Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013!

Today, if you were able to look back at all your most brilliant successes, stunning comebacks, amazing catches and smokin' ideas, you be able to see that virtually all of them seemed to materialized out of thin air, when you least expected them. And that they exceeded your greatest expectations at the time.

Now, how excited are you about the New Year and all that it has in store for you?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Reason for the Season

It's Christmas Eve in Southeastern Michigan and the snow is gently falling outside, bringing excitement and joy to children all over the Detroit Metropolitan area. The hopes for a white Christmas will be granted this year. Morning will bring smiles to faces young and old as they peer out the window to see such a beautiful sight. A white Christmas is actually a rare thing around here so it is truly something to celebrate.

If you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or the Start of a New Year, there is something magical about snow drifting slowly to the ground, collecting on the lawn.

But this causes me to think of what we are really celebrating. The real reason for the season. The reason that we gather with friends and family at this time each year. No matter if you are celebrating the birth of the Christ child, the rededication of the Holy Temple, the seven core principles, the start of longer days in the Northern Hemisphere, the Beginning of a New Age, or the start of a New Year, in my opinion, we are really celebrating ourselves. We have been a long time in the making and no other has ever been quite like ourselves. We gather with our loved ones to celebrate us. We gather with our loved ones to celebrate them. As we venture into the unknown, we are pioneers into illusions. We are heroic and courageous. We give beyond reason and care beyond hope. We love without limits and reach, stretch and dream in spite of our fears.

Without knowing, your light has illuminated paths, your gaze has lifted broken spirits, and already your life has changed the course of history.

This is the time of year to celebrate YOU.

This is the start of something bigger than anything the past has ever seen. Welcome to the Brighter Side, my friends. It is you, that lights the way.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Day After

It was sketchy there for a while, but it looks like we all made it.
We survived the end of the Maya calendar.
Had it been the end, what is the one thing you would have regretted not doing?
If you're not doing that right now, Stop. Go do it!
If there's one thing I've encouraged the most here on the brighter side,
 it is to live life with no regrets.
I am constantly looking for opportunities to fill my life with wonderful moments and always encourage my readers to do the same. I hope that you've been able to look at your life with no regrets. But if you haven't, you've been given a second chance with this whole Maya calendar thing. You see the date has been pushed back. As I checked my classic car calendar on the wall, I noticed something.
The calendar ends on December 31st! not the 21st. Silly Mayans.
This is your opportunity to set things right this holiday season.
Happy Holidays to you all.
And thanks for another great year. I've really enjoyed sharing my life with you and interacting through your comments and emails. The next year we have planned many new and exciting things here and I look forward to sharing it all with you. So come along and bring a friend if you like, to enjoy the Brighter Side of the Grave.

Merry Christmas and Happy Yule!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


A few weeks ago, a photo blog that I follow had a theme for the week of windows. As people submitted their entries of different windows in their life, I thought of the windows in my life and the views that I have out those windows.

I'll start here with a view out the van window as I traveled up the state to pick up a body a few weeks ago.
 Then there is the windows that we just had replaced in the house we just sold. (There was a headache and a half)
 At least once a week, I get to enjoy some sort of stained glass windows in various churches that I visit.
 Most will have depictions of Jesus or some other saint. I just can't bring myself to photograph them for some reason.
I like these better.
 I always like this one. It is cut out of a door that leads to the sanctuary of a local church that is about 120 years old.
 A close up of the leading of that cross window (during a funeral service, of coarse)

Then there's one of my favorites. During a procession to the cemetery, as we pass beneath the Blue Water Bridges that cross the St.Clair River at the foot of Lake Huron from the United States to Canada.
Another of my favorites. This is taken from inside the cemetery chapel, looking out over the grave yard.

I know the quality of these photos is not the best. They were each taken with my phone upon a moments notice when I felt inspired. Usually trying to hide that I was taking pictures or even while driving.

I hope you've enjoyed the view from my windows.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012


Is the Brighter Side of the Grave an addiction?
I hope so.
And I'm not just talking about this blog.

I not one to do much with the various blog awards. I don't really put much weight in most of them.
I do appreciate that someone thinks enough of my little blog to pass it on to others and especially that they follow, read and even comment back.
A while ago this one was passed along by a faithful follower, Anne from MorningAJ, and I thought it deserved some attention.

I am flattered that anyone would consider this blog addictive. But when I think of the blogs that I follow, I would have to consider them all addictive. Like everyone, my time is very valuable to me. But I always have to find the time to find out what's going on in blogland. Even if  it means that I don't have time to share myself.

I'm expected to share with you, Why I started blogging and how it has grown to be what it is today.
To do that, I must go way back in my past life, as I call it. Over the years, in my old career, I had moved many, many times. Along the way I had made many friends of co-workers and neighbors. We always say that we are going to keep in touch with people. But time and space have a way of pulling people apart. I originally started blogging on Myspace so that old friends could keep up with where I was or what I was doing in my active life.

