Friday, August 31, 2007

Powder burns

He was 54 years old, had been someway involved as a peace officer, a cop, for the majority of his life; at least his working life. He had 4 children, 2 were step-children and 2 were from his first marriage, a mother, father, a total of 5 brothers and sisters and many nieces, nephews and cousins. He had many friends in the community despite the fact that he was known as being the toughest guy around. He was the chief of police after all and he had to portray himself as the guy that ruled with an iron fist even though his family knew better. According to them he was just "a big ole teddy bear" that looked like a monster but had a heart the size of "Texas".

He was planning on retiring this year when he turned 55 and his family was thrilled that he would finally be out of the police force; they knew he found it hard to cope. They had heard him say the same words they heard the other night on numerous occasions and felt he needed to be free from the responsibility of running the local force. His superiors knew that he had suicidal tendencies but the medication he was on seemed to be working just fine. From what I can gather however, his upcoming retirement was almost a forced issue.

His home was flanked by a home his brother lived in and on the other side were his aging parents. His brother and he were pretty close and did a lot together; they spoke to one another and visited their parents daily. About 2 weeks ago, without any ones knowledge, he stopped taking his meds and they said they could actually see the change in him as the days went by. They tried to get him to go to see his physician but he just outright refused. It was at that point that they realized he wasn't taking his pills. They didn't know what to do. He stopped going into work. The family themselves called his doctor to let him know the situation and were told that they needed to get him into his office and to keep a close eye on him until they did.

Well, the other evening he left his parents home after telling them and his brother that he was going to the station to get some things signed that needed his attention. His brother wanted to go with him but he told him not to, he was fine tonight. He did go to the station, he had signed papers, made a phone call and walked out, got into his car and shot himself in the right temple. The phone call it was later discovered was to his own home where he left a message saying he was sorry but could take no more; the gunshot can be heard on the answering machine.
This family is a group of people who in their minds feel overwhelmingly guilty for "letting this happen". I did the best I could but I don't know how to help them any further with only words or gestures or kindness. They knew he was ill, they admit it, they knew the situation, they expected this someday, they knew it was completely out of their control...yet they still blame themselves. There's probably more to this than I'll ever know, but I have to assume he was tortured by something terrible. Tortured to the point of death. I know my limitations and this one is beyond my scope. I have to try to find professionals to help them because right now they're crippled by this and I myself don't know how to give them the help I think they need.

The Carolina Rose

This might sound like a strange post but please, humor me on this one. Every morning before I start my day I spend a little time on my back screened porch just waking up. I'll usually have a crossword puzzle book with me and of course my cigarettes. This small ritual I have helps me get my engine going and also gives me the opportunity to plan my day however most days I feel it would be so much nicer to have a little more time. Time.

I have this bush growing at the side of the steps of my deck that grows like mad every year and it's at the point where it's pregnant looking buds are bursting open daily. It's called a Carolina Rose and has the prettiest pastel pink flowers you could imagine. They open an extremely light color and as the day wears on they continually darken becoming more and more vivid and beautiful. All the while that this is occurring, the rest of the world is going on around it but the cycle continues. The dog across the street runs over and takes a quick pee on the bush and keeps going. Thunderstorms threaten off in the distance and eventually pound it with heavy rain that you would think would tear it to shreds but it eventually perks up. Hummingbirds and bees swarm it and try to take whatever they can from it; they use it. The sun warms it and time progresses. Sometimes heavy winds blow it back and forth making it appear as if it's swinging out of control but it holds on dearly for its life. It may get a little battered looking or weathered but it's beauty is still evident. The users come back and steal what they can before it's gone for good. By nightfall, just when the rose hits the prime of it's life, its most beautiful moment, it begins to fade and within hours shrivels and dies. It's a shame that their blooming period is so short; but another flower usually follows and the same cycle begins all over. It just takes time.

Just like this rose, we're born into this life looking pristine, fresh, new. Beautiful. As time marches on we too are faced with desperation and pleasure; the storms and sunshine in our lives. We too have times when we are abused by things we have no control over; we have the same users after what we have to offer and some just take it with no regard to what they leave behind. Just like this rose we all have our own beauty that shines through no matter what the weather conditions of our life are at the moment. And again, just like this rose we all eventually shrivel and die. It seems to me that the trick is to just hang on when the bad times hit. Oh, it's not easy; that I know. But if we can just get through them, the sun will eventually warm us again and we can continue to grow, to share our inner beauty with others; we have to allow it time. Whether we know it or not we all have admirers; others that can see through the rain battered petals of our existence and still see the beauty inside. We all need to try to remember this and share ourselves...before night falls and we too have to shrivel...and die.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Alternative Deathstyles

I know that everybody already has a pretty good idea of what they want done with the body that they live in once it stops living. I've gotten responses of all sorts telling me what is already planned in your heads for the time when your skulls are no longer filled with the energy that makes you walking, talking, thinking, feeling beings. That's great!

Today I was thinking about a question that was asked of me the other day and started coming up with so many answers, all real, that I thought it wise to put them all in writing. It was a simple question...I thought...I had answered it hundreds of times with almost a stock answer but in reality I never gave the whole picture. I was asked "Buried or cremated, what other decision is there?" Simple answer right? Buried is buried and cremated is cremated; the decision is what you prefer, it's a matter of choice. That wasn't the exact answer I gave but ultimately that's the gist of it. After the conversation ended and we parted I never gave it another thought until today; this is what I came up with.

Decisions, decisions...OK, you want to be buried, no problem, I can handle you want to be buried in a family cemetery, one that only has had other burials of your own family? Do you want to be buried in a public cemetery, one that has many other families buried beside you? How about a specific religion, do you want to be buried in a section of or a cemetery that only houses people of the same faith? How about buried at sea, today it's not as uncommon as you might think. OK, better yet, might you want to be entombed, you know, a mausoleum? Again, there are family mausoleums, above ground mausoleums, public mausoleums, mausoleums built underground, into the sides of hills, near lakes...All for the cost of a small home complete with a new car in the garage and some fine furnishings...NOW we're talking about buying property too! Yep. Then besides all of this you have music to select, flowers, pallbearers, clothing, caskets, vaults, stationary items, ministers, churches, locations, visitation times and the list seems endless! What ever happened to a plain casket, a ceremony and a place in the church cemetery?

Then we have cremation. Similar decisions have to be made when it comes to this type of final disposition. Do we want to have all of the aspects of a "normal" funeral with the only difference being that instead of going in the ground or in a wall we'll cremate? If you do, guess what? Many of the above decisions will still have to be decided upon. A memorial service? Same scenario with flowers, ministers, locations, music, now...movies, an urn. about a dove release or maybe balloons filled with wild flower seeds to be released? But we're still not done. What are your intentions for the cremated remains? They can always be kept in an urn on display in perhaps that favorite niche of yours off of the dining room; please stop. Or maybe the deceased wanted to be placed in a Columbarium, or scattered. Scattered? Well, you have the ocean, you have the mountains, you have the Mississippi River for all I know, just use your imagination and I'm sure you can come up with someplace special. We're not done yet though...How about being shot into space? How about being mixed with cement to form a "Reef Ball" and placed in the ocean? How about some jewelry? Would you like some jewels made from your loved one? I can get you a diamond if you'd like, maybe some nice earrings that have some of mom in one and some of dad in the other? Oh, the decision process is simple.

