Stories of Funeral Director- Story 1

There are so many stories and things that have happened at funerals.  Some are funny and inspirational and others sad and depressing.  But, let start story #1 with a funny story.

I had just became a manager of a corporate owned funeral home in Kansas.  I will not say where, to protect the innocent.  Here I was a 20 something year old and was just left with managing a funeral home.  Corporation had fired the previous managers.

I was excited but yet very scared.  I could just imagine hearing people I am was trying to service in the worst times of their lives say, “This snot nose kid doesn’t know anything!”   That went through my mind all the time.  It was important to me that everything I did was perfect.  Of course, it did not always go perfect.  Here is a example:

It was a beautiful day, people were arriving to funeral home.  I was handing out folders for service and sitting people.

The family wanted “Amazing Grace” and “Old Rugged Cross” for songs at service.  I remembered we had some Merrill Womack recorded music.  So, an hour before service, I get the music out and see if it worked.  Of course I heard, “Amazing Grace, How Sweet The Sound……”.  Ok, checked other song, sounded great.  Perfect, I was ready to go.  Well, I just listen to the first verse.

So, all the friends and family arrived.  It was a full chapel, which was wonderful.  Preacher started service and I had a order of service so I would know when to play the songs.  So, minister sits down and now a song,  I pushed play and Amazing Grace started playing, perfect.  I adjusted the sound a little and then went to the back of the chapel to hear if the volume was good for everyone.  As the beautiful song was playing and me standing in the back, all of a sudden over the speakers, I heard, a door open and close and then a voice, “It’s me!!”.  Horrified, everyone in the chapel turned and looked at the back of the chapel, here I was standing there and everyone looking at me.  I calmly walked back to the music room and waited for the song to be over.

After, the service the minister came up to me and was questioning me about the music.  I said, “I don’t know”.  Minister said, “I should have said when that happened, “Jesus is here”.  We chuckled together.  But, I was still so worried about what the family would say.  Thank goodness they  were a great family and they chuckled about it.

So, after everything was over, I stormed into the music room and played “Amazing Grace” again.  It did it again.  Well come to find out the previous managers of the firm re-recorded the song from another tape or cd.  Well, why they were doing that the microphone was on and recorded the individual coming in the back door of funeral home.  Still don’t know who the voice of individual belong too.  Maybe it was Jesus!!!!

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HONORING A VETERAN- THE STORY of TAPS

It is still amazing to me even after 20 years of conducting funerals for veterans how the playing of TAPS still gets me choked up.  How can a song have such a effect to honor a deceased veteran?  As TAPS is played at Veteran’s funeral, if you don’t get choked up, then that is very sad.  I have seen medals received by veteran’s that the families bring to funeral home, sometimes if medal is still in the box, there is a description of why and how this medal was earned.  Absolute amazement what some Veterans did and survived for their fellow comrades and the country.

I believe that people don’t really think about history of things.  Below is The Story of Taps as provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  I hope you read and get a greater understanding and appreciation of the history of TAPS and at the next veteran service you attend.   

The Story of Taps

The 24-note melancholy bugle call known as “taps” is thought to be a revision of a
French bugle signal, called “tattoo,” that notified soldiers to cease an evening’s drinking
and return to their garrisons. It was sounded an hour before the final bugle call to end
the day by extinguishing fires and lights. The last five measures of the tattoo resemble
taps.

The word “taps” is an alteration of the obsolete word “taptoo,” derived from the Dutch
“taptoe.” Taptoe was the command — “Tap toe!” — to shut (“toe to”) the “tap” of a keg.
The revision that gave us present-day taps was made during America’s Civil War by
Union Gen. Daniel Adams Butterfield, heading a brigade camped at Harrison Landing,
Va., near Richmond. Up to that time, the U.S. Army’s infantry call to end the day was
the French final call, “L’Extinction des feux.” Gen. Butterfield decided the “lights out”
music was too formal to signal the day’s end. One day in July 1862 he recalled the
tattoo music and hummed a version of it to an aide, who wrote it down in music.
Butterfield then asked the brigade bugler, Oliver W. Norton, to play the notes and, after
listening, lengthened and shortened them while keeping his original melody.
He ordered Norton to play this new call at the end of each day thereafter, instead of the
regulation call. The music was heard and appreciated by other brigades, who asked for
copies and adopted this bugle call. It was even adopted by Confederate buglers.
This music was made the official Army bugle call after the war, but not given the name
“taps” until 1874.

The first time taps was played at a military funeral may also have been in Virginia soon
after Butterfield composed it. Union Capt. John Tidball, head of an artillery battery,
ordered it played for the burial of a cannoneer killed in action. Not wanting to reveal the
battery’s position in the woods to the enemy nearby, Tidball substituted taps for the
traditional three rifle volleys fired over the grave. Taps was played at the funeral of
Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson 10 months after it was composed. Army infantry
regulations by 1891 required taps to be played at military funeral ceremonies.
Taps now is played by the military at burial and memorial services, to accompany the
lowering of the flag and to signal the “lights out” command at day’s end.

US Department of Veteran’s Affair, Washington, D.C.

Death, Grief and a Funeral Director

Death and grief can be traumatic and life altering.  Death of a loved one and how we cope with it is important.  The grief process can only start with viewing and being able to face the reality that a person we loved is not coming back to us.  Every single person handles grief in a different way.  I strive for a individual or a family to a have a chance to see a loved one and start the process of moving forward after a death by saying “goodbye” and facing the reality that the death has happened.   As a funeral director, I believe my three main goals are: to use as much time as it takes to make a viewing of their deceased loved one the best it can be; to make the service as personalized in rememberance of the deceased and for the family; and  to get a family or an individual moving forward in the grieving process.

