I motioned to where he should park his car in the funeral’s procession line. He threw it in park. Got out, straightened his tie, looked me in the eye and said, “I hate these thing.” I get told a variation of that line at least once a month. People don’t like funerals.
Here’s ten reasons why:
The Etiquette Questions.
Death is kind of like puberty. Sure, we know it’s coming. But no matter how much we’ve studied it in middle school and how much our parents have jokingly told us “it’s coming”, nothing can prepare us for the questions and awkwardness of it’s arrival.
And so when a funeral comes our way, so do a hundred questions:
Do I go to my co-worker’s mother’s funeral?
Do I bring my kids?
Do I send a card?
Can I pull out my phone and play Angry Birds during the funeral service?
WHERE IS THE FREAKIN RULE BOOK ON FUNERAL ETIQUETTE?
Death acts like a god. It doesn’t care about your schedule. It doesn’t care that you have a major interview for a new job, or that you’re on vacation. It does what it’s suppose to do whenever the hell it wants to do it.
And funerals are the same way. They’re scheduled at the weirdest times … like 11 AM on Tuesday morning, when you were supposed to have your much needed spa treatment. And right in the middle of the college football game that you really, really wanted to watch.
The dress code.
You open up your wardrobe and you see sweatpants, a really short sundress, a couple t-shirts and khakis. But churchy dress clothes? Who dresses like that anymore?
So you think to yourself: Should I go out and buy a suit? Or should I just go to a funeral in a dress shirt/sundress, tie and bluejeans? You don’t want to overdress (or you’ll look like the funeral director) and you don’t want to underdress ’cause that’s just disrespectful. You look through your closet a little more and there in the back is your old prom dress … and the thought crosses your mind … “nah.”
What to say when you’re in the viewing line.
You jump into the viewing line. And you see one of your friends a couple spots up. You’re uncomfortable. She’s uncomfortable. You start talking about things … anything but the obvious. Before you know it your forget you’re at a funeral and you start laughing about some random poop story she’s telling. Like hysterically laughing. Then you look up and the rest of the viewing line is throwing some heavy Michelle Obama shade right at you.
Oh Gawd. The body. The dead body. It’s a dead body. And I don’t even know this dead body. “I hate funerals”, you tell yourself.
Now that you’re right in front of the body you have this strange desire to touch it. You want to touch the hands, the face … something. And you remember, “It’s called a viewing … just look. It’s not called a touching.” So you keep your hands firmly planted at your side, hoping your hands don’t evolve a mind of their own and reach out and grab the deceased.
What to say to the family.
To Hug or Not to Hug
Maybe you know the son of the deceased … or maybe you just knew the deceased and not the rest of the family. But, there’s like 20 people in the receiving line … brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts. And you … you don’t know any of them.
Do I just hug everyone in the receiving line? Do I express my condolences to everyone; or do I just walk by and nod my head. And then there’s always that one person in the receiving line who likes to hug everyone that comes by. And when they do hug, it’s ten seconds too long and it’s sweaty and it’s weird.
So. Much. TOUCHING!
The Funeral Service.
The funniest things come to mind during a funeral. Really, they aren’t THAT funny, but because the funeral service is so solemn (and yes, at times boring), everything becomes sort of funny. So you bit your cheeks. Harder. It hurts now.
After the whole depressing, horrible thing is finished, you realize, “OMG, I’M GOING TO DIE.” One day that will be me and that will be MY funeral service. Up until that point, you thought you were immortal. And now … gawd I hate funerals.
Death’s taken some heat lately … he’s taken James Gandolfini. Paul Bearer. Tom Clancy. And let’s be honest, Death is due all the criticism he gets. But, Death isn’t really that bad of a guy. He’s just a normal dude with a difficult job.
As an effort to vault Death’s public perception, Death is looking to create a slogan that the world’s public will buy into. A slogan that will help change the world’s perceptions.
Here are 15 slogans. You’re the first test group, so feel free to criticize or change any of the slogan’s you see; or add any slogans you can create.
1. “10 out of 10 human’s are doing it!”
2. “It’s natural. It’s good for the environment. It’s green. It’s death.”
3. “I felt great when it happened to me.*” — Elvis Presley.
*Individual results may vary.
4. “Taking care of business since the beginning of time!”
5. “Death: It eases all your pain.”
6. “만나서 반갑습니다.*” — Kim Jong Il (right before he ordered Death to take him to his next kingdom.)
7. “Come on over to the light.”
8. “Death: I’m Your Heavenly chauffeur.*”
*Results may vary.
9. “If it wasn’t for Me, you’d never have bacon.”
10. “Be apart of something larger. Donate yourself back to the universe. Die.”
11. “10 out of 10 people who die lose weight.”
12. “Death: It will leave you breathless.”
13. “It really helped my political campaign.” — William Wallace.
