Saturday, June 30, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Since this was her prized possession and everyone that knew her knew of it he wanted it to be on her finger when people came to view her body. That was no problem, that was a normal request. One that I had received almost every time a woman was in a casket; whether it be earrings or a cross or a string of pearls jewelry was not uncommon to be on a deceased for viewing. Many times the family would request it back before burial and sometimes it was to be left with the body. This was one time when I knew it wasn't going to be buried with it's prized owner; once again understandable.
Aside from the size of this thing, the number 40,000 stands clear in my head. You read right, 40,000...dollars! His biggest fear was that someone (he might have meant me for all I know) was going to steal this off of her finger and told me that I would be personally responsible for making sure that didn't happen. Now I knew that this was going to be a large crowd and I was sure that he or she had told everyone that cared to know all about the size and cost of it yet nothing like that had ever happened to me. I explained that it would be very difficult to ensure it's safety and give them privacy at the same time so it might be best if she didn't have it on. I didn't want to be responsible. But, that wasn't an option; she was going to be wearing it. I wanted to just tell him that I wouldn't be responsible but I consented.
All during the visitation I watched the door almost expecting to see some unsavory character walk in ready to steal this ring. I even thought of calling the local police. I was getting paranoid. Every so often I would meander into the visitation room and glance at the casket looking for it. All seemed to be going well until near the end of the visitation he came to me almost running with a look on his face that I can't even explain. The first words out of his mouth were " IT'S GONE!!!!!!!!!!"
I asked him "are you sure"? It can't be gone it was there five minutes ago, this is bullshit I thought, he's trying to screw me. Who was in the room that could have possibly taken it? "Okay, please calm down, we'll find it" (I prayed). I knew we were insured for just these things but the thought of the funeral home on the front page of the newspaper with such interesting details about thievery had me reeling inside. Should I lock the doors and get the cops in here to strip search these people? Shit! All of these thoughts were running through my head at break speed when his daughter walked over as cool as could be and announced "Dad I took mom's ring off for you is that alright?". The two of us nearly melted into the floor and then just stared at each other and began to laugh. His response to her was "sure honey, that's fine", she handed him the ring, shrugged and walked away. The funeral home never made the papers, there was no law suit, he was happy with the services and the few gray hairs at my temples got much thicker that uneventful evening!
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
He told me his name was Tom and had just turned 55. He and his wife were here to keep an eye on the contractor that they were using to build their new home that was almost completed. You see, he was a retired federal worker and his wife had always stayed at home to take care of the family but it was time to give up their old home and move into an area where they could enjoy their retirement. Tom had come into the funeral home alone explaining that while the builders were taking their lunch break he had decided to check out some local businesses; meet some locals. Since that time he came back once more for more idle conversation.
He was a tall, ruddy man who had a physique that obviously wasn't one that he had gotten overnight. He was brawny and probably well muscled. We talked about different things such as the last hurricane and what damage it had done to the area, how I liked living here, where my wife shopped for food and things like that. He went on to tell me that they were building in a neighboring gated subdivision; one that the true locals referred to as "hoity toity". When my wife and I had first come to the area we had looked there ourselves but quickly discovered that we couldn't afford it. Since then I've only been back to visit a friend or two or to put someone into the back of my vehicle. However, as we were talking, fleeting thoughts were running through my mind about how I wished my wife and I would someday be able to do something similar when the time was right. I was secretly hoping I would look so good when I was his age.
Just a few months later I got a call from a woman who started the conversation by explaining where she was from and that I knew her husband Tom. I immediately knew who she was and before I could ask her how Tom was doing she told me he was dead in their bed and he had told her to call me when she needed me. I was in shock. This guy looked as healthy as a horse. I gave my condolences and let her know I would be out to the house right away but told her as soon as she hung up with me she needed to contact 911. She told me there was no need but she had in fact called the Hospice nurse who had been taking care of Tom and she was almost there. Hospice nurse I thought? So apparently it wasn't his heart. When I got to the house and met her and her children she told me where her bedroom was and asked if they could just have another minute with him.