As my career in the funeral business grew, more and more, I was asked about my experiences as a professional hearse driver. Commenters consistently inquired about crazy or interesting stories. I found that in social settings our business was often the topic of discussion. Frequently, my husband and I were told that we should write a book.

I have a fascination with life. I may work in the death business. But I help people to get back to living their own life after the loss of someone that they loved. There are so many wonderful stories out there of a life well lived. There are so many humorous things that happen in the course of life and those are the stories that are shared on a daily basis in my business. It's not about death at all. It's about life; wonderful life. It pains me to watch someone wasting their life not feeling fulfilled. My goal in life is to help the people that I meet along the way to find their purpose. To live and love while they are still on the brighter side of the grave. And so, The Brighter Side of the Grave was born.

Here, I like to tell some of the stories that I hear. To pass along what I observe others remembering about their loved ones; the things they thought were important enough to mention at their funeral. I'm learning to live a full and happy life by listening to those memorable moments in other peoples lives. And I blog to pass those wonderful things along to you. Of course I include the crazy stories of my own life as I go. I love to share with you my adventures. Be them at home in the yard or traveling the globe. I hope in some small way that I inspire others to live life without fear or regrets. To keep in mind as you go through your days, that these are the things people will say about you when you are gone. Only you can write the script for your funeral. Only you can decide what people will remember about you. Through our daily lives, we each have a chance to live on forever in the memories of those that knew us.

That is what the Brighter Side is all about. That is why I blog.

So very much can happen in a lifetime, or even in a single day. Yet, I can assure you that whatever has or will happen in yours, no matter what chasms you cross, heights you scale, or how many people you love or are loved by, when all is said and done and you take that final look over your shoulder, what will humble you the most, is that you got to be you. That's pretty incredible!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another Bullying Casualty

It pains me to see stories like this in the headlines. This story is taken from the website MLIVE which is based right here in Michigan, reporting local news that effects us all. I know it's made national headlines too.
Perhaps with more coverage, people will be more aware of how cruel they can be perceived as. I believe in many cases, people don't even realize how hurtful they are.
I hope that more schools can see the importance of help lines like are mentioned in the article. It's sad that it takes something like this to make it happen. But I am glad to see that they are doing something to help prevent any further trouble.

FENTON, MI – Linden High School junior Josh Pacheco had a heart for theater and an infectious smile, but above all else he cared for others, his family said.
“My son was very funny and exceptionally sensitive and loving to other people’s feelings,” said Pacheco’s mother, Lynnette Capehart.
Pacheco, 17, committed suicide Nov. 27. His parents believe bullying is to blame.
Pacheco was part of the Fenton-based Kidz Theatre Kompany, worked at Tim Hortons, loved his advanced placement politics class and called his four siblings his best friends, Capehart said.
Pacheco also was gay, which led to him being bullied both inside and outside of school, said his mother, Lynnette Capehart.
He told his mother he was gay just two months ago, but Capehart said she wasn't surprised and she said it made no difference to her. She loved her son just the same.
Pacheco was always smiling and entertaining friends and family -- and he loved a random mix of music from The Beatles to One Direction. 
"A young man with an old soul," even as a child he was always comfortable talking with adults, especially about plays, history and politics, Capehart said. 
Although he never got into sports -- "it just wasn't in him to be aggressive," said his mother -- he loved to go out on the boat, go tubing and swimming.
As the middle child, his siblings - Alicia, 20, Tiffani, 19, Grant, 14, and Haylee, 12 - were his best friends, Lynnette Capehart said.
Lynnette and stepfather Michael Capehart said they didn't know until recently that Pacheco was bullied. 
Capehart said her first indication that there was a problem came after the homecoming dance on Oct. 6. She was out of town, so she called to see how the dance was. It was the only one he attended this fall. 
Pacheco was upset and crying, but wouldn’t tell her why, Capehart said.
After his death, she found out from students that her son had been pushed into lockers and teased at school. It wasn’t surprising that he didn’t tell many people about it, Lynnette Capehart said, because Pacheco never wanted to make anyone else upset.
“He was having problems with bullying. He didn’t really want to tell us very much,” she said. “It was very disheartening to me.”
The weekend after Thanksgiving, Pacheco talked to his sisters, questioning life and his future -- comments that worried his parents. His mother talked to him that Sunday and on Monday, Nov. 26, set up an appointment for him to see a counselor on Wednesday -- even though he seemed back to his normal, "quirky" self.
Around lunch time on Nov. 27, Michael Capehart saw Josh's Facebook status, quoting a line from Bilbo Baggins, a character in the "Lord of the Rings" movies: "I regret to announce that this is the end. I'm going now, I bid you all a very fond farewell. Goodbye."
It immediately worried Michael Capehart. Pacheco was home sick that day, so Capehart called his neighbor to check on Pacheco. He was found unresponsive in his truck, which had been running in the closed-up garage.
He left a note in the truck: "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be strong enough."
After news of Pacheco’s death had spread around the school, Lynnette and Michael Capehart said they received calls from friends and parents saying Pacheco had been bullied. 
“We had just lost one of the gentlest spirits God had ever created,” Lynnette Capehart said.
At the funeral, teachers had also mentioned that they believed he was having problems with bullying at school, they said. It upset Lynnette Capehart that she was never notified by the school of the problems Pacheco was facing.
Superintendent Ed Koledo said no bullying had ever been reported to school officials.
“We weren’t aware of any specifics. There’s been a lot of stories that have turned up over the weekend that we are looking into,” he said. “We are trying to put new programs into place, so (students) feel more comfortable (talking to administrators).”
Something that was already under discussion was a bullying hotline — which students can use to text bullying they witnessed or experienced. School officials accelerated plans for the Eagle Hotline, which can be reached at 810-373-2131 -- after Pacheco’s death
The district is also discussing bringing in speakers to talk about bullying and suicide. Administrators will also be talking with staff about what is considered bullying and what to do about it, Koledo said.
Just because there were not reports that Pacheco was being bullied doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, Koledo said. But sometimes it goes under the radar, and the district is working hard to address bullying and make students more comfortable, he said.
“That’s another thing we are looking into. What type of issues (teachers) are taking about and why they aren’t saying anything. That’s a concern,” he said.
Communication is key, Koledo said. A few students have come forward to speak with school officials -- but some students also posted accusations on Facebook, not all of which were true, he said.
“The more communication we have, the better. More lies getting figured out. Communication is the key to unraveling the issues,” Koledo said.
Michael Capehart said he will be in constant communication with the school until some action is taken with students who were involved in the bullying. He said he has contacted an attorney to possibly create a better state law to prevent bullying in the future.
“After years of bullying, look what it can do to a life,” Michael Capehart said.
Lynnette and Michael Capehart say more than anything, they simply want the bullying to stop -- and that includes any bullying of students who others may think were involved with bullying Pacheco.
At least 400 people attended Pacheco’s funeral Saturday. Students and teachers from every school he attended -- including Redford and Fenton, which he attended before transferring to Linden in seventh grade -- were there.
And at the funeral, person after person, family and friends, spoke about Pacheco and how he made a difference in their lives. About 30 people spoke -- and many more wanted to speak but there wasn't time.
Linden High School students also have planned a vigil for 6 p.m. Wednesday (today) at the Mill Pond gazebo to gather, talk about and remember Pacheco