I can't finish this post without the mention of Body Donation, Cryogenics, Plastination, Mummification, Calcination and of course the ever eternal Time Capsule. My head is spinning. We, the funeral industry, along with every other entity that has tried to get on the band wagon have made it possible for dieing to be one of the most far out rituals this earth has ever seen. They claim that all of these things AND MORE help the bereaved get through the loss of a loved one and I'm sure for some it does. Maybe if they keep pounding the public over and over with all of this it may be perceived as a necessity some day. But definitely not in my lifetime; thankfully.

After all is said and done, I'm a funeral director and if you want any or ALL of this I can certainly help you...however...When the question is posed to me again about burial vs. cremation, after all of this has been thought out and written down...the answer is still going to be the same as it was before; burial is burial and cremation is cremation and the decisions you make will all be your choice. I will always do what you want but will I ever fully understand why you want it?......Nope.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

You don't know what I need, but I do

It's definitely not a common occurrence but more than once I have heard about or read that someone was found dead...long after they had actually died and the family was living in the same house. How could that be? When I've heard these things I've always wondered how on earth something like that could happen, why would anyone want to keep a dead person in their home or didn't someone, anyone, care to check on these people? Well, this week I had the fortunate opportunity (lucky me) to be involved in a very similar situation.

Last Tuesday, 12 days ago, I was awakened at about 2:20 in the morning by a call from my answering service. There was a death in a home and the only information they had been able to attain was that the woman who called was calling about her mother, her telephone number, and the message that she needed to speak with a funeral director as soon as possible. Once I hung up with my service, I called the number and a woman answered, she sounded as if she was expecting my call so I knew I had the right person. I introduced myself and she immediately began to explain that on that morning (the day before), she had gone in to give mother her breakfast and found that she couldn't wake her. "She sleeps a lot now". Mother had been sleeping all day long and hadn't eaten a thing; not breakfast, lunch nor dinner and the daughter knew she had to eat something because she had gotten so thin over the past two months.

At 7PM, the daughter had gone out to the store to get something and when she returned she looked in on her mother and noticed that mothers face and hands were blue; she was now crying. She tried to warm her up but nothing was changing and her fear was that she may have died while she was at the store and she now didn't know what to do. When I asked her if her mother was under a doctors care she told me not really, she had taken her mother to 3 different doctors and each had told them she was dieing of cancer but neither believed them. The daughter could nurse her back to health herself. I explained that she needed to contact 911 or if she would prefer I would do it for her. "No thank you, I'll do it" she said, "thank you for the information and I'm sorry to have bothered you so late but I'd like to clean mother up before anyone comes". Before I hung up I explained that after the police arrived they would call EMS who would contact the coroner who would contact me and I would see her later.

Needless to say I got very little sleep that night because of the expectant phone call. While getting ready to go in to the office that morning I was wondering why we hadn't gotten the call; I was on the phone with her for nearly an hour and had felt a rapport, but this happens. I had even thought of calling the coroner to find out who did get the call but decided against it; oh well, I hope I helped her.

This past Wednesday, we got the call; 8 or 9 days after the death according to the coroner.

The coroner and the cops all thought this lady, the daughter, was as they put it "loony tunes" yet she hadn't really done anything illegal; wrong, but supposedly no law covers it. She had finally called 911 that morning and they had walked in on a very unexpected scene. They said the house was like an "icebox". By the time I got there it still was but I never saw the daughter. It was apparent to them that this woman had been dead for quite some time yet they had no idea how long until the coroner arrived. The coroner was able to speak with the last doctor she had seen and he had been able to confirm what the daughter had told them; she had been dieing of cancer so no autopsy was ordered and she was released to us. I spoke with this woman 8 days ago and she seemed exceptionally distressed but I wouldn't have classified her as "loony tunes", then, but now I was wondering if something might not have been right and in my sleepiness I hadn't caught it; other than her obvious denial.

When I met this woman, the daughter, face to face she was by herself and seemed quiet. We talked for quite some time that day and she explained that her mother was all she had in this world. She knew her mother had cancer and had died that first day but couldn't bear to give her up. As each day passed she knew what she had to do but didn't want to. She sat with her daily holding her hand and as physical changes began to occur even though she was basically refrigerated she eventually felt she could let her go; that's when she dialed 911. There wasn't much we could do other than hold services and bury her mother but that was all the daughter expected or wanted; I think she was at peace with the death.

Society has deemed that 1, 2, maybe 3 days and the funeral should be over; time to start to go on with our lives. Here is a woman who said to hell with society, I'll do it at my pace and it seems that she is the better for it. You've heard it from me before, "death is very personal", and this is how this person chose to do it. Because she stepped outside of the painted boundaries, because she chose to do it the way she needed to, because her way happened to be a little different she now became a "loony tunes". In my opinion, for whatever it may be worth, I think she was and is far from being her new designation. No one was hurt by what she chose, obviously there was no illegality to it, no one was affected in any way; except onlookers who couldn't understand. Her behavior may seem odd even to you or I but was it wrong? Of course her need and want for her mother haven't disappeared but doing what she did obviously was to her advantage. Why should anyone, including myself, see her actions as anything but the fulfillment of a special need? She has my full heart, and has helped me to realize once again, that no matter what someone does, no matter how odd it may seem...we never fully know what someone truly needs except our understanding and acceptance.

Friday, August 24, 2007

It's not for everyone

During those final hours of luxuriating in blissful nothingness
Every enigmatic problem seems to simply vanish
And the fear and anxiety of the unknown become tolerable
The morphine helps to make it all slowly disappear
Happiness will be forgetting that pain existed in your world

Sometimes images of yesterdays gone flash before you
Utter sympathy for those you have to cruelly leave behind
Collectively thinking goodbyes as you slip into the abyss
Keep me here, please, keep me here I want no more
Someday they will all join me in this beauty...won't they

I guess it depends on which end you're on.....

Take me, use me, slap me around!

For some time now I have been trying to introduce some knowledge that I picked up back in 2003 but have been putting it off. A response to a recent post of mine titled "Wanna save a buck?" was left by a fellow blogger who is the author over at AngryBarCode and prompted me to write this. The gist of my post was "Pre-Need" and the response referred to the donation of ones body to science as well as mention of being a crash dummy; I'm assuming jokingly but perhaps not. In my humble opinion, there's not a single thing wrong with complete body donation provided you know and accept the possibilities.

Back in 2003, a relative gave me the book "Stiff" as a birthday gift. This book is classified as non-fiction and was written by Mary Roach, published by WW Norman and Co. in the same year and was a New York Times Bestseller. Perhaps I'm naive but I used to think that when one donated their body to Science that grandiose things would happen to the body...I could envision medical students all huddled around my lifeless form pointing out all of the different muscles ( muscles, another dream! ) and what they control or perhaps noted surgeons dissecting my body trying to detect the cause of a specific disease, or maybe even neurologists studying my brain to see what made me, me, all in the hopes that this would somehow further medical science. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that there was a possibility that the Inn would be full and there would be no medical need for me. They don't want to turn away a good specimen though because there are so many other useful things that can be done with these donations, so instead they're just farmed out, sold.

