one funeral director because he was on his honeymoon. I worked four weekends in a row, two of which I was supposed to have off. I also ended up working one Thursday when I was supposed to be off. In all, I haven't had a lot of time away from work. Thankfully, the newlywed is back, business has calmed down, and it looks like I'll finally be able to enjoy some time off. Today I am off, and I have some errands to run this afternoon. I'll be getting my eyes checked and getting new glasses, which I desperately need. I also need to run by the grocery, dry cleaners, and library.

This Saturday I'm taking my family bike-riding on one of the State Park bike trails. I'm looking forward to that so much. It will be the first family outing in about six months or more. We'll be rising early, having breakfast at Denny's, then we'll make the drive to the bike rental shop and spend a couple of hours on the trail. I plan on taking my camera, so perhaps Saturday night or Sunday I can post a few pictures.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I Just Came Back From The Emergency Room

I'm afraid my trip was business. A three year old child died on the way home from daycare. Usually when I go to the emergency room to get a body, it's an elderly person, or someone who had a heart attack or other life-ending episode. This time it was a small boy, and the family was still there. I had to talk to them to find out how they wanted to handle the arrangements, whether they wanted burial or cremation or visitation. It was a very difficult conversation, and frankly, it was one I would rather not had to engage in. I was hoping the owner would talk to them, but he let me handle it for better or worse because it's the only way I'll learn. The family decided on full service cremation with a funeral mass, so we will be preparing the body in the morning.