Life working at a funeral home-Rules
There are rules that we follow at the funeral home.. I’ve talked about the ‘Informant’ and what that means.. The informant is the person who is listed on the file as the person who is in ‘charge’ of things and usually this person is the decedents next of kin or sometimes it can be a child if perhaps the parents are very old and the surviving spouse says that the prefer to let the child handle things.
Now, if there are any questions we have, we will only contact the informant, unless otherwise told by the informant that we can contact someone else. So the ONLY person we will release the death certificates to is the informant. Same goes for the funeral bill, etc. This is also true for the cremated remains. We will not release them to ANYONE except the informant unless otherwise told by the informant that we can release them to someone else. If someone else in the family calls, whether it be another child, a grandchild, niece, nephew, brother, sister….and they want to pick up cremains…NO! Not unless we receive permission directly from the informant. These other relatives may be thinking they are doing the family a favor by picking them up and maybe they would be, but we dont know that! It amazes me just how many times we get people, who are not the informant or even a close relative who want to pick up cremains and when we tell them no they get upset. But what you need to do is stop and think about it, would you appreciate someone other than yourself picking up your spouse or parents cremated remains? I would think that most would be upset if the funeral released them to someone that was not appointed to. There may be some friction within the family that we do not know about. Maybe there is an ex wife? Even a girlfriend or boyfriend of the deceased who feels they should have the cremated remains. Maybe there are step children, etc.. Who knows what or why someone other than the next of kin would try or want to.pick up the cremated remains! Same for death certificates. I don’t think i can ever write too much about death certificates..lol. But so many times someone other than the informant wants the death certs. Not only are we not going to give you them because you are not the informant or next of kin, we are not going to because you did not pay for them…the informant/nok did. We arent ‘purposely’ withholding them from you! And no, we are not ‘illegally’ keeping them from you! We will NOT get involved with any family bickering or who is suppose to get what! If you want a death cert then ask the next of kin for one!! Why would you NOT ask the next of kin for one before asking us anyway!! For those of you who think that you need a death cert for work or school, as notice of attendance, you do not! You only need a work excuse wrote by one of the staff at the funeral home. If someone tells you otherwise, tell them to piss off. You should not be required to purchase a death cert for proof of attending a funeral! I get so many families who during the arrangement when asked how many copies of the certified death cert they need, someone will speak up and say..well, i need one for work and so will so and so, and you may need one too and so will..etc… No, you dont. If you feel more comfortable giving your employer a death cert, then we can make a photo copy. However, a death certificate is not going to show when the funeral service was, it will only show the persons date of passing, so really it is no good if your employer needs to see verification that you were really at the funeral.
Just an FYI to those who are not funeral home employees and have absolutely no clue what it takes to dress a body. Once we have a body dressed and in the casket….Please DO NOT ask us if we can put this sweater on grandma or…we found a different shirt for grandpa, or a nicer dress for mom… It is not like dressing someone when they were alive! And if the body is in the casker already, its a good chance hair has already been done, even all makeup. So all of that will have to be redone. It is NOT easy dressing a body let alone undressing and changing their outfit. Also, when you bring us the deceaseds dentures, after we have embalmed and set features, more than likely, we aren’t going to use them. We may take them from you and tell you, ‘ok..thank you’. But really, we are not going to use them. Probably by the time you bring them to us (I’ve had families bring them in immediately prior to viewing!) the body has already been embalmed and mouth already set and formed. We dont need the dentures to make the mouth look normal. We will just put those dentures under the persons pillow in casket. Also, the deceaseds hands are typically placed together over the abdomen, otherwise they would just be laying at the persons sides. For most, a rosary is placed in the persons hands but there are those who are not religious and thats ok, the family may have something else they want placed in the persons hands. Maybe a flower, a sentimental photo, it can be just about anything, as long as it can be placed there. But, I am still amazed at some of the requests families have… One family wanted to place a small book under their grandfathers hand….’hand’, just one hand.. so when explained that we would fold his hands together and place the book underneath, they said the didnt want it under both hands…not sure why exactly but when explained that the other hand would just be laying down at his side, they seemed somewhat perplexed. It is not always the easiest trying to explain to a family certain things about a body. You certainly don’t want to sound too technical or even unsympathetic when explaining that a body (a dead body) is not so easy to work with, manipulate. The deceased doesn’t always like to cooperate.
