Sunday, December 23, 2007

Corey

I fear I am losing my mind. Corey is dead and has been since November 1st and I seem to still be moving through a fog. I feel like a murderer and I am haunted by his small face, his eyes looking into mine. He was my 8 lb poodle and I put him to sleep. That sounds so noble, like i did him some huge favor. Like the end result isn't still the same. He is dead and I am not.

I tell my grandson that Uncle's in heaven now. "Did God take Uncle Corey?" "yes", i whisper. "Then I don't like God. You tell me where heaven is and I'll go get him back!" I try to explain that Corey died and then God took him. It's lost on his not quite four year old mind. "

This is my first Christmas without Corey in twelve years. He was a pound puppy when I got him, well not a puppy but at least five years old. I just had my first birthday without him. He won't have another birthday.

I can see it in the eyes of those around me. Okay, enough now. But I am driven to tears at the drop of hat. I will take his toys out of the living room today. Family starts arriving for the holiday and even I recognize that it's time to move them, if only for the extra space which will soon be devoured by presents. Presents. Bah.

We are looking for more lights for the tree in a Christmas box, digging through the closet under the stairs. Steve tells me to look away. I have no idea what he's talking about and wonder how he's secreted away a gift for me amongst lights and ornaments and angels. There is no gift. I see that what he is trying to shield from my eyes is Corey's elf outfit. And I know that Steve can not bear to see me cry again. It's not as though I sit around crying. But it's not as though I am present in our lives either. I am stuck in between and unsure of how to get back. I've been traveling with Steve since I quit working and everytime we come home, it's fresh and new all over again. Corey is not here to greet me. Corey did not fly along with me. Corey is not.

It's Christmas and there should be cheer. I am raging inside. The last two days I am the woman I despise. Ugly, snapping, belittling Steve, barking orders at him, barking, ha, barking. I just want my effing dog back. I am compelled to go into the back yard, move the little pile of stones, and dig him up. I want to hold him, please can't he lick my cheek one more time. In the first week, Steve understood and he held me and gently talked me through the need to dig him up. Now I can not tell him that the feeling is just as strong. I know what death does. I know that what is buried is no longer my dog. But I am unable to focus on that and instead he is still fluffy and soft and he remembers me like when he was young. In my mind, he is no longer the blind old dog, but a younger version of himself, when he always knew who I was. There is no senility, just his regular grumpy, psychotic self. He was crazy. Anyone who met him had no doubt of his mental capacity, but he was my friend. My secret keeper.

It's my birthday and Steve tells me to close my eyes and hold out my hands. Even though we have agreed there will be no surprise dogs, I am still anxious. Excited and revulsed that there could be a small squirming puppy heading into my arms right now. And then the weight of the book rests heavily in my outstretched hands. A sigh of relief. Another of remorse. A travel book, for Italy, next summer. I am delighted and disappointed. We have an agreement, but still for a second, I hoped and yet I feared.

I remind myself that I did not lose a child. I remind myself of the words I've rehearsed. Old, senile, arthritis, going blind, good life, long life, happy life, incontinent, pain, biting, "for his good", no more suffering. I remind myself of his age and of his physical and mental ailments. I remind myself of the families I've worked with. Of their first Christmas this year without their loved one. I remind myself of all I am blessed with, of the love in my life.

There is no need to remind myself of the friendship of Corey.

Monday, November 26, 2007

hmm....

Well, I've started this post lots of times and then find I can't continue it. The last two months have been difficult. I came to the decision that I was not being the best person I could be due to the management, in fact I was becoming a person I don't like, so Steve and I made the decision that I'd quit my job. I've been out of work for three weeks now. In January I'll start looking again and will see what comes up. There are so many things to say in this post yet I find that i still am unable to open myself up to do so. Maybe soon.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

one of Skip's stories

So Skip and I were talking today about the casket mix up and he told me that a couple years ago he had two Russian guys. He was embalming the second one and someone had set the clothes near the table for the first guy. Well, Skip ended up mixing the clothes, he said, "Heck, they both had long names that I couldn't pronounce." So the family came for the service the next day and said the guy looked great only they didn't know whose clothes he had on. I was laughing so hard. I can't imagine how I'd feel seeing my dead husband in someone else's clothes. I asked Skip what he did and he said, "Whaddaya think? I switched the heads!"

Then we were both laughing so hard.

It's what we say to each other alot ever since one of my girlfriends emailed me a joke about Bubba the Mortician. There's probably a website of Bubba the Mortician jokes somewhere, but i've not looked for it.

It was very good for me to have Skip to make me laugh today. I needed it.

the man's an idiot

JK (Jargon King) is stupid. Plain old stupid. I had a viewing yesterday for the father of a well-known author who lives here locally. She's also a member of my church (not that i know her, several thousand people go there at different service times, plus i probably wouldn't know her anyway, not quite the same circles we run in, although she was mostly down to earth and very nice, and she gave me two signed books). Anyway, this isn't really about her, although i was a little intimidated to be honest. It's about the viewing of her father. The family was scheduled to be there yesterday at 4:00 for the family preview, followed by extended family viewing at 5, and then public viewing at 7pm. At 1pm, JK tells me there was a little bad news. According to him, the casket company sent me the wrong size casket. I ordered a 1X and he said they sent two regular sized ones, one for me one for the Gardens. He told me how he'd measured mine and it was regular and he called the company and they told him mine had not been delivered, so he measured the one he had again and determined it to be his. So he put his tiny little old lady in it. Only to then somehow find out it was mine. I was livid. LIVID. I just looked at him. I said, "Didn't you or anyone else think to look at the family name on the delivery sheet?" "Well, uh, um, No." "Didn't you wonder why it had handles on both ends, not just the sides?" "What does that have to do with it?" Oh my word. According to what he's told me, he supposedly managed 44 funeral homes for one corporation. According to what he told our courier it was 66. So, supposedly he has a TON of funeral experience, yet somehow he doesn't know that this most common of oversized caskets, has handles on both ends. "Why didn't anyone call me?" "No disrespect intended, but we didn't think you'd know." There was no point arguing. It was done. So what was being done to fix it. Well, let me back up. At my funeral home, we don't have a very good lift system. In fact we have a horrible one. Once before I got there Skip lost a big man while using it. Then last summer, me and Szechwan and another guy lost a big lady. It was mortifying. We all three cried. Szechwan got hurt trying to catch her and the lady was fine. Last week Skip, who's all of 5'6" and 150 lbs, plus he's over 60 and just had a heart attack a few months ago, got whirled around by someone he had in the lift. The guy was in the air and Skip was pushing him to the casket, when he started to whirl and took Skip with him. He said, "It was just like a blippity blip three-ring circus" and "I thought it was in some sort of blankety-blank rodeo". (add your own expletives, you'll probably choose the right ones) Anyway he grabbed the casket and got the guy wrestled in. But he wasn't willing to take the chance with my big guy. Skip planned to use the stationary ceiling lift at the Gardens to put him into his casket, which is why my guy and his casket were over there instead of at my funeral home. And of course Skip was at my funeral home doing some embalming when JK decided to help out.

A long and angry story short. Tiny lady in my 1x casket. My guy is dressed with no place to go. The casket company saved the day and five guys built me a new one, delivered it to the Gardens AND stayed to help Skip put my guy in it. Then he (Casket Company Guy) helped Skip get the casket in the van so he could drive it over to me, all by 4pm. How amazing is that. Except. JK had already made me call the family to tell them viewing would have to be an hour later, "because the casket company had delivered the wrong casket". I didn't know what else to tell them, so i lied like he told me to. Then i hung up the phone and cried. And cried. I am so overwhelmed with work right now and then a huge screw up like this. I was so frustrated. The family was mad.

When it all worked out and the casket company saved the day, JK called me and told me to call the family back and tell them they could still come at 4. I refused. They'd already rescheduled what they needed and I thought it would be much less professional to call them back and say never mind. I'd already done as much damage control as possible and didn't want to give them any reason to question the situation more.

The viewing was great, it really turned into more of a service kind of thing. Great music, lots of sharing. The real service was today at a church and JK came to my home when it was time for the family to come over for a last viewing before closing the casket for good. He wanted to apologize to the family for the casket company's mix up. What???? I forbade him from speaking to them about it. There was no point in drawing it to their attention any more. They were pleased with how he looked, the chapel was full of flowers and their viewing was a wonderful time of great stories, there was no reason to remind them that we'd messed up. I tried not to let JK be alone with any of them.

The best part of it all is that the Casket Guy called me this morning to verify that i wasn't angry with them because he doesn't want to lose my business. He said JK gave him back the extra one (the real one that the old lady belonged in) and that they'd measured it at their warehouse, and it definitely was the narrow or regular-sized one. He said aloud what I knew. JK messed up and put the lady in the wrong one and then started trying to blame everyone else. I thanked him profusely for saving the day and told him how happy the family was even if they saw him later. He and his crew totally saved us on this one. It was reassuring to know that everyone involved knew what really happened. It all would have been much easier to stomach had the idiot just admitted it rather than blaming others. Even today he started in with it again. He's an idiot and somehow i still gotta figure out how to treat him with respect for the position he holds even though I do not respect him. This is a lesson I keep getting in life. Mostly because I've worked for a bunch of idiots, I guess.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

long week

I'm exhausted. Completely. At least today I only got one more new call. I'm floating ten calls right now and I feel like a juggler. The new manager, Jargon King, calls me from The Gardens every morning and puts me on speaker phone for their morning meeting and asks how they can help me today. I've said no thanks because the last person who came to help had no idea what to do and it took longer to teach her how to use the typewriter and the copy machine than it was worth, until yesterday when I asked for someone to come over and do a preneed arrangement for me. That idiot had no idea what to do. He stammered and stuttered and said, "Uh, we have four services today and we don't have anyone to help you." I wanted to ask, "why then are you wasting my time, i'm too far behind to participate in the pretense that you're supporting me." The Boss's daughter piped up that maybe her older sister could come over and help. JK then spewed some crap like, "oh, now there's an idea, I didn't realize we could utilize her knowledge in this way. Noelle, I'll see what I need to do in order to facilitate making this happen for you. I'll get you the support you need to be successful today and we'll be in touch to fill you in on a timeframe." All i could think of was, "ok". Gone was my own silver tongue. IDIOT (spoken aloud in true Napoleon-ese after hanging up the phone ).

