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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Thursday, February 28, 2008

I Passed!

I re-took my funeral license exam this morning about 11:30a.m. I passed that sucker! Some of those idiotic questions were on there again, along with some new ones. Thankfully, I had studied not just the questions that tripped me up last time, but some of the overall material. A few of the items that I paid particular attention to showed up on the test, along with some all new idiotic questions, such as "who pays the medical examiners?" I answered "state comptroller" but am not sure if that was right. Anyway, bottom line is, I PASSED!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Just Call Me "Virginia Slims"

I was thinking about how things ran this week while my boss was out of town. We had a lot going on, and I took a lot of responsibility upon myself for making some of it happen. I'm not taking all the credit, mind you, but I will take my due. I conducted my first funeral solo, from start to finish, I handled the phones while the boss was gone, I generated death certificates, sat with families, dealt with other funeral homes for the purpose of arranging services for families traveling back to their hometowns, and tracked down information on traveling into a foreign country with cremated remains.

At times like this, I look back at my first day on the job. I was unsure of what to expect, intimidated by everything I didn't know, and after this week, I can't help but think, "You've come a long way, baby!"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Taking Charge While The Boss Is Gone

My boss is on vacation all this week. I'm covering the phones and doing what I can in his absence. It was a very busy weekend, with three calls. I had made a list Sunday afternoon so I would know what we needed to get done Monday morning. It went something like this:
Dress and casket the body for the 11am funeral.
Enter files for the three calls we got, two of which we had already met with the family. (By "enter files" I mean put the data in the computer in order to generate the death certificate and burial/transit permits and Social Security forms).
Meet with the third family.
Contact one of the local churches concerning a mass for Thursday.
Complete the cremation authorization for the body being viewed at 11am. Cremation is to take place immediately following the services.
Print out the memorial cards for our 11am service.
Get another body ready for the Tuesday morning funeral (mentioned below).
And so on...we got it all done by lunch.

Last night around 1am we got a call. I made the removal and made an appointment with the family for them to come in around 9am to make the arrangements. I chose 9am because at 10am we had a funeral in our chapel, followed by burial at one of the local cemeteries. I figured the owner would be done in time to take the lead on the funeral.

About 9:45 he comes out of the arrangement conference to tell me I'll be taking the lead on this one. Surprisingly, I wasn't terribly nervous about it. The clergy came in right after that, and I made sure he had everything he needed. At the appropriate time I ushered him into the chapel, and we got the service started. At the conclusion, I came in and did the usual dismissal, "On behalf of the family, they would like to thank everyone for coming out this morning and showing their support. This concludes the services here at the funeral home. From here, we will be proceeding to Downtown Cemetery for the committal. At this time you may come pay your respects to the family, then retire to your cars. If you are planning on going to the cemetery, please line your cars up under the carport. Thank you for coming." We then allowed the family to have their last moments, then closed the casket, loaded it in the hearse, which I then led in procession to the cemetery. All in all, it was a real confidence booster. I like to think that I'm really coming through for the owner while the boss is out of town. All the while I'm trying to prepare to re-take my State Board Exam.

My only bleak spot of the day was catching up to The Man Who Wasn't There. I was finally able to meet with him and get him to sign the amended death certificate. However, when I got back to the funeral home, it was pointed out to me that I had overlooked a spot, and since the document had already been notarized, it would be illegal to alter it in any way without the permission of the doctor. So tomorrow I will have to try to reach him on the phone and get his permission to check the appropriate box that I missed.

In other news, one of the families we served will be transporting the cremated remains of their loved one back to the home country. I've been going around and around trying to reach the consulate on the phone to get the appropriate information on what paperwork is required for this. It turns out there is quite a bit. The family must file an application with the consulate, furnish photos of the deceased, send in the passport (my question is this: the deceased has lived here most of their life. What if they no longer have a current passport? I'm still waiting to hear back from the consulate on that one), furnish a certified copy of the death certificate, proof of cremation, an affidavit from the funeral home stating the urn contains only the cremated remains and nothing else, and a proposed itinerary of the trip, and all in duplicate. I don't envy them this job, although I'm sure we'll be helping them with the paperwork as much as possible.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Man Who Wasn't There

In yesterday's post I talked about my efforts to track down a doctor to have him re-sign a death certificate. I picked up the hunt again today, calling the office I visited to yesterday to confirm that he would be in. I was told he would be in all day long, with the exception of a couple of hours at lunch, which is understandable.

