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, March 24, 2008

Hitting The Fan

We had some drama last week at work. I decided to wait a few days before posting it, just so my emotions wouldn't get the better of me and I write something that is better left unsaid.

As you may know, I've been frustrated by the fact that while there is one other person on call with me, I make all the removals. This was the case two weeks ago. It was my Thursday off, but since we changed the way the on-calls are handled, technically I was on call starting at 5pm Thursday. The other guy who is on call with me was working visitation, which ended at 8pm. Well, about 11:45 we get a call. My boss said he's sending me because 1) it's about a 3 hour round-trip, and 2) the other guy had worked visitation. I half-jokingly told my boss, "I hope you remember this when I've worked a visitation and we get a call..." All of this is detailed in my previous post.

Anyhow, I made the call, leaving my house around midnight and climbing back into bed at 4am. The last time someone was out all night like this, they got the day off. So when the owner came in, I mentioned how I was up most of the night and got only three hours sleep. I was also scheduled to work visitation that night, as well. So, after lunch, the owner let me go home for about 3 hours to get some rest. I came in and worked visitation that night, getting home around 9:30pm. (It was supposed to end at 8, but what can you do?) So I go home, get a bite to eat, climb into bed and *ring* I have another call. My boss said he tried calling the other guy, but he wasn't answering his phone (that is a big violation of the rules, but as far as I know, no one has reprimanded him). Fortunately, it's a local call and I know I won't be out for more than an hour.

So I get dressed and go to the funeral home. I know we have some prior information written down about this person, so I'm looking through the files when the owner walks in. He had come back for his car, which he left at work while he and his wife went out for the evening. He asks me what's going on, and I tell him we've got another call. He then asks me how this works, with me and the other guy being on call together. I tell him that I do all the removals, and the other guy does all the embalming. The owner was not happy to here that I had been doing all the work. He starts to question me about all this, and I tell him I had spoken to my boss about the situation, but was told by my boss that was the way the owner wanted things.

Well, it turns out it is NOT the way he wants things, and the following Monday he proceeds to tear my boss a new one. I was in the next room and I heard everything, and it wasn't fun to listen to. I hate conflict, I hate seeing people get chewed out, and I especially hated it because I just knew that my boss was thinking that I deliberately got him in trouble. I found out later my suspicions were correct.

The fact of the matter is I did not say anything to the owner about the working conditions. Anytime I have a problem with my boss, I go to him about it. I have never gone over his head about anything.

So, for a few days, I was kind of on edge, wondering what my boss was thinking, and would this affect our working relationship. He was rather quiet around me for a few days, and I decided I was just going to keep my mouth shut and try not to do anything to aggravate the situation. He did start talking to me after a couple of days, and I don't think he's holding a grudge, but in the back of my mind I'm going to be wondering how I stand in his sight.

The end result of all of this is that the other guy and I will take turns making removals, and my boss and his on-call guy will take turns.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Is My Boss Jealous Of Me?

I had an interesting conversation with the owner of the funeral home this morning. Before I get into that, though, let me update you on the business at work. It's been a really busy week, again, for us. We've had, I believe, five services this week. Two on Monday, and one each Thursday, Friday, and today.

Thursday was my day off, but due to the nature of our on-call rotation, after close of business Thursday I was the on-call guy, especially since the other guy who is on-call with me was working a visitation from 6-8pm. So about 11:45pm I get a call from my boss. I've got to drive 80 miles to make a pick-up. My boss told me he was having me do it because the other guy had worked all day and evening. I told him, "Well, I hope you remember those words the next time I work a visitation and we get a call..." Anyhow, I made the removal, getting a total of 3 hours of sleep; one hour before the call came, and two hours after I got home at 4am.

Friday, the owner comes into work and I'm filling him in on the call I had, and the fact that I got only three hours of sleep. Mercifully, he let me have about 3 hours off in the afternoon to catch up on some rest before I worked the visitation Friday night. After visitation, which the family dragged out until 9pm, I went home and had a bite to eat, then immediately climbed into bed for some much needed rest. Right away the phone rings, and we've got another call. The first thing my boss told me was he had tried to call the other guy, but he wasn't answering his phone. {That's another issue, but one I won't get into here. Needless to say, though, the owner has been told}. Fortunately, it was a local removal, and I was done in about an hour. However, while I was at the funeral home getting ready to take the hearse out for the call, the owner stopped in to pick up his car, which he had left there while he and his wife had gone out for the evening. I tell him about our new call, and he asks me how this new call schedule is working with me and other guy. I tell him that I do all the removals, and the other guy does all the embalmings. Well, he flipped over that, and said it was stupid of me to have to do all the removals. I told him that was how my boss wanted it, and that I just did as I was told. He said he would have a talk with my boss about me doing all the removals.

