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acute_angina1 Okay, so this time last year I was recovering from a serious medical event  that should have, for all practical purposes killed me.  But as my kids say, “it’s  hard to kill ’em”  (referring to my side of the family).  I distinctly remember  being in the back of a siren blasting ambulance thinking to myself that with  all the close calls in my life including Iraq scud missiles bursting overhead  upon impact of our Patriot missiles, this little episode isn’t going get me  either.

Upon arrival a the hospital and some excellent quick work by the cardiac physician on duty, my “widow maker” was reopened and I was extended life…again.  After being moved into the ICU strapped down like a Hannibal Lecter, I then endured the barrage of family, friends and medical staff coming to see that I again cheated death, and of course to tell me that I have to “slow down.”  Yea right.

Interestingly my diet was pretty good, I exercise regularly and had a physical only 2 months prior that I did well with “no issues.”  Obviously they got this one wrong.  Thanks to modern medicine, I’m going to keep living life, but better living through chemicals…you know medicine.  I never took medicine beyond some seasonal allergy stuff and in my younger days, a bottle of Pepto Bismol after a night of alcohol buffoonery. So, one change of getting older…I now watch the drug commercials sometimes wondering if what I’m taking is going to give me bleeding eyes, itchy ears and some “seeping” issues as side effects.

After 3 days in ICU I went home and was on “house arrest” which meant I was supposed to chill. The second day I jumped in my car just to drive around for some scenery change and a cigar. During my confinement I also had to be “taken” to the hospital to meet with the rehab folks to “get me in line” so I could live longer.  When I walked in the rehab facility, I thought I was a geriatric health club.  I have never seen so many white Rockports and exercise suits in my life.  The counselor proceeded to ask me questions about family history, my eating habits, work habits, exercise routines, social habits, etc.  Upon conclusion and her review, she started right off the top with “well, you are going to have to stop eating chips, drinking any alcohol and the cigars must go.”  At that, I laughed and said “nope, I must go…now”…never to return.

Okay, so here is my theory on life and getting older.  First, either you do or you don’t.  I refuse to do anything other than to live what I have left any other way than what makes me happy…cigars and all. If eating chips sometimes is going to kill me, so what…I am going to die of something.  Medicine? Well, I have not had any notable side effects that would cause me to stop my taking prescriptions, but I still pay attention to the commercials. I’m not going to wear white Rockports for exercise, and yes golf is exercise. I currently have severe hearing loss from my military days and really is no solution for tinnitus. …so I’m the “what did they say” guy already.  I will drive until someone hides my keys.  As if this is a revelation, as I get older I will continue to speak my mind…I’m a believer of not telling you to go to hell, but the truth, and that feels like hell.  If you are a woman, I’ll call you “ma’am” no matter your age, I won’t write the response to women here that find that “offensive” .  When I think you look nice, I’m going to tell you, get over yourself, I’m not hitting on you.  I’m still too vain with my hair not being combed in public and to not dress nice. I refuse for my belt buckle to point downwards (from an oversized belly)…nor am I going to pull my pants up just below my nipples (at least not yet). Getting older also, for whatever reason (maybe from overuse when we are young) our sex life slows up a bit…oh well. On rare occasions, this subject presents tough decisions. Frankly sometimes I choose a good sandwich, chips and watching football…unlike sex, it lasts longer and I can nap along the way.

A year later, I’m still pretty much me.  I want to continue to be no one else and try to bring humor (my style) to approach life… my acuteangina and all.  If I had known I had one, I probably would had done things differently a long time ago.  Getting older is funny…Cheers y’all.

poor Saturday night I received a call from a lady that in years past I coached  her son in football.  The reason for her reaching out to me that her  niece, only 24 years old had just died at home and she wanted our  funeral home to assist their family.  Unfortunately, the young woman that  died had a debilitating disease and was released to home hospice  from a major medical center only the night before.

I know this family personally and frankly, the word pitiful comes to mind.  You know the family in your communities, truly struggling through life never seeming to get a break.  After providing me with the contact information, I forwarded the data to our on call funeral director.  Within just a few minutes, I received another call from the brother of the deceased.  He told me that he was the only one in the family with a job, almost everyone was on disability, and that finances were going to be a serious issue.  After listening, I shared with him that I understood and that our firm would certainly accommodate them to the best of our ability.  Since finances were an issue, I inquired whether he and the family would consider cremation; he said that was not an option.  They had a family farm property in another county and it was his sister’s desire to be buried there, the least that they could do.  Since this was a home hospice call, our staff was on the way as we spoke and I assured him that we would do our best and our conversation ended.

The best of our ability…this means that we (our funeral home) have to at least cover our costs; removal staff, casket and such.  Even with our offer to do this, what family wanted, they will still to struggle to cover the costs we must pay. When they came in to make arrangements, I was there simply so lend support and let them know that I truly cared for loss (I’m usually traveling all over the planet).  The funeral director conducted the arrangements as our standard; providing them information so that they could make educated decisions.

