Life at a funeral home-Unappreciated, Hard work, Stress, Irritability, etc…

When it rains it pours!
We have suddenly become busy…not just busy, but B U S Y !!
Of course my boss loves the business as do the rest of us. What I and the rest of us don’t like is being so busy that we can’t think straight. We all get alittle irritable, stressed out. We sometime can’t even stop for 2 minutes to stuff a sandwich or a granola bar in our mouths or even use the restroom. When it gets so busy it even becomes difficult to keep things straight. But, I think I would rather be busy then slow, if I had to choose. When we get long stretches of being slow, you start to look for things to do, there is usually always things to do. But when it stays slow, you start to run out of things to do and then we all start to get a little on the lazy size so when we do start to pick up again, none of us want to do anything.. But anyway, at our funeral home we try to make sure that each of the employees know what is going on at all times. This may seem like something that is simple but it is not, even tho we have a small staff. During the day it is usually just 3 to 5 of us working and if there is visitation we will have another 1 to 3 employees there, but not until either after 12pm or after 4pm. There is not just the ‘funeral info’ that needs to be known to each of us but there are several other things that need to be known, there may be an urn that needs to be filled once we receive cremated remains and that the family not be called before that urn is filled, and if the cremains arrive from crematory prior to the urn arriving and someone doesn’t know we are waiting on the urn or doesn’t check the file notes and they contact the family, the family comes in to pick them up and there is no urn, well then the family is , where is the urn we ordered?!? We may be waiting on pendants/jewelry that a family has ordered and those need to be filled and we have to contact each individual who ordered the piece of jewelry. We are usually always waiting to hear from a doctor’s office, hospital, nursing home, etc.. to hear that a death certificate has been signed and ready to pick up or waiting to hear that, yes, the doctor is signing a death cert and we can bring it to them between certain hours on certain day or days. We could be waiting to hear back from a family regarding info we need from them or waiting to hear what day/hours they want their visitation or we could even be waiting to hear from a family that we have picked up from place of death, who maybe passed in the middle of the night and they are suppose to call to schedule arrangement time (instead of walking in!! Which I had 4 walk ins last week!!…talk about STRESS! And 2 were on same day and the other 2 were the following day! Plus, we already had other arrangements scheduled AND two of those times I was alone!). We could be waiting for the church to call back to confirm Mass times, Rosary times, or we are waiting for a Minister, Priest, Reverend, etc to return our call. We could be waiting for a return call from cemetery…the list goes on and on and on and on…And in the midst of all of that, we could be having a family coming in for their first viewing that day or we could be having a funeral service that day, there could be a family there making arrangements and a funeral going on or first viewing or all three at the same time! The bad part is that who knows if someone will just walk in at that SAME time and want to make arrangements! It’s happened and it will happen again I’m sure. And who is to say that the Director will be able to meet with them..I had a family walk in last week right as we were finishing up a funeral but also had another family coming in any minute for first viewing. So, it gets to be very stressful and irritating. At some point when it is busy like that we are going to have to explain to the walk in that there is just noone available to meet with them right at that moment. I get those who roll their eyes and sigh, I also get those who completely understand and will come back at a time I ask them to. I also get people who will say, “I/we just want to get some information about funeral cost and what we have to do, etc..”. Well, technically it’s still going to take time and take me away from doing what I have to get done NOW for a family who will be arriving any minute! It wouldn’t be an issue if we had a large staff and there was always someone who was available to meet with a family at a moments notice or had enough staff that could handle getting a funeral out and getting another family situated for first viewing. But we are a smaller family owned business with a small staff.
