Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dying to save a few bucks?

This photo was taken in a Los Angeles cemetery and published in a newspaper many, many, many years ago.
We've kept the clipping around for the sheer amusement.

It reads....
"You can't take it with you- but you can save a lot getting there! That's the idea behind Budget Mortuary, which offers a low-cost alternative to today's sky-high funeral prices. Instead of riding in a fancy limousine style hearse, the dearly departed travel to their final resting place in a hearse that's a modified Volkswagon. Your wheels might not impress St.Peter at the pearly gates, but they won't break the bank either."

Of coarse today, if you don't want to pay for the hearse to take you out to the cemetery, we'll take you in the minivan. But please, be nice to your friendly hearse driver and use his services. You won't be needing the money any more. And I sure could use a bit.

Ripped from the Headlines

Here's a touching story out of the news that had to be passed along to my blog buddies...

Dog Mourns At Navy SEAL's Funeral

Dog Displays Loyalty To The End

POSTED: Thursday, August 25, 2011
UPDATED: 5:36 pm EDT August 25, 2011

A touching moment was seen at a funeral for a Navy SEAL killed in action.
Navy SEAL Jon Tumilson, 35, was killed was one of 30 American troops, including 22 Navy SEALs, who were killed when a Taliban insurgent shot down a Chinook helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade on Aug. 6.
During his funeral in his hometown of Rockford, Iowa, family members brought his Labrador retriever, Hawkeye, to the service.
Hawkeye walked up to the casket at the beginning of the service and lay there until the end.
The photo of Hawkeye was snapped by Tumilson’s cousin, Lisa Pembleton, and posted on her Facebook page.
“I felt compelled to take one photo to share with family members that couldn't make it or couldn't see what I could from the aisle,” Pembleton wrote on her Facebook page.
As for Hawkeye, the loyal Labrador will now be owned by Nichols, Tumilson’s friend.

Something that only a funeral guy would know about this photo though is that the casket is not centered on the church truck. Unknowingly, this upsets people even more. They will be agitated and not even know why. Sloppy director.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Today marks a special moment for me here at the Brighter Side. Today is my 200th post.

We've been through a lot here. Most of which as been bright. I love sharing my perspective with you and getting your feedback. Some post still make me cry when I look back on them. I am constantly reminded that even what seems like a bad or dark day,  can eventually be viewed as something positive if we learn from it.

It's ironic that we started this thing back in Spring of 2010 with a peek at the Caribbean  cruise that we took our parents on in March. What an experience that was. And it turned out to be the last big trip that my mother took before her death in May of 2011. While it was a lot of work to put that whole thing together and make sure they were everywhere they needed or wanted to be during the entire trip, it worked out to be one of the greatest things I could have ever done for them. And now, we are fast approaching a week long Caribbean cruise on our own. A reward of sorts. I will absolutely take you all along through this virtual word of blogging.

I've enjoyed over the past year and a half "meeting" all of you. I feel like I know each and every one of you on one level or another. I started this blog for my husband to have a venue to write about some of his experiences in the funeral business. He is still nervous about the whole idea even though he see's how successful it's been. Although our personalities are very similar, I have to admit that I get a lot of my funeral humor from him. Perhaps with a little encouragement we can get him writing.

I love to share some of the stories of things that happen in our every day work and to look back at some of our history in the body removal business too. But it was the 30 day blog challenge that really opened up my world. Through that, I was able to open up about myself and let you, the reader know a little more about where the stories were coming from. I think that grounds them and gives them credibility. During the challenge is when my own mother passed away. And I learned what the business was all about.

It has been a growing and learning experience on this end like never before. And I hope that I've helped you along the way too. Be it with my life lessons, my inspirational quotes, every day life, funeral stories or what I call my brighter days post when I just try to lighten up our corner of the universe. If you get a quarter as much out of this as you've given me then you're life is truly blessed.

Behind every face there is a story. And the real decision is whether or not you want to hear that story.