Anguishing from the experience losing their 24 year old loved one was now coupled with the living struggle of eking their way through life in financial stress…all the time.  I observed as the funeral director repeated what they were requesting from our firm, and then provided them with the cost for doing so.  We had agreed to provide what they wanted and reasonably could afford at our cost.  This family shared with the funeral director what funds they had available, and then we were able to provide them with a payment plan for the balance…still, just covering costs.

I felt compelled to share this real life event for a few reasons.  First, just plain human empathy for this family and so many others finding themselves in this very position.  Living day to day, struggling to make ends meet.  When death or another catastrophic event occurs, all of life’s regular problems are magnified for these folks.  Second, the families like this are one of the fastest growing groups in our country economically.  As a business person, whether a grocery store, shoe store, gas station, clothing store or pick a business; we have overhead costs just to keep the doors open and pay the people to provide service.  In the funeral home business, we are no different.

The difference in the funeral home business is that we are called provide service for those that have lost a loved one, regardless of their financial status.  Some states and municipalities offer indigent funds in the event of indigent death.  I have read that those offerings are “drying up” and non-existent in most areas such as our area of operations.  Many outside the funeral home business have no idea that we are not reimbursed by a government entity like Medicare of Social Security if a family has no life insurance and limited financial resources.  When a funeral home takes possession of a body, by most state statutes and regulations, we must either embalm or refrigerate within a certain time frame.  This regulation does not preclude getting paid from the family.

My heart really does go out to families that are financially suffering, God bless them.  I also understand and have concern for the gut wrenching job a funeral director does to meet their needs, both financially and their requests.  From one owner/partner of a funeral home to the others that read this, my true reason for writing this post is for more people to understand the business we run is more than just nice suits, shiny cars and transactions.  We make decisions that have profound effects on families, our employees and our business…it just isn’t what it seems.  Cheers y’all!

posersThis week I have read outstanding articles from both Alan Creedy (http://connectingdirectors.com/articles/43708-pennsylvania-deprives-consumers-of-21st-century-services) and Ryan Thogmartin (http://connectingdirectors.com/articles/43685-10-reasons-not-to-hire) regarding the funeral industry and continuing myopic practices.  What fascinates me the most is that due to the medium of internet and social media, the exposure of “posers” and as Alan eloquently pointed out “guilds” continue.

Posers (a person who poses, especially a person who is trendy or fashionable in a superficial way) and guilds (a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power) are beginning to scurry for cover like roaches when a light turns on in a dark room.  The funeral industry is wrought with “experts” providing advice with little to no experienced platform to stand and being propped up by those that are fiercely resisting change.  If this sounds familiar, take a look at our government in Washington and lobbyists for a similar analogy.

Social media and the internet are allowing for voices to be heard that were not provided a platform by the “ruling entities” of the funeral profession.  A grand example is Alan and Ryan’s articles…I suspect neither will be published in most funeral association magazines.  As the consumers we serve continue to educate themselves about the funeral industry, pricing, services and the like, they ultimately will force the necessary changes of endless outdated practices.  Much like in the early 90’s, consumers and the internet totally changed the travel agency industry.

So for those in our industry that continue to refuse engage, enlighten and provide positive changes, as the old saying goes “the chickens are coming home to roost.” Cheers y’all.

out of orderI was working a funeral service this past Saturday and experienced strange occurrences that I frankly don’t care to ever live through again. During the services, a young lady came to me to say that one of the restrooms had an “issue.”  Apparently, a roll or so of toilet paper just barely got the job done.  I proceeded to do my best plumbing expertise of using a plunger to fix the problem.  Well, it didn’t even come close…as I was sloshing away, the door opened with a man telling me that the other restroom has “an issue.”  Great…so I stopped plunging and opened the door of the other restroom and observed the same problem.

After exhausting all my best efforts to clear the hatch, I let my fellow participant in hell know we were in dire need of a plumber…on Saturday, in the middle of a funeral service.  My partner let me know that the family requested more memorial folders and the printer for some reason had decided that it also was overwhelmed for the day refusing to submit and he was up to his elbows in ink.  As the service let out, my job was to let folks know the bathrooms were unavailable due to an emergency…imagine the look of horror on some ladies faces upon hearing the news.

To add to the fun, a family of 11 walks into the funeral home to make arrangements for their mother that literally just died 45 minutes ago at the local hospital…and they really want to “get this part over with so that they can party.”  As we cleared the building of the service and initiated the arrangement session with the party family, the plumber arrived. I showed the plumber and his team the problem areas and they started to work, which included turning off the water causing all kind of alarms to start going off. On cue, the party family thought that was a sign that maybe they should take another of their six smoke breaks of the arrangement session.

My hat is off to those that serve the public in so many capacities, and especially those in the funeral service field.  We don’t just stop; we make adjustments, and carry on.  Saturday could aptly be described as a “crappy day”…but the sun came up on Sunday.  Please share some of your “one of those days” with us…Cheers y’all.