Today, we had the service, which was very large. My boss was at work, and the owner and I were in the prep room, preparing to casket a body in preparation for shipment out of state. The owner is once again questioning me about making all the removals, and then he says, "I wonder if he's jealous of you?", meaning my boss. I admitted to him that I was thinking the same thing.

Don't get me wrong, I like everybody I work with and I have a lot of fun and we all get along pretty well, but my boss disagrees with some of the things I do, and it all boils down to professionalism. For instance, if someone calls in and wants something mailed to them, I'll usually type a brief note, "Dear John Customer, here is the information you requested. If you have any questions, please call...Sincerely..." My boss thinks things like that are a waste of time and completely unnecessary.

Another example. We had a family that ordered bookmarks with a special poem. We were to laminate them, along with a photo of the deceased. We decided on the backside of the bookmark we would write up a nice obituary and put it underneath the photo. So I typed something up, made a photocopy, and put it on. It looked like crap. I decided it would look more professional to print the obit directly onto the bookmark. My boss said no, but the owner said yes. Guess who I listened to? It ended up looking wonderful.

Bottom line, I think my boss is jealous of me, not because I know more than him. I don't. He's wonderful at handling families and answering questions over the phone and conveying the information in a personable way. It's just I think I do these little things that add a touch of professionalism, and he doesn't understand it.

Anyhow, now that the owner knows I've been making all the removals, hopefully the other guy will be called on a little bit more. It has always been a source of frustration to me to be the only guy called. I'll call my boss after finishing a visitation, and say something like, "I'm going home and get a bite to eat. Give me at least one hour to have supper." He'll tell me can't control when people die, and I'll say, "You can always send the other guy." But he never does.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Business Is On The Rise

Our year started out slowly, as I may have mentioned in previous posts, but we're making up for it with a vengeance. In March we've averaged one call per day. Not that we actually got one call each day; some days we had none and some days we would get more than one. Most of our calls up to this point have been direct cremations, with no services of any kind. Now, most of our calls are full service, ending with either burial or cremation. So far this month we've embalmed four or five bodies.

One of our calls from the end of February scheduled a memorial service for Sunday. Until a few days ago, that was all the services we had planned. Now, we've got a visitation Friday night, with the funeral Saturday morning. We've got a memorial service for Saturday afternoon, and we've got a family coming in tomorrow morning who will probably schedule their service for Saturday morning at the funeral home. (Our other Saturday morning service is at a church, so the chapel will be available for them). We've got the previously scheduled service Sunday afternoon, and a visitation Sunday evening, with mass Monday morning. Also for Monday morning, we have a chapel service followed by burial. I haven't even counted how many services that is, but it looks like six over the course of four days. And since I'm on call this weekend, I'll be working all day Saturday and all day Sunday. While it will be very tiring, the overtime is amazing and will be put to good use, namely my tax bill.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Some Thoughts On The Death Penalty

I'm going off topic for this post because my wife has been through a very emotional week of jury duty. She was on a sentencing jury to decide if the convicted would spend life in prison or receive the death penalty.

When people follow a trial, or hear about a convicted murdered, it's very easy for them to speak without thinking and say things like, "fry him!" It's not that we're mean and cold-hearted, but part of us has a longing to see justice done. And when juries come back and recommend life in prison, some people get upset and bent out of shape and feel like justice has not been served.

The truth of the matter is we just don't know what goes on in those trials, and what goes on in the jury rooms. I have watched my wife struggle daily with the issues facing her and her fellow jurors. Evidence was presented, each side made their case for why they wanted the sentence to be their way, and the jury sat through day after day of testimony from witnesses, victims, and families from both sides of the crime. All of this takes a mental and emotional toll on those who have to deal with it, and day after day my wife came home sad and drained and withdrawn. Finally, yesterday evening, she came home in tears after the jury, not by unanimous decision, but by majority vote, recommended the death penalty.

So the next time you hear about a jury debating a death penalty case, think about what it would be like to be on that jury, to have the responsibility of someone's life literally in your hands. And if that jury's decision doesn't agree with yours, think about all of the evidence they were presented with, versus the couple of paragraphs concerning the trial that you've read in the local paper, and have some empathy for them.