Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Music, physicals and pacemakers

I brought in some cds from home today to put on my itunes at work. I like to listen to music quietly when I have paperwork to do, and was in the mood for some oldies, so I grabbed two Grateful Dead compilations, Simon and Garfunkel’s greatest hits, Bob Dylan’s greatest hits, and an Etta James cd. All but the last one were gifts from my dad for Christmas when I was in high school, and I don’t listen to them too often, so it’s a nice break from the usual tunes that I hear.

I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday for a physical, and the doc noticed that I’m overdue for a tetanus booster, so my left arm is sore today and will be tomorrow too. Other than that he said I look great, my favorite quote from him being, “I’ll spare you the anal seeing as you’re under 40. You don’t have any rectal bleeding or discomfort, right?”

Work is steady, not anything particularly interesting to write about. I did remove a pacemaker though, but it is a very boring procedure. Just to inform those of you that don’t know: pacemakers are removed before one is cremated, as the battery that operates them will explode when heated.

Monday, September 28, 2009


I have mad love for the show Bones, but I have a little issue.  We tivo-ed last week's episode, and I was watching it this weekend, and this is what I have to say: Eyeballs decompose quickly after death, or, at least, the fluid inside them deminishes quickly, and an unrefrigerated or unembalmed body will have very sunken eyes within a day.  The episode from ladt week had a dead body in the trunk and the face was bacly rotting, but there were these perfectly round eyeballs in it.  There have been a few other issues I have had with the show, but that is to be expected from Hollywood every now and then.  The thing that bothers me about the eyeballs is that it was such an obvious mistake.  I laughed out loud when I saw it even.  Any mortician, or probably even anyone that works in a hospital should be able to point that out.  ANyway, I'm not boycotting the show or anything, but just was a little annoyed.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Yay, Friday!!!

Just a quick post to say "happy weekend."  Not much today to report, other than that I saw a guy at a funeral today that had what I can only describe as the anti-Hitler moustache.  The middle was shaved, but the sides were there.  Very odd...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cameras in the bathrooms even

We’re having security cameras installed at the funeral home this week. The technician has been working around our services to get them installed and running. We’ve had one in the chapel for a long time so that we could watch the services going on and know when to cue music and stuff, but the boss wanted to replace it and put a few more around the building. The technician was working in the chapel yesterday and I was there working on a body and he just couldn’t believe that I had no problems working on a body. It’s so funny sometimes the way people think about certain jobs. I mean, do people really think that the line of work they are in is what everyone should be doing?

On another note: I’ve noticed that some people have found this blog because it comes up when they google “funeral poems.” Now, I don’t have any funeral poems listed here, except for the squiggly line one from Family Guy, but I’m thinking about putting a link here to some of the funeral poems that I use in the mortuary, and then that way people that find this site for that reason wont be bummed that my blog has nothing of use to them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting ready to view

Here’s something the general public doesn’t realize: It takes a long time to get someone in the casket properly. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there are tons of funeral homes that are lax about their rules on how a decedent should look in the casket, but I’m picky. Monica and I just spent the better part of an hour getting a man ready after he was dressed and in his casket. We positioned him right, he looked to have his chin touching his chest so we put Styrofoam blocks under his shoulder blades to make his head tilt backward a bit more, then we raised up the head end of the bed of the casket (a large number of caskets have the ability to raise and lower the “mattress” that the deceased is laying on) so that his head was a bit higher. His make-up was fine, none needed really except for moisturizing cream (the skin dehydrates fairly quickly so we use cream to avoid the effects that dehydration cause), and his hands were okay, but the pillow, overlay (#6 in image below) and the inside material all took a bit of adjustment so that they go unnoticed when visitation is going on.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to so far this morning.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A little of everything

Big Bird is on vacation for a couple of days, so the atmosphere in the office is much more relaxed. We have a bit of work to do today, I have already met with one family today, as has Monica, and there are two more families to come in later. We also had a service this morning and another this afternoon, but for as busy as we are no one is too stressed about it, with Big Bird not here cracking the whip every five minutes.

My weekend was nice. I worked a bit on Saturday at a service in the chapel for a family I had met with. It was a memorial service and was well-attended, and the service went smoothly. Monica was the director on call and she was in the office meeting with a family, and she was happy to see me when she came out of the arrangement room into the office. She looked adorable, wearing a see-through, high collared cream blouse with one of those big, flouncy bows at the neckline, something that looked like it came from my wardrobe, and when I commented on how cute the top was she said that my vampire-esque wardrobe had inspired her. Pretty funny I thought, and I asked how she knows that vampires wear those Victorian type shirts and she just laughed, saying that she just imagines that they look that way and that I remind her of one when I wear those shirts. I’m not sure why, but I thought it was very funny. Anyhoo, her new family that she had just finished arrangements with was going to want viewing, and Monica didn’t want to wait until Monday to pick the body up at the hospital, but didn’t want to have to pay a service to get the body so that we could embalm it right away, so I told her to grab her purse and we’d go get the body ourselves from the hospital. The morgue tech was pleased to see us, and asked us to come back soon. I just smiled and told him that with faces this pretty the boss doesn’t like us in the morgues, but that he was welcome to stop by the funeral home anytime and we’d be happy to smile for him.