While I was waiting I expressed my shock to the nurse who proceeded to tell me that Tom had been terminal for about a year now. He and his wife both knew that he wouldn't be around much longer and that's why he had decided to get her settled in an area where she would be safe and have friends after he was gone. When I got to see him he was just a skeleton that still had skin on it. He didn't even resemble the Tom I had met just a couple of months ago which finally brings me to the green grass part.
It's not always easy for me not to want what I don't have. I would imagine that I'm not alone in this either. But reminders like this make me happy to have what I have, live where I live, be who I am. Grateful that I get to get up every morning and be with my wife and family. I know my time will come to an end just like everybody else but I can wait. It will happen soon enough. And until that time I just want to be the best I can be.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
The financial concept is pretty simple. We offer and contract services for you at today's prices. You then have the option of making the contract "standard", meaning that the prices are not guaranteed to stay the same (and unless you die within the year probably wont) or "inflation-proof" meaning that the prices are guaranteed to be the same prices as today forever. A big difference between the two contracts is that the standard contract can and usually is "revocable" while the inflation-proof is usually "irrevocable". Getting confusing? It's really not. The way that we can guarantee prices without going under is that the funds are invested, in your name as either a trust or insurance policy and we then hope and pray that the interest/dividends keep up with inflation. That increase is what we use to offset the price differentials. What I do if the investment instrument happens to pay more than the price increases is simply refund the difference to the family. Now, here's the kicker.
The law says that we funeral directors are able to keep 10% of the contract annually as an administration fee. My take on that is that I don't feel I have the "right" to take money that truly doesn't belong to me yet. The other biggie that I failed to mention is that some states, New York being one of them, do not allow funeral directors to refund any excess monies to families on pre-need contracts. What the state requests is that any excess funds be sent to them...so...what these bright funeral directors do is make sure that there is absolutely no money left over, ever. Sound legit to you? I sure am glad I no longer practice in a state that works this way. All I know is that "the concept is good". Just please beware of the fine print and ask a million questions. Make sure you know what you're getting into and don't accept any answers that don't really answer your questions. If they can't satisfactorily answer your concerns, go elsewhere.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
This is something I thought of doing and honestly hope that everyone at least takes a look at the links below. They're not necessarily there for you personally but you might be able to get an insight into what your neighbor is feeling and why. I'm no expert on this stuff but I know I've been hearing much of the same information for as long as I can remember. Lots has changed since I started doing this but I'm sure the associated pain is and will always be the same.
I wish I could say enjoy but I can't so I'll just say good reading.
This had been one that I'd been fighting over in my mind for the first, I don't know maybe fifteen years or so. Why the hell does it cost so much money to simply take care of our deceased love ones? Granted, a Funeral Home is a business and just like every business there are expenses linked directly to a bottom line that needs to look good in order for us to prosper. But do all of these services and extra merchandise we funeral directors try to peddle really help the family? Sadly enough, over time I've come to the conclusion that the answer is yes simply because they select them.
Not once during my career have I ever "pushed" anything on anyone. I offer the options available and then it's up to the individual(s) to select what they want. I'll answer any questions they may have regarding what a particular service is or how a particular piece of merchandise is manufactured or used or why it may or may not be needed. I try not to consider myself a salesperson because deep down that's not what I want to be. I don't want to be the guy that tells you why you should purchase this or that specific thing from me as opposed to someone else because mine is better. Yet, that's what businesses do. That's part of how they grow. There's no doubt that when a family selects a copper casket over a 20 gauge steel non-protective casket I'm happy. When the total funeral bill is paid in full I'm happy. But on the flip side when a family comes back to me and tells me how much I've helped them, I'm extremely happy, elated. But who am I happy for? Me? My family? The deceased? I'm happy for the business. The business that can now continue to keep it's doors open allowing me to help my families with their wants and needs.