14. “Without me, you’d still have Hitler, Stalin and bin Laden.”
15. “Death: Here for you in your darkest hour.”
Lend your creative genius to this effort and don’t let Death down … or he’ll let you down. Seriously, don’t make him
I’ve never heard of hazing practices in the funeral industry (although I’m sure it’s happened). And, thankfully, I’ve never been hazed. But if it was common place to haze interns, here’s what hazing might look like in the funeral industry:
1.) At 2 AM in the morning you call out Intern Johnny and say, “Johnny, there’s a call at ‘such and such’ address. Mr. Johnson has died.” If we’re hazing Johnny, it’s assumed that Mr. Johnson’s death is fictitious, but the address doesn’t have to be.
The possibilities are nearly endless:
Mr. Johnson’s house could be the funeral director’s ex-girlfriend/boyfriend’s house.
Johnny pulls up to ex-girlfriend’s house, rings doorbell and waits. Ex scrambles to get dressed, opens the door and reluctantly says, ‘Can I help you?”
Johnny: “I’m here to pick up Mr. Johnson.”
Johnny: “Mr. Johnson … a deceased family member of yours?”
Ex.: “I’m sorry, Mr. Johnson doesn’t live here … you have the wrong house.”
Or, if the funeral director isn’t so diabolical as to send intern Jimmy to his or her ex’s house, he could just send Jimmy to an abandoned house.
Or, Mr. Johnson’s house could be the funeral director’s friends house and your friend could pose as the dead guy, who is waiting to scare the living S*%# out of the intern. And this idea leads to the next hazing …
2.) You could lay in a body bag in the morgue awaiting said intern. From there, scare as you wish … preferably BEFORE said intern starts the embalming process.
3.) “You embalmed an alive body” is a pretty nasty thought; and an equally nasty hazing. Intern comes back from picking up a body at a nursing home (most nursing homes don’t have morgues … we literally take the body out of the bed … which can create confusion when there’s two or three or four people who sleep in same room). Intern embalms said body. Funeral director comes storming into the morgue, “Is that the body you just picked up from the nursing home?”
“Yes” says intern sheepishly.
“The nursing home just called and said they gave you the WRONG BODY!” says funeral director in mass hysteria. “The body on the OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM was the one that was dead!!!”
“DID YOU EMBALM THE BODY!?!” says funeral director!
Intern’s face becomes ghostly pale and distorted.
“They said the body you picked up was JUST SLEEPING!” That person was alive!
“Quick, try CPR” says funeral director.
When CPR doesn’t work, the funeral director screams, “NOOOO!!! YOU KILLED THEM!”
“What?” says intern. “NOOOO!” says intern.
At this point the hazing begins to involve some sense of ethics. Does the funeral director push this hazing farther by suggesting that the intern must clean the morgue top to bottom so as to cover up said “killing” or does the funeral director stop the hazing and save the poor intern a heart attack?
4.) Or, the funeral director could just have the intern clean the morgue, pick up dead bodies in the middle of the night, yell at them all the time … oh, wait, that’s what happens anyways. And this is why there’s no rite of passage in the funeral business. There doesn’t need to be.
Our funeral home doesn’t have a secretary. We answer the phone ourselves.
When you work at a funeral home, any call could be a death call, and it would be really awful if someone called us to ask for our help with a death in their family and we don’t pick up the phone.
So if I’m answering the funeral home’s phone and I’m on the toilet, it creates a predicament. The crux of the predicament is this: many times the nature of the phone call demands that I have access to all the information on my computer data base.
When I’m on the toilet and I get a call asking, “Can you tell me the middle name of such and such who died in 1997?”, or “I’m researching my family history and I need to know where John Doe is buried” I can’t simply say, “I’m taking a dump … give me another five minutes.”
I usually look around for some paper and a pen, which is common place in the restroom of a business; but, in our funeral home that pen and paper always seems to be mysteriously absent.
If the paper and pen are absent, I lie.
I guess these lies are by definition “white lies” as they’re not meant to harm, but to simply protect the sensitivities created by social mores. Nobody wants to be told that they guy on the other line is relieving himself of yesterday’s turkey and bean dinner.
Here are a few white lies I’ve used: “I’m outside doing some yard work, let me put you on hold.” “I’m in the process of restarting my computer, just give me a minute … you know how long it takes PCs to start up.”
Nothing awful. Plain, innocent, necessary white lies.
My phone doesn’t have a “hold” button or a “mute” button, so I put my thumb over the talking end of the cordless and hope I can complete my task with one hand.
It gets tricky. Sometimes sticky. But I’m pretty talented.
In fact, answering the phone while on the toilet only involves minor league talent.
Major league talent is put to the test when you’re sitting on the porcelain and the doorbell rings. Then you pray to God that your movement was Teflon coated.