For example, where do you think you could find a living person or group of people who would be willing to allow themselves to be part of an experiment to determine the effects a plane crash has on the human body? Who do you know that would have subjected themselves to a crucifixion so that scientists could determine if the Shroud of Turin had the correct markings on it? We all know the importance of automobile safety but would you want to be the one used to discover that crashing into a wall at 75 miles per hour with no seat belt causes severe skull fractures and probable crushed ribs; while alive? How about standing in a field and being shot at to determine the impact a new type of bullet has on human flesh? Would you like someone to blow you up and see how close you have to be to a specific bomb before you begin losing limbs? How do you think forensics know that a rotted human body has been dead for X amount of hours exposed to X degrees? All of these tests are conducted on cadavers. This is not a book review but I must admit that the reading fascinated me; taught me things I had never even considered. I'm not trying to discourage donating ones body to science, not by a long shot because tons of valuable information has been gathered thanks to these donations; and will continue to be gathered as long as we can provide the material for them to study. Just keep in mind, as I do, that your idea of a donation to science might not end up being exactly what you had in mind. And if you're okay with that, go for it! Let's face it, are any of the alternatives really any better? I don't think so.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wanna save a buck?

People think I'm nuts when I mention "pre-need" but you need to do it, all of us do.

Hypothetical situations:

I have a 5 year old son who will drive someday, probably when he's 16 or 17.

My wife and I can't afford it now but some day we would like to buy a house; will we ever have enough?

My 8th grade daughter says she wants to be a doctor so I can count on at least 10 more years of tuition.

I'd better get renters insurance in case this apartment ever burns down and I lose everything.

We'd like to go to Europe for our 25th anniversary but who can afford it? Prices just keep going up and up.

...oh, and I guess I might die someday too ( want to lay odds?). I wonder if I should even bother taking care of that or should I just leave it to who's left? That is if there is anyone left.

Of the things I've mentioned above, some might be concerns of a few of us, some may not apply to us at all and some may seem far fetched but let me continue...What car dealership do you know of that will sell you a car at today's prices and deliver a brand new one in 10 years when the actual cost might be 5 times as much as today? Do you know of a builder that will sell you a house at today's market prices, and will take payments, but build it in 15 years at no additional cost to you? I don't think I know of any schools that will accept your tuition today and promise your child the education you paid for in 10 or 15 years. Why do we get insurance? To pay for something that "might" happen in the future? If I can't afford a trip now what makes me think that I'll be able to afford one in 18 years when the prices have skyrocketed in comparison to today. If I could only buy it, lock in the price and pay it off a little at a time. All of these maybes and what ifs may or may not happen...BUT...We're all going to die, I'm certain. Do you think that today's cost of whatever type of funeral you want is going to be the same 9 or 49 years from now? Fat chance. Pre-Need, it's simple - you select what you want today, pay for it today or in payments and you are guaranteed the same as you've selected today in 9, 23, 30, 45 no additional cost. Where else can you do this? Why would you want to do it? You can't do it anywhere else that I can think of and I would want to do it now because if nothing else, death is inevitable and let the funeral director worry if he can do it without taking a loss; and don't worry he has to; it's the law.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Will you be my Mummy?

Every now and then I come across a website that amazes me. In today's world of funerals a great majority of the population seems to be leaning toward cremation or some type of "green" final disposition, you know, back to the earth, no more unneeded landfill material, etc. We've all heard that burying people and the use of toxic chemicals are affecting the Eco-system by the introduction of these same into the ground. I know I've heard the argument that soon there won't be enough land to live on if we keep using what little we have to bury the dead. Every bit of this is probably true to some extent and there's no question in my mind that things will dramatically change in the future, but I don't think this is the path.

There is a Utah based firm called Summum which acquired it's Tax Exempt Corporate status in 1975 which supposedly has been highlighted on ABC News, Discovery Channel, Learning Channel and various radio broadcasts as well as in print media. This is the first time that I have heard of this in modern times and perhaps might be yours as well. With the use of modern techniques they mummify people. You read that right, they can mummify you and then they can provide you with what they call a Mummiform

which is a like the mummy case placed in the ancient sarcophagus in my eyes. I didn't think these were marketed anywhere! They'll also sell you face masks made of solid gold!

They offer Time Capsules which are hermetically sealed for all eternity as well as mausoleums much like Egyptian tombs complete with standing figures keeping watch.

Anyway, if you're interested in spending $100,000 or more to turn someone into a Mummy as opposed to maybe the $2,000 it might cost you to be cremated or $8,000 to be buried here is your chance! Good Luck to you all! Hard to believe isn't it?

Sorry, we have more important business...

It must have been somewhere near 3:00 on a Wednesday afternoon. The time might be slightly off and I couldn't tell you the year but I distinctly remember it was a Wednesday when everyone in town heard and some felt the explosion. At the time I was living near a Military Ocean Terminal which was responsible for the transfer of a large percentage of ammunition and military vehicles to strategic locations around the globe. It wasn't a secret but there was never any advertisement so to speak of what went on in there. We all saw the vehicles constantly entering and leaving and to the passerby it might have seemed like a huge garage but thanks to civilian workers there was no secret as to what they did.

Supposedly, during routine maintenance to one of the ships in the port something went wrong, a fire ensued and before anyone knew what was happening an explosion took place. The local press never revealed (if they knew) what the cause was and it apparently wasn't large enough to cause any major damage to the vessel but it did manage to claim 2 lives. Both of the young men that were killed were not locals and I later found out that they were enlisted men, with families on opposite ends of the country. The first of the two was obviously killed instantly and the other jumped from the ship into the water according to someone on the dock who had been screaming to him; he resurfaced on his own 3 days later. During those 3 days the Coast Guard, the military as well as local fisherman looked for him in vain.

Whatever caused this accident, the military was taking full responsibility for their deaths and was doing whatever possible to assist the families involved at no cost to them. We were basically called upon to do what was necessary directly through the military with no contact with the families. Both families in entirety had been flown to a nearby airport and were housed in the best hotel in the area. The day of the double memorial service brought two white stretch limousines to the doors of the funeral home led by military vehicles and followed by a string of more limousines. There were high ranking officials in attendance that day as well as both families and personal attendants to them. Some of the other "employees" from the terminal were there as well. These officials spoke at the service offering their condolences to the families. At the conclusion of the service, the military had arranged to have a catered reception of sorts for all that had attended; all neatly wrapped up, they were done, time for the brass to leave. It was at this reception that I learned that until that day both families had been kept separate since their arrival yet seemed to almost become one as they discussed each others loss and cried together. Both families were going to take their men home with them. Each was a husband, a son, a brother and one was a father. That day made me realize that no matter how much I or anyone do for the families of the deceased, unless I truly get involved with them one on one, try to step into their shoes and feel along side them, all I'm doing is being an accessory after the fact.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ewwwwwwww.....too morbid!

You know, today was not the first, nor will it be the last time that I hear or read the title of this post. Sometimes I wonder why people choose to live in a fantasy world. If we don't discuss it or even think about it, well maybe, just maybe it will shrink off into nowhere and never happen or be heard of again. Well people, that ain't the way it works! Today was the first time that I actually bothered to check the definition of the word "morbid" because I thought for a slight second, maybe I am morbid. But no, uh uh, if talking about life, frustration, caring, fear and emotion is morbid, if talking about attempting to heal the heart is morbid, if talking about a mothers love is morbid, if talking about fairness, humanity and the soul is morbid...well...then I must admit I'm morbid.

