Monday, April 26, 2010

Heaven, Hell and really big forks

Today, I learned something new, as tought by an ancient Roman Catholic Priest.
He taught us in today's funeral service what Heaven and Hell were like.
Just when you thought you had a good idea of these, then comes this...
He proceded to tell us that Hell was like the greatest banquet you've ever seen. With anything you could imagine on the buffet. All of your favorite foods layed out before you. (Kind of like a Royal Carribean Buffet) The only rule to eat at this lavish buffet was that you had to use utinsels. You see, these utinsels are 8 feet long. So everyone there goes hungry.

Then he went on to describe Heaven. He told us it was like the greatest banquet you've ever see. With anything you could imagine on the buffet. All of your favorite foods layed out before you. (Kind of like a Royal Carribean Buffet) The only rule in Heaven to eat at this lavish buffet is that you have to use utinsels. You see, these utinsels are 8 feet long. So everyone there feeds the person across from them and they eat like kings and queens.

His point was that people need to help eachother and not try to do everything on there own. But I sure am glad that he cleared up what Heaven and Hell were like because that whole streets paved with gold just didn't excite me. Gold is a very soft metal and I'm sure that there would be more potholes than a Detroit freeway.

So, now we know.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Whiplash! This sport has whiplash all over it! Why do I keep doing this to myself? Oh, that's right, it's so much fun. Whirleyball is what you get when you combine bumper cars with those weird scoopy things to through wuffle balls around and try to get the ball into a basketball type goal. Did I mention the bumper cars? You want a fast car so that you can scoot around the court speedily. But when you go flying into a wall or worse yet, someone else's car at that high rate of speed, did I mention whiplash? So we got 30 of our closest friends together and rented this thing for 3 hours. We switch off every ten minutes with teams of 5 each. We left there an hour ago and I'm already feeling the aches that will be more prevalent in the morning. Perhaps I'll set an alarm to get up and take a Tylenol or two and go back to bed.
This definately is the funner side of the grave. Although I think it will put me in the grave a little faster.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Time Expired

Here's one of my favorite shots from Provincetown last summer. to caption it is almost imposible as there are just too many ways it can go. Is it serious? Is it funny? Justin may recognize it and understand it. But for anyone else, it leaves a few questions.

Yes, the time is expired.
What's your take on this?

Why do we have funerals?

I had the pleasure of meeting a funeral director that had recently lost his 7 year old son to cancer.

This man has been around the business his whole life and been a licenced director for 11 years. The thought of death is a daily thing when you grow up your whole life around it. He's been making arrangements for years with people who have recently lost their loved ones and has become quite the expert at helping people cope.

The loss of his own son has brought a whole new perspective for him however. He met with a fellow director that he had worked with in the past. Totally expecting a sales pitch and thinking that this is going to be the worst experience ever in his life, he braced himself. He was quite surprised when the director followed many of the same teachings as he had learned and did not force anything extra on him.

Then came the day of the viewing. He prepared himself for the worst as he anticipated seeing his son layed out in a casket. His nerves were causing him to feel a bit nauseous as he approached the funeral home and was petrified to go in.
When he entered, he was met by the other director and asked to wait as a few last minute preparations were made. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, was ushered in to see his son. His knees were shaking at the thought of seeing him. As they approached the casket, he felt a sigh of relief come over him. His son looked as though he was sleeping in his bed. He had on his favorite shirt and snuggled with his favorite blanket. He knew his son was dead. But was at peace with it.

What happened? Why was he suddenly OK with his son's death?

Because his son had suffered for most of his life and was seldom at rest, it was a good feeling to see him look so peaceful. This is why we have funerals. Often before death we are hit with many tragedies. We think that we don't want to see our loved ones "that way". We'd rather remember them the way they were. But do we? Do we want to remember Mom with dementia? Or our sister-in-law with cancer? Or do we want to see them finally at peace.

For this funeral director, it changed the way he dealt with the families of the deceased. He has a new found respect for the living as well as the dead. I hope that we can all find someone that truly understands, when it comes time. I am lucky enough to know quite a few of these men and women that have been graced by God to be given the gift that helps them help us in tough times.