Ok, here's a few of my families.
1. Dad, 80s, natural causes. Daughter, 40s, caretaker for him and for Mom, who has dementia. Dtr brought Mom to arrangement conference. Dtr has the biggest circles under her eyes, she's exhausted, and she cries, for what i think is probably the first time. She's given up her own life to care for her parents who aren't wealthy people and she has no idea how she'll pay for a 650 dollar cremation. I am deeply saddened when she pushes Mom's wheelchair out to the car.
2. Wife, 58, liver cancer. Diagnosis to death = 6 weeks. Husband, devasted. Four children early 20s to early 30s. Two grandchildren who'll never get to know her. They're all in shock. Her daughter and I have swapped emails about the folders. Her last one was signed "love, X". I cried to see it. She's so vulnerable right now that she absentmindedly included me in her circle of trusted ones. She and her dad, Husband of deceased, came in this afternoon to make sure the CD she'd burned would work in our sound system. It did. I think she just wanted to come in to sit in our chapel for a few moments. Husband said she was a little upset with him cuz he'd had a drink before coming in there. I chuckled and said I often want to have a drink before coming in.
3. Boy, 12, brain cancer. He came to us from the same social worker as the Stripper's son some months ago. Born with fetal alcohol syndrome. Ward of the courts. Passed from home to home all of his life until 3 years ago when he got to go to Guardian's home where he became a part of a real family for the first time ever. Guardian and Social Worker made the arrangements together. The three of us cried alot and I didn't even know the Boy. They're having a memorial service this weekend at a local high school cafeteria where there'll be corndogs, hot dogs, cookies, and fun stuff that a 12 year old boy loved. No vegetables and no fruit because he wouldn't have eaten it. How fun.
4. Husband, 60s, blew off head in front of wife. Held gun to her head first and said he should kill her because then there'd be no way for him to chicken out and not kill himself. After terrifying her he pulled the gun back to himself. Asshole. She's so angry. And confused. And sad. There is nothing more selfish than to take one's own life. They just bought a new truck and a fifth wheel and were planning their retirement. I am trying not to judge him too harshly because i don't think that suicide should cancel out the entirety of a life. It's an act of desperation and I do understand feeling that way. Maybe it's why it's so draining to me. I've felt that desperate before, I get where he was coming from. But I chose to think of those around me whereas he chose to wallow in himself. That's the part I don't understand, making the decision to ignore the pain of family and friends left behind and making the decision to take the most selfish path there is. I just don't get it.

I long for 95 year olds who die peacefully in the night. I'm a little tired.

meme (i don't know how to pronounce that)


Tag, I'm It
Patience tagged me and since I'm worrried about the cost of her therapy should I ignore her, I decided to play along. No fancy fonts or colors or anything but questions and answers.

1. Are you happy/ satisfied with your blog, with its content and look?
Yes. It's plain, but it's functional. Content has been a bit lean of late though.

2. Does your family know about your blog? Only my husband

3. Do you feel embarrassed to let your friends know about your blog or you just consider it as a private thing? No. I'm not embarrassed, but i've also not shared it with some people.

4. Do blogs cause positive changes in your thoughts? Maybe i'm a little too dense or perhaps a little too shallow because i read blogs for entertainment, not so much for changes in my philosophy.

5. Do you only open the blogs of those who comment on your blog or you love to go and discover more by yourself? Commenters and my own exploring. Although i've not really been able to come across any subject i've been looking for. I just land on random blogs.

6. What does visitors counter mean to you? Do you care about putting it in your blog? it's kind of weird to see that the count goes any higher than the number of times i look at my own blog in order to click the links on it.

7. Did you try to imagine your fellow bloggers and give them real pictures? no. Well, they're all thin and beautiful and absolute fashionistas (am i using that word in the right context?)

8. Do you think there is a real benefit for blogging? it helps me clear my mind sometimes and entertains me other times.

9. Do you think that bloggers’ society is isolated from the real world or interacts with events? isolated.

10. Does criticism annoy you or do you feel it’s a normal thing? I've not been criticized in my blog nor would i care if someone who didn't know me in real life said anything critical.

11. Do you fear some political blogs and avoid them? There are political blogs?

12. Did you get shocked by the arrest of some bloggers? didn't know about it.

13. Did you think about what will happen to your blog after you die? Not until reading this question. I think it would be appropriate for my husband to write the last blog, which could tell all about my funeral. tee-hee.

14. What do you like to hear? What’s the song you might like to put a link to, in your blog? I would not like to hear music. I would leave the blog without bothering to read.

1. Name the person, with link, who tagged you. Patience
2. Complete the questionnaire without changing the questions. Ok
3. Tag people. No

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

ho hum

Well, New FD is gone now and it's quiet in my home again. It's kinda sucky. We don't always stay busy enough for two people, so the workload is fine right now, but if I get any more new calls tomorrow, I might officially be overwhelmed. I've had four calls this week, plus did all the pre-planning for one that will die soon. Have I explained that before? When we get a new death, we call them first calls. A first call is simply the count of a new death, maybe it means when the family or hospital or whoever first contacts us to report the death. My home does between 18-24 calls a month. Our big home does between 75-85 a month, quite a difference. It also explains why they don't seem to be in a big hurry to get me a new director. They're too busy keeping their fingers in the dam across town cuz directors are quitting like crazy.

I'm pretty angry this week with The Boss and New Mgr. Well, i don't actually know if that's true. My husband Steve (similar to my wife Kara who hates hearing birds out her window in the morning when she's trying to sleep, but that's a different blog and has nothing to do with this rant) travels alot and i miss him more than usual lately. Sometimes I don't mind that he's gone so much, sometimes it's overwhelming. Summer seems to have passed us by. No camping or hiking or almost anything outdoors. I can't believe it's almost fall. Anyway, Steve's schedule is impossible for the next three months, even some weekends he'll be gone. So, what I don't know is if i'm mad about work or if work feels overwhelming cuz I'm unhappy with all this quality time alone. Well, I do have the little dog, but he is entirely insane now and I don't know how much longer I can watch him suffer. I am so rambling. My dog's a' dying, my husband's traveling, and my job is sucking. I could be a country singer. Or not. I might not be hating my job like think I am, it could be just that I'd rather be traveling with Steve, which he'd like too. But at work, they ARE taking advantage of me and they don't seem to care. If I were the owner, I'd want to pay people less and have more money for my own vacation home in the mountains, so i get that that's how life works. Owners get benefits, employees not so much. That's fine AND I would never complain as long as I felt that I were valued and treated fairly. But I'm not right now. They're paying me to be the receptionist when really I've run the place since the first funeral director retired and now I'm doing everything and I'm being paid very poorly. The pay is a pretty big deal to me, since I make now what I earned in 1990. Not that I didn't willingly take this job, I did.

I am so whining right now. and probably not making sense. Just thinking out loud really and wondering why my dang "Magic 8 Ball" even hates me and gave me every synonym of NO when I asked repeatedly, "Should I quit my job and travel with Steve?" I even tried to trick it by asking, "Are you certain that you're pointing me in the right direction?" but then it changed it's tune and yelled out "Most Definitely". What the heck.

New Mgr is an absolute putz. I think I'll call him Jargon King as he spews crap all day long and thinks it's okay to do so as long as he smiles that pearly white smile with that impossibly spiked hair in that ridiculous pinned striped suit with french cuffs and those dang things what are they called? oh yeah, cuff links and even pants that have cuffs, which is amazingly stupid since he's short and they make him look shorter. Well i think he's short, probably 5'10", but don't tell my son I think that's short, cuz i'm taller than him when I'm wearing heels and it reminds me of working for a Japanese company where i always had to slouch so I wouldn't be towering over engineers who didn't want to be looking UP at me while they were telling me what to do.

My dog is continuously growling and snapping at air. I've not slept well this whole week cuz he growls all night long even if I put him in bed and shove him under the comforter so that he can't hear any outside noise.

And I'm so tired of stupid people who call me at ten to 5 and ask what time I close and when I tell them 5 they just say ok, I'll be right there. Then I'm stuck there till 6:15 and miss my hair appt, which is fine because it was just a trim, but I really couldn't afford to miss the eyebrow wax as any second now i'm sure I'll have a full uni-brow. Not to mention the granny mustache.

AND I'M NOT MAKING ANY DANG MONEY! Whew. I'll hush up now.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

new FD. Again.

Well, tomorrow is New FD's last day. He gave his notice a couple weeks ago. I'm beginning to get a complex. I keep them for about 6 months each and then they leave me. Ha. The first one retired. The second moved to the state where her husband lives to try to be a real married couple. And now this one is going to another funeral home. He says he really likes working with me, but he knows that he's going to keep getting dragged over to the bigger FH and it's entirely too stressful. So the home he's going to is about the same size as the one we work at now.

We did get a new manager, finally, and New FD is a little bummed to be going now, just cuz he'd like to have his own stories to tell about the new guy. Everyone seems to know everyone in this industry and no one has anything good to say about Manager. In fact, most things are down right weird or stupid. He's probably around 40 and he dresses like a stereotypical pimp. His hair is ridiculous and although I've not seen her, his wife is said to be overtanned and blonde blonde. Pretty people, yuck. I guess at one place he used to work, he used to take off his shirt at lunch time and go cruising around in his topless jeep. That probably sounds tame, but this is a mostly straight arrow middle class man industry and parading oneself draws attention unneccessarily. At another home, I guess he used to take the company suburban cruising down a street known for prostitutes.

