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


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

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.