Friday, October 27, 2006

what friends should tell ya

Just like a true friend tells you when you have spinach between your front teet, a true friend should also tell you when you have someone's husband's ashes all over the front of your black shirt before you go back to the office to give her his urn!

I can't believe I leaned into the counter when I was gluing the little keepsakes and I got ash all over me. It looked like I'd been playing in it and then wiped my hand on my shirt. I was mortified. I realized it just as I was handing her the urns and then I made the mistake of brushing my shirt which drew her eyes straight to it. Of course the brushing only drove the ash further into the material's weave rather than off and to the floor. It was terrible.

I went in back after they left and asked what was up with the FD not saying anything. He laughed pretty hard and said he didn't notice. hmpf.

The pissed off daughter finally came to pick up her mother's ashes today. Good thing we rushed it, so she could sit on a shelf and wait for two weeks. She was nicer today, but not by much.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Male, 23, sky diving

Report: (gramatical errors don't belong to Noelle)
I was advised of a down parachutist unknown of injuries near ABC Rd. Dispatch said that rescue and ambulance was en route.
I followed the rescue vehicle up ABC St to the end and we went throught a gate that had been opened to a gravel road. We followed the fire chief to the first road to the left and went down to that road to the end.
We then walked about another 700 feet down a brush hill to where the parachutist had fell. Teh parachutist was laying on his back near some oak trees and his reserve parachute was open laying on the ground above him. The parachutist was dead and his helmet was off.
You could see where the parachutist fell through an oak tree, hit the groud, then went about 10 feet downhill. There was a person there who was identified as Mr. Y who said that he watched him from the air strip. Mr. Y said he saw his parachute open all the way and then he saw him start to spin around like he was playing. He said Mr. X, from the parachute school, was talking to him on his radio and told him to stop playing around then all the sudden when he got at about 200 feet he cut his main chute loose and his reserve did not have time to open and I went to where he went down to check on him but he was dead.
I went about 500 feet northwest of where the parachutist went down and got his main parachute down from a tree. The medical examiner arrived and the deceased was taken to a funeral home until proper notification could be made. Detective X notified the police dept to notify relatives about the accident.

Statement from Mr. X:
He was on the ground watching them jump and was talking to them with a portable radio as a safety measure. He said that they left the airplane ok and Male's chute opened all the way, then he started turning around to the right in a slow turn like he was playing around.
He said I told him on the radio to stop plaing around and pull his left toggle to stop the spin but he just kept spinning around. He said that at about 300 feet from the ground he cut loose his main chute to activate his reserve but it didn't have time to open all the way and that's when he went down by the trees.
Mr.X said that he did not understand why Male would have cut his main chute loose, because there was no malfunction with it and if he would have rode it down he would have been ok. He said when Male went through the jump classes he did real good and understood everything. Mr. X gave me a copy of an agreement that David had signed and showed the training he went through before he made his jump.

I contacted the jump master who was in the airplane when Male jumped. I asked him what happened and he said when we were getting ready I kept asking them if they knew what to do and everyone said yes, so when we got to 4500 feet, I opened the door and Male made a good exit. He said I saw his chute open all the way then we closed the door and started to climb again. He said I didn't see him go down so I don't know what happened. He said when we would ask Male what he was supposed to do, he always said yes and would give us the right answer.

I talked to the pilot who was flying the Cesna 180 airplane. I asked him if he saw what happened and he said, all I saw was when he left the airplane then his canopy opened and he was spinning around, but I did not see him fall.

I contacted Mr Z who was on the ground watching when Male jumped and asked him what he saw. He said I saw his chute open all the way and then started turning around to the right in a slow turn like he was playing around. He said I heard Mr. X tell him to stop and he just kept turning around. He said all the sudden when he got to about 500 feet he cut his main chute loose and his reserve did not have time to open.

There was also another jumber that was there but had left before I got to the airport.

Noelle: I'm sure there are pages missing from this (unprofessional) report, namely the action taken or decision reached. I have to wonder if this young man truly had an accident or if it were an elaborate suicide. He had a large insurance policy, which may not have paid out for suicide. I'm left with more questions than answers and I wonder if the investigators at the time felt the same or if they were positive it was a stupid mistake which resulted in tragedy.