Anyway I wasn't so much meaning to write about him or really even about losing New FD, just change once again. It's constant in this job for me. Change.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

dreams

Mrs. B died last week at 86, a long full life, the kind I've grown to like burying. Her two dtrs-in-law came in to make the arrangements. They sent her sons in the next day just to sign the forms. The one dtr, Alice, and I really hit it off. She's very outgoing and she volunteers for a grief support program for children who've lost someone, so she's sort of in my industry. Friday she brought in clothes for Mrs. B, she'd planned to come in Thursday but ran out of time. After she visited for awhile and told us some jokes, she was headed out. I walked her to the door and she said, "Noelle, Keep Mrs. B in tonight, no more letting her out to run around naked." I was like what??? She said she dreamed during the night that I'd let her out and she went to Alice's house to get some clothes. Then she was going to her granddaughters house to get a different outfit. Alice told her no she she couldn't go around town naked and she frantically called me to come and pick Mrs. B back up. Then she woke up in a panic. It made me laugh but also tickled my memory to the dream I'd awaken in a panic from Thursday night. It was weird. I rarely have dreamed about work, well that I remember anyway. But I dreamed that I was sitting at my desk when someone called, they were very excited, speaking quickly and loudly, just short of yelling and asking me to look for it. I didn't know what i was to look for, they said look in the back or out the front door but you have to find it. I looked out the front door and it was pitch black. Not the black of night, because night to me means street lights, cars passing, business lights, this was just plain black. I was scared. I went back to the phone and said that I couldn't see anything and I was so sorry. Then I woke up with heart pounding and sweat pouring. I don't know if Alice's dream came into my dream or mine was part of hers or what. It was very odd and freaked me out a little. Monday Alice thanked me for keeping Mrs. B. in all weekend. We both laughed, but neither laugh was genuine.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Abe Lincoln

A few weeks back me, Skip, and New FD went to a casket place to hear their schpiel (sp?). They had a BBQ and a traveling road show for sales. I didn't eat and my feet hurt from standing so long and listening. But they did have a lifesize replica of Abe Lincoln's coffin. It was pretty cool. Way smaller than I thought it should be. I guess I always thought of him as really tall and thin, but the coffin didn't seem that long, like maybe a 5'10" person would fit easily.

Anyway. I'm working with a family now whose Dad just died. I did the preneed for the mom and the dad last December. Mr. Z was the president of the local chamber of commerce some years back during our country's bi-centennial. So, he'd grown a beard sans mustache and he looked very similar to Mr. Lincoln. Apparently he liked the look and kept it. At some point he jokingly told his son and daughter that it was actually him, Mr. Z., not good old Abe on the penny. His kids told their friends and soon everyone knew he was on a penny. As his kids grew and had their own children, they were also told Grandpa was on the penny. One of those kids grew and now has two daughters and they are positive Greatpa is on the penny. It's a wonderful thing for kids to think. At the service next week, we'll hand out little envelopes with a shiny new penny in them to all who attend. I think it's a great touch.

The great granddaughters are awesome. They came with Mr. Z's daughter to pick up his urn. Dtr was having a hard time, so I walked out with her carrying the urn inside a velvet bag. The great-gdtrs were waiting in the car. I was so surprised when one said, "What's in that bag, Noelle?" She knew my name. It made me smile. I said it looks like you dropped something out the window. It wasn't my place to say, "Greatpa". So she said, "what's in that bag Noelle has, Gramma?" Her Gramma said, "Buckle your seatbelt". I chuckled. She got into the driver's seat and I handed her the urn. She sat it in the passenger seat and the older girl (9 yrs?) jumped out of her seatbelt and reached up front and knocked on the urn. "What's in there?" Knock, knock, knock. I thought his daughter was gonna die. She looked at me and whispered, "She knocked on Greatpa". I laughed right out loud and then finished a conversation she and I'd been having inside, "yep, that's exactly how God wants us to love Him. Just like a little child full of enthusiasm and curiousity." She smiled and then she knew it was okay for the little girl to knock on the urn. And it was okay.

This is a family of symbols. They don't say good bye, only see you later. And when leaving one another's homes, they wave till they can't see each other any more. The first time they left my office, I stood on the porch and waved till I couldn't see their arms sticking out of the car waving to me anymore. I felt a little silly to be standing there waving with tears streaming down my face, but I didn't care. I just kept waving till I was sure they were gone. I went back inside, wiped my eyes, and went back to work. Next week we, as a chapel full of family and friends, will wave goodbye to Mr. Z after the service as his family carries him out. I'm kind of looking forward to it in a weird way. I've grown to really care about his family, they're just good people.

Today I'm reminded of what an amazing job this is. Getting to share a little part of a family's life in such an intimate way. It's really an honor to get to be a part of their lives even for this short a time.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Skeleton Fingerprints

Really.
Or not.
Last week I was cleaning the windows at the front door. It's actually a wall of rectangular windows in the lobby. I don't know why it's my job to clean them. Or to clean the dang toilets either, but I'll try to stay on task. Well, usually there are toddler-sized hand prints on one of the bottom windows, probably the child of one of the church members (we rent the building to a church on Sundays and Wednesday eves). This time there were skeleton fingerprints on the outside of the window by the door. I'm sure there's a logical explanation, I think someone was trying to open the door with their right hand and maybe lost their balance and grabbed the framing with their left and then their first three fingertips dragged across the window. That's the best we can figure. HOWEVER. It looks exactly like an x-ray pic of three fingers that are kind of curved like they were going to grab a baseball. It's very fun, so I didn't clean that window. ;)
I've showed it to everyone who comes in and have heard lots of fun stories. OK, I've showed to everyone in the business who comes in, not to families. The Crematory Gal told me today that she used to work at one place that had a wall full of windows like ours. A guy came in, well a dead guy, it's not like he walked in, but he came in with a gunshot in the middle of his forehead and a very horrified look on his face with his mouth open. A couple days later as she was going into work, there he was staring at her from one of the windows. She got someone else to come look and they saw him too, in shadows, his face with the bullet hole and open mouth. Everyone saw him even if she didn't tell them what to look for, just to look. "Somehow" that window pane was broken a few weeks later, I think she did it, but she wouldn't admit it. The pane was replaced and in two weeks, he came right back. He was still there when she went to work somewhere new.
She was laughing when she told me she asked her husband last night what he thinks it means when someone hears voices all around them, whispers in the background. She said, "spirits?". He laughed, "no, schizophrenia".

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

an old draft

July 6th
So last week, I stayed home Wednesday after being so mad and leaving early Tuesday. Thursday and Friday were then insane. Absolutely. The screaming inside my head was back in full force before it even fully subsided. It's seven days later and i'm still not okay again.

We had two casualties of our own war. The first was a family who we were able to fix things with. We got their mom out late (one hour late) for viewing. They were very pleased when we got her out (even though I had to change her lipstick color because the director who came over to help wouldn't listen to me and put on "natural" color when she wore bright red. Her family didn't want to see her in "natural", what an idiot. I did enjoy the I told you so. Except that removing and re-coloring is very difficult. Sometimes the lips are built up with a wax like substance so they look better, so then it's hard to get one color off and then be successful in getting another color to stick.) The service went smoothly and they ended up happy. Well as happy as can be when burying one's mom. Super great family.

The next family, not so happy. I woke up the last three nights fretting over how to make things right, which we can not do. There are two of us here, me and New FD. We sometimes get help from the other funeral home, but they've had no one to help us except the aforementioned director who came over to help dress the women in these two paragraphs. They're always busy busy at The Gardens and this past week was one of their craziest as well. Everyone was determined to have their service before the 4th of July. It was horrible for this family. Everything that could go wrong did and then some. I'm sick about it. Literally. Sick. I want to be equitable and say that some of it was my fault, but I'm not fully buying it. But, to say that it was New FD's fault isn't entirely true either. He's not a self-manager and I can't tell him what to do. I don't want to sound like I'm blaming but I'm just so dang angry. Not so much with him, just at how horribly wrong the whole week was. We can't fix things for this family and neither of us knows what to do.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Little Miss Ainsleigh

I am now the proud grandmother of a beautiful little girl. Ainsleigh Noelle was born yesterday at 5:55 pm. (just in time as my sister's 25th anniversary wedding vow renewal was at 7pm and I didn't want to miss it!) Ainsleigh weighs 7 lbs 2oz and is 20 inches long. Yesterday she just looked like a raisin. Today, absolutely beautiful! We went back up to the hospital last night after the anniversary party and again today. I'm already ready to go back again. Tomorrow night we're on big brother duty and maybe Monday night as well.



I'll be back to myself soon I think and there will be TALL tales of death. But perhaps I was more worried about Ainsleigh and about the family we messed up with than I realized. New FD and I talked at length yesterday about that family (they wrote a letter of complaint) with our Boss. I started to cry, how embarrassing. Not because The Boss was upset with us, but because the whole thing just makes me sick for the family. We explained what happened and how we tried to remedy it (taking flowers to them and apologizing before we knew they'd sent a letter) and The Boss actually was mad with them for being whiners. (he's so lame) We were actually defending the family's anger, it was weird. I even confessed that on top of it all, I forgot to turn on the AC in the chapel before the service and once it was full of people it heated up to 76 degrees in there and everyone was fanning themselves. They didn't even complain about that in the letter and actually it does make us chuckle in a sick way. It was the icing on the cake. Steve reminded me, as did Sayre, that we didn't kill anybody, so it could have been worse. I'm trying to let go of how guilty I feel about it all, learn from it and move on. Ainsleigh's birth is helping. The cycle of life is so amazing to me.



She's a beautiful little angel.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

kinda quiet

I've started lots of posts, they're all sitting in drafts. We blew it with one family and it's been difficult for me to post anything as feel sort of like a fraud. Yes, in the same time period, a lot of other families were pleased with our services. But one family became a casualty of war and there's no excuse for it or way to fix it. We were too short staffed and too busy and we did a poor job. You can mess up a drive through order and still get another chance to feed that mad customer. We can not change the experience someone has when burying their mother. It doesn't go away. It's not like we dropped her or anything horrible, it was a series of small mistakes that added up to one big disaster. We're still trying to work it out with them (and with the owner), we being me and New FD. It's been a difficult few weeks.

On the other hand, we got several return families (good for us, way sad for them), but it tells us we're doing a good job overall. One lady even brought me a beautiful bracelet as a thank you. It was so humbling.

So, for the most part, funeral life is okay. For one family it was horrid and I'm still trying to evaluate and see what I can do differently in the future to keep it from happening again.