What are people really interested in? Posts about how to draw traffic to their blog so that someone may click on an ad and put a penny in their pocket? Are they looking to read about how much trouble I had sleeping last night because I had to change my babies diapers every hour on the hour? Are they looking to come to my site where they can read every Internet joke that they've already received in their mail or are they perhaps looking for the best recipe in which to barbecue a damned shrimp? This is what I meant when I wrote my last post about "tags", all you have to do is discuss something that the masses find different and WHAM!!! - the label is yours. I make no bones about it, (no pun intended), sure I write about death and mention cremation and pain and suffering and heartbreak but this too is a part of life whether you like it or not. As far as I'm concerned there's nothing morbid about life.

So in the future I might as well try to shield everyone from these disgusting, morbid posts that I write and in fairness to all will place a warning "morbid" label on all of them. Hopefully, this will keep the most tenderhearted souls from running across a blog that sickens them; after all, I certainly don't want vomit on my pages.

I feel better now.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Tags...Not for your toe

When I read blogs, and I do, I read several over the course of any given day and I am constantly looking for tags or for labels if you will. This is no news to you but these help me to get to where I want to go, to see what I want to see. They're pretty helpful as long as the tag is a true marker for what the content is really all about otherwise they're useless. When I buy an article of clothing the tag is extremely important because I need to know if this body of mine will fit into the item. I don't know about you but there have been times when I've gotten home only to discover that the item was mis-marked or labeled wrong and it's never enjoyable. Once again, tags are of no value if they are wrong.

Ever since I can remember remembering, there have been tags placed on people as well. The difference that I have found with most tags that are on people is that they are usually wrong, not once in a while, usually, however occasionally a true marker or indicator. What I've also noticed is that different cultures have different tags. It seems as if this tagging system when applied to people is often times an indication of what we don't want as opposed to what we do and the sad part about this is if we don't look further than the tag we often times avoid for no real reason. Society has taught us that certain words, or tags, are not what the "normal" person wants and because of this tutoring there are times when the tagged individual along with the tagger and the public actually believe it. Even though Human Rights organizations have all but banned prejudices they still exist and very few of us can truly say we have none; unfortunately I'm not one of those very few. I guess I was schooled by a society of masters but I try.

I was born like most of the world, with a heart, a brain, some skin and internal organs that keep my body functioning. Lets be real here, a liver is a liver, lung tissue is lung tissue, fingernails are fingernails and when all of this mess is put together it is classified as a person, a human being. Sure, skin has variations of color, some hair is more coarse than other hair, some people have toes that overlap and some have slighter frames than others just to name a few distinctions...but despite these minute differences...when it's all put together it's still a person; perhaps somewhat different in appearance than you or I but a person. Now, once we get past the physical aspect this is where the differences really start to show themselves. This is the part of us we call personality, my belief is that this is acquired as we grow and we have the ability to alter it some. This could be the fun part because just like our templates, we can tweak it to near where we want it; yet rarely perfect it. Next comes emotion. Emotion that is brought on by physical pleasure or pain cannot be helped, it just happens. BUT, some emotions are learned, taught to us, this I truly believe. We begin learning from the moment we are born into this world. The infant in the crib who feels uncomfortable out of hunger and cries until fed, they've now learned what crying might get them. Do kids hate? Not until they're taught. And guess who's giving them these wonderful lessons, you got it, we are...why?...because that's what we were taught. It seems to me as if the teaching of certain subjects needs to end and the introduction of others needs to begin.

OK, now that I've gotten all that out I can get to the point I was attempting to make 5 minutes ago. What I try to do when I see someone who is different from me, someone who has an obvious tag hanging from their neck is to try to remember that I was born just like them and the rest of who they are merely comes from what they've been taught. As far as the tag goes? I just try to ignore it hoping that it's mis-labeled. And until they teach me differently, I have no intention to judge anyone for anything. I can only wish that the tag(s) around my neck are never a hindrance or concern to anyone until they know me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

When I grow up I want to Die

Funny title huh, well it has nothing to do with my wanting to die, the fact is, that's the furthest thing from my mind, of that I'm sure. When I survey the life that I've led so far I can only wish that I can live out the rest of my days in a similar fashion; but I want to keep growing. It hasn't been all sweet and wonderful, sure there have been roses but often times they've been full of thorns. I've had my share of crap that beat me down at times, sometimes to the point of feeling like I couldn't stop the bleeding but I've also had lots of good, lots of great. But again, I want to keep growing. I don't want to grow up in the respect that I no longer can change, no longer crave knowledge, no longer strive for love and friendship. To me all of these things are personal growth and when I get to the point in my life when I no longer desire these things, well, my life will be done; it's time to move on, die.
It seems to me that the older I get, the more I crave of life. Not necessarily possessions, they're nice of course but I find it's people I want. People who can show me what I can't see on my own, the ones that enlighten and teach me somehow. The older I get the more I want to love. When I was younger making love was more important to me than just loving people. Please don't misunderstand, nothing in this world could ever replace physical love but just loving someone and not expecting a return on your deposit has become more fulfilling to me. Sounds strange when I read this but I mean it because again, I want to keep growing.
Believe it or not seeing death has helped me to grow. Talk about sounding strange. I know that I'm not the only one, nor one of the few who have ever experienced death, I've no patent on the experience or subject. But seeing it day in and day out has made me realize the importance of living life NOW and scooping up as much as I can now and continuing to grow now. So, when I get to the time in my life when my growth spurt has ended, do with me as you will but try to learn something from it. Try to learn never to grow up.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My obituary - sort of...

A few posts back I wrote a post titled Do you want your obituary to come true? and it spoke of an "exercise" that I was going to do which involved writing my own obituary. It took a lot of thinking to combine what I know about myself today and what I hope my obituary will read when I'm dead, but I thought since I brought it up I ought to share it with you.

Seattle, Washington - Mr. D.S. Weep, aged 78, of Seattle, formerly of New York, North Carolina and South Carolina died Thursday, May 18, 2029 with his wife at his side in Seattle General Hospital after a long battle with cancer. Mr. Weep will be calcinated and there will be no local services held however scattering of his calcinated remains will take place in various countries that he and Mrs. Weep visited during their retirement together.

Mr. Weep was born on September 12, 1958 in New York, a son of the late Jose and V.V. Weep and at the age of 16 met his future wife of 48 years, M.T. Bombom Weep. Six years later the two of them married. During their marriage they moved about the country finally retiring in Seattle. For the majority of his life he was a funeral director/embalmer/crematory operator/calcinator. Before retirement, he and his wife owned and operated the "Scatter me Here" bed and breakfast on Rocky Mount Ridge in Seattle which has now been passed to family members who still operate it. Mr. Weep was a member of the Tunnel to Truth Church where he assisted with their ministry; He was a lifetime member of the British Institute of Embalmers; a member of Cremation Association of North America; a member and past president of the National Funeral Directors Association; enjoyed travel and blogging; He gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and loved helping his fellow man. Mr. Weep helped many people through times of hardship over the years and will be especially remembered for his work which started the federal regulation of funeral costs. There were many who disapproved of his involvement but as he used to say "his eye was on the little guy". He will be remembered and missed.