When I got home I fed the hubby and daughter lunch and put Clementine to bed for a nap. The hubby then said that I should go get a mani-pedi (which is sooooo not like me), and gave me fifty bucks to pay for it. Gotta love a gambler when he wins, right?

Saturday night we had dinner at a good friend’s house and Clem played with the toys for the baby they are adopting soon. She says she’s testing them out to make sure they are okay for the baby. Very odd. But it was fun, and Saturday night my mom had Clem spend the night so that hubby and I could go out drinking and then sleep in on Sunday, which we did.

So, that’s really it, Sunday was boring, just chilled at home and did laundry.

Now I’m just sitting in the office listening to Buck tell Buffy how it’s important to allow for windage. “The bullet and the (derogatory term used in the Vietnam War) have to meet up at the same time. If you aren’t going to reach it at the same time then what’s the use.” To which I responded that it sounded more like sexual advice than military advice. He told me to settle down and then reconsidered, “Well, now, Doll, I think you might be right.”

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gypsy update

So, the Gypsies were quite fun. The graveside service was postponed so that more beer could be purchased and more weed could be smoked. The service itself was nice (highlight: a three year old flipped off another child that was annoying her), and afterward wine was shared and the funeral directors were all made honorary Gypsies, and one of the funeral goers taught us all how to pick a pocket. After the casket went into the ground they threw money in on top of the casket, and the coins were loud when they hit the bottom. It really was a nice service, and the Gypsies seemed pleased with everything, which is good because I have a feeling they aren’t the types of folks one wants to make angry…

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gypsy service

Gypsies are funny folks. In mortuary school we are taught about many different groups of people, and Gypsies were one of those groups. I didn’t really pay that much attention to the specifics of their services, mostly because I didn’t think I’d ever do a Gypsy service, and now I’m kicking myself. We have a Gypsy service this week, and I’ll tell you what: those are some different customs. There are tents in the parking lot, and everyone is drinking all the time. There is to be beer at the cemetery, and Lord knows how the casket bearers are going to haul the casket to the gravesite, full of everything you can imagine: money, jewelry, clothes, good liquor, you name it. They don’t want to touch the deceased either. I asked one girl about it, she said the spirit stays here and that they can’t make it mad, to will seek revenge or something on them if they aren’t good to the human remains. They won’t say the name of the deceased either. Anyway, I’ll update if anything happens…

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sweaty girl

My hubby bought me this spa package gift certificate a few months back for me, one of these promotional deals where you get four appointments and choose from a list of services what you want for each. The first one was a haircut, the second was a massage, and last night I had the third one which I chose an infra-red body wrap. I wasn’t too sure what that was, and they told me that it was a weight-loss thing that takes about 45 minutes. So I thought I’d try it and it turns out it is awful. First they had me take my clothes off and put on men’s thermal underwear. They had me lay down on a table, the kind like they use for massage, and they wrapped these things around me, plastic mat type things, all around my boobs (um, I don’t really want to loose weight there), stomach, thighs and arms. They weren’t uncomfortable, just a bit heavy, and they were wired to a machine in the room. Then the gal put a blanket over me, up to my stomach, got me a glass of water, turned on the fan in the room, and turned on the infra-red machine. She said she would come back and check on me every 10 minutes (which made me wonder: why is that necessary?), and told me I was welcome to read the magazines next to my glass of water (which I couldn’t get to as the wraps were quite binding). So, it was getting warmer in the wraps, but wasn’t unbearable, until about the seventh minute. It was so uncomfortably hot I thought I would cook and she would come in and find me barbecued to the table. I was determined though to make it through this thing, which I did (although I wonder now if I’m not a tad slower in the mind because of it), but not before sweating like a fat man in a marathon. It was disgusting how soaked the long underwear were with my sweat. I’m wondering now how all that moisture didn’t ruin the wires connected to the wraps. So, that is what I did last night, and to top it off the Hooter’s was too busy to seat my sister, daughter and me right away, so the fried pickles I wanted (and had worked off enough poundage to cover) had to go uneaten.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Three cheers for my boss

Friday morning as the hubby was dropping me off at work I noticed that the engine was overly hot, so instead of him letting me out and taking off he parked the car and opened the hood to check the coolant and stuff. The owner of my funeral home noticed and came up to the car and talked to my hubby (who was now going to be late to work, which is fine, just a pain in the ass) to see what was wrong. Within about five minutes they had decided that the car would need to go in to a shop, and my boss told my husband where to take it, and then told him that one of my coworkers would follow him to the car place, pick him up to come back to my funeral home, then let my hubby take the company Suburban to work for the day. I should mention that this Suburban is the boss’ baby, with nice chrome wheels and pretty interior, and is seldom used for work (21,000 miles on it and it’s a 2005). Anyway, the hubby says thank you and heads off to work. The owner knew I was on call that weekend, and I assured him that between my parents and sisters that I would have reliable transportation the whole weekend (and I could even drive our ’59, just not with my daughter as there are no seat belts) and he insisted on me taking the Suburban home for weekend use. He gave me a little lecture on mot parking close to other cars and not getting the tires close to curbs, and that was that. The hubby brought a nice bottle of vodka for my boss when he came to pick me up Friday after work, and my boss told me that he didn’t think we should have given him anything, saying “That’s just what you do for family. You could use a hand, and it just so happened that I could lend one.”