Then…while we are busy and trying to get things done and make sure that the famiy that is there for visitation is happy, the phone is ringing, we are trying to get death certificates done, insurance assignments done, printing, etc..This is when it never fails that someone is not happy with something or the family that is there may just be one of those families who are just not happy with anything or just complainers or the kind of family that we call ‘needy’, but then we also have those families that never have a complaint or ask us for anything…. I am in no way saying that if the family is not happy with something they shouldn’t tell us about it but what I mean is the WAY they tell us. In those types of families, there is usually one or two people that are the ‘bitchy” ones and anything and everything they can complain about they will. It can be just because it is too hot or too cold in the chapel for them. Well really that is not a big issue and only takes a minute to fix. But they will act as if we are purposely making it too hot or cold and huff and puff about it until they find something else to complain about..maybe the rest room needs toilet paper, again, something that takes only a moment to fix. Maybe they drank all the coffee within minutes and we haven’t made a new pot yet.. we do not have anyone standing next to the coffee pots at all times. We check them often and will immediately make more when we see it is needed, but if there is a family who just drinks alot of coffee then of course it will need to made more. Once we realize that, then someone will be sure to keep an eye on more so than usual. All of those things are typical instances that just happen and the issue can be fixed within minutes. There are of course bigger issues that people complain about that we may or may not have any control over. One that happens alot is that someone in the immediate family may not think the deceased looks like their loved one. Well, first off, they are dead. They are not going to look the same. In fact, they are going to look, well, dead. Embalming, makeup and hair styling can only do so much. You really need to remember that usually the person had been ill before passing. They probably didn’t really look themselves while ill. Families bring in photos of their loved ones to give us an idea of how they styled their hair and wore makeup, so we try our best to go from that photo, but that photo was more than likely taken while that person was healthy. Maybe they had lost alot of weight while ill, their hair is probably alot thinner, maybe they are bloated from medications they were on (bloating will usually go away, but possibly not all of it), or they could be jaundice. Then we have other families who just cannot stop complementing on how great their loved one looks! Another issue that seems to come up alot is parking. Yes, parking! We cannot make extra parking. We have ample parking. If someone has to park on a side street then that is where they have to park!! We also get those who complain that the chapel is not large enough. Again..we cannot magically make the chapel larger. What really ticks me off about this one is that the family previously saw the chapel when they came for arrangements. So now you are gonna say something when its too late anyway. And my all time favorite complaint is ‘we want this, this and this…but we cant afford to pay for it’. And another issue that ALWAYS comes up is that maybe a family did not want an obit it the local paper or any paper, even not wanting it on the funeral homes website. There is no charge for us to put an obit on our website but we always ask our families if thet want us to post it or not and they have the option of having us also post a photo of the deceased as well. As I have said before, the newspapers charge ALOT now days for obits, so if maybe the family cannot afford it so they decide not to do one or they just simply do not want to do one. We don’t ask why.. But the issue is that people just do not/cannot understand why there is no notice in the paper or on our website!! They will call the funeral home and act as if they are just so put out because they actually HAD to use the phone (oh no!) to call the funeral home and ASK about the visitation/ funeral arrangements! We had a family last week that did not want the obit on our website. I received a couple of calls inquiring about visitation times. Instead of just asking “could you please give me the times of visitation and the funeral service for Mr/Mrs….?” Nope..i answer phone and I get, “…uhhmmm, hi, I was just on your website to find the information about so and so, but I do not see it listed, you have everyone else listed, but not so and so, is there a reason why you have not put so and so’s info on there, because I know alot of people will be looking on your website for the info, but you people have not posted it yet!” It is not that they are just asking, it is the way they ask, almost to accuse us of ‘forgetting’ to list it on the website. Now, it is not mandatory for me or anyother employee to explain to anyone who asks why it is not listed! But of course by the time they are done telling me that it is not listed, I feel like I have to explain…and that ticks me off! I will just tell them the family did not want it posted on our website. Their response, “…oh, really, why?” What I wanted to say is, “none of your business!” However, I say.. “the family did not want it listed, I do not know the reason.” Same goes for the paper…people always ask why the family did not put an obit in the paper…Here’s an idea people, just mind your own business and not question WHY. And if it is that important for you to know why…ask the family! …….anyway,
One of the families we had last week, which just happened to be one of the walk ins, wanted a full day of visitation. They HAD to have a full day..but the deceased had no money, they had no life ins… but they wanted, insisted on having a full day as well as a higher end casket. Well, when a family says they have no money but want want want…what do you say!?! No? We suddenly turn into the bad guys because we have to tell them that they have to pay! Blows my mind every single time!! We are not required to work out payment arrangements. We can also insist that payment in full is due immediately. And to be honest it is those families who say they do not have any money that we typically tell payment is due now. The reason…because if they say they do not have any means of paying, they probably wont have any means of paying later. As for payments, I think people feel it will be easier to start making payments later on, after all the funeral stuff is done and over and they have had time to clear their minds, but in fact, it may make it harder for some because now, each month they are forced to think about having to pay for the funeral of their loved one. Also, when families find out that payment is due immediately, they are shocked, usually, especially those who do not have much money to work with, but this forces the family to not overspend. If avoids them from purchasing things when they may not be thinking clearly. This is something that people should take into consideration when making funeral arrangements, if you feel overwhelmed, hold off a day, maybe two, before making arrangements or even better, bring in a trusted friend or relative who can be there to steer you in the right direction.