It's an interesting life from the driver seat of a hearse. Death is never easy. I see it all and am here to share with you what I can.
It's not all about death. It's about life. Many headstones have two dates on them. This blog is about the dash between those dates.
This blog is about the brighter side of the grave.

I look forward to many more interactions with all of you. Thanks for visiting and making the Brighter Side of the Grave what it is.

"May you LIVE all the days of your life"   - Jonathan Swift

If you are viewing this through email or facebook, the links may not work for you. Go to the original post at http://brightergrave.blogspot.com/ to experience the whole thing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A walk in the Park

There's nothing than I'd rather do more than take a walk in the park with my best friend.
When we arrived at the park down the street from our house, there were several cars in the parking lot and children running everywhere around the playground.
This worried me, because most often children will want to pet the furry beast. Only to be surprised by the biggest, meanest sounding bark they have ever heard.

 As we headed off down the trail and across the wooden footbridge that leads across the swampy area to the nature trail, I was delighted to find that the concentration of children was contained to the playscape.

The Pugs and I were free to enjoy the entire nature area by ourselves. 
I enjoy finding the gems in the weeds. Such as these flowers and he enjoys smelling where other animals have been and "watering" the flowers.

Along the way, we occasionally will find a few friends for him to visit with.
 He rather enjoys these types of creatures, whereas the children make him nervous.
He's always trying to find who's living under the bridges over the river. As I warn him not to go sticking his head in there.
He'd rather swim across, while Daddy would like to take the dry path.

You never know what's going to be waiting for you on the other side.
 Finally, when we reached the back of the park, is when Pugsley really enjoys himself. The cool dirt path under his feet beats the hot, hard blacktop any day. He's free to run around and play chasing the unsuspecting butterfly.
Then when he's all tired out, we head back home. Where he can dream about his experiences and wait in anticipation for the next visit to the park down the street.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back to School !

Across America, students have either started back or are returning to school shortly.

A few words of advice for us all......

"Never stop learning"

For millenniums, the path to enlightenment has been made up of many steps. Most commonly, it begins with festering misunderstandings that lead to pain. The pain leads to growth. The growth leads to clarity. The clarity leads to fun. The fun leads to joy. And the joy leads to true illumination.

You have my permission to skip to the fun part if you want.

Friday, August 19, 2011

No sleep today!

The burial today was about 50 miles straight north of my home. About as far as you can get into farm land  before you start getting closer to a town again. After working all night at the drug store, it made for a very long drive out to the country. This has been the third time in a week that I've been out that way with the hearse. Doesn't anyone from the city want to be buried anymore?

So as you can imagine, on the way home, I must travel through many small towns along the way. There I was coming up to the next town, when all of a sudden, I am met with a line of cars as long as I can see. At first I think that it must be another funeral procession, as we do make quite a scene as we move through town. As I got closer, I noticed that it was in fact not a funeral procession at all. It was a parade of sorts.
While on the other side of Detroit, they are having the Woodward Dream Cruise, these people are having a show of only Ford Model T's. They were everywhere as I passed through town. I had no idea that there were so many still in existence. 

Meanwhile on the other side of the city, on the very first paved road in America, they are having a car show of a different kind. Annually auto enthusiast gather along Woodward Avenue to show off what they have. Be it a classic or a hot rod. Cars are what Detroit is all about.

But as I got closer to home, I was reminded of exactly where it is that I live. I am only 3 miles from the big Air National Guard Base, that protects Michigan from the impending invasion from Canada. Around my house, it's rare to see any kind of aircraft other than military jets. Even they seem to take off and land pretty quietly on a day-to-day basis. This makes it a fairly quiet place to live. Except this weekend.

Today is only practice. Saturday and Sunday is the actual air show. Everything from fighter jets to bi-planes. Doing maneuvers directly over my house as they turn to make another pass over the runway area where the show is put on for free. Once a year they open up the base and invite everyone to see a small peek at what's going on over there.

So right now, when I should be sleeping because I've been working for fourteen hours straight, I am listening to fighter jets as they skim along and trim the tops of the trees in my yard.