I know it's expensive to finalize a life. I know it shouldn't have to be a burden on anyone to simply bury their loved one and I do my best to make sure it's not. I also know what it costs me and as I've said before I myself am a simple person; far from rich, far from becoming rich and much more common than rare. I drive a plain car, live in a modest house, my suits, white shirts, ties and shiny shoes are my uniform. So I guess the bottom line is that all of this will continue to be expensive until someone can come up with a way of living life without the need to eat or pay bills and still run a business. What truly needs to be found is a better way of doing things and that is what I am continually trying to accomplish. For the business which is ultimately for them.
Monday, June 18, 2007
All of his life he had been a person that just never seemed to fit in with schoolmates or his family and never had very many friends. He had grown quite fond of illegal drugs and had several run ins with the law yet managed to hold a small job at a local appliance store keeping the place clean. Everyone knew him and he was referred to as a "junkie" by many. He was a truly troubled boy and upon his death his mother actually broke down in tears asking me what it was that she had done wrong.
I never felt as helpless as I did that day when I had absolutely no explanation to give her why he had decided his life wasn't worth living any longer. I knew how I felt deep down but I certainly couldn't tell her that the things she was telling me would have sent up a red flag in my mind making me think that he might be asking for help. What good would it do? Who would it have helped? I hope that somehow, someday, she will understand and believe that she really did do all that she knew how to do. So every month I will continue to give her a little hug and a peck on the cheek and when she's done paying I'll of course invite her to continue to come by and have a coffee with me when she's in the area; just to talk.
Now, the group of people that I couldn't belong to are the workers in any Hospice. These have to be the most special people in the world. Not only do they see death every day but they actually feel death every day. Imagine your client walks or is wheeled through your door, you are introduced, you plan a strategy of assistance to keep them pain free and then you basically wait. During this time you become almost a member of the family, you develop friendships both with your clients and their families and you continue to wait. Who knows how many of these scenarios are happening at the same time; how many people are preparing to die and you the Hospice worker are their main support; how many times can the heart be yanked? These wonderful souls have to grieve alongside some if not most families and continue to be the professionals that they are when the death occurs. I certainly don't envy them.
I can't tell you how many homes I've been to in the middle of the night only to find a dedicated, loving, Hospice nurse standing at the bedside comforting the one who is left behind. They're there before I get there and I usually leave them there when I go. The nurses I know have said that in order to keep their sanity they have to somewhat distance themselves but there are times ( I'm sure many ) when it hurts real bad. I know for me, watching a person die as opposed to treating the family after a death would certainly be more of a trauma to my emotions.
This week, National Nursing Assistants Week, I take my hat off to all of the nurses assistants, caregivers, family and friends who help my families before they have to see me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
You see, from the outside looking in it must appear as if I want death to occur, resulting of course in the pain it creates. How could I not? This is what I rely on to feed my family. Right? Well yeah, right...but wrong. While I'm not wishing for any death to happen; I guess what I do wish for is that if it should happen in your family that you call me. I wish I were able to do this at absolutely no charge to you or profit to me but I don't know how it's possible.
Just yesterday I was standing at the front door of the funeral home greeting people as they arrived for a funeral. All of a sudden I heard this mournful weeping coming from the room where the immediate family was waiting that I could almost feel in my bones. At that split second I thought to myself "why do I do this?". Why do I subject myself day in and day out to watching and hearing people in pain?
I had no answer for myself at that instant. I know how I got here but I don't know why I have stayed in this industry for the past 20 odd years. Then it slowly started coming back and got me remembering the number of people I have served in that time, thousands of families. People from all walks of life with 3 things in common. They were in pain, they needed me and they called me. When they called on me I was there to give them all that I could.