So, while we are juggling so many different families and so many other things at the same time, it really does become quite stressful and we all start getting abit nerved. Especially when we are waiting on other people…What I mean is, we may be waiting for a death cert to get signed. We may have dropped it off to a doctor a couple of days ago but the doctor has yet to sign it. If this particular case is a cremation then it really puts us in a tight spot because we need that death cert signed by the doctor in order to get a permit from the medical examiner to proceed with the cremation. It may take our medical examiner a few days to approve the permit and fax back to us! Now understand that I am speaking of our Medical Examiner. They are extremely busy and slow most of the time! There have been several times when we have had to physically go to the Medical Examiners office with the permit and death cert and a check for the permit fee in order to get the permit approved and signed! Our M.E. is in our county, of course, but that doesn’t mean that they are just around the block! It also means that when we do go there, there may also be other funeral homes there waiting for permits, death certificates (that the M.E. is signing) and they just may be slow, which is usually the case and they don’t care how much of a hurry you are in! Same goes for doctors. They could care less how much of a hurry we are in for them to sign a death cert. They dont care that someones loved one is laying in a cremation container at the funeral home or at the crematory waiting to be cremated because they are taking their time signing a death cert. However, I can bet if it were their loved one, they wouldn’t be so happy if the doctor just didn’t have the time to sign the death cert! It is also very hard trying to explain to families why it is taking so long. The family just wants it done. They don’t want any excuses and when something is not done in an appropriate amount of time, they want someone to blame and it is us, the funeral home who they blame!
So while we are trying to make sure that the temp in the chapel is just right, making sure you have enough coffee, answer our phones that don’t stop ringing, getting doctors to sign death certificates, waiting on phone calls from insurance companies, churches, cemeteries, doing printing of the memorial cards for another family, meeting with another family, making a removal, waiting on a family to drop off clothing, embalming, etc.. We are also trying to keep our cool, our patience and not let it show to any family just how stressed and under pressure we are, how hungry or tired we may be!
Speaking of families that are suppose to be dropping off clothing… This is a reoccurring problem for us. When a family comes in for arrangements, if they have contacted us when the person passed away, we will let tell them some things that they should bring in with them, such as…clothing, jewelry, a photo (for hair/make up), life ins policy, glasses, social security number, etc. Even though we tell them this, they do not always bring all these items in with them. Maybe they did not have time to get everything together, they have to go shopping for new clothing, they forgot, whatever the reason. Then there are those families who…just walk in! So if a family comes in with no clothing, we will tell them that they have to bring the clothing in asap! Especially if their visitation is to begin the following day! We will actually give them a specific time we must have the clothing by. Nine out of ten times…we do not receive the clothing at the time specified! We wait an hour or sometimes longer to see if maybe they are just running late…and I should add that most of the time we never receive a phone call letting us know they are running late! When too much time has passed and we have still not received clothing or a phone call…we will try to contact them. Most of the time we get voicemail. Other times, when we do get ahold of them it is always, “oh, we are running behind today, we just have so much to do” or “we/I just woke up, but will bring them in a little bit”. We didn’t give you just a random time that we needed the clothing by.. we actually need it! It is not just an option for you to bring in the clothing, it is mandatory that you bring it, in a manner of enough time for us to get your loved one dressed! Again…it is not the easiest of tasks to dress a body. You want us and expect us to do our jobs and do it right and in the amount of time we have so that your loved one looks good and you have a nice funeral for them and get what you paid for, but we also have to depend on you as well! Not only for clothing either. We may need a photo for hair, for the obit (if in the paper, there are those pesky deadlines and once we pass that deadline…too bad). If you want picture on the memorial cards..printing takes time, etc. And when these things are not completed when they are suppose to be, regardless of who is at fault, it is the funeral home who always gets the blame!