The 5 stages of the  grieveing process are: Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

The way we handle death starts at a early age.  Some of us may have lost a mother, father or someone very dear to us at very early age.  Many parents shelter their children from death, dying, the grieving process and funerals in general.  I have talked with many children over the years.   Some parents aren’t sure how to go about talking with children about death.  The one thing I don’t do is make up stories or sugar coat anything when talking about death and dealing with death to a child.  Kids understand more then we think.

For example, there was  a four year old boy who was at the funeral home to view his 2 month old sister that had died.  His mother was worried about this little boy because of a previous death and funeral recently.  I suggested that the family introduce him to me when they came to funeral home.  I met this little dark haired boy wh had a smile that just warmed your heart.  We talked about what happened to his sister and talked about why we were at the funeral home.  He understood a lot of what was going on and I gave him a coloring book that described what was going to happen over the next several days.  I told the family to read the book to him and I believe they did.  On the day of his sister’s service, I was keeping a eye on him because I told him if he had any questions to ask.  I was looking around for him and could not find him.  I went to the private room at the church where the family could be with the baby, and when I walked in the minister was standing in the room and there was a smiling 4 year old boy with his hand on his sister’s chest just patting her.  After he was done he went back to the dining hall of the church where the majority of the family was gathering.  

The next day the family came in to funeral home to get some items from the service.  There came this smiling little dark haired boy with chocolate all over his face.  I asked him to go ask my co-worker to help him wipe his face.  Off he went and my co-worker informed me after the boy had left with his family, this little boy asked, “Do you miss my sister?”, my co-worker replied, “I did not get to meet your sister.”  This little boy just looked up with his dark brown eyes and replied, “I miss my sister.”  This was very emotional, but yet rewarding, that this child grasped and learned about death and what a funeral was all about. 

With adults, grief can take control of our lives and lead us in downward spiral if we have not learned how to handle it.  As adults, we use different alternatives to mask the grief, even alcohol and drugs.  Believe me, I was one of them when my mother died.  It is so important that if you have trouble with grief that you go talk to a someone that can help, perhaps a therapist or grief counselor.  As a funeral director, sometimes trying to help an adult does more damage then good.  A lot of the time, adults are in the anger stage of the grief process and hang on to the anger and don’t move to the next stage until after a funeral and sometimes not at all.

Everyone handles grief differently. As funeral directors we just hope we have provided the family the best personalized service for their loved one.  Having a personalized service and being able to view our loved one is a great step to moving forward and not backwards.  

If you need help with grief, please call someone to talk to about it or ask your local funeral director of someone or somewhere to call.

 

 

Why did I become a funeral director by Jamie

Questions I get a lot are “How did you become a funeral director?” Or “I just don’t know how you do what you do?”

Let’s start with how I became a funeral director.  Most of the time family is the reason for becoming funeral director but not me.  It started my sophomore year in high school in a small town of Ness City and my first job.  The gentleman the hired me, Joel, owned many businesses, well, one of course was a funeral home.  I kept the yard mowed and cars cleaned and polished.  I worked at all of Joel’s businesses and worked with the public a lot.  I would help with moving caskets and just slowly worked my way up in the funeral home by doing every little thing I could do.

Before I knew it, I was graduating high school and had no clue what I wanted to do.  Joel had taken out a certain amount of money out of every pay check to save for college.  Heck, I never thought about going to college.  But, with Joel’s help he got me to Fort Hays State University, it was a awesome experience.  I figure I would take art class.  I like to draw with pencils and other “artsy fartsy” things.  But, after a year, I did not like art because the classes would make you draw things I was not interested in drawing.  I could draw anything but I need to have interest in what I was doing.  My grades to began to fail plus playing to much basketball, which I really wanted to be my major.

Summer break started from college and I went back to work for Joel.  I became more involved in the funeral home and doing more with funeral directors.  One day, Joel asked me, “Jamie, would you be interested in going to mortuary school. I think you would be good at it”.  I said, “Sure”, so then I was signed up for the mortuary program Kansas City Kansas Community College.

As soon as classes started I knew this was I wanted to do.  I loved to help people and it also had a art side.  Restorative art was a very hard class but I liked it.  The art side of me had to get creative and interested.

Over the years, art is very important when it comes to embalming and restoration of a individual.  When completed and family comes to view their loved one and says, “They look wonderful, Thank you”, that bring me joy to help a family move forward in the grieving process.  When it comes to restoration of a individual, there is nothing I won’t do to get a family to be able to say their, goodbyes.  I strive for the best results, but, there is only so much we can do.

Now, over 20 years later, I have done many things in funeral service.  Many of them, have worked out for the best possible results for the family.    Some people, just don’t even know how many hours we have spent to making their loved one look the best we possibly can and to organize a personalized service.  That is part of service that no one sees.

Now to the directing part of being a funeral director, this is where you learn to listen and take in all the information you get from the family.  In usually 3 days time, provide a personalized, one of a kind service for the family.  Over the years, I have done many personalized things for the family and public during a service.  It is when you doing something that is not the norm that makes a service for a loved one, memorable.  Sometimes, the public don’t like it but it is what the family wants and to get them moving forward with dealing with the loss.  Trying to personalize a service with all the stories and information a family gives you, is challenging but when the service is over and they family say, “Dad, would have liked that”.

With all aspects of a funeral director, I grieve also with family.  It is human nature to care and help, when it comes to a death.  Of course over the years, the emotions of this career is never easy and it takes a toll on you.  But, still to this day if a family calls and asks for help with death, I still care and do all I can for them like it was my first day out of mortuary school.