Aside from his wife, survivors include his brother, Wizzard and wife Lillard; a sister, Nina and husband Twink; a niece Jesusa and husband Shea and their six children, Connie, Donnie, Lonnie, Maurice, Loquitia and Bozo; 3 nephews, Toletta and wife Spruce, Chard and wife Charo, Rugghew and wife Dolly Lou as well as many friends. Mrs. Weep begins her world cruise one month from today and will be scattering some of D.S. in every port she visits. In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Weep requests that donations be deposited to the account "D.S. Cruise Fund" at any local Bank of America which will be used to offset the cost of the cruise; which is in memory of D.S. - Hey, can't hurt for trying right?

This started off very seriously and wound up being silly but the contents, the meat, is what I would like it to read. Now, this is the first post that I have written that was ficticious but there is a lot of this fiction which I would hope some day becomes reality - and of course, some that I hope remains fiction. Only time will tell.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nut Case...oops, Cake

The following recipe was created by man, for man, and is thought by some to once be used as an anesthetic but today is just an unwanted necessity. It takes years to make but in my opinion is definitely worth the wait. The end result serves thousands and thousands of people and can last for a lifetime if stored properly.


2 cups of curiosity

2 cups of fear

1 1/2 gallons of money

3 pounds of education

3 cups of tears

2 3/4 cups of sweat

2 sticks of compassion

1 level cup of sorrow

As much frustration as you can stand ( can cause headaches, nausea, ulcers )

1 pound of patience

1 extra large heart ( minced )

3 cups of love

1 large jar of understanding

1/2 pint of pain

Start with a large bowl, add the curiosity, fear, heart and love; combine well using either a fork or spatula. Next, take a small pinch of the money and add that in; this will help bind the curiosity and fear together. Once you see that its beginning to adhere to the side of the bowl, start adding the education one pound at a time until a thick paste results. At this time you need to add more money into the mix so that you can continue. The mixture will now begin to harden. Simultaneously add part of the tears and sweat until it softens again; from this point on it will remain soft. Add the compassion. Add the sorrow. Add the frustration and the patience. Add the understanding and pain. Finally add the rest of the ingredients, mix well and mold into the shape of a funeral director. Bake continually at 450 degrees for the next 40 years. When you want some, just open the oven and pick at it or pull it apart. Not to worry, it will still be there tomorrow, or next week or 20 years from now at 2 in the morning for your immediate use.

*Caution - this recipe may produce severe side effects if all of the ingredients are not used.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

'Round and 'Round she goes....

Did you ever feel like you were getting set up for a fall, or a monetary beating? Today was one of those days and there wasn't a thing that I could do about it as I watched the plan being laid right before me. Maybe I'm being too skeptical and it's not going to play out the way I expect. I sure hope it doesn't but it felt so familiar to me that it's got me wondering. We'll see. I'll definitely survive, no matter what.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

There's a way without a Will

Today almost everyone owns something of value. Teenagers today own cars, elaborate audio systems, laptops, hand held computerized devices and the list could go on and on depending on the teen. Some 20'somethings also own besides most of the things already mentioned, homes, stock, bonds and still more. As we continue to age we acquire more and more valuables;we've become a society of collectors. If we're still in possession of these things when we die we may want them to be passed on to someone in particular so, a will, no matter how formal, is something that anyone who owns even 1 thing should have. "Should" and "does" might have a couple of letters in common but that's where the similarity ends. Most young people don't even consider a will, perhaps understandably so.

A will often comes into play when we begin to think about death. Maybe we're advised by an attorney that this is something we need, maybe we've heard horror stories and feel the importance or maybe we just see the necessity and get it taken care of on our own. No matter what spurs us to have a will drawn up, it somehow gives us a sense of relief knowing that our wishes will be upheld when we die. Most, but not all attorneys that draw up wills know that funeral arrangements should not be put in a will since wills are most often read after a funeral - when it's too late to act upon those arrangements.

If you want to orchestrate your own funeral, I feel the best way to be sure that your final wishes are upheld is to sit down and plan everything you want on paper. It doesn't have to be safeguarded with your will and it doesn't have to be done by an attorney but it does need to get into the hands of several people who you feel might be around when your funeral arrangements are made with a director. This will not only ensure that your wishes become reality but may also take some stress off of your survivors by knowing what you wanted. Can you imagine the feeling after cremating someone only to find in their will that they wanted to be buried? Can't be a nice feeling. So, if you "want it your way", firstly, keep it out of your will, next, put it on paper and finally you need to let the right people know what your way is. Today, not after your funeral.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Unconditional Love Never Dies

When the call first came in the gentleman on the other end of the line explained that his sister had died in a local nursing facility and he wanted us to help him. She was going to be cremated and they wanted a "simple" memorial service at the funeral home. He said, the only thing was that we had to wait a while before we could pick her up because there were family members coming to see her; he was at the facility. I told him that would be no problem at all and in between the conversation was able to ask questions which when answered told me what I needed to do next. We set an appointment for "sometime" that afternoon as soon as he could get away. Before he hung up I was able to speak with a nurse and asked her to contact us when she believed all the family was near leaving. She did.

At the arrangement conference I discovered that the deceased woman was 50 years old, her next of kin were her two half brothers, her mother had died years ago and her birth father had deserted the family after she was born. The man who was her father as she was growing up had never adopted her and abuse was inferred; it's possible that he and her mother were never married, I'm not sure. She had never herself married...and...though 50 years old she was still a child. She was born handicapped and she was never able to grasp anything past 5 years. When I saw her she even looked like a child; certainly not a 50 year old woman. I was told by her brothers that they'd often heard that when she had been "diagnosed" the family had been told that her life expectancy was maybe 20 years. OK, here's where it starts. Reading this you might think the way I did at first. Oh, poor woman, what a life she must have led, what a shame, this must have been tough on the family all these years, why do things like this happen, poor soul.

Prior to the memorial service the family brought several things to the funeral home which they wanted me to display at the service that night. Among some of the things was a poster made by the school she attended which showed pictures of her during different functions, a tangled mess of maybe 15 or so award ribbons where she had participated in special Olympics, a photo portrait of her and our magnetic board filled with photos of her from the time she was a few years old until today. As a child it was obvious that something just wasn't right however, the first thing I noticed in all of the photos that weren't of her alone was that she always seemed to have at least one pair of arms around her and she was always hugging someone and smiling; not the posed smile of someone waiting for a camera to take their picture, a smile of happiness; contentment. Now I know that she couldn't possibly have been happy every moment of her life and that most pictures would have been taken at times of happiness but she was after all nicknamed "giggles". Happiness had to be a common factor somewhere in here.