Also, we are usually closed in the evening if there is no visitation. We are also closed on Sundays if no visitation. As are most funeral homes, at least in my area. This is why it is important for people to CALL FIRST BEFORE coming to the funeral home to make funeral arrangements or anything else. I cannot stress this enough! Even if you know we are open…Call first!! That goes for any funeral home! I don’t know of any funeral homes that like walk ins..yes, we appreciate the business, but you should call before coming! It is just common courtesy. It isn’t so bad if the family who just showed up is nice and understanding if they have to wait a few minutes or if we have to tell them they have to come back at a later time, but if you are someone who just assumes that because you are there someone HAS to help you asap, well then…CALL FIRST AND SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT! There have been so many instances where when we are closed someone shows up. Then we get a call that they are outside waiting.. when told we are closed but if arrangements need to be made someone can meet you there within a half hour, 15 minutes, etc, it never fails that whomever it is gets ticked off because they have to wait! The typical response ism “but i am here NOW, I can’t wait all day!” Well…you should have called prior to showing up. There are also those instances when there already is an arrangement on a day we are typically closed, the Director is there meeting with a family, but since we are technically closed, the phones are still transferred to another director or the ans service and our sign says, ‘CLOSED’, yet someone is ringing rhe doorbell or calling the ans serv because they are there because they need to make arrangements. Well…even though someone is there, they are already meeting with someone, which means you are going to have to wait anyway. There are those times when someone shows up, we are closed, they call, they are told that someone will meet them there in a few minutes and they will say maybe, ‘ok..can we meet here in 2 hours, or whatever time they say, and the Director will make plans to meet them there in that given amount of time. The Director will arrive when they are suppose to and what happens, they family or whoever doesnt show up on time or at all. So, do we call that family or person and start bitching that we were there and they weren’t! No! We do not! When a family insists on coming in at a certain time to make arrangements, we make changes or adjustments to our schedule. When those people show up late or not at all, do we call them up and yell at them? Nope. Our time is just as valuable as your time. Yet being the type of business we are, we cannot charge you for a no show, like a doctor or dentist office may do. When you do eventually show up, we really cannot turn you away and say that you now have reschedule to another day. And most of all we can’t show our irritation because we have to show sympathy and understanding. Yes, there are those times when we get a family who may be rude or argumentative with us and just outright mean to us. Those are few and far between, but yet it has happened and yes, those times we have told them that either they can calm down or go someplace else. Usually when someone is like that it is usually because they don’t like our prices and say they need something less expensive and when we continue to try to help them they are still not satisfied. Once we discount as far as we possibly can without actually paying for their funeral, we have to just tell them we cannot drop our prices any more and they are more then welcome to go elsewhere. By that point we are usually hoping they do go elsewhere because we are already not getting along with them and it is probably best they do go someplace else.
After your funeral and your luncheon, if you have flowers at the funeral home, you would typically come back and pick them up. If you can’t or it is late, you may come the following day. We will set all your flowers aside in our flower room on the shelf with your families name on that shelf. There will also be a bag, which we call ‘the family bag’, it contains the sign in book, probably the death certificates, the funeral bill, any jewelry that belonged to the deceased, extra prayer cards, thank you cards, etc.. Believe it or not we get many families who just dont come back for anything. If a couple of days go by and your things are still there, we will contact the informant. Alot of people will say they forgot or they were busy or tired, whatever the reason, but they thank us for calling and will come to get everything, other times we just don’t ever hear from anyone. Well after a few days, the flowers are going to wilt and die. They also begin to smell! We just cannot keep them sitting there smelling…we get enough bad smells at the funeral home..!! So eventually we are going to have to throw them away. So why is this such a shock to certain families when they eventually show up days later? If there are plants, we will leave those and we may even give them some water if one of us has a minute, any ribbons that may have been in with flower arrangements that say ‘Dear Mother/Father/Grandma/ Grandpa, etc, we will keep as well incase the family wants them. But those flower arrangements just do not last long, sometimes they are starting to wilt while the family is still there for visitation. We do not water any flower arrangements or plants after a families visitation, at night when they leave, or in the morning before they arrive for second day of viewing or day of funeral service, I don’t know of any funeral homes that do that. I’m sure there may be those funeral homes that do, but I have never heard of or been told they do. Another word about flower arrangements, when you have children with you at the funeral home (which by the way, is dumb!) and these particular children are not well behaved or the usual, just left to wander and do as they please (which again, is dumb!), and noone is watching them or reprimanding tjem for being loud or for running, etc.. there have been several instances where they will knock over a flower arrangement or two! So not only did they just knock over an expensive flower arrangement that someone paid alot of money for they also just dumped water and dirt all over our carpet. Guess who now has to go into chapel, in front of everyone there, and try to clean up a bunch of wet dirt off the carpet…WE DO! we really cant just whip out the vacuum cleaner..we have to get on our hands and knees, in our suit, and clean it up all the while acting as if we are not irritated! This is also reflected in our funeral costs, upkeep of the funeral home. The other day we had visitation and there just