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 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


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.


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.