 

goodbyeI have seen it in the eyes of family upon my arrival for the removal/transfer of their deceased loved one.  Exhaustion, sadness, disbelief that death has arrived for the person they cared for and loved.  Many of us in the funeral profession have made home removals to see the look and feel the tone of those that have given so much of their lives over the recent past.  For the next 48 to 72 hours, these saints must muster even more energy for the funeral activities that will take place.

I have been part of and talked with many that shared their experiences with the exhaustive “death watch” which may last months.  In their wonderful mission of making the transition from life to death as comforting as possible, I also know that hospice and senior care workers now must move to their next assignment, exhausted as well.

Similar to bringing a newborn home, caring for a dying loved one uproots routines.  Sleep, work, personal time, meals, care visits, laundry, etc. all change.  In most cases, babies at some point get settled and find a routine similar to our own, but the transition to death has no routine.

An example and the inspiration of this post is one of our associates lost his father just last night.  Several weeks ago we were made aware that hospice care determined that the death of his father was imminent, which meant that as his funeral home family we are on standby to assist and serve.  The agonizing weeks, days and hours that followed took an emotional toll on their family.  It’s interesting that at our funeral home we have been notified by family that life sustaining procedures have been stopped on their loved one, and death may occur at any time.  I have personal knowledge of people surviving without life support and living for over a month…incredible testimony to our human design.

For some, plans for the funeral have been made for their deceased loved one. The details of contacting others, dates, times and locations are pretty much all that has not been secured.  For others, even more exhaustive days are ahead.  Funeral decisions made under the cloud of grief coupled with exhaustion only exasperate what is considered one of life’s most stressful events, the funeral of a loved one.  On top of this, finances, frayed emotions and unresolved family issues are not unusual during funeral events.

Death is often exhausting…for those that are dying, for family that is tending and caring for the dying, for those that make the transition more comfortable from life to death, and for those that serve the families in their darkest of days.  I have witnessed, deal with and ultimately know that I too will personally experience exhausting death of a loved one.  My words are from my heart to encourage all of us to continue to have empathy, provide comfort and serve those that are experiencing exhaustive death.  At some point, we’ll want to be served as we serve.  Cheers y’all.

freezing I sit here in my warm office this evening thinking of just how frigid the air  is outside.  We were not the recipients of much snow in our geography,  but the cold is biting.  The news today was all about gridlock and peril in  parts of our country that are not used to the cold or copious amounts of  snow and ice.  “Parking lots” on highways and car wrecks by the droves.

But the underlying story I did not hear from the media was two groups of people.  First, those that are forced to live and endure the outdoors in this type of weather because of misfortune.  I served dinner last Sunday night at our local homeless shelter and my mind is on the faces…children, women and men alike suffering.  Secondly, those that serve; police, fire, EMT, military, power company personnel, medical, hospice, and yes, when people die, funeral directors.  None of these people take the night off because of the cold.

We are a nation that cares and will answer the call of duty when needed.  I pray for those that are cold and find themselves where they never imagined.  I pray for those that are serving at this very moment in conditions that are nearly unbearable.  I give thanks to God that I am here, blessed and humbled.

There but for the grace of God, go I. This means I too, like someone that suffered misfortune, might have suffered a similar fate, but for God’s mercy.

AdviceI really enjoy reading posts, blogs and comments that circulate throughout the funeral, grief, hospice and senior care industries.  Many offer excellent insights from combined experience and education, providing helpful relevance which assists all of us that serve.  Actually looking a dying person in the eyes while providing comfort, or working with a family stressed and emotionally drained from providing day-to-day care is much different from reading about it.  Additionally, being in a funeral arrangement session with families whose members are in the same state, imminent/post death actually observing their decision-making under the cloud of anguish and grief is equally not the same as speculating about what actually takes place in such events. 

So my post today is first to thank those of you in the before-mentioned positions and professions for sharing your experiences to assist others to serve better.  But “the heart of the matter” is to address all those that are surrounding and “supporting” our respective industries.  We get inundated by “try this, do that and we’re sure this will work” by those that have never changed a bed pan, consulted a family about the impending death of their loved one, provided comfort transition from life to death, created a funeral home budget/P&L, assisted a family making funeral arrangements, watched a family kiss their loved one for the last time, or actually provided comfort to a grieving person over their loss.

I’m a firm believer in education about any specific profession, but I also believe that “hands on experience,” training and practice are the best teachers.  It’s like reading books about combat and thinking you are prepared for battle.  One must have actual experience for true appreciation of the work involved; along with the “authority” to offer insight or opinions with credibility.

Finally, I want to encourage those that do contribute from authority and experience to continue providing meaningful and original content.  For all the others, give us break.  We can read Forbes, or Entrepreneur finding such generalized content ourselves…quit posting stuff for the sake of posting.  I have been in a combat zone and a target of real world attacks; so for the respective industry carp that will “yelp like a bit dog” and get their underwear in a wad; go ahead take offense and get over yourself.  For everyone else please continue the great work.  Cheers y’all!

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