It's a difficult business to be in. I am very fortunate to be involved in the process of helping people cross from their earthly being into whatever waits for us on the other side. And more importantly, to help those that remain here, to cope with the loss.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Michigan joins the hear and now

On May 1, 2010, Michigan will join 30 some other states and Ontario, Canada in banning smoking from all public buildings. This includes all restaurants and bars. Yesterday, I was traveling back from Northern Michigan and found myself hungry. I found a cute little family place called Mama's cafe. I thought it would be a great place to find a good home-style cooked meal. So I pulled in and found a spot to park. As I approached the doors, I noticed a paper on the door indicating the impending law coming soon. As I pulled the door open, I realized that the future was not a welcome thing at this family establishment. As I found a place to sit, I noticed that every single person in there was smoking. Some had a fork in one hand and cigarette in the other. Get it while you can I suppose. Before the waitress could even find her way to us, I had decided that I had had enough. I quickly made made way to the door.

A ways down the road, I found a Big Boy. Not thrilled will that choice, I pulled in. I have never liked Big Boy because you have to walk through the smoking section to get to the non-smoking section that is always in the corner by the restrooms. Much to my surprise, as we walked in the door, the lady asked how many and took us to a table. That was it. No question of smoking or non?. And I realized that this was the first Big Boy that I've ever been in that was completely non-smoking. For the first time in my history, I was able to enjoy a meal at a restaurant without smoke pouring over and ruining my meal.

I can't describe how pleased I was. I am allergic to the smoke and get instant headaches that don't go away for hours. And that's if I'm able to wash and change clothes that it will go away at all. I for one can not wait for May 1st. I am going to go out to bars and restaurants more than ever. I used to only ever go under protest and never enjoyed myself.

I can't wait! Thank you Michigan!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Yesterday we visited my husband's brother in the hospital icu. While they seem to have him stabilized and thinking of moving him to a regular room, their really doesn't seem to be much hope for a future there. While visiting he was telling us of the woman in the brown jacket that was standing in the corner, not saying anything. Also about the man in the white coat that was busy doing things with the machines that were monitoring his progress. Neither of these two were visible by us.
He has lived a rough life of drinking and drugs. He's lived since the 70's in a series of shacks in the woods out behind his dad's house with no running water. While his existance may seem dismal to most and his life way too short. Let me tell you, he was an amazing man. He was one with the universe if I ever saw someone that was. He loved the woods, the animals and birds. Even the rats that ate his dogs food were his friends. While his smell will not be missed, his smile will be. I just hope that his hospital stay will not be too long.

And today we are off to visit Northern Michigan where my husband's sister is having a bad bout with cancer and things are not looking too well for her. She lived a completely different life. Somewhat normal against many American standards. Quite the woman and I'm glad that I've gotten a chance to get to know her in the past eleven years that I have been with her brother.

It seems that death has been hitting a little too close to home lately after just loosing my uncle a few weeks ago and all. It really helps me to understand what my customers are going through. And it makes me happy that I can give them a nice memorial service to help commemorate a life well lived. It reminds me of why I need to make sure that the hearse is spotless everytime. Nobody wants a dirty hearse. So when I am out there at 7am washing the car in the cold. I feel a little better about it.

One thing that I've learned from each of these three that are leaving my life is to BE THE LOVE THAT I WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD. It's time to turn it up a little. Offer just a little bit more. There's plenty to go around so just give love until you can't give it anymore. And then, no matter who you were, everyone will remember you fondly and you will live forever.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The start of something new

It's the first 80 degree day in S/E Michigan. And as I listen to the birds singing in joy and watch my dog roll in the sunny grass, I also hear the sound of airconditioners in the nieghborhood. As for me, this is what I love. Bring it on. I should be sleeping. It's just too nice of a day to hide in the dark of my bedroom. Perhaps I'll sleep in the chase on the patio.

Spring always brings with it a chance for renewal and to start fresh. So, why should this year be any different. This year is going to be a year of self acceptance. Embrasing who I am and loving everyone around me for who they are.
I will always be the change that I would like to see in the world. But it gets tiring to try and change the world all the time. So, I'll just be me and you just be you and we'll see where this thing takes us.

A friend has encouraged me to set some goals. In the past, I've set goals and some I reached and some, not-so-much. What makes this different? I'm setting goals that are just at the edge of what I can do. Not too far and not too short. It doesn't sound too agressive. The difference is that I am choosing to do them. With each and everything that we do, we have to make a choice. A choice to do it and get it done or a choice to just do the same as yesterday. I'm chosing to complete my goals. I'll write more about each individual goal as they come up. For today my choice is to get it done this time. And to sleep on the patio.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Boasting at the funeral

I had the pleasure yesterday to attend my uncles funeral. It was held in a tiny cemetary in a town that was even tinier.