Thanks to those of you who've wondered where I've been...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

lazy day

Well, I didn't go to work today. I stayed home and slept till 11am. Maybe that was part of my problem with lack of perspective. I was so tired. This afternoon I went to the brand new funeral home of my old manager. Today is his first official day in business as his license just came in the mail. He's not had a first call yet but is pretty excited that he'll get one soon. The home looks great, very nicely and expensively furnished. I was more impressed than I thought I'd be, it filled me with enthusiasm for him and his wife. Too bad he won't be doing any hiring for a while. He did however make a phone call for me and found out about an office manager opening at another FH. It will be nice to see what else is available, but I really want to go more in the funeral directing path than continuing down the office girl path. We'll see. I'd like to know if I'm even marketable, so if nothing else, I'll be able to see what more I need to improve on. Tomorrow is a super busy day at work. Guess that'll be good for me, it'll make the day pass. I'm still not certain what caused my mini-melt down. I cried a lot yesterday after coming home. Was beginning to be angry with myself for not being able to just pull it together. I have a good life and part of me was inpatient that I was acting like a spoiled crybaby, but part of me just felt sad and frustrated and maybe i just needed to feel it, so I could set it aside. Like Morrie says in "Tuesdays with Morrie".
Now unrelated to me and my pity party: (maybe)
Yesterday morning I returned a call to a gentleman wanting to make prearrangements for his terminally ill wife. I caught him in the middle of a crying spell. It was horrible. His wife probably has only a few days left and he was pretty much hysterical. I'm guessing he only answered the phone because his caller id told him it was us and it'd be safe, because he could not stop crying. I explained the costs and process, I hate telling the costs, it's like putting a price on life and it's almost impossible for me to spit out the words sometimes. About half the people rate the process explanation as higher priority than the financial breakdown. They're the people I'd rather talk to, well, except they are sometimes the more emotional ones. After I hung up, I just sat and stared at the wall, swallowing back my own tears. It was a sucky conversation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Grumpy funeral girl

Today I was unable to play well with others, dead or alive, so I came home. New FD was somewhat shocked when I just out of the blue said "I don't feel well, I'm going home". It's a little out of character for me, the just leaving part. I will call him at the end of today to see what tomorrow's schedule looks like and I may stay home tomorrow too. Steve called after reading my somewhat whiney email just to let me know he supports whatever I choose to do, even if it's to quit and stay home for awhile again. He's the best. I love working with the families, but I think I said the manager quit while I was on vacation, and the owner is the biggest putz ever. He's not been too bad with me, but his affect on my coworkers has now trickled down and it's bugging me. He's nothing compared to a boss I once had who'd line up prescription drugs on his desk and we'd never know which Jim would be coming into the cleanroom, it just depended on what pill cocktail he'd mixed for himself. Now he was a boss, let me tell you. Maybe I shouldn't tell you, it's totally beside the point. Okay, I'll tell you, maybe it'll help me keep my current situation in perspective. Jim was an ass. I worked for him during a time when I was perhaps at my worst as for as people skills, so if you worked in our group you had him putting pressure on me, which then meant I put pressure on others. Most days he or I made someone cry. I was a jerk. He was a big jerk. So, we worked in a cleanroom, which means we wore bunnysuits (not the Playboy kind either, but the Intel kind, although I didn't work there, it's the most easily recognizable semiconductor company). Well, Jim was a smoker and sometimes when he got really worked up, he'd be yelling and carrying on, arms swinging, employees hiding (really), and sometimes his face mask (cloth, like nylon or something like that, but lint-free) would turn yellow from the nicotine on his breath and he'd be breathing so hard that the mask would go in his mouth when he talked. He'd spit it out and keep right on yelling and cussing and it'd get soaking wet. Disgusting. He was so mean. Once I was physically afraid of him, only once, when he wasn't even mad and we weren't even in the cleanroom, but he stepped right in my space and said quietly into my face, "If I catch you with that gum in the fab, I'll fire you on the spot." Normally, I'd know he was full of it, cuz I knew he wouldn't fire me, but that day. I stepped back and didn't say anything, cuz I couldn't, he saw the fear in my eyes, and that made me mad, more than his stupidity. I've known some mean men and in that split second he knew it and I hated him because then he knew more about me than I'd ever wanted him to know. But here's the weird part and this makes little sense. He was also the best boss I ever had. Financially, he did wonders for my income, almost tripling my wage in the five or six years that I worked for him. And I learned about myself because of him, what I was capable of becoming, so I took steps to not become him. I'm not proud of how I treated coworkers during that time and I can blame it on the stress he put on me all i want, but it's revisionist history to do so. This has become a little therapy post for me. It's a good reminder that the current situation isn't horrible and that although there is a lot that isn't right, there's alot that is. Did I mention that in the month since my vacation and the manager's departure, three other people have quit? The owner is a putz and many people in our local industry don't like him, but he gave me a job when i had no funeral or office experience. Not that that means I have any loyalty to his company, I don't. But i also recognize that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Monday, June 25, 2007

last post about STUPID, hopefully

STUPID's mom died. I'm kind of glad, it's horrible of me, but now, as New FD put it, we no longer have that sword swinging over our heads. It's been about a month since the dad died and STUPID has forgotten everything in that time period. He taped an envelope with our funeral home name on it to the telephone in his mom's room. There were two checks in it. #6788 was blank and unsigned, #6789 was written for the amount of the direct cremation, no sales tax. #6789 was in front of #6788. We wrote void on it, took a photocopy and put it in an envelop to mail to him, since he doesn't want to come in where he might have to see me. Grrr. I started this post last week, but I just get too mad when I think of that man. I'd decided that I would be very humble should i speak to him, it's the right thing to do. I was going to to tell him how sorry I am that he's now lost both parents in such a short time and that I'm also sorry if in anyway I made the whole thing even worse. And I still think it's the right thing to do but the opportunity has not presented itself. I'm not allowed to make any contact with them (dumb, it's saying part of the problem is mine, when it really isn't, hey those of you who know me, quit rolling your eyes, this one isn't my fault, he's a putz and everyone he comes in contact with feels the same way). He's truly made everyone mad. In fact one of the nurses at the care facility told me that even though the deaths are sad, the not having to deal with STUPID anymore is awesome. I could go on and on but i'll spare you the boring details. We're still waiting for him to send us some statistical info so we can complete the death certificate and get her cremated. Everyone else in the world comes in to our office after death occurs and we sit down for an hour and it's all done. STUPID has been dragging this out since January, why would I think he'd be in any hurry now. I'm ready to be done with this family!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ainsley

Ainsley and her mama are doing well. Lost heartbeat was found and contractions have slowed. Mom is staying another night at the hospital and Dad and the two boys have gone home for the night. She looked tired and flushed in the face, but otherwise okay, not so scared as she was earlier. Whew. Hopefully Miss Ainsley will wait at least two more weeks to make her appearance, longer is better, but at least two more.

Ainsley Noelle

Ainsley is my granddaughter who is due to arrive the first week of August. She has been trying to make an appearance in this past month. My daughter in law spent last night at the hospital. I talked to her several times today and she seemed to be doing better, contractions were under control again and she stopped dialating. My son called a few moments ago to say they can not find a heart beat. I'm waiting for Steve to get here so we can go to the hospital. It's hard to wait. I don't want to be on the family end of my job.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

quite a lot for having nothing to say

I've wanted to write for a couple days but everytime I sit down there is nothing. Blank. Void. Nada. I don't know why, because things happen everyday that I think are interesting, but then I sit down and it's gone.

Well, except today I got Mr. Smith in my eye. It's still bugging me too. He's a cremation and most of him was going to the cemetery for scattering, but his family wanted part to keep. Well, the crematory separated him, but one of the little bags wasn't closed, so when I picked it up, puff, ashes flew everywhere. Right in my face, straight in my eye. Disgusting. Plus it hurt like the dickens. Very calmly, I said, "I got Mr. Smith in my eye". New FD just looked at me. The courier started to laugh. Of course, it probably was funny. In a very weird way. Plus his real name made the whole thing sound crazier, cuz it's a strange name. I wear glasses, no one told me I should wear safety glasses.

This might be gross, sorry, I'd say don't read it, but that would make you, so just know I'm trying hard not to make it gross. Crematory Girl came to pick up two people. We pulled the first out of the cooler and onto the cot. They are wrapped in white plastic body bags, sometimes taped closed, sometimes not. I opened the bag and checked the toe tag, yep, right person. I commented that I didn't know how she could not wear gloves. I wear gloves to touch anything and everything. She said it didn't bother her so much. Boy was she proven wrong. After we got the person on the cot, she realized there was some liquid pooling and she didn't want the bag to somehow break and then there'd be a lot of cleanup, so she was going to drain the liquid into the prep room sink. She opened the bag and immediately started gagging. Let me tell you about Crematory Girl, since I never have, only before about her boss Crematory Guy. She's 47-55, somewhere in there, 6'0", skin, bones, and crazy scraggly grey roots with strawberry blonde to strawberry hair. Big hair, frizzy hair, usually uncombed and sticking out everywhere. She wears silly clothes. I mean silly. Sometimes she wears super short mini skirts. Sometimes all black (I wear all black, but it's a nice turtleneck with slacks and it looks good), but her shades of black don't match and anyway it's just all wrong to wear black denim. Sometimes she wears a white cotton bustier under this little white shirt and she has tinier boobs than me, which means they're almost non-existent. Now, I am not a fashionista, and in fact I have on many occasions been sent back to my room by husband and/or children and told not to come out in that same outfit, so I'm in no way ridiculing Crematory Girl. However, I desperately want to submit her name to "What Not to Wear", if anyone needs it, she does. She's also very tough, been in this industry for many years in the same type of capacity that she's in now. She picks up and drives dead folk around and then cremates them, it's not for the weak of heart. I don't know why I felt the need to describe her, it really adds nothing but verbage to my story and it's not even that great a story. The person on the cot was purging (stuff liquifies sort of and comes out nose, mouth, ears) and it was the most horrible smell you can imagine. I knew it was bad the second I saw CG gag. Nothing fazes her. I said close that up, what are you doing? She opened it wider. She was gagging, but she wanted to make sure it didn't leak inside the cot bag or, worse, inside her van so she wanted to drain it. She still didn't have on gloves by the way. I was beginning to chuckle when the smell hit me. Oh my goodness. It was horrific. Just when I think I may be able to do this job, something like that. I started to gag. Vomit was actually in my throat but I was determined not to throw up in front of her. She started to laugh and then so did I. It was the most insane reaction, but we both got a serious case of the giggles. It's almost as if our (our in general not just me and her) minds shut off when something is so horrid and our natural defense is to pretend what's in front of us isn't actually what's in front of us. We both laughed and gagged and tried hard not to vomit and laughed some more. I had to get the citrus spray, it was so bad. Then we added another layer of plastic rather than try to drain the liquid and we taped it closed. Of course I was laughing so hard by then, that I couldn't get the tape to stick to the bag, only to my own gloves, which just made us both laugh more. It was so not funny, a decomposing human being, but I haven't laughed so much in quite some time.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Services