There's a preneed counselor here now, well actually there are two of them. A married couple, overweight, total sales people. They encompass everything I do not like about sales. To me, it's strictly about making their living, not about doing what's best for the family or about what makes the most financial sense. It's about pouring on the pressure for someone to buy more than they need or want simply so they can get a larger commission. They get some leads from me. I copy the statistical portion of an at-need file and then they call the next of kin and try to get them to preplan their own funerals. It's greasy. This couple especially. I don't feel comfortable to give them any more of our files, so I plan to ask the manager if I can give them to the other preneed counselor, who is a sweet lady. She genuinely cares about the families she serves, it's a very different perspective than just trying to earn a living. Part of the difference is that it's a secondary income for her, not the primary income like this other couple. They've made me so mad, so disgusted, they seem to be complete predators and it's wrong. Piss off the one who answers the phone and sets appointments, hmm, is that really a good idea?

Male, 61, early 1990s

Coroner's Notice of Death Record
Alcoholic, heart disease, on many medications. Heavy cigarette smoker. Drinks a case of Black Velvet scotch a week. Found sitting in a chair in living room. Had messed his pants and bed, dark brown, coffee ground substance.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Apostolic funeral

It's an interesting funeral. The family is very nice, very gentle. They don't have a pastor speaking, which is a little odd to me. The women are all wearing skirts, long hair in buns, no make-up. Of course, we're kind of an all-female funeral home. Schewan, myself, the owner's daughter who is a Funeral director intern, and the Hospitality Room Hostess. All in pants, all secure in ourselves and fairly out-going, not one meek woman here. Schewan has a ton of makeup, jewelry and several colors in her hair, Princess (owner's daughter, but i don't mean it negatively as she's a very hard worker, i may have named her in a previous post, but i can't remember) has bottle blonde, but tasteful hair. Hostess also has dyed hair and a smoker's voice to boot. I'm the only one with natural hair, but all of us have short hair, none past our shoulder's. It makes me wonder what the women think of us, if they think we're heathens simply because of our appearance. Just so long as they don't look closely and see that my suit is black and my trouser socks are navy. It was dark in my room this morning and it seems to happen just about everytime I wear these pants, that I grab the wrong color socks. I know it's because they're a little too short and you can see my socks if i sit. Hmm, maybe if my butt would quit getting bigger, the pants would quit getting shorter! Do apostolic women run? Are they allowed to wear shorts and a sports bra? How do they exercise in a skirt? Can they wear pajama pants or only nightgowns, I'm assuming they wear something to sleep in. Do they? They seem quiet and meek, but how can they all be? How do they squash their own personalities in order to fit the mold? Or do they? I have a hard enough time being a regular woman, balancing beliefs, family, work. I can't imagine how you also keep track of the rules a religion imposes on you. I guess my issue with it, is that I don't understand how any religion can take one section of the bible and develop man-made rules out of it. Certainly there is the need to follow what God says, but I don't see the need in adding more rules, which I can't believe God cares so much about. Do they shave their arm pits or legs? I know, that's a little random, but it just came to mind. It makes me wonder what "rules" have been imposed on me by my non-denominational church. Certainly nothing as obvious as not cutting my hair, but are there things which I've begun doing or others which I've quit doing simply because I now attend church? I don't even know how to explain that. I guess that while I admire the simplicity of the gesture of those in the chapel now, I wonder if their rules get in the way of their relationship with God, and if so, could they ever recognize it as happening? Musings of a bored office assistant...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I'm tired, very tired, and it's only Tuesday. Just finished printing out statements for the week. I send out the first one and if there's a balance, the accountant sends out monthly statements after that. Guess one good thing about so many first calls is that I have a lot of statements to send out. Of course, all but one of them is already paid in full, but we send them for 1) customer records and 2) keeping our name in front of the customer just little longer. If they did an obit, we'll laminate it in a bookmarker and send it to them a week after the statement. Just reminds them that we're awesome people, so they'll want to come back here again. There's quite a bit of sales and that's a little weird. I'm still not used to it. I try not to sound like a salesman, but sometimes it feels a little greasy anyway. We make the most money on the products we sell, so it only makes sense that we need to show them a bunch of choices. I've been surprised how many revenue earners there are. For cremated remains, there are urns, keepsake urns, biodegradable urns, necklaces, bracelets, keyrings, paperweights, paintings, diamonds, I don't' know what else. I don't like the keyrings and I'm not going to offer them, if they happen to see it, fine, but I'm not pointing them out. I think they're a little distasteful. Plus it looks just like a little vial you'd put cocaine in. Why would someone want ashes swinging around with their keys anyway? It's just disrespectful. And the paintings? What is that? You can take someone's ashes, have them mixed with paint, and get the deceased's portrait done. Not for me. The paperweight / art pieces are neat though. They take about three tablespoons of ash and then a glass blower somehow gets the ash into glass and makes them into different shapes. You can choose blues, greens, purples, ambers, or reds as the main color. I'm sure you've seen them, just without the human remains. They cost a lot, too much, I think, but they're still cheaper than having the remains pressed into a diamond. That's in the thousands of dollars and takes a long time.
Yesterday, someone asked at The Yard if they would mix her husband's ashes in with some tattoo ink, so she could get him tattooed on her shoulder. We said no, she'd have to do it herself. How would you even adjust the viscosity? It would be thick and gooey or else too diluted, I don't know how you'd get it the consistency right. Plus, that's just plain gross.