Being an insider at this funeral, I saw for the first time something very different. I'm not at all saying that all funerals are like this. Maybe it's just my family. I'll keep a closer eye out for it now that I am aware. What was happening with the small sampling of my family that showed up was a bragging contest. All the conversations were focused around who works where, how much you make, where have you been, who do you know.

I learned that my cousin's son is married and has two kids. As he was bragging about where he works, I realized that I don't know these people at all. His wife was there standing next to him and he never introduced her. At least I assume that was his wife. His sister never spoke one word to me. I don't know what that was all about.

I was there for my mother. And glad that I was. She really needed assistance traversing the uneven hillside cemetary with her wheeled walker. The rain/snow mix that was spitting out of the low-laying clouds made standing graveside that much harded for her. I had to catch her a couple of times.
I opened the pouch and placed the pipe tobacco in the whole with him, which I thought was a fitting tribute to a man that always had a pipe and I was looked at like I was somesort of freak. Which I am, but I thought it was a nice thing to do.

In the end, I am happy that I went. It gave me closer. However, it may just be the last time I see my cousin and her family. Sometimes you just have to let things go. I have friends in my life that mean more to me than all of them put together and I would be happy to spend the rest of my life with them.

After sleeping in the evening, I drove home. Leaving at 11pm(my normal schedule) I knew it was going to be an experience when I walked out the door to my brother's house and as I unlocked my car was greeted by a startled deer. Before reaching the freeway 7 miles away, I had couted over 25 more near or in the road. Then was amazed as it continued as I drove down the freeway. It's an interesting concept that the state of Michigan has put into place. They have mile markers every mile at the side of the road and at the half mile point, they seem to have hired deer to go stand out there and make sure everything is going well. I made it home without incident though.

And with that, it's back to work this evening and off to do a funeral in the morning.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Uncle Grant

A week ago today, the world lost my mother's brother Grant. Born in 1924, he lived a long life. He experienced WWII and everything since. The onset of computers running our lives. Cars that are more comfortable than our homes. Telephones that don't need wires.
He survived the death of two wives, a son and his older brother. All that's left of that side of the family is his one daughter and my mom. And of course mom's seven "kids".

He's been cremated already and today we are all gathering in mid-Michigan at a tiny little cemetary in the country to lay his ashes to rest at the feet of my grandmother that I never knew. She died of cancer 12 years before I was even born. And next to my grandfather that was killed in a factory explosion the day before WWII ended. They never knew any of their grandchildren. And we've only ever known them by the marker at their heads and the stories that we've heard.

I have my memories of my uncle. Of all the times he would come and stay at our house when he and his wife didn't see eye to eye. And the times he would pinch and tickle my knee. He smoked a pipe his whole life (evidently a habit he picked up from his dad). Somehow, pipe smoke didn't bother me like cigarettes did. Infact, I rather liked the smell of Uncle Grant. And then there was the wisky dispenser that was a statue of a naked boy peeing that was always in his house. Funny, the stuff we remember. I am looking forward to hearing everyone elses memories today.

It's a two and a half hour drive and I've got three and a half hours to do it. So, I'm off to the great white north.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Want more Love?

Everyone that I know seems to be either looking for love or seeking more or more meaningful love. What brings all the people to the funerals that I do each day? Love. The people that we are honoring seem to have figured it out.

And still there are a lot of lonely people out there. People who feel like no one loves them. The answer is very simple. If you want more love, then you need to give it. Give it away freely. To everyone. And I mean everyone. We are all just trying to make it in this life. The people in the car in front of you. The people in the store that are blocking that item that you are trying to get to. The people that are in hurry and seem to push you out of their way. They are all seeking love. Start with a smile and see where that goes. When you give love away, it comes back to you 10 fold. It seems obvious, but I think we could all use a reminder now and then. If you want people to be nicer to you and respect you for who you are, do the same to them. You never know who that person might be and what tomorrow holds.

Love is out there. More than any one person can ever handle. So take and give as much as you want.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Eye of the beholder

It's true that our eyes only show us what we believe. Not what we see. Two different people can see the same thing and come away with completely different views.

Fortunately, it easier to change what we believe than what we see.
So if you don't like what you see, then change what you think and you'll be amazed how beautiful it was all along.