I show up at his office around 10:30, only to be told he's not there! I told them that I had called and was told he would be. I was informed that he only visits this office on Tuesdays and Friday mornings. He was at another location. I got the address and headed out. I arrived about 20 minutes later, only to find his office was closed for the day. So I make a note of the address and when I get back to the funeral home, I look up the phone number and call. I got the answering service, who told me the office was closed all day. I told them who I was looking for, and they said he was probably at yet another office. I got that name and phone number, but by this time it was lunch and I wasn't even going to go down that road.

In summary, this doctor has at least 4 different addresses, rotating among them on what is probably a daily basis. The plan my boss and I agreed upon was to go down Friday morning at the office where he is supposed to be, of course, calling first to verify he is actually on the premises.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Most Frustrating Day In A Long Time

Today was not a good day for me. My wife's car broke down Friday night. We towed it to the shop and they worked on it some Saturday and Monday. This morning I get a call that it runs, but the water pump needs replacing. Add $175 to the already $450 repair bill. Then, one of the death certificates we had signed was incorrect, (doctor's fault, not ours). To correct this, we need to take a medical amendment form to the doctor, have him sign it {correctly, this time} in the presence of a notary, then re-file it with the health department.

Let me back up a moment and talk about our errand guy, the one who normally delivers and picks up death certificates and handles incidental errands and tasks. He has a habit of taking three day weekends. By this, I mean, when he has a weekend off, he'll call in sick on Monday, or he'll ask for that Friday off. This weekend was no exception. He called in Monday and asked if he could have the day off. He wanted to work on his truck. So he got his second three day weekend this month. Last night he got called out twice, once around 1am, and again around 5am. I get to work this morning and he had put a note on the board that he would be in by 10am. Keep that in mind.

As a notary, I was given the task of handling the amended death certificate. I call the doctor's office and they tell me he will be there until 12:30pm. So I get everything ready, hop in the van and make the drive to the address I was given, which is about an hour away. I get there and they tell me that he never comes to that office, I should go to the one which is about 15 minutes from the funeral home. I had no idea he had a closer office! So I get back in the van and start heading back to town. About 3/4 of the way there, my boss calls, asking if I'm done and where am I? I tell him about the other office and that I'm on my way there. So I arrive at the more conveniently located office and explain the situation to the nurse. She tells me the doctor is not in yet, but will be shortly. So I wait about half an hour, and my boss calls, asking once again where I am and am I done? I explain the situation to him, and he starts getting testy. "Tell those nurses you're still waiting! The doctor's there, he probably just forgot about you! You've got to stay on top of these things! Get it signed and hurry back!" About the time I hang up the nurse comes to tell me the doctor called and will not be in until 1pm. (It's about 12:05). So I head back to the funeral home.
When I return it's about 12:20 or so, and since lunch starts at 12, I pull mine out of the fridge and put it in the microwave. I guess I was not too gentle about closing doors and such, because my boss tells me I don't need to be pissed off at him over the situation. I ask him why he thinks I am (I was, but hadn't planned on letting it be known.) He said I was slamming doors and making lots of noise. I apologized for that, as I really didn't mean to be too loud.