Friday, October 20, 2006

another friday

Schewan had yesterday off and today she went to an open house at a place where they make markers (headstones). It makes little sense to me why she went instead of me, cuz she won't sell a marker, she pushes it off on me. Well, she's doing it from now on! I'm glad she had the time off, she's making me a little crazy. She's not very nice. I've tried to remember that she is hurt / has been hurt and her anger is a defense mechanism (can you tell i'm taking an anger management class myself? :) I've tried to remember that she is abrupt as a way of keeping people out so that she can have the option of rejecting them before they can reject her. But it's hard to deal with anyway at times. She's just so negative. I know, I've had my time as a jerk, and ask Steve, I still am, but not constantly, not anger without ceasing. This isn't what I'm supposed to be writing about.

20 first calls for the month. The big guy should be coming back from the crematory today. He's going in a budweiser mug. It's the stupidest thing ever. He won't fit, the rest of him will go into a small metal box thing that they brought in. It's a mug of some budweiser guy in tights and he looks like a cartoon character.

Friday, October 13, 2006

wrapping up the week

Got our first large person today. Well we didn't physically get him, he's over at The Yard, and he's not coming here as we can't accomodate him. 700+ lbs. How does one get to 700 lbs? It's the weirdest family. The wife is large too and she says it's because he was so controlling and made her eat but now she's going on a diet. She also says he wouldn't allow her to go to church and now she's going to start. It's interesting and a little odd. They were "shopping" funeral homes for the lowest price. We know just about everyone they called, because after they'd call someone the director would call the crematory and ask what he'd charge, so when he was here he told me who else they'd called. I don't understand the whole shopping thing, but it happens alot. I could understand calling a couple places if you're really strapped for cash. I don't believe these people are though, cuz they're getting ten DCs (death certificates), if you're poor you have no assests and may need one to three. Ten means they have enough money to have "things".

The pissed off daughter was supposed to be here first thing this morning to pick up her mother. She still hasn't shown up. She may truly be psycho and her explosion last Friday may have had less to do with grief over her mother's death than I was giving her credit for. The whole family has anger issues, it seems.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

alone still

I've tried for a few hours now to calm back down. I painted, it didn't help. I've decided I'm an artist now. HA! When my youngest grandson was born (I've got three), I painted a picture for he and his brother. It was a hill with a raven flying over head. The sun was shining brightly. It was my artistic interpretation of both their names. I am so not able to paint. Tonight I muddled through backgrounds. They are deep burgundy, sort of watercolor, although I didn't use watercolor paints. My daughter will write the Japanese symbols for faith, love, and hope on them. I'll put them in black frames. I'll put them in a room where I can sit quietly and reflect. On what? I don't know. Not death, not with the words faith, love, and hope. Temporal vs eternal. There's a reflection. Where do I put my stock? I have hope in today and hope in an eternity even when I feel as psychotic as this evening. It's the knowledge rather than the feeling. I am trying so desperately to figure all this out. To process my own grief. To somehow slow my pounding heart in order to walk upstairs and crawl in bed. I'm jealous of a fab in St Louis, which has once again whisked my husband away. I want to feel his arms around me, as I drift off to sleep.

