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, April 24, 2008

I'm Taking My Lunch Hour

I'm writing this while I'm home for lunch. I was getting really pissed off around lunchtime. We had a service that was scheduled for 12:30pm. Our normal lunch is from 12-1 when nothing is going on.
Since we had this service, that threw things a little out of whack, but I didn't think it was going to be a big deal. The plan was to go like this:
My boss and our errand guy would handle the funeral. Me and the other guy would stay behind. Well, since errand guy would be leaving in the middle of what would be lunch, he went home around 11am and took his full lunch hour. My boss had taken the morning off, and showed up precisely at 12pm. The other guy was given an assignment which would require him to leave before 1pm. Since this would cut into his full hour, he left about 11:30 or so to go home for lunch, returning about an hour later.
The owner was sitting with the family from a call we got about 9am, and I figured I could go to lunch as soon as the funeral procession left at 12:30. In the meantime, the secretary leaves about 12:15 to run some errands and pick up her lunch. The owner finished with his family at about 12:20, and tells me to get the body prepared for embalming while he goes to lunch.
So, in essence, pretty much everybody is getting their full hour, except for me, who was left behind and alone to cover the phones and anybody that walked in, all while getting the body ready for embalming. This involves closing and positioning the eyes and mouth, and raising the artery for injection. Right in the middle of all this, the phone rings a couple of times, and someone walks in the front door. It was my Ambush family, with questions about filing insurance. The secretary was back by this time, and between the two of us we get the family straightened out on how to get things done.
Then, I return to my prep work. When the other guy showed back up at about 12:30-12:40, I told him I was going to take my lunch when the owner came back. The other guy ran his errand and got back around 1:10 or so. I finished what I was doing, then told him I was leaving and taking my lunch hour. On the way out of the parking lot, the owner was pulling back in. I stopped my car and told him I was taking my lunch, I would be back in an hour. Notice the emphasis on the word hour.
Usually I eat my lunch at the funeral home. I either run and get something and bring it back, or I bring something from home. The downside to this is, as I mentioned, you have the phones to deal with and anybody that may walk in. More often than not, I don't get to enjoy a full, uninterrupted hour of lunch.
Today I did.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Today started off rather surprisingly. I had Monday off, but I knew for those who were working it was going to be a busy day. I had made 4 removals on Sunday, and we had a funeral service followed by burial at the National Cemetery.

When I got to work this morning, I noticed we had another call from the night before. I put my drinks in the fridge, then go up front to get the morning paper off the doorstep, and I see a car has pulled up and someone is trying to come in the front door. I open it up and the person tells me their has been a death in the family and they want to use us. Can they come in and make arrangements, or should they make an appointment? I show them in and call my boss. He tells me to go ahead and sit down with them and take care of everything, because he's at least 20 minutes away from arriving.

So I make all the arrangements, show them urns for after the cremation, then write up the contract and have them sign it. All of this before I even get my first cup of coffee. Talk about the last thing you expect at 7:30am on a Tuesday morning!

The secretary teasingly scolded my boss, saying, "Don't ever pick on us again for coming in early!" She said this because she also comes in early most days. We are usually at work 20-30 minutes early. We read the paper, drink our coffee, plan out our day, etc.

Tomorrow we will be down two people. My boss is taking a personal day, and it's a regular day off for one of our guys. We have a mass at 10am. Hopefully things will finally slow down. At close of business today we've had 31 calls in 22 days.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Record Setting April?

I have to wonder how many calls we will end up with for the month of April. Right now, I think we're around 28. I know we've had four this weekend. One came in on Friday night, the other three I took care of today. One at 2am, one at 10:30am, and the last one around 3:30pm. I hope I'm done for the day. I'm off tomorrow, and I plan on getting my hair cut.

Edit: 12:24am. I just got back from my fourth call of the day. It came in about 11:30pm.

Yet Another Edit: We ended up with 40 calls for the month of April.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Everything Went Well Today

If you read yesterday's post, you know that today I was sitting with my first family since obtaining my license. My boss had me all worked up about it, making me apprehensive, but I decided I would just take the family at face value and deal with any issues that came up as best I could.

Well, the family came in on time and they were very nice. I went through all the arrangements and explained everything to them and answered all of their questions. I helped them select an urn and arrange a mass at their church, and in the end it all worked out well.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Groundhog Day

Remember the movie, "Groundhog Day" where Bill Murray keeps reliving the same day over and over? That was my day today.