As I said earlier, some people might feel as I did; poor thing, never had a life. But think about it. While true she never had the chance to grow up and be a teenager, a wife, a mother, she never had the chance to experience about 90% of what a person of 50 years of age does, but she had been happy, spontaneous and loved; almost enviable. But...of course during her life she could feel pain, she could fear and at times probably felt despair. I'll never know what her life was really like. We've all heard "Ignorance is bliss", but was she really ignorant of the pain in life...I'm not sure anyone knows this.
The people that came to her memorial service were mostly friends of her family however there were very many of her friends as well. Her "boyfriend" was there and I got to meet him. He was going to miss her dearly, I could see that. He called himself her boyfriend and they used to walk hand in hand everywhere; she used to call him her sweet pea. He told me that they were best friends and he had known her all his life which I later found out was really only the last 15 years of his life. But 15 years is a long time. He sobbed and held his head down during the entire service. After the service was over, everyone was milling around visiting when he came over to me to show me the picture book that used to be his girlfriends. The family had given it to him and it was obvious he was going to treasure it. You know, I felt more sorrow for him than I did for any of the others at the service that night. To most he was her boyfriend, but still somewhat insignificant. I couldn't help but feel that his losing his giggles was going to be have a tremendous impact on him. He's probably poreing over that book as I write this and as you read this. No matter what the family wanted, this turned out to be anything but a "simple" memorial service and she was far from simple no matter what any outsider might have thought.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Do you want your obituary to come true?

OK, I have to admit, this post could almost be classified as being stolen but it wasn't, really.

Anyway, I was talking to my wife this morning as we were both getting prepared to hit the business world. This seems to be one of our best times to just talk about "things", usually nothing of great importance, sort of a warm up session. She was telling me about a woman, I don't know any real particulars except that this happened on the "Oprah" show. The reason she mentioned it to me was because of the content and the conversation we were having prior. I was saying that I couldn't understand why an obituary which was more of a biography rather than service information was so important to so many people. That's when she told me.

The reason I said stolen earlier is because this is second hand information and I could be messing up some of the particulars. If any of you can point them out if I do, I'd appreciate it. OK, this woman was telling everyone that she and her husband at one time both worked, had high paying careers, lived rather large. She went on to say that out of the blue one day she decided that she was going to write her obituary. She wrote it in past tense (of course) through the eyes of a 70 year old. She said that once she had written it she realized that she had included things that were not part of her current life yet upon consideration, wanted them to be. She said this was a life altering experience for her. After reading the obituary which spoke of children, grandchildren and love of family and friends, she recognized that this was not the path her life was taking. A decision was made at that point to leave her career, spend more time with her children or more time making them, I'm not sure which, and really becoming a good friend to the "friends" she already had; she updates it when new accomplishments occur. Now granted, leaving ones job is not something that many of us can just do on a whim but the rest of it sounds pretty doable.

Funny how this exercise opened her eyes to a means to fulfill a fantasy. In the past I have thought obituaries that were flowery and overly descriptive were just too much. They may still be, but, I've decided that I'm going to try this exercise myself and write my own obituary. Perhaps this is a good way of foreseeing what you want for your future and might even offer up a way to fulfill that want. I'm going to give it a shot and maybe you should too. Who knows.


If anyone had the unfortunate experience to read my last post (which no longer exists) I have to apologize - big time.
If you didn't get the chance to read it - good - it was wrong, I was wrong to generalize. It's been deleted, gone, Nada. For any of you who this hurt, I'm sorry. I wrote it very hastily and re-read it today and knew it had to go, so it did.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A day in the life

This happened to me when I was twenty one years old and just, I mean just, starting in the funeral business. When I graduated from mortuary school the next step of course was to find myself a job, a place where I could fulfill the requirements of the 1 year apprenticeship that needed to be completed before I got a full license. I learned about the position I eventually took from a friend of a friend of a friend and was very happy to accept it.
It was a large company that had branches in two other states and was really a good name to work for. Because I was an apprentice I was given a lot of the work that others who had been there for a while didn't particularly want to do, but now that I think about it, they were more valuable to the firm doing what they did anyway.

It was at this firm that I learned how to embalm, sure I had the book knowledge and had actually gotten my hands involved on occasion at school but it wasn't until I saw it daily that I really learned what to do. It was during this time, between times of queasiness, that I realized that I enjoyed what I did and had made the right choice.

We had a mixed bag of people working together all for the same goal; I thought. We had the office staff, the dispatcher, at the time, a switchboard operator, and directors and apprentices of varying age. We had the director who was a biker on his days off, the one who made jewelry in his spare time, the head embalmer who was always the cause of hysterics and of course the owner and his family of managers. No one seemed to have any kind of problems with each other and the time was enjoyable for the most part.

This was a Jewish funeral home and a great many people were placed in a shroud, un-embalmed and laid in a pine "box" which bore the Star of David; some were fastened with wooden pegs while others were closed with screws which were really big eye hooks. Each of the bodies had toe tags on but they were also identified with the "work order" attached to the table they were on or to the casket they were in. This sheet would explain how each person had been prepared and was to be signed by the preparer. This was a good way to track who did what. I was at first unaware but it could also be used to locate the direction in which the finger would point if there was a problem; and this day was.

I was sent down to the preparation room to bring up a person that was to be buried that same morning. When I approached the casket I did as I was taught and opened it to give it a once over to make sure that everything looked alright in case the family wanted to see the person. That's when I noticed that the persons mouth looked odd, too taught, it had been glued which was not our habit. I decided that I was going to put my newly learned skill to practice and fix it. When I finally got the un-embalmed persons mouth open i saw it. There was no mistaking the bloody holes in this persons jaw...........where there once were teeth!!!!!!!!!!! I have to be honest with you, I nearly shit in my pants that morning. I didn't see it happen but my mind was reeling and the vision of it was playing before my eyes. All of the stories that I had considered bullshit, that I had heard about funeral directors pulling teeth were unraveling right in front of me! What the hell do I do now??!!

I closed the casket and headed straight to the top. I was sure that this was not common practice here and knew that the owners would be grateful that I let them know. They called one another and all gathered around while I told them what I "thought" I'd discovered. No questions were asked of me however I was asked if I could keep this quiet. I of course said fine but in my head I was thinking "no way, this is going to be my last day here, nope this isn't for me". Within 20 minutes, there was talk going around about the person who had just gotten fired. Apparently, the "work order" was all the proof they needed. Later that day it came out that the 20+ year veteran of the company had admitted to the deed and it was mentioned that he would be buying gold to make jewelry from now on. I have no idea if anything happened beyond his being fired but it was never discussed again. I couldn't believe this was happening. I made a conscious decision that day to completely walk away from this business if I ever even heard of something like this happening again. Needless to say I'm still at it and that was the first and only time I ever came across a situation even remotely similar.

Today was the first I ever mentioned this to anyone ( so why not tell it in front of millions and millions of people! ). Seriously though, I had to tell you this today because I wanted all of you to be aware that I don't live with my head in the clouds. I know that there are people in this world that do crazy shit and I also know it could happen in my business. What I also know though, is, there are many, many, many, many, many, many more people in this world who are good than evil and most are just trying to get by as best they can. So recognize the shit, just don't dwell on it.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Death Patrol "101"

Since the dawn of time, mankind has been memorializing and caring for the dead. Documentation over the centuries proves that this was the case as far back as ancient times and, before the advent of the "undertaker" or the more modern "funeral director", people in all societies took care of their dead. The concept isn't something that was thought of simply to profit from someones tears. Man has always felt it necessary to have an individual or group of individuals who would take on the responsibility of caring for their deceased families.