I have to admit though, it's pretty kewl to live here.
Even if I can't sleep today.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Coffee in the sun

While the Eastern shore of our country is being bombarded with rain for days, it's been beautiful, sunny and warm here on the Eastern shore of Michigan. I had the rare opportunity to sleep at night and thus enjoy a cup of delicious fine imported coffee in the morning. Quite the different experience than my usual 8pm cup. For starters, the sun is on the other side of the house. So when I went with Pugsley out to the patio to enjoy my cup-a-joe, I was in a whole new world.

In a day when all the trees are being taken down and houses built everywhere, we decided a few years ago, to replant as much as our little yard could handle. We left a space in the middle where the sun can shine through. And that is where my new patio furniture is located. Now in the evening, it is shaded by the house. But in the morning, well lets just say that my coffee was not going to go cold any time soon. I really wanted to enjoy my new furniture, so I toughed it out in the sun. Pugsley on the other hand, was having no part of all that noise. He went over and found himself a nice shady spot on the front patio. When I went looking for him, I found out why. I still find it amazing that the dappled shade of a maple tree can create a 10 degree (f) difference.

So, I moved my coffee to a the shaded area and enjoyed the morning with my best friend. It's these times, when you're relaxing, enjoying what God has given you, that sometimes you start to feel guilty. You think of all the things that need to be done and your just sitting there.

What if it was these times, your downtime, your lounging-in-bed-too-long time, your walkabout time, and your blow-Friday-off time that made possible your greatest achievements?

Would they still make you feel guilty? Or would you allow yourself to enjoy them?

 I should know by now that animals always know best. Find yourself a shady spot, sit down with a friend and enjoy. You'll be amazed what you can get done by doing nothing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

You buy what?!

Do you have some old dead bodies laying around, taking up space?
Are they cluttering up your yard and rotting out there for everyone to see?
Or are they collecting dust in your garage or barn?
My good friend in Texas sent me this ad that ran in his local paper.

Let's clean up America, shall we.
And hey! Who couldn't use some sand?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

And I quote...

Someone once said, 
"There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good . Love the people who treat you right, pray for/forgive those who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living." 

I wish that someone was me that said that first. But I'm happy to repeat it. I would add that when that time comes in your life, then, you've reached maturity.

I hope that you are surrounded by the people that make you laugh daily.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The tiny church

It was a tiny church. It might have the capacity to hold fifty people and a weekly attendance of nine. The church organ was an old home organ from someones living room. The air conditioning consisted of a box fan and an open door. When I first pulled up to it with the deceased in the back of the hearse, I wasn't even sure if it was a church at all. It looked like an old tool and die shop that had closed down years ago. The cement that was the parking spaces and sidewalk was overgrown with weeds in the many cracks. I'm convinced that a stone path would have been smoother to roll the cart carrying the casket that contained the woman that was born in 1911. She made it to one hundred years of age.

A while back, I wrote of a woman that had lived to be one hundred and three. Both of these women shared a love of a small town twenty miles from any Kmart or other modern store. Beulah had attended the funeral of her friend that had lived to 103. I remember her well. She was a spunky one that wanted no help with the seven steps that led up to the church where her friends service was held. That church was a quarter mile down the lane from where we stood today.

Both women were some of the original residents in this small town with one general store and a post office that closed down years ago. Many believe the demise of this town has been the fact that there is no pub. For what is a town without a pub? Beulah was a founding member of the historical farm museum for the county. She saw many of children show there pet rabbits, goats, pigs, chickens, etc... in the 4H fair each year. While many areas struggle to keep museums and fairs going, this little hamlet has been the thriving heart of the farming community in our area for years. They recently opened a new Nature Center, which is where my niece got married back in June.

We lined cars up two deep on one side of the road and then another line on the other. I think we must have had about a hundred and fifty family and friends squeezed in there and spilling out on to the street. There was no microphone and the pastor had to speak loudly so that everyone could hear. While it is always stressful to try and make it all work right with no flaws, It is especially joyful to know that there are so many people that love her.

