Friday, December 28, 2007

Is it a snap?

The call came in while I was still at a church in the middle of a service for the woman who I was burying that afternoon. Apparently, the newly deceased had died that morning and the nursing facility where she had been living had just contacted her family. The person that took the first call wrote down as much information as possible and tried to set an appointment for the family and I to meet. During this conversation the family had requested that "since tomorrow is Christmas, can we do it on Wednesday morning, say at about 11:00 AM?" and the appointment was set.

It wasn't until I was driving back to the funeral home after the service when I received the second call. The family had called back and requested that instead of meeting on Wednesday, they wanted to come on by that evening "and get things started." I was only about 45 minutes out and they were planning on arriving in an hour so if all went well I could make it; as it turned out I beat them by about half an hour.

When they showed, we all greeted, condolences and introductions, and we set about to try to arrange the funeral. One of the first questions I had for them was when they might want to do all of this and the reply was "Wednesday"; the day after Christmas. It was now 6:30 PM on Monday, Tuesday was Christmas, and they wanted to do this on Wednesday morning. As much as I hated to have to say it I did, "Wednesday morning would be virtually impossible." since so many components of a funeral are reliant on outside assistance. "How's Thursday?" was answered with "if we have to." That evening, after they had left and arrangements were made for the most part, I sent off my order for a casket to be delivered on Wednesday morning but there wasn't much more that I could do other than alert our preparation room staff that she was to be embalmed.

They had told me that contact had been made with their minister and any time would be fine. I worked some on Tuesday from home, obituaries, contract, gathering info I knew I would need first thing Wednesday morning and hoped that I could get this done in a day; all would be fine provided I could get in touch with the necessary parties and all the while I was hoping there would be no other deaths that day and evening.

Well, part of what I was hoping actually happened but the route to that outcome was bumpy to say the least. The funeral went off without a hitch on Thursday as I had hoped but the first mishap was with the newspaper. I wrote and emailed an obituary to the newspaper on Christmas day which never made publication. I later found out that because of the holiday the paper which is a weekly, was published a day early; we could all live with that.

The second foul up was when the casket delivery truck arrived and I found out that the casket I had ordered was never loaded on the truck that morning; they are a very reputable firm I may add. A quick phone call revealed that my casket was still on the loading dock and was being sent before I hung up. Next, I contacted the minister, the way I always do prior to a funeral to ensure all was okay and to see if there was anything I could do for him. Foul up number three; the family had spoken to him but never told him a time or date and he already had another funeral (two hours away) scheduled for the same time. I was now becoming exasperated; they told me he was okay with any time any day? So far we have no casket, no obituary and no minister for a funeral in the morning!

Next, the family calls to tell me that they are going to be late bringing the clothing since everywhere they have attempted to go to get flowers had either been closed or had nothing for them to buy; so they were still shopping. Before I called my gravedigger, I called the cemetery that was supposed to have the burial plot only to find that there was no space in existence so I didn't have to call him yet! What else can go wrong! Now on top of everything else there's no grave. It was at that moment I felt like calling the family and telling them that the funeral was not going to happen the next day; but I didn't. I would get it all fixed.

Don't ask me how, but the casket finally arrived, the clothes eventually showed up and she was dressed, the correct cemetery was supplied and I was able to have it marked and contact my gravedigger, a second obit made it into a different paper for the following days publication, the vault was there and the minister (who I thanked profusely) shuffled things around and was able to make it. As far as the family was concerned, all had gone as smooth as silk, not a single hitch, with the exception of the flowers which they eventually were able to get. I honestly had some doubts that this was going to happen so quickly but it's amazing how things fall into place at the last minute no matter what the problems seem to be; the funeral was just fine in all respects.

I don't think that any family realizes the scope of people and work involved in a funeral and sometimes, even though I very often feel it costs too much, just sometimes, I feel as though I've earned every well as every gray hair, upset stomach (no need to mention my ulcer), headache, line in my brow, and occasional chest pain that go along with it.


paisley said...

bravo!!! i am glad it all went smooth... i am guilty tho,, i think all i would have to do is tell you what i need ,, and you would have instant access to all of that stuff... death has a way of blocking out anything else that might need doing in the world....

deathsweep said...

Typically, this would have been no problem at all since most pople understand that it takes some time to get things accomplished. The problem here was the holiday and it might also have been my giving them the option of Thursday. Friday would have been "safer" but they wanted it yesterday, however, trying to always please put me on the spot this time. Oh well!

Matty said...

No, the public isn't aware of what goes on behind closed doors...the preparation, obituary, etc.
You must have the patience of a saint...and the ulcers!

Agnes Mildew said...

I hesitate to describe your Christmas funeral as a comedy of errors, but it reads almost like one. I guess you could have done without any of that going on. Wouldn't you prefer a less stressful job like the Armed Forces or Brain Surgery?