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, January 22, 2009

Assignment Of Chores

Earlier this week the owner decided to draw up a list of cleaning tasks and have each of us be responsible for a couple of areas. Among those listed are: Bathrooms, Prep Room, Vehicles, Dusting, Kitchen...I decided I would choose those things I usually do, anyway. I selected the Chapel and the Men's and Ladie's restrooms. Returning Employee chose to keep the prep room and keep the sprinkler system maintained. My boss and Takes A Day Off have not signed up for anything, a fact which has not gone unnoticed by the owner.

Returning Employee was a little bit perturbed by the list. He sees it as a condemnation of the work we do. The owner doesn't think we're doing enough, and wants people responsible for designated areas so he knows who to chew out when things don't get done. Returning Employee, on the other hand, thinks we do enough and this is just micromanaging from on high. Personally, I welcome it, because sometimes it seems I'm the one doing most of the cleaning, and I get tired of it. Why should I be busting my hump when everybody else is reading newspapers (Returning Employee), smoking cigarettes (Takes A Day Off) and playing on the internet (my boss)? To prove a point, I quit dusting the offices. Naturally, after a couple of weeks, the owner notices. To me, that proved my point that if I don't do it, it doesn't get done. I know I'm not the only one there that works, but sometimes it seems I'm the only one who takes on the extra task of cleaning.

You see, we all have our primary duties at the funeral home. Takes A Day Off usually runs all the errands (when he's around) and cleans all the cars before a funeral. Returning Employee takes care of the prep room and various mechanical maintenance, such as sprinklers and other equipment. My boss sits with families as needed and does various other owner-type duties. The owner comes in as needed, usually working about 20-30 hours a week, if that. I assist in entering the files, generating certificates, printing memorial packages, and generally help out where I can. On top of that, I also seem to be the one doing all the cleaning. As a matter of fact, Takes A Day Off did do some cleaning Saturday, going so far as to post a note on the bulletin board to the effect that "Floors Have Been Mopped." I half-jokingly gave him a hard time about it Monday, saying, "You do so little work you have to post it on the board when you actually do something?" So I was glad to see the list go up.

My boss managed to piss me off right at closing time. He was working a visitation, so he had to stay behind. Takes A Day Off was enroute from the Medical Examiner's office with a body. Upon arrival we needed to embalm. However, with our on call rotation, it was up to my boss and Takes A Day Off to work over, if needed. In this case, it was. Returning Employee and the Owner told me to tell my boss if he needed help, call them. Right before I leave I tell my boss that Returning Employee has left for the day. My boss asks if the owner was coming back to help embalm. I told him that both the owner and Returning Employee said they could come in if needed. So my boss snaps at me, "How am I supposed to work this visitation and embalm the body?" I shrugged my shoulders, then said, "I can stay, if you need me to." He snaps at me, "I've got it!" So I tell him I hope he enjoys his vacation and I walked out. (He's leaving town first thing Friday morning-good riddance to him). What needed to be done, and I don't know how he handled it, was for Takes A Day Off to work the visitation while the boss embalmed. It wouldn't take more than an hour, and that's how our on call rotation is supposed to work. Those who are on call are supposed to work over when needed. And it was needed, in this situation. I guess I'll find out tomorrow who did what.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some Rest For The Weary

I made it through the hectic weekend. Two services on Saturday, two on Sunday. Thankfully, Monday was my day off. However, during the course of the weekend, we wound up with three new calls. I did as much as I could with the files, entering all the data into our computer so the secretary would be just a little ahead when she showed up to work Monday morning. I enjoyed my day off immensely. Not only did I get some rest, but my son and I went to see the movie, "Valkyrie." It was my second viewing, his first. I had taken my wife the week before. Interestingly enough, I liked it even better the second time around.

Tomorrow I have a funeral at the National Cemetery. Originally, we were supposed to process by the home of the deceased on the way, which would have taken an extra 15 minutes out of an already tight schedule. Thankfully, that plan has been canceled by the son of the deceased. We will be going straight to the cemetery. I will also be working a visitation/service Friday night, then I'm off for the weekend. I plan to spend it up in my attic, trying to install some radiant barrier insulation. I want to do it when the weather is in the "cool to cold" range, which it will be. Nothing is worse than sweating your butt off in a roasting hot attic.

Friday, January 09, 2009

From Zero To Busy In 6.7 Seconds

Actually, it was more like a day and a half. When I went to work Thursday morning, I had a fair idea that we had no new calls. When I arrived, I found out I was right. We had no new calls the night before. But when my boss arrived, he tells us we have a call. So we head out to make that removal. In the meantime, other calls start coming in. In all, I think we had four calls between open and close on Thursday. Now, the weekend looks something like this:
Saturday-Mass 12pm
Saturday-Memorial Service 2pm
Sunday-Memorial Service 2:30 pm
Sunday-Visitation 4-6pm
I'm not sure how many calls we've had this month, but it's a safe bet to say we're close to one per day, on average.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year And Other News

Happy New Year to everybody. I hope 2009 is an improvement over 2008 for anybody who needs a better New Year.