That's why I do what I do. Pretty simple.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
I introduced myself and asked how I could help them when she began to sob. They both had just left the hospital and decided to stop in to see me on their way home to be sure that the hospital had contacted us; at that point they hadn't. The previous morning she had been rushed to the hospital with excruciating pains in her swollen abdomen and they were both afraid that something was wrong with the baby she was carrying. As it turned out, their fears became reality that day. Sundrop was delivered stillborn.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Sunday, June 10, 2007
"How it's done
The method behind ecological burial is crystal-clear, easy to grasp and accept. It is based on a new combination of tried-and-tested techniques that prepare the corpse for a natural process of decomposition. The procedure is justifiable in terms of ethical, moral, environmental and technical considerations, and does not subject the body to violent or destructive handling."The method is based upon preserving the body in a biological form after death, while avoiding harmful embalming fluid. Then it can be returned to the ecological cycle in a dignified manner as a valuable contribution to the living earth," explains Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, biologist and head of operations at Promessa Organic AB. An important part of the solution is to remove that which is least important; the water that makes up 70 percent of a normal-sized body. Technically speaking, this is done using an entirely closed individual process in which the corpse is freeze-dried in liquid nitrogen.Read more about nitrogen Within a week and a half after death, the corpse is frozen to minus 18 degrees Celsius and then submerged in liquid nitrogen. This makes the body very brittle, and vibration of a specific amplitude transforms it into an organic powder that is then introduced into a vacuum chamber where the water is evaporated away.The now dry powder then passes through a metal separator where any surgical spare parts and mercury are removed. In a similar way, the powder can be disinfected if required. The remains are now ready to be laid in a coffin made of corn starch. There is no hurry with the burial itself. The organic powder, which is hygienic and odorless, does not decompose when kept dry. The burial takes place in a shallow grave in living soil that turns the coffin and its contents into compost in about 6-12 months time. In conjunction with the burial and in accordance with the wishes of the deceased or next of kin, a bush or tree can be planted above the coffin. The compost formed can then be taken up by the plant, which can instill greater insight in and respect for the ecological cycle, of which every living thing is a part. The plant stands as a symbol of the person, and we understand where the body went."Our ecological burial reduces environmental impact on some of our most important resources; our water, air and soil," says Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, biologist and head of Promessa Organic AB. "At the same time it provides us with deeper insights regarding the ecological cycle, and greater understanding of and respect for life on earth." Show illustrated description. This is a service also made available by funeral homes."
Very interesting indeed. The final outcome sounds great but I guess freezing someone and then bombarding them with vibrations until they shatter into dust isn't considered violent or destructive handling. I don't honestly think I can come up with anything more destructive unless of course when water is re-introduced it becomes a corpse again. And they do say that the remaining dust and corn starch will help a tree grow so there is a real use. I know, I know; cremation is just as destructive. Embalming aint so cute either. The difference is that I don't go around saying that the body will be reduced to ash by removing water with the use of heat. It's incineration, definitely not a pretty picture. None of it's nice, we all know that. It's just that this needs to be marketed for what it is, not some new way to regrow rain forests. Just what I'd want, a bush named mom. But, once again, it's all about personal preference. There's no doubt that there's NO nice way to dispose of the body of someone we love, but please...this is a new procedure, a "green" procedure, but where are these people looking for the green to end up? Hooray for the entrepreneur!
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Until My Dieing Day
Very short and lonely,
are these days of mine,
so kiss my lips once again,
to slow and stop the time,
wrap your arms around me,
hold me near your heart,
and gently whisper in my ear,
that we'll never be apart,
look me in my eyes,
and say you love me so,
but please don't break my heart,
by saying you have to go,
the one thing that I fear the most,
is losing sight of you,
to no longer have you in my life,
to not have a love that's true,
so I'll hold the love within my heart,
where I can keep it safe,
where it will be and will remain,
until my dieing day.
Simple yet straight to the point. Nice.
Friday, June 8, 2007
1)- WHY DO WE EMBALM?
The next step, called cavity embalming, is the application of full strength fluid to the internal organs. A small incision is made in the abdomen, and an instrument called a trocar is placed inside the abdominal and thoracic cavities. The embalmer aspirates both the abdominal and thoracic cavities. The trocar is then attached to a gravity fed system, which causes full strength fluid to be put into each organ. All incisions are then sutured closed.
Hairdressing is normally done after embalming has been completed.