I always like to wonder what life must have been like for that hundred years. To go from horses and buggies to cars. To see the telephone and electricity move in to town and eventually high-speed internet. Beulah saw it all. Shared it all with her family of seven children and many, many grandchildren, and friends.

We should all be so lucky.

Some of us live our lives surrounded by millions of people. Others like Beulah, live out in the country with just a few people around. Whether you live for a hundred years like she did or if your life is much shorter, often we feel lost and lonely. The days can be so long when left to your own thoughts. The odd things about the often long and lonely path of life, is that when you get to the end of it and look back, you'll find that it was neither of these. Stranger still, by and large, no matter where it's taken you, it's memories will be so sweet, they will usher forth the happiest of tears.

Don't wait for the end, to look back with fond memories. Enjoy the present for the gift that it is.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Thoughts from a funeral assistant

Picture this.
It's eighty-five degrees out and very humid. It's been raining all night. The clouds have parted and the sun is beating down, scorching the top of my head. My highlighted hair feels as though it's going to burst in to flames. The sweat is trickling down the center of my back under my black suit. I'm standing there with bright orange funeral flags in my hand in the center of the intersection (my mama told me not to play in the street!) with a smile on my face waiting for each car to arrive for the funeral. For cars wishing to go in the procession, they need to use the east/west street and cars just staying for the service, use the north/south street. It all seems pretty simple.

Why then do the people drive right by me and park wherever they feel like and then tell me to run down a block and a half to put a flag on their car?! Why should I? They're not even on the right street facing the right way. How are they going to follow everyone else when they go and park like that? I want to say " Get your butt back in your car and put it where it belongs!" But I don't. Instead, I offer to move their car for them. And you know, someone else is coming as soon as I walk away from that corner! Oh well, it's not like they'll listen to me anyway.

One day, I'm going to take off in the hearse doing about 45mph and see if they can keep up.(facing the wrong direction on the wrong street!)

I was standing right there!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Standing Guard

A friend just sent me this shot. How kewl is that!

Taken at the National Cemetery in Minneapolis on a June morning,
 as it appeared in the
Minneapolis Star/Tribune. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Tonight was very special.
My husband and I started out by going out for dinner at a local restaurant on the coast for some amazing fish and chips. Then headed in to Mt.Clemens to a local theater where a small theater group was putting on the show RENT.

I love going to a big city and seeing a large production. But every once in a while, we'll get something good at a local theater. It's an "off Broadway" style theater so it holds less than a thousand. There's only four rows of seats. Then some tables and then there is the private booths. 

These were our seats for the show. Yes, Ed has his shoes off.

I love this show!
It came out shortly after I left New York.
I always wanted to see it on Broadway but never went back. Finally last year, I rented the movie version and fell in love with it. I really like the story and lessons that it offers. The fact that we need to look at today for what it is. Enjoy what we have, because we don't know what tomorrow holds and we can't change yesterday. We should live each minute reflecting the love inside of us.

After the show, we made our way back to our patio and enjoyed each others company. Watching the stars, talking about the production. Discussing life and the situations of those that are close to us.

When Ed finally fell asleep, I got a text from my good friend in Texas, which ended up with us talking for a while on the phone. I miss the time that we used to share when he lived here at my little home. And we discussed that we would meet up for a couple of days in New Orleans before the ever-nearing cruise that my husband and I are booked on.

It was a very special night. A night filled with love. What could be better than that?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

You can't make this stuff up

Oh, where to begin?
 It was a week like any other. We were planning a nice weekend get-a-way with some friends. A group of gay men that get together occasionally for a little fun. This was a camping trip. With a casual float down a river in a pretty yellow tube. What could go wrong?

To back up a bit, I thought I'd wrap up some business on Thursday before we took off on Friday. When I stopped by my Dad's, I noticed that his left side of his face was a little droopy and he found it difficult to smile. After bringing up my concerns with my sister and a member of the medical staff at his home, I was reassured that he was fine. Still, I'm not convinced. So that was on my mind all weekend.