Tuesday we had a service, and I was off Monday. The service was to begin at 11, with visitation starting at 9am. Since I was off, I was pretty sure that no one had put together the memorial package (the guestbook, thank you cards, memorial folders, etc). Sure enough, I arrived at work to find it undone. Also, flowers were already waiting to be put out, as well. So I put out the flowers, got the package together, emptied all the trash, typed up an application for an upcoming service at the National Cemetery, and a host of other minor tasks, all while answering the telephones because my boss and the secretary were both out of the office that morning. Meanwhile, Returning Employee and Takes A Day Off were busy making sure their cigarettes got smoked and the newspaper got read. So my boss returns from his appointment, and tells me we need to get an urn ready for shipping. So on top of everything else, I packaged an urn, which is tedious and time-consuming. After the service, we all had lunch. Usually lunch is from 12-1pm, but since we didn't return from the cemetery until 1:30, lunch was late. When I got back, I found out that Takes A Day Off had, indeed, taken the rest of the day off. I knew there were errands to be run, but I wasn't sure if my boss wanted me to do them or Returning Employee. So when he came out of his office (he was meeting with a walk-in family), I asked him if he wanted me to run errands. He gets a little snippy and says, "Well, it's almost 3, I think we need to get them done!" So as I'm walking out the door with my list of errands, I tell him, "Returning Employee's in the garage if you need him to do anything." And I left, taking care of all the errands in a timely fashion.

My New Years Eve ended on a slightly sour note. We got off at 1pm on the 31st, mostly because there was absolutely nothing going on at work. We had one death certificate still at the doctors, but that had not been signed, so all of our errands were done. I left work, and my boss had me take the phones since he was going to the movies with his wife. Sure enough, the phones, which had been absolutely silent all day, start ringing 5 minutes after I left work. First call was a lawyer's office. They lost one of their clients and wanted to know if we had prearrangements. I called my boss and he called the lawyers and got it worked out. (We did-we will be picking up the body from the Medical Examiner's office on Friday). Then people start calling looking for services and a florist for someone we picked up last week. There is a memorial service Saturday at one of the local churches. Between the time I left and about 4pm, I had received about a dozen phone calls, most of which were superfluous.

About 5:30, the phone rings and it's one of the local hospitals. They don't have a morgue, so when they have a patient die, they need pickup as soon as possible. When a family hasn't decided on a funeral home, we usually get called because we are there within 30 minutes. We hold on to the body until the family can either be contacted by the hospital or they have selected a funeral home. So I take all of the information, then call my boss. He's already in the movie so he tells me to send somebody else, which I did. When my boss is finished with the movie, he calls me back wanting the contact information. I give him the numbers I was given for the family, then he asks if they have been notified. I told him that I didn't know, because the nurse didn't say I never thought to ask. So he wants me to give him the number for the hospital. I pull up my Recent Calls on my phone and read him off the number for my last call, which I forgot was my mother calling on her cell phone. My boss calls me back saying the number I gave him was wrong, so I just pull the phone number out of the book and give it to him. Then he calls back complaining the number I gave him for the family was wrong. I told him I gave him what I was given. He wants me to look it up online, but the number is unlisted. All the while he's giving me grief about making sure I get all the information from these calls. Through clenched teeth, I tell him I did get all the information. Since I can't find the number online, I go to the funeral home to get it off the face sheet. When I get there, I see that Mr. Takes A Day Off, who made the removal, didn't get any information at all! So I called the hospital and talked to the person who first contacted us. She says my boss had already called and gotten the phone number! So I called my boss back and asked if he had the right number now. I tell him I'm also at the funeral home, and what he says next just floored me; "You didn't have to do that." My blood almost boiled from my veins. I told him, "Well, you were so worked up over getting the phone number I came in to see if it was on the face sheet." He tells me has the right number now, and he's already made contact with the family. I told him he really pissed me off with his comment about getting "all the information." It made me feel like he thought I was doing a half-assed job. He starts lecturing me on how important it is to contact families as soon as possible in these conditions. I asked him if I should have called the family, and he admits that it is something he needs to do. So in the back of my head I'm thinking, "OK, it's important to contact families ASAP, yet you waited until your movie was over..." It turns out it is to be a full service, with viewing and visitation, so before I left I got the body on the prep table, cleaned and closed the eyes, positioned the hands, then left. My boss came in later and performed the embalming. The family is coming in today (New Year's Day) to make the arrangements.