Dinner conversation

Last night at dinner, my girlfriend asked if I've given more thought to becoming a funeral director. I told her (vaguely) about my week, the busy-ness of it, the insanity, and how i'm really not sure if this is for me at all. She wondered if the next step now is for me to go on a first call. It is. I should. I think. I told her I experienced two crappy things this week, and I think I can just about deal with anything now. She asked me how I processed those things, I was honest in saying I had not. They were pushed aside as I needed to stay focused on the task at hand. At some point I realized that her husband had quit being a part of the "mens' conversation" and was listening to us. The look on his face was pure horror and disgust and fear. And I wasn't even saying anything, really, well I didn't think i was. Soon Steve became quiet and was listening and then I realized that the other gentleman was too. My friend and I had just been chatting between ourselves but suddenly I had an audience. It was awkward. My friend said it was incredibly sad, her husband said it was troubling. I did not think I'd painted either of those pictures. Am I already unaware of the intensity of emotion? Are these things becoming everyday work to me? I did decided in the future I'll say "Skip was bathing someone in the prep room", rather than "Skip was working on someone." There's so much more than bathing, but maybe it won't freak others out so much. Steve and I had two choices last night for dinner. First was eating with this couple who we adore after attending church (no we're not some weird religion, we just like going on saturdays so we can have sunday free). This choice is our normal routine, usually the four of us go out, sometimes others join us. Our second choice and the one I did not choose was to go to the home of the guy who owns the crematory for dinner and drinks. This choice had great appeal to Steve, especially after I told him that "Crematory Guy" has a stripper pole in his living room. Apparently his brother's gf is a stripper and she and her friends practice there. Steve was ready to go! ;) Also I think he really wanted to go to work Monday and say guess where I had dinner Saturday night? Choosing dinner with our friends was an easy choice for me, but the inability to speak about my job made me wonder if I'm becoming more likely to fit in with Crematory Guy than with my own friends. I find myself critiqueing (sp?) movies and stories and all things dealing with death. Hey, that's not what really happens. What's wrong with those people, didn't they do any homework? We saw "Little Miss Sunshine" Friday night and it was the funniest movie I've seen in a long time. I loved it. Two thumbs up. Except for one part. Are we in the deathcare industry the only ones who know it wouldn't work that way? Or do other people realize it? Why do I even care, it's just a movie. Will I never be able to talk about my job again? I thought I was being so generic, but it silenced the table. It troubled and grieved them. Why are we as a culture so isolated from death? We push it aside and dress it up and buy a fancy casket and pretend that death is clean. Well it's not. Not always. We say autopsy like it's a tonsilectomy. It's not a trip to the dentist. It's horrible and I'm freaking out right now and i want to scream and rip my hair out. I talked to a woman Friday. Several times as she kept screaming and swearing and hanging up on me and calling back. She was beyond sanity. The anger coursed through her, images of the night before playing out in front of her time and again and she took it out on me. She didn't want to come in because she made all the arrangemenst last year, but they never remember when you tell them you have to come in at the time of death anyway. more papers to sign, which can't be done ahead of time. It could have waited till Monday and I tried to tell her that. It didn't have to be friday. She was exhausted and it could wait. "YOU'RE NOT THE ONE WITH THE DEAD MOTHER!" The dial tone sounded so odd in my ear. It was loud and hateful. The shrill ringing minutes later startled me, her call came in on the second line, as I still held the receiver in my hand, dial tone turned to beeping with ringing in the background. I answer. "YOU DON'T KNOW HOW SHE SUFFERED. I FUCKING WATCHED HER DROWN IN HER OWN SHIT! AND NOW I HAVE TO SIGN ANOTHER FUCKING PAPER???" I tell her we can wait, i speak calmly, i know she is insane with grief. There is no consoling her, she wants to make sense of a cancer that stole her mother. There is no sense at this time, only pain. "I'LL BE THERE" and again that stupid dial tone. I try to call back but she doesn't answer. She comes in about fourty-five minutes later. A small woman, maybe 45, jeans and sweatshirt, rumpled but expensive. Hair sticking out everywhere, but I can tell that she's normally well put together. Every inch exuding tension. She stands in front of my desk ignoring both chairs "GIVE ME THE PAPERS." Schewan is not yet back and I've been instructed by my manager to do nothing until she gets there. I tell her she has to sign in front of a FD and she goes off the deep end. There was nothing I could do. Normally I would have let her sign but I knew I had to wait for Schewan as she would know how to help. I couldn't help, I only made her angrier. Storms out to her car. I call Schewan, where are you, I need help, I don't know what to do. She's close, almost back to the funeral home. I go out to the car, I'm trembling now. I'm not scared of her, I'm scared for her. I'm shocked to see her husband in the driver's seat, why isn't he holding her? She rolls down the window and I tell her Schewan is almost back, i tell her again how sorry i am. She begins to cry. I am so relieved. She apologizes, profusely, repeatedly, "it's not like me, i never swear, i'm so sorry." I tell her I understand. I go back in and call Schewan and tell her I finally got to tears and the woman is going to be more calm now. I'm not calm. I'm crying. I'm shaking. I'm wondering who I am to be intruding on such a private anguish. What kind of vulture am i? What would make me want to be a part of such grief in the lives of strangers? Is my life not hard enough that now I want to complicate it with the issues of others? What the heck is wrong with me? Why am I here in this house of death? Am I sick? Do I want to be tortured? Will I make it through this day without puking my guts out? Why do I think this extra stress is a good thing in my life? Am I making a difference here at all? Is this my calling? Or am I simply a weirdo and I don't belong here at all? It's two days later and every nerve in my body is standing at attention right this second. I'm anxious and nervous and upset and disgusted and unsure. I almost cry and then swallow it away. My fingers are flying over the keyboard but still too slow to keep up with the emotions running through my head, my heart. My life. I'm alive. This is how it feels? I woke up this morning. I woke up. Tears well and then recede. Vomit creeps into my mouth. I shudder and force it back down. I don't know what in the world i am doing in this job. All of it over the last week is rushing through. It's more than i know what to do with. A baby. He was seven months old. His skin was so perfect. I couldn't look at his face. I wouldn't. My eyes couldn't leave his chest. Skip didn't talk, just shook his head, like why'd you come in here. He met my eyes like before when I was curling that girl's hair. He met my eyes and held them, I could see that he was telling me to hold it together. He was telling me I have a job to do and I needed to focus on it and not on the little body on his table. He was telling me that it's not fair and there is pain in this world but there was a bigger picture and we don't always see it. Out loud he said, the scissors are in that drawer. I took them out and went back to the viewing room and cut off a long brown lock for a mother whose grown daughter was in that casket. She was going to braid it and keep it for her granddaughter who's only ten. It's not a damned tonselictomy, it's just not!!! I don't understand what I'm doing in that building. I don't understand why I go back everyday. Who did i think I was, telling my friend I could deal with most things now? I can't deal with any of it. I don't want to deal with any of it. I want it all to leave my head.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