So last week I got the license and this week New FD is on vacation. He had last Thursday off and we got three new calls.
One direct cremation, easy, I scheduled that family for an afternoon appointment, it only takes about 45 minutes, super nice family made it even easier, plus the Mom was old, it just doesn't get any better.
Next was a traditional service with burial, a lot of work, so I scheduled that family for Friday when New FD would be back. Didn't matter beccause the family showed up twice anyway, once in the morning and once late afternoon. We planned the whole thing, but I told them New FD would verify that I'd done it right the next day. He gave me an "A" on Friday.
Then a third family also just showed up, it turned out to be cremation with memorial service. No one goes to the dentist without an appointment, but everyone thinks it's okay to go to a funeral home without one. Maybe it is okay, it just doesn't always work out that well for anyone to have time to talk to them. I digress, this family was an old Mom too, 94. Sure makes the whole process easier when someone gets to live a long full life. People are a little sad, but not grief-stricken.
Anyway, I did three arrangements on my first real day as an intern. Months to plan a wedding, and a few days to plan a funeral. It was pretty interesting from a work stand point. Pretty sucky from a human point of view. Well, family two was sucky. Not the people, they were awesome, but the situation. But that's a whole nother post.
Fast forward to this week, yesterday was the service and burial of Family 2. It was pretty large, I was pretty nervous. It was my first service to do alone, well, I guess that's not true, I did a service a couple months back, but it wasn't this big, and somehow it didn't hold the same significance to me. My mind is going faster than my fingers can and my thoughts are zipping around like crazy. Today was the cremation memorial service. Both services went well. I am pleased. Two folks sent off properly. There's so much I'm not saying and it's only important to me and not to anyone else, just mini-clips of yesterday and today playing thru my head. I don't even know what else to type.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Funeral Director Intern

My license came in the mail yesterday. Guess I'm officially into a new career.

Well, um, uh, if I weren't actually making this whole blog up, that is.

Pets who come to my work

First and most important is my little dog Corey. He spends time at my work on grooming days. The groomer comes to pick him up around 11am and then I get him from there after work. That's it, not exciting. I just like him to come to work with me.

Next is Isabelle. She's a Jack Russell Terrier. Her grandpa died and her mom brought her in while making some arrangements. Isabelle may be the best dog I've ever met (besides the above mentioned pet o' mine). Her mom said "I love you" to her and I kid you not, Isabelle said it back. It was a kind of howly, growly voice, but she definitely said I love you. Then she sang "Happy Bday to You". The whole song! She really did sing it. New FD and I were in shock. It was great fun. Her mom said she's won concert tickets from radio stations by getting Isabelle to talk or sing to them. Isabelle is also apparently a mouse tracker, so she wanted to go to every corner checking for mice. Her mom told her to stop, but New FD asked her to continue. Independent confirmation of our lack of mice is a good thing.

Willie is the fattest, longest, scabbiest, snorkiest weiner dog I've ever seen. His dad (mid 60s hippy with a PhD in Sociology or something) brought Willie in to say goodbye to his grandmother. His dad asked me to walk out to his car with him to carry some stuff in for his mother. I carried the "stuff" (child size rocking chair, three weird dolls from the 70s, sewing stuff, and stationary), while he pulled along fat Willie. As we entered the lobby, Willie launched into some kind of wheezing, coughing, spitting fit. His dad put his hands on his hips and snapped, "Willie you stop acting out like that and get in here." The family in the arrangement conference with New FD stared out the door at us, I promptly apologized, shrugged my shoulders, and closed their door. Willie went into the viewing room to say goodbye to his grandmother.

Finally, Patches is a black, long haired cat. She is Willie's "sister" and apparently Willie's dad left Patches in the viewing room with the grandmother. I had no idea she was in there. She's a cat. Cats do not care if someone dies or lives or anything. Well the cats I've had didn't anyway. I was very surprised to open the door with Willie and his dad to find Patches hissing at me from under a chair. Then the smell hits me. Then the dad, "Patches, did you shit the floor?" What????? This isn't a zoo. I look towards the casket. No, Patches did not shit the floor. She obviously stood on the edge of the casket to do her business, because there's the skidmark all the way down the front of the casket lining with a big pile on the floor in front of it. It stunk so bad. Willie's dad asked for a tissue. He picked it up and threw it in the garbage. It didn't help the smell at all. I was gagging. Ugh. I was so glad that cat did not scratch the old lady's face. I was so not amused.

Well-behaved pets like Isabelle: welcome.
Angry children like Willie and Patches: Not.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Coach, aka Hearse

Some girlfriends were over the other night and I told this story and well i think it's probably better if you know what i look like. Not what my face looks like, that doesn't matter, but my size. I'm 5'4 1/2 " (yes the 1/2" is important to me) and I'm thin (ish), not as thin as I was, but who is? My husband thinks I'm short. I don't. I'd like to be 5'7" but that's probably not happening. I seem taller than a lot of women, okay mostly old women, but I don't think of myself as short or as small. Until, that is, I had to drive the coach. All of a sudden I felt like a very small woman.

We may have over booked ourselves. Well, this one was actually my fault, I didn't write a 10:00 service in our calendar, and then New FD scheduled a graveside at 10:30. Guess as it turns out, he can't be in two places at the same time. We called the other funeral home and they had no one available to help us out. They did have a coach available for us to use, just no driver. New FD looked at me. I looked at him. He smiled. I panicked. I said okay. As the day got closer, I got more nervous. The burial was at a national cemetery, so I didn't have to do anything but show up, they take care of the details. I was pretty worried though for several reasons. Getting lost, being late, getting in a wreck, all kinds of things could go wrong. I was very nervous.

Got up early. Dressed in the suit I now feel most comfortable in. It's a little heavy and it was a pretty hot day, but I feel the most confident in that suit, so i wore it. My prayer for the day was fairly simple; I didn't want to do anything wrong which would put attention on me instead of on the family and their grief. I wanted to fade into the background, which is the job of a funeral director, fading. It's why they wear black clothes, not because of their own mourning, but because it enables fading. Got to the office. Got my paperwork in order. Put the flag on the casket, New FD and I loaded it in the coach. And then it was time for me to go.

I got into the driver's seat and immediately felt like a small child in her papa's big chair. Black leather enveloped me, pure luxury with a great sound system. Buttons buttons everywhere. I looked around and adjusted the side mirrors. Hmm, there's glass in between me and the casket, just like a limo. I finally allowed myself to look out the rear view mirror. It took my breath away. The reflection was of a long dark rectangle. The back window is framed by curtains, which reduced my vision and elongated the overall image. What took my breath though was the contrast of the dark walls and ceiling against the flag draped casket. I've never seen red, white, and blue look so vivid. It was incredibly sobering. As if I weren't already aware of the importance of the task at hand, I was now without doubt that my cargo was indeed precious. This was no load of potatoes headed to market. A weight settled comfortably on my shoulders. I would deliver this man to his final resting place, where his family waited to say their goodbyes. I would send him on his last journey with my respect and humility. I started the engine and drove to the end of the lot. Looked for oncoming traffic, saw none, pulled out, right into the path of a grandma who switched into my lane at the last second. There was no way I could have guessed it, she didn't use a blinker, she just came over. I saw her in the rear view mirror. She raised her arms in the "what the f_?" pose, I closed my eyes and braced for impact. It never came. Thank God. I don't know how close she really was. I never figured out distance. I could see nothing in the lane to my right. Nothing. Nothing. When I needed to get over, I checked the mirror as though it would really make a difference, then I put on the blinker, counted to five (or six, or seven) and went over. It was terrifying. I tried to calm myself. My heart raced. On the freeway, across the river, off the freeway. Then traffic stopped. What? Oh, road construction, great. I crept along, they closed the right lane, that was okay, cuz I could see to get over to the left. My problem came when the right lane remained closed in front of my turnoff. It was completely blocked, I tried not to feel nervous, I was still early. Up ahead I saw a detour sign, it said nothing about the cemetery, just detour, but I took it anyway. I went through a curvy, hilly area, up and around, corners so sharp I thought I'd be too long for them. I breathed in and out and wouldn't allow nerves to overcome me, although they threatened, boy did they threaten. The detour cost me fifteen minutes, but I still got to the cemetery five minutes early, not much a time cushion, but still okay. I set the emergency brake and went into the office to let them know we'd arrived. I've talked to most of the folks up there but hadn't met any of them in person, they seemed nice enough, told me what to do, I just had to follow the cemetery guy's van, then the family who were already waiting in their cars in line would fall into place behind me. I went back out, hoped in the coach, started the engine and could not for the life of me find the e-brake release. There wasn't one. Anywhere. I finally panicked. Sort of. Not really out loud or in any visible way, but inside, I panicked. How could I get here and then not be able to make the darn car move. The cemetery guy came over to help. He couldn't. I called the funeral home, it did no good, since I'd turned the phones over to the answering service before I'd left. I called the other funeral home. Only two directors were in the office, neither knew how to release it. A little voice kept saying in my head, just get in and drive. I was yelling to the voice that that made no sense, I wouldn't be able to. I stuck my head under the dash and finally saw a tiny yellow lever, yanked it and the brake released. The cemetery guy couldn't believe it, neither did I. I got in, he got in his car, off we went. Sure enough, the family tucked in right behind me, just like he said they would. They had no idea that there was any driver malfunction. We drove through the cemetery and up to a shelter (like a gazebo) where the honor guard waited. I pulled forward and waited for the guy to close his fist. I was told he'd close it when I was supposed to stop. He never closed it. I stopped. He tapped the passenger window and told me to move up two feet, guess he never closed his fist because I'd not driven far enough ahead. I went to the back and opened the door. With my back to the family I asked him what to do. "Nothing, we'll do it, just stand there and look pretty." Hey, he wouldn't say that to a guy! What could I do though but stand there and look pretty. It's amazing to view the happenings from the "inside". I obviously had no attachment to the deceased, but the only other time I'd been to this cemetery was last year when Steve and I attended the funeral of his friend. So my feelings probably got a little mixed up with that. I get choked up everytime I hear the 21 gun salute and Taps, but the folding of the flag and presentation to the wife is the real tear jerker. It's such a beautiful tribute.