I usually arrive at work about 20-30 minutes early. This gives me time to browse the paper, read the funnies, and have some coffee before everyone else shows up. My boss came in about 5 minutes early and says we have a call. So we get in the hearse and make the removal. We get back to the funeral home a short while later, and as we're pulling into the parking lot, my boss's cell phone rings. It's the funeral home calling; we've got another call. So we quickly unload and get the body on a table in preparation for embalming. We put the stretcher back in the coach and off we go again.

So, this morning, I arrive at my usual early time; I'm drinking my coffee and my boss walks in and says, "we've got two bodies to get." I asked him if this was yesterday. However, this time me and my boss went on one call and we sent somebody else on the second call.

The second call will be my responsibility, by the way. The family is coming in Friday morning, and I have been tasked with making the arrangements. We had enough preliminary information to generate the death certificate, so today I signed my first death certificate as a licensed funeral director. My boss seems to think this family may be a little bit of a trial to deal with. I'm not sure; maybe he's just being paranoid. He's trying to give me tips and advice on how to handle them, but he just ended up making me more apprehensive.

I think I'll just go in expecting a normal arrangement and take it from there. One thing in my favor; they are a friend of our secretary. Hopefully things will go smoothly.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

When Will It End?

The calls do not stop coming. Yesterday we had two visitations, plus a memorial service. Today we had two funeral masses and a cot view. By the end of the day, we had four calls, all of them coming after lunch. Call number one was a car accident. We'll get the body from the Medical Examiner in the next day or two. Number two will be a burial Monday at the National Cemetery. Myself and one other guy will handle that. Call number three will be a cremation; I don't know if there will be any services. The fourth call will be a ship-out. This makes about 15 or 16 calls for the month, with about 9 of them coming in the last 6 days.

While all of this business can be good for the bottom line, it can also lead to confusion and mistakes. When you're handling this many calls in such a short time, it's easy to overlook things like filing the death certificate, getting families to sign cremation authorizations, sending the completed paperwork to the crematory, etc. So we have to be extra vigilant with our paperwork, and that's not always easy when there is so much of it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

New Schedule

The new on-call schedule has gone into effect. I had yesterday off, which was a really strange feeling. I've had every other Thursday off for so long that the change is going to take some getting used to. Tonight is my last night on call for about three weeks, if this schedule works the way it's supposed to.

Of course, we had to "celebrate" the last day on call with a bang. I got home about 5:15, and about an hour later the phone rings and I'm off to the hospital. I make the removal and take him straight to the crematory. I get back home just in time to eat supper, then I log on to the internet and start poking around, all the while listening to my music with Winamp. About 10 minutes into this process, the phone rings, and I'm off again. To add insult to injury, this wasn't even our call. One of our competitors found themselves without anyone to go get the body, so they called us. Since I'm on call, I get tapped for the duty.

I made the removal, and when I arrived at the other funeral home, I jokingly told the director I would just take my $250 and be on my way. Actually, I have no idea how, or how much, I'll end up getting paid for this one. I just hope the rest of the night is calm and uneventful.

By the way, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick up some coffee and filters for the funeral home. I could not believe how expensive that stuff has gotten! We usually get the big container of Folgers Classic Blend, which I believe we were paying around $6 or $7 dollars for. The price was $9.50. I ended up getting a 1lb brick for $4.50.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

And The Business Keeps On Coming

It's been over a week since my last post. I try not to go that long between postings, but business has been overwhelming and shows no signs of slowing. We ended the month of March with 33 calls, and already for April we are up to 5 calls by the third day.

My boss told me today that soon I will be embalming by myself. I'm excited about that, and I'm not too worried. I'm confident I can handle the responsibility. The owner is leaving town tomorrow for a week's vacation. I'm sure that in his absence I'll be seeing some families and doing some of that solo embalming, business permitting.

The owner sat down with my boss yesterday and they were discussing a four man rotation for being on-call. I'm not sure how that's going to work, exactly, but the owner wants everybody making removals. He's trying to schedule it out so that each person is on call only 7 days out of every month. Of course, there will be exceptions and such, since only February has 28 days, but it's better than me and our courier making all the removals, which has been the case so far.