Thursday, September 2, 2010

Remembering Removals

As promised, I am going to try and share a little of our history in the removal business. If you have had experience in this field, your stories are always welcome in the comments section.

My husband got me started, reluctantly in what is known as the Removal business. Many funeral homes will call a business such as ours to go out and "remove" the body of the recently deceased from the place of death and bring them to the funeral home to be prepped for viewing or cremation. Even if you have an interest in the business, I'm not sure this is the place to start. It certainly is not the nicer or brighter side. It can be the downright disgusting side. Let me remind you that death is never pretty. It doesn't happen like depicted in old movies where the person closes their eyes and stops breathing and their head falls gently to the left. No, it's not that pretty. A person that dies naturally is dieing for a reason. They have something wrong with them. Thus will be pale or ill colored in some other way. Their face muscles relax, mouth opens and eyes stay however they were moments before. It can be unnerving to see a dead person staring at you.

Anyway, my sweetie, ran this business where he had to go and play fetch at all hours of the day and night. Basically, they would call when it wasn't convenient for them to go themselves. Which meant mornings during services, afternoons while they were meeting with families, nights when they were trying to sleep. Nice days when they wanted to play golf. Snowy days when they couldn't get out of their driveways. Holidays when they were spending time with their families. These were all the times that we would get calls. One year we did over 450 removals. We had two vans, ready to go at anytime. We even did long distance jobs when it wasn't cost effective to fly the body, we'd go fetch it or take it somewhere. Also, we'd pick them up from the airport when flying was an option.

It started, that I went along for the ride simply to be able to spend time with this busy gentleman that had caught my interest. Then, when we would go into someones home, we'd always have two people. I became that second person. Then he showed me how things worked in the nursing homes and airport freight terminals. Next thing I knew, I was on my own in one van and he in another. So much for togetherness.

One of my first loners, was to be picked up from the morgue of a hospital in Detroit. Nobody told me that it would expedite things if you tipped the guard. So this guard sent me on a tour of the hospital. At one end of this long hall, there was a sign that read "morgue", and pointed down the hall. At the other end of the hall was another sign that read "morgue" and pointed back down the hall. Now, you would think that the morgue was someplace between the signs. NO. One of the signs was old and was no longer relevant. And the other was indicating to go around the corner to the elevator and go down two floors.
Once I finally found the room that was not marked on the outside, a rather large intimidating black man greeted me by saying "Where have you been?!" I said that the signs were of no help and he just chuckled. After determining which corpse I was there for, he said "There IT is" and left the room. In front of me was a large white bag with blood and urine stains all over the outside. Upon inspection, I determined that it had a hole in the bag and was leaking. I didn't want to put that in my van as is. If you've ever thrown away a meat wrapper only to smell it the next day overpowering your kitchen, you'll understand my trepidation of putting such a thing on my stretcher and into my van. After all, it was summer. I wanted to place the existing bag inside one of my more ridged bags to contain the waste. I stepped out to the hall where the guard was waiting. When I asked for his assistance, he shot me a look like I had just insulted his mother. I explained my situation and he reluctantly agreed to help as long as he didn't have to touch the body. "Fair enough" I said and we proceeded to transfer the corpse with my skinny arms doing all of the lifting.

This is where it gets fun. When this 300 pound black man saw the combination of blood and urine streaming to the floor and he thought about what he was doing, he looked at me, looked again at the stream, his eyes rolled back in his head and he landed in the pool of blood on the floor. There I was, a body half in the bag a big man between me and the door, passed out! and a wet slippery floor at my feet. Of course I'm in my nice black suite. After yelling for help for a couple of minutes, a much smaller (about 145 pound) guard came down the hall to see who was yelling for help in the morgue and found my situation. He helped me revive and remove the first guard and finish with the task at hand of transferring the body.

I then eventually found my way back to my van and out of the city. And to this day, I don't like picking up from that hospital in Detroit.

I'm hoping that you are not too disgusted by the details of this story to see the humor here. If you would like to read more or have any thoughts on the matter, please leave a message in the comments section.

Have a great Labor Day weekend folks!


Jabacue said...

Stew/Earl, you are certainly in an INTERESTING business! People are DYING to get into it, I hear. Sorry, couldn't resist.
Now, if you would send a cold front our way, that would possibly divert EARL out to sea. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I would like to read more about the business because I see it as an important job and know that not just anyone could do it.
In the end I assume one must just be very pragmatic about each situation but the key to really liking your line of work is having respect for the uniqueness of each persons life, be it good bad or ugly. Not to judge but to feel like you have had the privilege of being able to play a final part in these people's life journey.
However, like all parts of life, one can still recognize the humor and interests in all of the situations.

Anonymous said...

lol..Now I know it was not funny to you at the time and matter of fact you were surely paniced! But so much for that big burley guard!!

Like Jim said "dying to get in" your job is not like others that can be out sourced to India.

Texas :)