This post has turned into its own novel. And I could go on and on. During my drive back, I was a little less nervous. Incredibly relieved that everything was flawless from the family's point of view. Incredibly relieved. I was actually able to look around a little as I drove, not just tunnel vision straight in front of me, white knuckles gripping the wheel. I did notice that people gave the coach the right of way, that was weird. And I also noticed that no one looked at it as they passed. It was as if they stared straight ahead and didn't acknowledge a vehicle of death, they'd be better able to elude death themselves for one more day. No one looked at me. Okay, except for one guy. I didn't tell my girlfriends about him, but the look on his face was awesome. It's the same look they had when trying to picture me driving a hearse. I'm too small and the car's too big and I did look like a child in their papa's recliner. He glanced over. Then he gawked. His head swiveled, his jaw flew open. He was staring at me with a wide open mouth. I smiled, then laughed, then laughed a little manically. He stared more, actually slowed down to pace me for about 20 seconds. I could only laugh more, which added to his surprise for some reason, maybe I was supposed to frown. I realized that I am not the dork from Six Feet Under who creeps you out and who'd you expect to be driving a coach. I tossed my curly brown hair over my shoulder, looked ahead, and drove confidently back to the funeral home.

Confidentiality

We got a "reminder" from the boss that we're not supposed to talk about anything that happens at work. We're especially not supposed to post work related items on the internet. So, here's my official disclaimer. I may have at some point in my life worked in the semi-conductor industry, but probably that's just something I've made up to throw readers off. And then I may have exchanged that all-head job for an all-heart job in the deathcare industry, but that's probably REALLY something I made up. So, officially this blog is straight from my imagination.

I'll try to remember that I began writing to express my thoughts, not just to rant about STUPID people, so I probably should just stick with my own feelings. Btw, STUPID did end up calling to tell on me. Only because his mom is now "circling the bowl" (the owner's words not mine). We agreed that if she dies and STUPID brings her to us (well, technically we'll go pick her up, he doesn't have to drive her) that if he or his wife, STUPIDER, call I'm to put them right on hold and get New FD to talk to them. Fine with me. I'm tired of them being mean and, of course, stupid.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

STUPID

STUPID's dad died while we were on vacation. I laughed very hard when it was one of the first things New FD said to me when I got back. Whew! I dodged that bullet. Then for some reason I decided to do a body count, cuz it just seemed like there were more than FD said there should be. Sure enough, there lay STUPID's dad on the top shelf of the cooler. I asked FD why he was still here and he thought I was joking. Hmm, apparently he thought Crematory Guy had taken dad while I was still gone. Nope, there he lay. So I called CG and sent him off. I was not happy. STUPID's wife called and wanted to know when they could pick up his remains. It was her turn to be not happy. I didn't care, I put her on hold and let FD talk to her. He told her sometimes there are hold ups at the doctor's office getting the death certificate signed (try again, they picked up the certified copies while i was gone, so they knew it wasn't the issue this time). He sweet talked her and hung up. The next day she called me back with STUPID conferenced in. Apparently he'd gone to the crematory to pick up the remains there but he said no one would open the door and they wouldn't answer the phone. They're both yelling at me, calling me names, feeding off each other's anger. I apologized for the inconvenience, try to make nice, hang up. Cry. Call CG and ask why they wouldn't open the door. STUPID didn't even go there he must have gone to the wrong place. CG is a little mad because FD arranged to have STUPID go to his business to begin with, he works for funeral homes not for the public. I'm stuck in the middle of something that should have been finished the week before and that didn't have anything to do with me. I hang up with CG. Cry. Can't believe I'm giving STUPID that kind of power over me. Talk with CG several more times. He arranged a pick up time for STUPID and it was done. I've not had to talk with him or his wife since. I sure hope they take STUPID's mother somewhere else when she dies. I won't deal with them. They're STUPID and mean. Very mean.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

UPS guy

I have a regular UPS guy. He's very professional, all business, doesn't want to talk about the weather, doesn't care to get to know me or allow me to get to know him. I'm chatty, I want to say hello, he just holds out the little signer thing. If I'm too smile-y, he says, "last name?", so that I'm reminded I'm not even important enough for him to remember my last name even though i've been telling it to him two or three or four times a week for a year.

Well, this week he came in with cell phone at his ear. It's a first and it's highly unprofessional. Then I hear, "You're not fat. You're not. You're five months..." He's cut off by the chattering at the other end, which I can hear. He raises his eyebrows at me.

I whisper, "You're more beautiful now than you've ever been." He puts his hand to his other ear as if asking me to repeat it, so I do, while signing my name on his little gadget.

UPS: "You're more beautiful now than you've ever been."
Wife: chattering

UPS: "No one told me to say it...."
Then he walks out the door before she could hear me bust out laughing.

The next day he told me she didn't buy it at all, she knew someone told him to say it. It made me smile.

Skin and STUPID

I found out about the guy who's legs were on backwards. He was a bone marrow and skin donor and i guess it's easier to take the bones rather than try to extract the marrow. The new FD told me, but when I saw him yesterday I knew right away that his skin had been removed. Funny (weird, not haha) that i can recognize some things after a couple days but not so much right when it occurs. I guess now I know what fresh skin donation looks like though. It seems that I am slowly being indoctrinated into the world of embalming. However, there are a couple things I may not ever be able to do so it's still looking like embalming is out for me. Although I don't always notice the smell anymore and yesterday the new FD (no point giving him a name as I think he's quitting the first of July and there'll just be another one) went to the ME's office (medical examiner) to pick someone up and when he got back he didn't stink. Szechwan would smell to high heaven when she came back from there, so does Skip, but i didn't smell it on the new guy. Good thing as it was right before we went home and his wife and children would be grossed out. Well, if they could even smell it I guess. Back to the bone donation... I'm a donor myself and whatever is needed is up for grabs, but I hope my family never has to know what a mess I'll be afterwards. I keep reminding myself that the body on the prep room table is simply a shell and that if good can come out of death for those still living, well, they are still living.

STUPID came to my work this week. You may remember me ranting about him a ways back. Or not. I thought he and his wife were our 2:00 appointment, only early. But when he stuck out his hand to introduce himself, he said "Hello Miss Sunshine" (dripping sarcasm) and I right away knew who they were and before I even realized it I literally slumped down and said right out loud "not today I'm so swamped". Cuz we were. What a butthead to start out by not even bothering to call for an appointment and then insulting me. Grr. Let's see, he's STUPID and I tell him so on the phone and yet they still choose to come to our funeral home and then he's gonna start out hostile. Good idea. I'm like the drive thru fast food worker. I hold all the power here, dummy. I could pinch your dead mom if I wanted to, do you really want to make me mad? Like I would pinch anyone's dead mom, but it's kind of the theory behind it, ok, maybe I hold no power, cuz when i stop to think about it, anyone in their right mind would never think that their dead mom might get pinched if they pissed off the office girl. Dang, not even the power of a drive thru worker! What kind of job is this anyway? Anyway, STUPID proved himself by bringing in a copy of the letter I sent him along with only a portion of the paperwork he needed to fill out. Three (THREE) times he said, "no one ever told me that", and then I'd read his copy of the letter out loud to him, and he'd say "oh, well we still need to get that". His wife my have been even STUPIDER, however I smiled and spoke with them as nicely as I possibly could, which was in reality thinly veiled hostility of my own. Perhaps his parents will outlive my position at this particular funeral home. One can only hope. STUPID asked me if I were a part owner there as he was trying to sneak one of my business cards in an attempt to frighten me that he was going to tell on me. I boldly told him "nope, I only work here" and reached across my desk for another card to hand to STUPIDER, "you may want one too. My manager's name is The Boss." (insert real name). After they left, I called The Boss and told him they were there. He laughed very hard that they'd actually still chosen us after my initial analysis of their family dynamics. He laughed even harder to think they may call him to tell on me. He's a very good boss.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Today I am...

Today I am
*Wrestling a printer, which happens to be kicking my butt.
*Supposed to be printing out next weeks statements, since I will be gone next week (Hawaii, Hawaii, here we come!) But I can't print out the statements, grr.
*supposed to be inputting into Excel the last old files which I pulled out of the moldy gross shed behind the funeral home. Somehow I missed about three boxes last fall and the shed leaked like a sieve all winter long. Now mold is growing everywhere. I'm not kidding, there are really weird mushroomy, squiggly, brown, plastic-y things growing on the floors and the walls. I've been letting these last files dry out across tables and of course I'm sneezing like crazy since I decided to bring those mold spores into the building. Anyway, i'm supposed to be going through old files and I haven't yet.
*tired

Today I feel
*happy to hear from my son who had hernia outpatient surgery this morning. He sounded totally drugged and somewhat relaxed. Now his mom can relax. When are kids too old to have their mother's present at medical procedures? apparently he thinks 23.

Today I saw
*a wonderful gentleman who came in for a preneed. He walks with a cane, since he recently fell and broke his ankle. He's healing remarkably well for 82. I wouldn't have put him a day past 70.
*another gentleman who's foot was on backwards. When I looked more closely, I realized both feet/legs were kind of on backwards. I asked Skip if it was a car accident that killed him. He said "no, it was Dancing With the Stars". He didn't look up, he didn't smile, he didn't stop working. I felt a little queasy so I came back to my desk.