happened to be alot of smaller kids there (yay) and they were all running around all day, screaming and yelling and not one parent disciplined them, at all! They had run up behind the casket and actually had moved the casket where it had been pushed back and it was now not centered and pushed back against the drapes that are behind the casket, they are a heavier velvet drape that hanges on the wall with a sheer panel in the center, which was now all messed up as well, one side was pushed over so the sheer panel was only showing on one side. Oh well..I didn’t fix it, no one else fixed it either. Why? Because the kids would have just continued to do it, which they did…ALL DAY AND EVENING. The day of funeral, which was instate at church, the cleaner was there and was cleaning the chapel and she found gum in the carpet right in front of where the casket sits as well as stuck on the velvet drapes. She also found some mints, that had obviously once been in someones mouth, stuck to the couch cushions. I am assuming that some of the kids took a few mints we have in a crystal bowel in the arrangement office (why on earth they were allowed inside the arrangement office is beyond me), and realized they did not like them, instead of just putting them in the one of many trash cans around the funeral home, stuck them on the couch, probably trying to hide them under the cushion. These are reasons why you should NOT bring your children to the funeral home…at least do not make them stay there ALL DAY! There is no excuse why your children have to be there all day. Get a sitter, stay home with them yourself. Take turns with your husband or wife, one of you attend the visitation or one of you go and the other stat home then once the other person gets home the other one goes. Have grandma or grandpa, or a trustworthy neighbor watch them. You are not required to spend hours with the famiy at visitation. Go during a time when your kids are in school. And if none of those options are available, then either don’t come at all or bring them with you but only stay for a short time!! Your kids are your excuse not to stay! If you happen to be the family who is having the visitation and have your kids, Watch Them! Or again, switch with your husband or wife or another relative! Line up a sitter, whatever you gotta do, but do not bring them if you are not going to watch them..and I don’t mean watch them run wild thru the funeral home! Your kids do not want to be there all day, they are bored! And NO, we do not have a play room for children! We have been asked this several times! Speaking of flowers…we do not have ANY control over the flowers you order. If you order your flowers from a flower shop, how is it that you are going to question us why they are not there or complain that they are not what you ordered or you are not happy with them ? Our funeral home does not have have a flower shop..some funeral homes do, but we do not. But you know where you ordered your flowers from, so why are you not contacting them!?! If you do not see your flowers in the chapel when you come for visitation, first think of WHEN you ordered them. Was it just a few hours prior? Did you maybe get the name of funeral home wrong? And of course you can ask the funeral home staff if maybe your flowers are in the flower room and have not yet been placed in chapel yet..but when they tell you that there are no flowers in the flower room…end it! End it and turn around and call the florist! There are also links on our website as there are on other funeral home websites that are links to flower shops, either shops that are local and or those flower shops that you see advertised on tv, the ones who will ship anywhere. Just because we have a link to those on our website does not mean we own those shops. It clearly states what flower shop it is, their phone number, and of course the link takes you to THEIR website. But we do get those people who still assume it is our flowers..
Since we have been so busy lately, the food that the families have been bringing in is just ridiculous. .. tje amount of food, I should say. I cannot even begin to try and explain just how much food there has been. I still don’t understand why. I get that people, friends of the deceased and family members may send pastry baskets or bring in a veggie tray or cookies, but I do not understand the reasoning behind the family bringing in food, not just cookies, not just a few sandwiches, but whole meals. I think it is tacky. There was a family a couple weeks ago that just had so much food and at one point one of the family members asked for an extra TWO tables. Then a little later on they asked if there was someplace else they could set up more food…WHAT!?! Really… Now, there is already a table in our lounge. Then, when the family first arrived (almost an hour early…cuz they had so much SHIT to bring in), we set up another table. Now the table that is already there, is probably the size of two card tables, the regular square sized ones. Then, the table we put up for them when they got there is about 6’ long. So…when they asked for another one, we got out the other one, which is about the same as the other one. All of these tables were jammed packed with food! Also, they were upset because they could only plug in one crock.pot at a time! First off, we do not normally allow crock.pots anyway! But..I did not see them bring any in, nor did the Director. I dont think anyone realized they had them until they asked for the extra table.. So, now you are in the funeral home, you have the chapel where your loved one is then you have the use of the lounge. It is pretty clear what we space we have. Just because there may be a door…that is locked, in the lounge are, does not mean behind that door is another lounge just for you and your food. So, when they asked us if we had more space for them because they were running out of room, and we said, no we do not, they said that if we could open the door that is in the lounge they could use that. I was dumbfounded. I said, “you mean the door that is in the back that is locked,” they of course said yes, so im my mind i was laughing and bitching at the same time.. I told her that room was not extra room for the lounge area, our FURNACE AND HOT WATER TANK are in that room! Maybe had they not had so much food, they would have had more room! If you want a place to hang out and eat for 8 hours, dont come to the funeral home, go to the bar or take all your food back home, and have everyone come over your house! It isn’t like anyone is spending anytime in the chapel pretty much you are paying us thousands of dollars for you and your friends to hang out in our lounge eating. Dumb!

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