In ancient Egyptian times the thought was that they should mummify or embalm their dead. Even in those ancient times there were certain people who took care of funeral arrangements for the families of deceased loved ones.

The ancient Romans either chose cremation or burial and wanted the dead body to lay in state for all to view. A hand full of people could afford to have their loved ones embalmed and they were the ones who dealt with the "libitinarius", or as we call them today, funeral directors or yesteryear's "undertakers". Their dead would lay in state wearing special clothing that would have been purchased along with professional mourners all for the procession to the grave which was considered the ceremony. These customs are still upheld today and the funeral director makes all of these arrangements.

Ancient Greeks did not embalm and families of the deceased prepared the body for burial. Flowers and clothing for the dead were provided by friends and loved ones. The Greeks would only look at the body to be sure that the person was dead rather than sleeping. Friends and family would watch over their dead to be absolutely sure that no harm would come to the body between death and burial.

Cremation was not even a consideration for ancient Hebrews and the dead body was often buried without a coffin depending on the families choice. The body was buried the same day as death. Some believe this was because they had no way of keeping the body from odors and decomposition. It was not unusual for the family of the dead to perform all the tasks necessary to bury them. Today, there are still Hebrews who withhold these customs as can be evidenced by attending certain burials.

Early Christians thought that dieing did not mean an end of relations with that person, instead it was merely a way to move from one type of relationship to another. They also watched over the dead to be sure that the death had actually occurred; this vigil progressed into today's wake. As time went on, Christian funeral services were officiated by clergy or priests and some organized rituals concerning the dead were conducted much as they are today. As the years further progressed dignity became a part of the service. They began a type of embalming which included washing the body, applying perfumed oil on it, and then also wrapping the body in layers of cloth. This is where the embalmer got his name.

From what I've read, the English almost turned a funeral into a performance, there were hired mourners who made gloom and despair part of the show. The undertaker arranged this performance as well as taking care of the dead body.

In the eastern parts of America burial would usually include some sort of church service, prayers and ceremonies as it does today. The entire community seemed to become united after a death and in many communities this is still the case. During the nineteenth century, legislation began in which regulation of the embalming practice was seriously discussed. There was also a concern about the hazards to the health of persons who were around the dead prior to burial. Death Certificates became a requirement in various states due to changes in the law.

In the late nineteenth century, most funerals and their services were held at either the home of the deceased or a family members home. The undertaker did everything he needed to do right at the home. Most times a funeral wreath was hung on the door of the house to let all passers by know of a death in the home. After the funeral was over, the undertaker would be back at the home removing all elements of the funeral and it's services.

In America today, we have funeral homes where the dead are brought for preparation for the funeral. Some are prepared for burial and others are prepared for cremation but the end result is sometimes some type of funeral whether it includes a trip to the cemetery or a boat ride to scatter cremains. Rituals may have changed but emotions are still the same. The state laws of the nineteenth century have given way to many additional state as well as federal regulations and all must be adhered to when caring for the dead. There seems to have many changes over the centuries but the one constant has always been family involvement, until today. More and more people are opting to just "dispose" of the remains because they see no value in anything else. I don't care if you want me to help you or not, it's not the money, you need to have some type of service for yourselves. My only hope is that these same people don't have to some day regret the choice that they made not to be involved.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Shooting from the hip

Four years ago was the first time we held a "Service of Remembrance" during the Christmas holidays. We had heard that other funeral homes were doing something on the same lines and thought it might be nice to try something and see how the community would accept it. I personally wasn't sure if people would welcome this idea or not but was willing to give it a try.

You see, after a death, a funeral, we do several things to try to stay involved with the families we serve. They aren't big things at all but we want our families to know that our services don't end after the funeral is over; we're still there for them if they need us. We want to become "their" funeral directors. On the part of the funeral home it has to be a regimented system in order for these things to continually happen but our hope is that each individual family feels it's personal; often it is on our part as well.

At the 3 month anniversary of the persons death we have a book of what we hope are meaningful scripture and poetry sent to the family commemorating their loved one. On the 6 month anniversary we send a donation to their church or the location they requested memorial contributions to be sent to in the deceased persons memory. At the one year anniversary we send a bouquet of flowers to the family to say we're thinking of them. I told you these are small things but you'd be surprised how many people are genuinely touched and appreciative of them.

This "Service of Remembrance" is fairly simple as well. Each year we have gotten a minister from one of our local churches to officiate at the service which is comprised of a message from the minister and a reading of the names of the deceased persons. What follows is each attendee holds and lights a candle before gathering around a tree which has a light representing each of their loved ones. The tree is then lit and there are angel ornaments on the tree which bear the persons name which the family is free to take home with them. Afterwards there are some refreshments. It's not a long service and has gone over extremely well. We still have people from the first year coming back to participate.

This post was spurred by someone who left me a message yesterday. I had posted a discussion in BlogCatalog asking the question "Will you be cremated or buried". I thought it was a pretty simple question but then I got the following response - "I want to be cremated using the cheapest container available. I don't believe in the family wasting money on expensive burial caskets, pillows, seals, linen, etc if it's going in the ground. Makes no sense. BUT, I work in the public safety system - so if I die in the line of duty I want the full shebang! Honor guard, casket, flag, bagpipes ... everything. Reason? Family isn't paying for it. I believe the family should keep as much money as possible in the end should the death occur. Throwing it in the ground via ruthless funeral directors who take advantage of the worst emotional time of your life is ridiculous."

As I began reading it I was agreeing with the person in my head - they should only do what they feel they need to. Then I got to the last sentence. At first I was incensed. I know I shouldn't have taken this personally because I know better; I know how I feel, I know what I do. But I did. Then today I got to wondering how many people perceive me or other funeral directors this same way. Am I really doing a service or have I unknowingly become part of a group that mainly takes advantage of the emotionally crippled? I know that this type of "bad media" has been around for a long time but when did it start and was it warranted when it did? Or, once again has the press manipulated the public with words that sell? Either way, he wasn't talking about me, I now fully know that. I also know that I do not go out and round up dead people so that I can take advantage of their families...the families call me.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The day the sky was orange.

Every day I think of some other funeral that I have been involved with that makes my heart ache when I think of the circumstances.

My wife and I have no children so I can only imagine the actual pain that is caused when a parent sees a child of theirs die. In today's society with the elderly living longer due to medical advances and the awareness each of us have about our health it is a much more common event than at one time to see parents outliving their offspring. Considering the factor of age, the natural progression of life should cause the young to watch the older die. This is still primarily the case but in certain instances it seems to reverse itself and the ensuing pain that is caused seems unbearable. If you have followed what I've written you know that I have witnessed many deaths of children; leaving parents behind to try to cope with unimaginable grief.