So, this is what I learned: My boss is awesome. Volkswagens are expensive to fix. Suburbans are crazy-big.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Make-up and jaundice

Jane embalms at another funeral home as well as embalming for us, and this week she had quite a few cases at the other funeral home. Wednesday she called me at 5 to ask if I could come help her with make-up after I left work. Now, I know you’re probably thinking, “She needed help with make-up? Obviously she isn’t that good at her job.” Well, that isn’t the case. The deceased had been very jaundiced before dying, and the yellow bile in the body doesn’t just wash away with embalming. Actually, the fluid we use to embalm most cases is formaldehyde based, and it turns out that yellow bile, as in jaundice cases, turns a vivid green color when exposed to formaldehyde. Some embalmers will use other fluids (like gluteraldehyde) on jaundiced cases so that it wont turn them green, but the quality of embalming is lessened when that is done, so Jane and I like to turn them green, and make-up the after-color with mortuary cosmetics (quite a bit different than the stuff we buy at Target), which is what she wanted me to do with the case at the other mortuary. She is almost as good as I am at coloring and restorative art, and she would have done the make-up herself, but she wanted to get started embalming a car accident victim, and I was more than happy to do the cosmetics. So, it only took me about an hour (re-drawing in her freckles is what took most of the time) and she looked great. Jane was pleased, and I chatted with her while she worked on the accident girl, and I played with the deceased’s features a bit to see what looked the most natural, and did a bit of work on her hair, attempting to get the bits of twigs and windshield glass out of it.

Anyway, Jane just called me (btw, I downloaded the NFL theme song as my ring tone and the guys at work love it, so I had to Bluetooth it to all of them and they love when we get calls on our cells) to let me know that the family of the jaundiced girl thought she looked amazing and wanted to know if I could come by the mortuary so they could meet me and thank me personally, so that has brightened my day considerably. She told them that I work for a different funeral home so I wouldn’t be able to stop by, but told them that she would pass along the kind words. She also asked if I would be available to do the make-up on the accident girl she had been embalming the night I was doing jaundice’s make-up. So, I told her that wouldn’t be a problem since my hubby and daughter are going to be out of town and I didn’t have anything to do tonight as of yet. And I guess the other funeral home is super-pleased with my work so far, and luckily I have a boss that lets me work for the competition if they need my expertise. Yay!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Last week

I had a suicide family this past week. Parents of a twenty-something that had hung himself came in to make arrangements for his funeral. It's always strange, making those kinds of arrangements, as I always want to ask questions about things that I have no business asking. I never do, but i always want to. His parents were nice, and the arrangements were done quickly. I sent a driver to pick up the body from the medical examiner's office and he came back with personal property as well, a wallet and a coupla pieces of jewelry. Inside the wallet was a fast-food receipt, and according to the death certificate the boy had been to eat shortly before his hour of death. It made me wonder: did he know that was his last meal?

His parents were fairly numb in the funeral home, probably in shock. Did he know what they would go through? Had he even talked to them recently? There are quite a few things that I'm fairly certain will always be strange to me in this line of work, things that I will never quite get used to. I don't really mind the thought of taking your own life, but there is something about a parent having to go through the funeral of their own child that just always makes me... I don't really know, but it just seems like the worst kind of pain possible. And, maybe I'm way off, I've been fairly sheltered at least where pain is concerned (both emotional and physical), but it seems like that would be the worst.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


I was grocery shopping last night and ran into a couple that recognized from the funeral home. They are in their late fifties or early sixties, and their son had been found hanged in a tree on the side of a freeway in an apparent suicide. He was decomposed fairly badly when he was found, had probably been dead for a week. His parents recognized me there in the supermarket, I was the director they dealt with, and they came up to me and said hi. They complimented me on my tattoo even (old people are funny) and told me that it was nice to see me. The dad said that his son’s cremated remains were still in his truck (I commented that everyone needs a copilot sometimes and he laughed), because every time they wanted to go scatter them in the wilderness they couldn’t, just wanting to spend a little more time with their son, who had not really been in contact with them at the time of his death. Actually, I’m fairly certain that the son was homeless when he died. So, we chatted for a while, turns out they live near me, and I told them to keep their eye out for me riding my bike with my daughter in the trailer behind, and honk if they ever notice us riding by. Anyway, it was nice. They were really sweet when they were making arrangements, and they are still, and even though I looked frighteningly blah at the store, I’m glad they said hi.