Today I heard
*a story about a dead guy who got one last strip-tease. After the service, everyone was asked to leave the chapel. One lady stayed. The music started and she danced for him. Hmm... and the point is?

Correction to last post!

My husband is not "old". He is very young and very handsome with not one gray hair. He lifts weights every morning and runs five miles before eating lunch. He only eats healthy food, no junk. He swims and bikes before dinner and then finishes his days pleasing me.

Is that better? ;)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

ponderings

I've wondered for the past couple weeks about my motives in working at this job. It's not been fun. I am realizing that part of my uncertainty stems from blogger. I read the posts of complete strangers and what I like about it is the glimpse into someone else's life. It's like looking in open windows at night while driving down my street. I can see furniture and pictures on the wall and the occasional person in the midst of some mundane task. Once I even saw a naked lady walking across her living room. (Steve almost turned the car around so he could see.) I like looking in windows while driving. I like reading other people's ponderings. I was glued to one blog in particular, the sad reality of cancer. At work, it's kind of the same. I am looking into the window of someone's life when they are at their most difficult time. But I don't just drive by, I become an active participant, however small the role and however short the time span. They trust me and I try very hard to get it right. I've thought since I got this job that I am right where I am supposed to be. I believe that this is where God wants me and that I am making a difference to some of the folks who come through my doors. But I've been recently plagued with wondering if that's just what i want to believe and what if I'm a freak who enjoys looking into the pain of others. What if it's all hogwash and I'm just lookin' in windows? In the past couple of years almost everything in my life has changed, while it has mostly stayed the same and i know that doesn't make any sense but it's the most true statement I can make. I've always had relationship issues, believe me, I've done my time on the couch. Now in my life I have four women, four friends, who I get together with every week. We are sharing a part of our lives and it's completely new to me. Now in my life I have an amazing marriage with the same old husband. Now in my life we have "couple friends", there are dinners and visits and game playing and even a weekend trip to the beach. Now in my life, we have young adult children who I'm developing new adult friendships with. Always before in my life there have been walls erected to prohibit true intimacy. No close close friends. And I got a little stuck wondering if I'm "for real" in my relationships at home and at work. It's so easy for me to fall back into the habit of erecting barriers. Way to easy to view work families as potential stories. Easier to read blogs than to pick up the phone and call one of my girlfriends. Easier to think of a humorous tale than to think of the reality that someone's life just ended and the family is never going to be the same again. I've really questioned why i'm doing what I'm doing and I don't fully have an answer. We buried the mother of a lady who attends my church last Friday. I've spent hours with this lady over the past three weeks (it was the best planned funeral ever) but I don't really know her. I share a faith with her and it was a great experience for me to see the faith of their whole family, the hope they had even in death. But I don't really know her. I know the daughter of the beautiful lady I buried who wanted everything to be just right for her mom. But her? Not so much. Maybe it's the next step in my learning curve. Tomorrow I'm planning to call her. I'll ask how she's doing and maybe I'll even get up the nerve to see if she wants to have lunch. I've called other people the week after the funeral and one lady I've checked back in with a few times in recent months. For now I will accept that I'm not just looking in windows. That for some who come through my door, the process has been a little easier than if it were someone else sitting at my desk. I will accept that other times I really am a freak in a crazy weird job where I can do nothing but stand gaping at the incredible beings with whom I share this earth. And I guess I can also accept that sometimes a person will be changed when they leave my office. And maybe once in a while that person will be me.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

watch alarms

There was a nicely attended service a couple weeks ago. Rather formal, a little stodgy. About halfway through, someone's watch alarm starts going off. The FD looks down in a panick that it's his watch. Whew, it's not. The chaplain glances down at his, nope not him either. The FD is a little annoyed that whoever's it is, they aren't shutting it off. I know, I know, you can see where this is going... Yep, the watch was right up front, in the casket. It just kept going all through the service. Afterwards the FD checks the guy's arms. No watch. Checks his pockets. No watch. Which can only mean one thing. Someone tucked it under him during the viewing. The pall bearers are waiting at the back of the chapel, so FD can't just pull the guy towards him and get the watch out from under him. So, he does what anyone would do. He closed the casket, called the pall bearers forward, and they carried out the casket, alarm and all.
Someone got a private chuckle out of their little joke. It made me happy for the dead guy, well, I'm assuming that it was done in fun, and that were he alive, he'd get the biggest kick of all out of it. I imagine him smiling to himself. Pleased that he'd passed on a little happiness.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

bla bla blog 2

I forgot one "award". Dang it. Although you could have seen the link on the side. Sheri of Days of Deerledge entertains me. I have a favorite Sheri quote, which I shared with Steve and we both had a great laugh as it fits us too. Sheri and her husband were adding a closet to their home: "We come home and get to work. I play the usual role: Gopher Gal. He plays his usual role: Lord of I Know It All. They are roles we both are very good at from many, many years of practice and perfection. " This is so us. Funny how men and women, husbands and wives, all of us, we're more alike than we are different. Thanks for the fun reading, Sheri.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

bla bla blog

hmm, so I think i'm almost an official blogger, except that I haven't really figured out much about how to add pictures or fancy stuff and I doubt I'll take the time to learn, so maybe I'm not a real blogger after all. If blogger is even a real term, not some stupid thing that I just wrote. One psychiatrist in my past labeled me a narcissist. What did he know? Perhaps though, in the blogging world, it may be true as I've only recently discovered that anyone besides me writes about their lives. I was fairly certain that google set up this whole website so I'd have a place to record my thoughts, it didn't really occur to me that the rest of you were out there doing the same thing. I think I've figured out that blogger may be the equivalent of the prepubescent myspace. It seems to me that 90% of (the 15 or so) blogs I've read are written by women around my age.

Yesterday I sent an email to my sister at the exact same time that she was sending an email to me asking the same thing, "are we still on for dinner tomorrow?". It was weird, like our sister-esp was working.

That thing about my sister had nothing to do with anything, it just popped into my head. So back to the blogging thing. Catch from A Penny for My Thoughts (see the sidebar link) was very complimentary about my pencil scratchings. It's fun. So, since I'm not so sure how to add links here and even less sure that I care to take the time to learn, I'll just say that the links in my sidebar are the blogs I read. I'm not so great at commenting, but I read them and enjoy them immensely. Not all of them make me think... like Just for Humor, that's for plain old fun. It makes me laugh. But Snickollet (i could be spelling it wrong) makes me think alot. Catch makes me laugh quite a bit. I really enjoy her mix of humor and daily reality. I love how Sayre of Sayre Smiles examines herself. I especially liked her post about her stride. Having worked in a clean room in the semiconductor industry for years, I recognize many people by the way they walk. Her post reminded me of what our walks say about us.

So that's about as close as I get to an award ceremony. It's not technically pretty, but in the spirit of the blogging community, it's my stab at participation. :) So maybe I am a narcissist. Maybe.

Friday, April 06, 2007

quiet end to the week

The week ends quietly. Whew. I'm thinking of getting a little bistro set to put on the front porch. I could sit out there with my laptop and a diet coke. I mentioned to my manager that I need a wireless connection. He laughed and said "uh-huh". This was mentioned after I called to see if I could lock the front door, turn the phones over to the answering service and go get some lunch with one of my coworkers. He really laughed and said he wouldn't care. Somehow I think if i actually did it, he would. The DC courier (guy who gets death certificates from me, takes em to a doctor for signing, then picks them up once signed and takes them to the health department for filing) said I could sit on the porch in shorts and tshirt. When a family comes up, I tell them to go right in, then I run around the building as fast as I can; sneak in the back door; pull a black dress over my head; kick off my flip flops and jump into some heels; pull my hair into a bun and then walk into the arrangement office like I've been there all along. It sounds like a good plan to me. I think it could work. Maybe I could set up a walk-through perfume mister for right after i slip into the dress.
Skip and I were talking about getting a bbq in the back. There's no shortage of fresh meat.

Ha! Gross! Yuck! and all that. It sure made me laugh when he said it.

A guy from a competitor funeral home came over yesterday to get some prayer cards. I showed him around, he was pleased with how things looked. I guess he did an internship here many years ago. It was fun to meet someone new and also good for the networking portion of my job in case i wanna work somewhere else. Plus I'm awful curious about the type of people who work in this field. Mostly they are surprisingly not what I thought they'd be. He was. There was a young funeral director on "Six Feet Under" (HBO) who had a crush on Ruth. He was weird and awkward and a little frightening. This was the guy I met yesterday with about twenty years and twenty pounds added. I was greatly entertained.

guess i better finish up this Good Friday. I'm so ready to go home and it's not even quite lunchtime yet. Dyed Easter eggs with my oldest grandson last night. His hands were pink up to his wrists. What a riot.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

april 4

how's that for a title "April 4", you can see my originality shining through. Today is better than yesterday. Today i'm back to hating stupid people. It's an easier place to be. Thanks for the kind thoughts shared with me. I have to say again, it's really weird to me that anyone besides my husband reads this. Brianaldo, you make me smile, thank you for making today better for me.