no title

I have so much work I need to be doing, yet I'm having a difficult time focusing. Schewan is back at work today and I feel the expectation to babysit her. I don't have time nor energy to babysit her. How terrible does that make me? Her friend did not yet die, Schewan has made all the arrangements at a FH in the town where she lives. Her friend's children are at her side and were mad with Schewan because she was coming back here. I'm sorry for her grief, but maybe she should have stayed there until the whole ordeal came to an end. People are in and out of here and the phone is ringing off the hook. It's the busiest ever and I need to work.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

busy busy

so, i think i've said that I work for a family who owns two funeral homes, one big one and one small. I work at the small one. (I also repeat myself, cuz I have a short term memory thing, so I could've said this ten times or maybe none). Last month was the slowest in the history of the world and we only took nine first calls. My FD, Schewan, is out of town on her own family (near) death experience, so it's mostly me with back up from the other home (it needs a name, we call it The, oh wait, I can't tell you that, let's you and I call it The Yard, since it has a cemetery attached.) Ok, today is Tuesday, Oct 3rd and when I went home today we had received our seventh call since I got there yesterday morning. AWESOME! Not that people died, but that they died and came to ME! and as a result I feel challenged for the first time since I've been working here. Challenged as far as work quality. What makes it even better and ten times more fun is that one of the cases is a Mexican shipout. The decedent is from Mexico, we'll be sending him back for burial next week. Everything has to be translated, everything goes thru the consulate, it's so far a lot of work and I'm not entirely sure I can pull it off, but it's such a welcome diversion for me. Maybe sometimes I miss my semiconductor-thought-processing, the mental work, the constant juggling and multi-tasking. I miss the excitement of the stress, as stupid as that sounds. So here's a little taste of it again!
there is a down-side, sort of, well I don't know if it is or it isn't. But I had two firsts today; one that rocked me to the core of my being and the second was the realization that there was no time to deal with the first so I needed to put it aside for future processing. I was able to put it aside until now, of course when it's time for bed and I'm home alone. Somehow I'm not yet ready for the processing, although I'm scared that if I don't, I'll wake up haunted. I'm also scared that no matter whether I begin trying to deal with it now or whether I stuff it back away until another time, I'll still wake up haunted. So I'll go to bed. I'll pray for the family and I'll pray for a quietness within and a reminder that the body is simply a temporary house for a soul.