Also a young friend of mine who has autism, had been missing for over a week. No one knew where he was and he wasn't answering his phone and there was no signs of him using the internet. So that was on my mind all weekend.

We had two funerals scheduled for the weekend and I was nervous about leaving the hearse in the hands of someone that I didn't know from another company to handle the task. So that was on my mind all weekend.
Since my husband had to work Friday morning, we got a late start for our 4 hour drive to the middle of no-where.
When we arrived, there was only a small area left way over at the end of the line of tents for us to set up. I thought to myself." It will be quieter over there..... That's nice." The campground mowed extra space for us all to be together. 

I was exhausted Friday evening. I had worked Thursday night and only slept for a couple of hours while my husband worked. Then drove over there. So I headed off to bed early.

Saturday rolled around and I was ready and willing to float down the lazy river. You can see here my husband came prepared with a cooler-in-tow and a daisy umbrella to shade him from the sun.

 When we reached an island in the river, suddenly the whole group of 32 guys and 2 girls pulled out cans of shaving cream and proceeded to have a little shaving cream fight. No one escaped without being covered.

We then sat up quite late playing games around the campfire and getting to know each other better.
I was starting to relax a little.

Then a smaller group of us headed over to Saugatuck, Michigan for a little pampering. We stayed in a gorgeous old bed and breakfast.
We've stayed there before and find it to be a beautiful home away from home. Definitely nicer than a pop-tent in the woods. We enjoyed the hot tub, pool and an amazing dinner at a local restaurant. Breakfast in the morning was one of the best that I've had there.

I was forgetting about my worries at home.

Sunset over Lake Michigan was nothing short of amazing again. There was a strange cloud mass coming across from the Wisconsin side that made it spectacular. Hanging out at the beach with friends. Who could ask for anything more.

 You can even see a calm smile on my face.
By Monday morning, we were ready to explore the town. Saugatuck is an artsy little hamlet on the shores of Lake Michigan a few hours drive from Chicago. It's known for it's galleries, shops, and restaurants. And of course, it's very gay friendly. They call it the Provincetown of the Midwest. Having been to Provincetown, I'd say that Ptown has nothing to worry about. 
 The town is divided by the Kalamazoo River. You can either drive around to the bridge outside of town or you can take the ferry to the beaches.

Now, at this point, I couldn't be happier. But, what's this? Why is my arm itching so badly? What are these bumps? Is that a rash?!
Thank you! campground for mowing down those thistle and poison ivy, so I could set up my tent in the middle of it. I've never had a response to poison ivy like this before. I believe that the fact that they cut it all off, just made the chemicals in the leaves more juicy and worse! By the time I got home, it had spread to multiple parts of my body.

Then, as we were leaving Saugatuck, my husband got a phone call. His Dad was panicking. Saying that my brother-in-law had burned down his old camper that he lives in in the woods. He has burns all over him and is "acting funny". We encourage him to call for an ambulance.

Then while we were driving home, we found out more of the story. This didn't happen just a few hours ago. It happened two days ago. He knew that he was not supposed to be living in the woods behind the house anymore. So after fighting the fire, and watching his "home" burn to the ground. He went and sat under a tree for a couple of days. He didn't want to get in trouble. We'll deal with that, when the time comes. Right now, he's been transferred to a hospital in the center of the state that could handle his 3rd degree burns. Since he's an alcoholic and already has had a stint through his liver and multiple other health issues, the hospital is actually giving him beer because they can't let him go through detox. We'll see how this plays out over the next few weeks.

So you can imagine how happy I was to be home to "The Pugz". The poor little guy misses me when I go traveling. We always have great babysitters for him, but nobody compares to his Daddy.

The following is a spoof! It is NOT a real ad for the city of Saugatuck and is NOT a real Pure Michigan ad either.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Observations from a Dog

Lake Michigan Sunset with friends.

Observations from a Dog

Be Loyal

 Delight in the simple Joys of a long walk 

Unleash your talents

Hide your favorite snack

Learn new tricks, no matter your age

Make new friends

When loved ones come home, Always run to greet them