So while my lunch is warming up, he's telling me everything that needs to be done. Files to be entered, doctors to be called, death certificates to generate, bodies to go to the crematory, ashes to be picked up. Then he tells me I'll probably be going to the crematory, and I'm thinking to myself, "why can't errand guy do it?" But I don't ask, figuring he's doing other things. So after my one hour lunch break which lasted all of 20 minutes, I get back to work. In the meantime, we are receiving a body from out of state, and the cemetery keeps calling wanting to know about the vault we plan on installing in the grave space. I give them the cell phone number of the owner, because he's been dealing with the family and is more on top of things with this call than any of us. So he comes in to the funeral home and calls the family, telling them there is no vault at the cemetery, they need to purchase one. Then he asks if the cemetery has contacted them about signing the appropriate paperwork. They have not. So after his phone call, he comes barking at me, "The cemetery never called this family! Didn't anybody take care of this yesterday!?" I informed him that, yes, I did, and they told me they would call the family. That calmed him down a bit, and he left. What got under my skin was the fact that he actually thought we had not taken care of it. I have never given him any reason to doubt my efficiency. He just sometimes gets it in his head that if he's not in the funeral home hovering over us, nothing ever gets done.

Once I get the files entered and contact the doctors to make sure they will sign the death certificates, I get ready to make the crematory run. I call errand guy, who I assumed was out running errands. I needed to know which body was which so I could label them appropriately. He tells me he has the day off, because when he came in at 10am, the owner said he "looked tired" and gave him the rest of the day off.

So I end up taking both bodies to the crematory and pick up the ashes they have ready. To summarize my day:
Got nailed for more expensive car repairs.
Got screwed out of my lunch hour.
Wasted a whole morning chasing down a no-show doctor.
Got fussed at by my boss for the doctor not showing up.
Entered one file. (Would have been two, but the other family came late in the afternoon.)
Called two doctors to confirm they would sign DC's.
Wrote and faxed the one obituary that I could.
Took two bodies to the crematory-picked up ashes while there.
Put ashes in urns, called families.
Cleaned up the stretcher, as one body was very "messy."
Put stretcher away and parked the hearse, since errand guy just left it at the loading zone instead of parking it in it's usual place.
On top of all this, I'm on call tonight.

I told my boss after I cleaned the stretcher that we were completely out of clean sheets, and I said point blank that Errand Guy needs to do laundry.

Of course, the biggest problem with Errand Guy is that he and my boss went to school together and have known each other since they were kids.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Have A Test Date

I called today to schedule my Licensing exam. I will be testing on Feb. 28 at 12:30 p.m. I will be better prepared this time.

Work has slowed down again. We went almost a week without another call. Yesterday we got word that we will be receiving a ship-in from New Jersey. So far we're up to 28 calls for the year, which is way down from last year. Still, at least we are getting some calls.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Busy Busy Weekend

Our year started off rather slowly. January is normally one of our busier months, and we generally average at least a call a day. We ended the month far short of that, with about 20 calls. Friday, the 1st of February, I was on call, until 8am Saturday morning. About 9:30 that night, I get called out. I take care of the removal and go home, thinking that I've had my call for the day and we will not be getting another one for a day or two. So I stay up late, watching the DIY network until about 1:30am, then go to bed. About 2:15, just as I was about enter deep deep sleep, the phone rings. I had to go out again, and didn't get back home until after 4am. Thankfully, I was able to sleep the rest of the morning, rising not to an alarm clock, but whenever I felt ready to get up.

My wife and I went to Home Depot about 10:45am. They had a tile laying class we wanted to attend, since we are planning to tile our foyer at some point in the future. To get to Home Depot we have to pass the funeral home, and I see that our 11am memorial service is quite busy. We head home about noon or so, and I see that my boss's car is still in the parking lot. He called me later that afternoon, about 4:30 or so, and told me in addition to the two calls I had gone on, we had three more that Saturday after 8am. Going into work Monday I knew we had 5 calls. Five files to enter into the computer, 5 sets of death certificates and permits to generate. I walk in and there is a 6th call on the board.

Between the secretary and myself, we manage to get all the files entered by lunch and get the death certificates printed and into the doctor's offices. Miraculously, all of the doctors were speedy to sign and we have only one certificate outstanding. What's more, as of close of business today we had cremation authorization for all but the person whose certificate was still out.

It has been a very productive couple of days.