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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Monday, September 24, 2007

It Is Begun

Today I mailed off my application to take my Funeral Director and Embalmer State Board exam. This test will be the final step on my road to becoming a fully licensed funeral director/embalmer. Thankfully, the funeral home paid the application fee, which was $575. That's not a typo. Five Hundred and Seventy Five dollars. I'd better pass it the first time, because I have a feeling I'll be paying for a re-test out of my own pocket.

The only problem I'm having is studying. If this were a textbook, I could read through it, take notes, no problem. But this is simply a list of funeral related laws. They read like this:
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no cemetery company shall directly or indirectly enter into a contract for sale of personal property or services, excluding burial or interment rights, which may be used in a cemetery in connection with disposing of human remains, or commemorating the memory of a deceased human being, if delivery of the personal property or performance of the service is to be made more than 120 days after the receipt of the final payment under the contract of the sale, except as provided in s. 497.417. This shall include, but not be limited to, the sale for future delivery of burial vaults, grave liners, urns, memorials, vases, foundations, memorial bases, and similar merchandise and related services commonly sold or used in cemeteries and interment fees but excluding burial or interment rights.

Try wading through 300 pages of this crap. To make matters worse, the test is only about 50-75 questions long, and I must pass with at least a 75. This means, if the test is 50 questions long, I can only miss 12 before I fail.

The breakdown on the material and it's value is as follows:
Practice Laws 40-50%
Preeneed contracts 16-20%
Medical Examiner 4-6%
Vital Statistics 10-16%
Disposition 10-16%
Offenses 8-16%

Friday, September 21, 2007

Two And A Half Funeral Directors

My wife and I were watching the CBS comedy "Two and A Half Men" the other night. For anyone not familiar with the show, Charlie Sheen plays a womanizing, self-centered, fun loving kind of guy, living the good life in Malibu. His brother, recently divorced, moves in with him and, on weekends, gets to spend time with his young son. Hence, the name of the show.

The brother, Alan, played by Jon Cryer, is a neurotic, uptight, straight laced worry wart. As we were watching the show, it became very clear to me that I'm more like Alan than I am Charlie. I told my wife as much, and she told me she had already figured that one out.

I was watching "Titanic" this evening. Remember when Jack and Rose are partying their tails off with the immigrants while Hockley and his friends are sipping brandy, smoking cigars and talking business? Of the two scenarios, I would be more comfortable in the latter setting. I'm too much of a wallflower to enjoy such a boisterous event. I don't like crowds, I don't like loud noises, I don't like dancing, I don't like letting my hair down. I like my hair just where it is.

That's not to say I don't like having fun. I enjoy cracking jokes, having a good laugh, getting out and doing things with my family. It's just that I will never ever be the guy in the movies who has to teach all of his uptight friends how to loosen up. I will always be one of the uptight friends, and I'm fine with that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My First Encounter With Death

I was very fortunate in that I was well into my 20's before I had my first close encounter with death. This is my Uncle Steve, brother of my mother and the youngest of three. He was only about 7 or 8 years older than me, and to me he was more of a big brother than he was an uncle. He had a fantastic sense of humor, and was a big fan of Chevy Chase. He even bore a slight resemblance to the SNL alum. He certainly had the same sense of humor.

I was sitting in the auditorium at my Naval Reserve meeting when I was paged with an emergency phone call. I remember thinking, "what kind of emergency could there possibly be?" I even left my hat in my chair, thinking I would be right back and pick up where I left off. I picked up the phone and my dad said, "Steve's dead." My brain shut down for a moment, and I muttered, "Steve? What? You mean Uncle Steve?" Of course, I knew the answer before I even asked the question. I guess I was stalling for time or trying to take it in; it had hit me like a ton of bricks. He was only 33.

What we didn't realize until later was that he had been having seizures, possibly epilepsy. He stayed up late one night to try to see Halley's Comet through his telescope, and he decided to have a sandwich. Right in the middle of his snack he had a seizure, apparently, and choked. His wife found him the next morning, unresponsive. She called an ambulance, but he didn't make it.

The drive to his hometown was the longest drive of my life. It seemed like it went on forever. When I arrived Grandma was crying her eyes out, and Grandpa was on the phone with friends, trying to explain to them what the arrangements would be. When we went to the funeral home for the viewing, I couldn't believe he was gone. They had done such a wonderful job. He looked very much like himself, and it seemed at any moment he could jump out of the casket and shout "Surprise!" at all of us. Actually, it would have been just like him to pull such a joke. Unfortunately, this was all too real. I don't think I ever cried so much in my life as I did those few days. He died shortly before I got married.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where I Was

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was getting ready for work when my phone rang. It was my mother, asking if I had the TV on. I told her no. She told me to turn it on, and I saw what was happening. By this time both towers had been hit.

Reluctantly, I left for work, got to the store and made preparations to open up. My coworker, a native New Yorker, was very distressed. We had no TV or radio in the store, so we logged onto the internet (dial up connection) and hit the CNN website. We opened up the store and, of course, we had very little business. My coworker went down to Sears to watch the news on their TVs. She came back and started crying, and I calmed her as best I could. A security guard was walking by and at that moment her walkie-talkie crackled out, "one of the towers has collapsed." My colleague and I looked at each other, and she asked the question that was on my mind, "did I hear what I thought I heard?" I answered, "I hope not..."

Shortly afterward, the mall officially closed and I went home and watched the news all day and into the evening, horrified at the sight of hopeless victims trapped above the fire floors jump to their deaths rather than face being burned alive.

Just A Quick Thought

I saw in today's newspaper the lawyer for the two Middle Eastern students arrested in South Carolina for having explosive materials in their car is claiming they were unjustly stopped and searched due to racial profiling.

Let's assume for a moment he's correct. I don't know the circumstances surrounding the decision of the officer to pull them over, but if they were racially profiled, wouldn't you say that it worked in this instance?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Arlington National Cemetery

Of all the National Cemeteries across the country, Arlington National is probably the most widely well-known. Due to it's prestige, eligibility for burial is limited to select individuals. Among them are any former member of the Armed Forces who has been awarded one of the following decorations:
  1. Medal of Honor
  2. Distinguished Service Cross (Navy Cross or Air Force Cross)
  3. Distinguished Service Medal
  4. Silver Star
  5. Purple Heart
This morning I called Arlington National to arrange a burial for the call we received Saturday. I'm very proud and honored to have been a part of these arrangements. The gentleman was the recipient of a Purple Heart, which means he was wounded in the line of duty during wartime. Tonight was visitation, and the family brought all of his medals. It was very impressive seeing them and realizing what he and his brethren went through and fought for during the dark days of World War II. Rest in Peace, soldier.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Two In One

I had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend, despite having the phones and having to work on my Saturday off. However, things weren't too bad, we didn't get any calls and the phones were relatively quiet. We didn't get any business until Tuesday morning, and again Wednesday. Both families had viewing and visitation Thursday night, with funerals today. I was in charge of the second one, which was burial at the National Cemetery.

Unlike previous services where I was in the lead, this time I felt no anxiety or nervousness at all. Nothing. I led the procession, which was about 7 cars long, took care of the family at the cemetery, spoke to the pastor for a few moments, and everything went fine. Could this mean I'm getting more confident? I guess so.

Now, if I only had that confidence for preparing for my State Board exam, which will occur sometime in the next few weeks...