So, I may have lost two preneeds and I say "Good for Noelle". My manager told me to send em to someone else closer to them anyway. It's a man who has power of attorney for his parents and he wants to do everything by phone, fax, mail. That's okay if he'd do what i tell him to do or if he'd read what i send him, which he doesn't. So everytime I talk to him (which has been about ten times since the 11th of January) we start over fresh. Today I wasn't playing well with others. I said he just needed to come in, we'd go over the paperwork, we'd be finished in 20 minutes and it wouldn't have to drag out any longer. I hope they go somewhere else. I'm tired of playing around. It's his parents. I'm sorry if he thinks he can't spend an hour and a half including drive time to take care of this. I'm also sorry that he and his wife don't communicate as i've explained the whole process to her about four times. He thanked me for the evaluation of his family situation. I don't know if I'll hear from him again. Good for Noelle. Very good for Noelle.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

tuesday

I am unable to stop crying and i don't know why. It's noon. I'm at work. I have a lot of work to do. I don't know what the heck is going on. Two families were waiting for me when I got here. One young man to pick up his mom's urn, she was only 54, cancer. His dad died earlier in the year, also cancer. I don't know how old the son is, but he seems to be late 20s. I can not fathom how hard this year has been for him.
Another lady was here to choose a marker for her mother. She was a JERK when she was here before for the arrangement conference. The new FD and I analyzed her after she left, did she love her mother at all or was she overwrought? We judged and found her lacking. Today she was humble and appreciative, just a daughter who lost her mother and for a little while has lost her own way. She gave me a hug when she left.
A viewing for a veteran, his family was here all morning. Also a young-ish guy, 62, very handsome. His wife is so kind and so very gentle. His children are in their 20s and also obviously well-bred, that sounds odd, i don't know how to say it. I stand at the door to my office as they wheel his flag-draped casket to the front door. I always stand as they go by, how could I not. The pall bearers take him off the church truck (new word of the day for you, it's what the rolling stand is called under caskets) and place him into the coach (remember, we don't say hearse). His family is gathered around. It's the saddest part for me, the placing of the casket into the coach. It gets me everytime.
Then I have to hurry in and fill three necklace pendants with remains for a woman who'll be here soon. I hate those darn things. I still need a sieve. I don't have one. The ash is all over me and i can't wash it off. It's in the curves of my fingerprints, even though I've scrubbed. I can look down and see it. I can smell it. It clings to me, super glued to my fingertips. I used the metal polish to buff the pendants. The company sent the polish with them. It etched them and now they look horrible. I've tried to buff them back to a shine. I can't. I got a little glue on the top of one and i try to scrape it off with my fingertip. It seems that the ash is stuck in the grooves of the pendant and it won't come out of there either. I know I'm freaking out and i can't stop. Realistically the ash is gone but i can see it and smell it and I really need it to go away right now.

Skip just got here. With the baby. Her parents will be back anytime, they've gone over to the big funeral home but are coming back here. The baby is tiny on the prep room table. The mom wanted to bring her here from the hospital. She couldn't bear to part with her precious little girl. The mom and the grandma both are beside themselves. I cried with them yesterday. Today, I will try not to. Although i don't know how i won't as i can't stop already. I must look a fright, as Skip just stared at me with his silent appraisal. Did I say yesterday was his first day back? He had a heart attack two weeks ago. He's not supposed to be embalming, cuz he shouldn't be lifting anyone, but he's stubborn and he refuses to stand around "just doing services". It's probably less stressful to be in the prep room anyway. Although I don't think it's the stress his doctor's worried about, but the healing incision where they went into his femoral artery to give him a stint in a heart artery, how's that for technical? I'm glad he's back. I missed him more than i'd realized.

Dang, the baby's family just walked in. What in the world am I doing here?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

boredom

I don't think i ever said that Schewan quit. She and her husband had been living in different states, and she decided to go home and focus on her marriage rather than her career. I was just talking to her on the phone. She's thinking about becoming an optician. Mortician/optician, just move some letters around and it'll be a whole new career. So i got a new funeral director, but he only comes over here from the main funeral home to make arrangements or to do funerals, he doesn't stay over here. I get pretty bored trying to entertain myself sometimes. You can only search the web so much. This chapel is such the red-headed stepchild. While i was eating lunch, I scanned the newspaper and there was an article about pre-planning funerals, with a huge full page ad for the other funeral home. One tiny sentence that they also own this one. Hey, what about getting me some business??? We get a business card size ad in the thrify nickel. What the heck kind of advertising is that? Of course i'm gonna get the bottom of the barrel clientell if they only advertise once in a great while and i'm right next to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet coupon. Get a buck off your lunch and then call for a low-cost cremation. If you turn the page you could get your gutters cleaned at a discount as well. Give me some work!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

travels

Steve leaves again this morning to go to his office. He has about a three hour commute from our home to the airport to another airport to his offfice. Generally he's gone M-F, but I got to see him for an extra day this weekend and he's not leaving till this morning. I hate it when he leaves. I'm okay once he's gone and arrived there safely, but i hate the saying goodbye part. Probably even more because of my job, but I always worry a little, what if this is the last time i see you. What if you don't come home for some horrible reason. I can picture his funeral, of course I'd have it here, at my work. I picture who would come from which different walk of our life together. I feel the loss as if it's already happened. All this occurs in the ten minute drive to the funeral home after saying goodbye. I have to shake myself out of it, remind myself that he's made this trip hundreds of times, and that even if he were home with me tonight, I still wouldn't be guaranteed tomorrow with him. It's not that i think these thoughts everytime he leaves, only once in a while, thankfully. Only today I wondered, what if it's me who doesn't go home? Weird. We have all these plans and all these ideas about how we'd like to spend the next few months, years, decades, but i guess everyday i'm faced with people who had those same plans. Grrr. Today is a rainy GRAY day and i'm ready to go back home and crawl under the covers.

Friday, March 23, 2007

What I've learned in a year

1. Sitting at a desk all day adds inches to my butt.
2. I hate having to check a person in the morning of their second day of viewing to be sure their eyes and mouth are still closed and to be sure no liquid has escaped their lips or nose.
3. I really hate having to then close their eyes or mouth.
4. I really, really hate having to then wipe up any liquids.
5. Mean people do suck.
6. There's a difference between grief and just plain butthead. I don't mind when someone isn't at their best and is forgetful or a little short and it's obvious that they are in pain. I do mind when someone uses death as an excuse to be the angry jerks that they already are.
7. I don't like smelling like a dead person. It sometimes sticks in my nose even after i go home and change clothes.
8. I feel tired alot and it's not so much physical.
9. I feel immensely satisfied that my tiredness may have just helped someone else be less tired themselves.
10. I'm still learning. Every day.
11. Fighting siblings should be shot, no matter their age.
12. EVERYONE thinks funerals should be free.
13. My husband is amazingly patient and supportive, allowing me to yak for hours when a family has really gotten to me or just holding me and letting me "be" when I'm sad or laughing with me at some stupid stuff that goes on here.
14. Every piece of paper in every archive file cabinet, book, or box represents a human life and I am awed by the numbers of pages.
15. We each face our maker after this. Doesn't really matter if we believe it or not. We still meet Him.
16. All military wives KNOW their husbands can still fit into their service uniforms, which they wore when they were 20.
17. Doors do open by themselves.
18. Occassionally someone listens in on my phone calls (I see the line light up from the other -empty- office), has called one particular lady at least twice (she's starting to get a little freaked out), and answers the phone when i'm talking on the first line but doesn't speak to the caller.
19. People in this industry are a little twisted (myself included??).
20. This is my second career. I still don't know what my third will be.

Friday, February 02, 2007

old men

His wife died on the way to the hospital. Heart attack, probably. Undetermined natural causes officially. I called the doctor's office to get them to sign the death certificate. The nurse couldn't believe she was dead, woman was in two weeks ago for annual physical and very healthy. Just a little hypertension, not even very high. She called me back to verify i had the right woman, she just couldn't believe it. Well, her disbelief was nothing compared to his. He could barely walk, barely talk, barely move. He was so overwhelmed with grief. His (grown) children came with him to make her arrangements. The children were more worried about him than about her, they couldn't help her and it seemed they may not be able to help him either. It broke my heart, I couldn't keep from crying everytime I was with them. Schewan either. Aaay.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Little boys

He was five years old. Died of aspiration (the entry of secretions or foreign material into the trachea and lungs ) after vomiting in the night. He was a mouth breather, maybe his nasal passages weren't fully formed, i don't know. Been in and out of foster care all of his life. Mom hadn't seen him the past couple years, busy working and drugging. I tried to dislike her, I really did. The social worker found her almost a week after he died after going from place to place and asking if she worked there. His was the stripper funeral. The boy was the victim. The mom was the stripper. His brain never fully formed due to the drugs while in utero. Schewan and I were so angry with her. What kind of person could this woman be. Obviously a monster. The anger was short lived. Mom's been on her own since she was 12, eeking out a living however she could. Her mother is a mental patient herself due to her own overdose. It's overwhelmingly sad and the anger (sort of) dissipated. Still anger for the boy, but not so much directed towards the mom. The social worker fought like you wouldn't believe for funding for the boy's service and burial. We've yet to see the money, but we did get a fax that the state is paying. It's weird. I feel like I'm rambling. I had to measure him for the casket. Schewan was out, so Skip helped me. He was the same size as my 3 year old grandson. Thick curly hair and eyelashes to die for. I wanted to hug him. Instead I measured him, then left his face uncovered, and we pushed his shelf back into the fridge. Babies don't belong on refrigerator shelves.
She wore a long black dress to the funeral. She came early, right when we opened. Going back and forth about whether she wanted to view him. Schewan made her. Well, she didn't make her, just explained how beneficial it would be, if she even just saw his hand, something so that her eyes could tell her heart that he was gone. She brought in a carload of teddy bears. We put them all around the casket. It was only us in the building, Schewan, me, Mom, and social worker. I wanted to leave the building myself. She went into the chapel and Schewan went with her to the front. Schewan held her for awhile until Mom had the courage to stand by herself. Then Schewan came out and the wailing began. Deep gutteral grief. Keening is the word that keeps coming into my mind. I can hear it still as if it were happening as I type. I can't erase the sound. It's inside me and it keeps replaying and i can't make it stop. It's not my grief, I keep reminding myself. Let go of it. The service went well. Odd and sometimes inappropriate, but well. Everyone left except the social worker, who was helping us pick up all the bears, everyone brought one. Schewan couldn't make the toy work. It was a musical thing and Mom wanted us to put it in the casket, so that when he was buried, the music would still be playing. We couldn't make it work, so i found a screw driver, removed the battery cover and put in new batteries. I turned it on and music finally played. I was trying so hard to put the cover back on, but my hands were shaking and I started sobbing. The social worker had stepped into my office, but then didn't know what to say, so she apologized and stepped back out. The mother's keening mixed with the music box "twinkle, twinkle little star" in my head and I couldn't make it stop. Apparently, I wasn't the only one struggling, cuz Schewan was teary as well. I put the toy in his casket and we pushed him out to the coach (hearse). The social worker thanked me. I told her to fight for the live ones as hard as she's fought for this one. She promised she would. Schewan drove him to the cemetery. The music played as the dirt dropped down.