The same as in every profession, funeral directors are often faced with situations that leave them not "not so professional" looking. These are the times when you cringe inside, when you want to slink off into a corner and just pretend that what happened was just your imagination. Many times families are involved and actually see the goofs and other times, thankfully, they're not privy to the goings on behind the scenes. The seasoned funeral director, when talking to an associate seems to enjoy relating tales of mishaps and I'm going to pass a few on to you today.
When I was licensed for about a year I worked for a small firm, there were only two of us, and it was a rare occasion when we had more than one funeral happening at the same time. I remember once when we had two calls going on and we mistakenly dressed the wrong woman in the wrong clothes, put her in the wrong casket and set it up for the family to view. It wasn't until the family told us that the woman they were viewing wasn't their mother that the mistake was realized. Luckily for us that they didn't know that their mother was dressed in the wrong clothes and was in the wrong casket as well. We supplied new clothing and corrected the error before the other family ever knew. The family that did see our error actually wasn't too upset except for the clothing which as I mentioned we replaced gratis in an attempt to cover our butts!
See if you can get a mental picture of this. A funeral is about to begin in a church and the casket has been up front and center, opened, for a visitation of sorts. Just before the service is to begin, two directors walk up to the altar and prepare the casket to be closed; in front of an entire congregation. One of the gentleman removes the flowers from the half opened casket and the other folds everything into place, the casket is closed and the lid sort of held down while the other uses a crank to "seal" the casket. At the end of this display the crank is pocketed and they will now simultaneously turn and walk down the aisle; a show for sure. The only problem is however that the one holding down the lid now has the end of his tie sealed into the casket and almost gives himself whiplash as he tries to turn; in front of everyone!
I told you about the time I was directing the funeral when the hearse was pulled into the cemetery and somehow wound up locked with us outside and the casket inside. Talk about an embarrassing situation.
Then there's the story about the part timer who was taking a casket out of town for a burial; it was going to be a 3 day trip and the director on the other end was going to handle the services. Arrangements had been made to house the hearse at two different funeral homes during the trip; so as not to leave the casket out in the elements both homes had garages that we could use. I'm not sure if it's habit or real necessity but keys are always in the vehicles anywhere you go. Can you imagine how the part timer felt after pulling into the cemetery at his final destination only to realize that he had taken the wrong hearse from the garage that morning and no one else noticed either? Yes, the funeral was delayed but the family supposedly took it rather well.
I myself have been covered with mud from head to toe after falling into an unoccupied open grave. When the family arrived at the cemetery, they as well as my boss helped me out of the hole!
It's a good thing that we all have to learn restorative art because I can tell you, without the knowledge that we gain from the course, it would be virtually impossible to replace a beard or a mustache that is shaved off by mistake. I have never been unfortunate enough to do this but I know for a fact it has happened; we are masters of disguise and most times not by choice.
These are just a few, very few, of the things that can and do happen within the industry and any director who tells you that they have never heard of anything like this, or never have been involved in something similar is either withholding the truth or hasn't been around long enough to see them occur. It's only when you're talking past tense about these things that they seem funny. When they're happening to you personally, you want to die yourself!