The tale I'm about to recount didn't involve the death of one child, not two children, but three children all from the same household all at the same time. Once again a motor vehicle was involved; a car and a fuel tanker to be exact. The three children, 14, 16 and 20 were three of seven children born to this mother and father. They had been at their sisters home since 6:00 PM that evening. At 10PM they all decided it was time to head back home and piled into the 20 year old man's brand new car; they really could have walked, that's how close to home they were, less than 1 mile. No one, including the truck driver who survived was able to say exactly how or why, while on a straight run of road, it happened out of the blue. It appeared as if the car for no reason just drove underneath the fuel carrier as they passed each other. Their mother who had just walked outside after hanging up with her daughter whose house they had just left heard the loud crash and saw the fireball. She said for some reason she knew it was her babies and immediately began running towards the flames. According to their mother, it took an extremely long time for any rescue vehicles to arrive despite the fact that the fire house was just down the road. When I'm in a panic over something, minutes feel like hours so I can only imagine the feelings going through her mind as she watched helplessly as her children were being engulfed by fire. When rescue did arrive all they could do was try to contain the flames, they couldn't put the fire out. Needless to say there was practically nothing left of the 3 children or their vehicle and the forensics had a difficult time trying to prove their identities; but they did.

Their mother, father and four siblings were like zombies during the following days. They could barely walk let alone try to play hosts and hostesses at a funeral. The funeral itself was like a giant horde of ants just all pushing together trying to get a closer view of what was going on. All of the services were conducted in the local High School gym and it still couldn't accommodate all of the people in attendance; the cemetery was just as crowded. There were several people who passed out that day, the amount of tears that flowed would have been able to fill a swimming pool. We had the Sheriffs office involved for crowd control and was I glad they were there. When a death like this happens in a small community, that's when you can really see how they band together as neighbors. It was amazing; beautiful actually.

I have seen their parents several times after this happened and they always have a smile and a thank you for me. They say they are doing well, they say that they thank God that they know him, but you can still see the pain in their eyes. I'm sure that faith helps them to a degree but that doesn't change the fact that three, not one, three of their children were tragically taken from them in an instant with no good reason or even an explanation, that has to be the biggest test of faith imaginable.

Thanks a blog!

This is going to be a post that will seem to border on boring but it's something I need to get out. Let me tell you all something that is becoming more and more evident to me as time goes on. Lately, I haven't had too much time to write about the funeral home or the death care industry or my own experiences for that matter but I always try to at least make enough time in my schedule to read what's going on. I try to read anything I can get my hands on in the short time I have available but have recently noticed a change in my reading habits and I'm going to write about the same.

I have discovered that there are many talented writers right beyond my keyboard who have things to write about that can make my imagination run wild, fill my head with knowledge that I never even considered existed and make me realize that real life can be read about right here. There have been blogs that I've read that capture the true essence of everyday, blogs that have left me wondering, blog posts that have left me envious and thankful at the same time as well as blogs I would almost call philosophical. Until I myself got involved in this community I had no inkling what this blog thing was all about.

Now, back to my changing habits. There was a point when I would seek out only reading material that I thought would interest me. Even when I read a newspaper I would only search for titles that I wanted to know about as I think many of us do but thanks to the varied topics available right here I have discovered that my interests have a new, wider scope. This may sound mundane to the person who has been at this for any length of time but to a blogger who has been at it hit and miss for maybe a little over a month and is beginning to feel an addiction towards it this is a very telling enlightenment. Before I had my own blog I used to read one, yes one blog and that blog is what got me started. I now scan and read many many blog posts daily and am enjoying every minute of it and hope to continue reading and writing. I never knew this would end up being such an important part of my life. Now I told you this might border on being boring so don't blame me if you read the whole thing! Thanks, if you did, but it's time to get back to deathsweeping!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Common Killers

Being a funeral director has taken me to cities and states where I have been needed and has brought me to a few very interesting localities. Over the years I have lived and served in "inner cities", "suburbs", "small towns", "medium sized towns" and "rural" communities. Each of these areas have impressed me in some way; all have left me with good memories as well as some bad memories. I have been very fortunate throughout the years because the good memories far outweigh the bad.

The commonality that each of these locations share however, is of course taxes and likewise, death. Though when these two things are broken down, drilled into, they show a slight difference that can only be seen when compared to one another. On their own they don't seem any different; how could they? Taxes are taxes and death is death but for instance, there is no comparison to the costs of living in a large city as opposed to a rural area. There is no comparison between the types of friendships that occur while living in the suburbs as opposed to living in an urban area. From my small amount of "experience" there is also no comparison to the types of death that occur on a regular basis in any of these communities either.

When I lived in a large city, it was not uncommon for a death to occur due to extreme violence between humans. I'm sure that some psychologist could explain the dynamics of living in a city and how they affect the people that live within its boundaries. I can only explain what I saw, not what I think or have studied; I saw a lot of deaths due to poverty, oppression and outright rage.

Small towns had the same living conditions on a reduced scale and it appeared as if the same violent deaths were also on a smaller scale, a smaller ratio, while violent deaths in rural areas were even fewer. There's no doubt in my mind that when people are crammed together, especially people who need more than what they can earn, tempers easily flare out of control and the unfortunate result is often death. It's easy to sit back and read a newspaper or watch the news on television and criticize someone who commits a heinous offense simply because we can't understand how the offender could possibly do such a thing; especially when we're not accustomed to the conditions that the specific individual has been living in. Please don't mistake my thinking as being condoning because it's not, it's more like warped understanding. In order for these common violent deaths to end, which by the way have been happening for all eternity, there has to be a total commonality of all people. Period.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I can only imagine

I can only hope..................................

That when I die.................................

There will be no more war

There will be no more prejudice

There will be no more struggles

There will be no more pain

There will be no more sorrow

There will be no more anger

There will be no more hatred

There will be no more violence

There will be no more politics

There will be no more class systems

There will be no more disasters

There will be no more killing

There will be no more arrogance

There will be no more fear

There will be no more suffering

There will be no more crime

There will be no more tears

There will be no more ............death

That would be nice.

Pain Incorporated

Every so often I get into one of these moods. It seems lately that they're coming more and more frequently and I'm not sure how much longer I can go on allowing myself to experience what I see and feel daily. Emotional pain seems like the hardest to make disappear. It's not the type of pain that you can just rub some salve on or bandage with the hopes that in the morning it will be gone because even if it is, there will probably be a new one to take it's place. It's like a damned endless cycle that viciously won't stop, won't even give me a break. I'm getting tired of seeing death and pain and destruction of families day after day. The only thing that keeps my sanity is the thought that I have my own family to go home to and the problems in my family right now don't involve death; not at the moment anyway. I try to help people through an extremely difficult time, to say the least, and I know that what I try to do doesn't always work the way I expect it to but I continue to muddle through it. I'm not trying to make anyone believe that I'm this friggin' angel who can take on the problems of the world and make everything better for those involved, because I can't. I'm just trying to help a bit. Believe me, I'm no masochist but I try to feel the pain that my families are experiencing yet only to a point where I can safely step back and not dwell on it. Like I once told AngryBarCode, I'm not here to mourn for you, I'm here to help you through this time but sometimes doing just that is extremely hard. There are certain instances when a bond forms between us and it's extremely difficult to just put it all behind me. Usually with these bonds the feeling of pain goes away pretty quickly but lately I have had special relations with so many families at one time that I think my mind is overloaded. It's not as though I'm walking around in visible pain, it's more like a twitch in your eye that doesn't show from a distance but you can feel it no matter what's going on, it's just there. This isn't the first time I've felt this way and I'm sure it won't be the last but I just find it so difficult to understand why I let myself go through this time after time. It's times like this that I begin to regret what I have chosen to do with my life but history tells me that "this too will pass" as it has before and I am really doing what I was meant to do. Giving just a little help.