I have had people who have touched, poked and prodded at the deceased…then, they come and will tell us that the makeup is messed up….or worse. When I first started working at a funeral home I had a younger boy who passed. The mother wasn’t quite..’all there’. Granted her son had just passed away, but she was still a bit crazy. During visitation, while everyone was in chapel she decided she was going to start touching her sons face…she not only touched it, she really started poking and actually poked at his eyelids as well as his mouth. This caused some issues. You can’t really yell at her for touching her son, but she wouldn’t stop doing it! I had to ask her mother to please speak to her daughter and that it is not acceptable for her to do that to her son. Not only did she really cause a…mess, we had to ask her as well as everyone else who was there at that time to please step out of the chapel. I remember hearing the mom screaming and carrying on that we were keeping her away from her son and that she could do whatever she wanted because he was her son. Later thay evening, as visitation was ending, her mother was walking around looking around…I thought she was acting a bit strange..apparently the mother of the boy said she was going to hide in the building so she could stay with her son. She was laying underneath the couch in the chapel. Had noone found her and I locked up for the night and set the alarm. . . The alarm would have gone off and guess who would have been arrested..and guess whose fault she would have said it was…!!
When you have a loved one who may be in the hospital and on life support, the hospital may tell you to get your loved ones funeral arrangements in order or they will ask you if there is a funeral home to which you want to use once your loved one passes. So typically what happens is that the family will call us and tell us that their relative is being taken off life support and the hospital has told them to contact us because their loved one will be passing very soon. Well…I feel the hospital gives the family the impression that once they stop the ventilator that their loved one will pass immediately. It doesn’t always happen this way…usually, in my experience, it takes a a few days even can take months. I have experienced this personally, three times. In my personal opinion, I am no doctor…but from witnessing this first hand, I believe the younger the patient and what the diagnosis of their illness that caused them to be ill, the longer it may be. If it is a younger person, who has a strong heart, then the heart is going to work longer keeping that person alive. If it is an older person their heart is probably not that strong to begin with, so that person may not survive as long as a younger person. Also, like I said, depending on what the cause of illness is. Of course if that person had a major heart attack, then their heart is not going to work that well… My experience was with a relative who was in their 60’s who had a major heart attack. They had been without oxygen for at least 7 minutes and was resuscitated several times before making it to hospital. They were put on life support, never regaining consciousness and we were told that without the ventilator they would not survive. So we had to make the decision to take them of the vent. When we did, it took not more than 20 minutes. My other experience, a closer relative, had been struggling with a certain disease, they were placed on life support and we made the decision to take them off, we knew they wouldn’t want to be on life support. They survived over a week. There have been families that have rushed in to see us because their loved one was being taken off life support and they were told that it could be any minute…so they come in and get all the arrangements down on paper and we will typically keep the file at hand instead of filing it..There have been those that after a few weeks, we end up filing because that person has still not passed. So, one never really know just how long one will survive. You just dont know how long your body will fight to stay alive. I feel as if these families feel rushed to do something they really dont have to. Of course pre arranging your funeral is always a good idea, but when someone is so close to death, it is ok to wait until they pass to make final arrangements. I have has families that have a loved one near death, either in hospital or in hospice care and they feel rushed to make arrangements and they receive a call while at funeral home that their loved has passed on. This has happened more than once. Spend those last hours with them…not us.
When we receive a death call, there are a few questions we need to ask, name of deceased, person calling, where the person is at, a phone number incase we need to call them back, who is the next of kin, if they want to schedule appt to come in, and…permission to embalm. The last one always seems to be the most difficult. More times than not, people know if they want visitation or not, which will require embalming. But, we get those who just cannot give us an answer or not, maybe because they are undecided or they have to speak with their family first. I always tell them to.please let us know as soon as they decide, if they will not be coming in for arrangements right away, the sooner we begin embaming the better.
I know I have gone on and on about people and their food and their luncheons..but really, I cannot get over how focused people are on food! Had a family not too long ago who lost their mother and came in for arrangements on a Wednesday and scheduled the visitation for the following Sunday for a Monday funeral because….the place they wanted the luncheon could not accomodate them until Monday afternoon! I just feel this is ridiculous! They couldn’t go anyplace else. Or..just forego the luncheon all together!?! And…the thing is, they knew this prior to coming in to meet with us! So they actually contacted this place before even coming into the funeral home. That makes me think of another thing that really irritates me, when people start telling others when the visitation and funeral will be BEFORE they even come in for arrangements! We get phone calls inquiring about a person we dont even know we have yet. When we say, “….uhh, we don’t have anyone here by that name “, they say..”oh, well the family said…blah blah blah”. So…usually we can expect a family yo show up or call, and they say theu want whatever days..typically we can accommodate them, but there are those times when we may not be able to and what happens…? The family says they have already told everyone that it would be thosr days… Guess you shouldn’t have!!
I have also noticed lately that there seems to be a bit more crazy people around ! Seriously! Not sure why or whats going on, but people are just, weird. I hate getting yelled at over the phone by some people who think that it’s my fault that a family has decided not to have visitation or because a family is not having a church service or maybe because a family has decided on cremation instead of burial… It is not my fault! Geeeesh.
Same goes for when people call for pricing..Always get people who just get irate with us. I dont get it.