Wisdom Wednesday

To perpetually receive, we must perpetually give.
And to perpetually give, we must perpetually receive.

One might say, but I have nothing to give. But we know that's not true.
We have ourselves. We have our smiles.
All it takes is one small smile. Give it to the next person you see. See what happens.

Something I started doing years ago was to smile first and speak second.
It's difficult to say something negative when you are smiling.
Oh, I'm sure it can be done. But why would you want to do that?

Go ahead. Try it. Do it all day if you like. Let me know how it works out for you.

You know, we don't attract what we want in life; we attract what we are.
The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi makes it clear that "it is in giving that we receive."
Giving aligns us with the way our Source of being acts; consequently, the universe offers us experiences that match our giving, supportive nature.

So get out there and give it away.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Life as we know it....

Is it the end of the world?
Or just the world as we know it?
The Maya left us a calendar that ends on December 21st of this year.
We are fast approaching this fateful day. This leaves us wondering. Are the planets going to align and cause the Earth's axis to shift and the polar ice caps to melt causing floods everywhere? Will there be earthquakes felt around the globe? Is there going to be the long awaited rapture foretold in the book of Revelations? How will the world change? What fate awaits us?

One thing I know for sure, is that life as I know it will surely end on the 21st of December of 2012.
Last year at this time, we were moving my father into my sister's new house. A rather large house with room for anything and everything that our family could throw at it. With ground floor rooms for both my sister and father and still more rooms upstairs for anyone else, it's been a good house to call home to our large family gatherings.

Followers that have been with me throughout the year will remember that my sister suffered a brain aneurysm  at the end of March. It was a tough couple of months in the hospital for her and the rest of us had to step up and take care of my 88 year old father a little more. When my sister came back home, the work multiplied to taking care of both of them. Some of the doctors claim that her brain damage is irreversible. Weather she recovers or not, one thing is clear, disability insurance doesn't pay the same as her full time job at the local theater where she booked the acts that perform there. So it's no wonder that money has been tight since that fateful day when she called me to take her to the doctor for a headache and I ended up in the Emergency Room making life and death decisions and ultimately placing her in a coma for transfer to another hospital where they could help her with her head trauma.

We love the large beautiful home, but it has proved to be too much for us to handle without her income. So on November 18th (exactly one year to the day after purchasing the home) we placed the house up for sale.
A half hour after the open house started, we accepted the an offer from the second couple that saw the house, for full asking price (including closing cost!).

For the open house, I had strung pine garland through the railing of the switch-back stairs and loft area as well as the bridge that leads to the upstairs bedrooms. I then wrapped all the paintings in the home with christmas paper in shades of red. I then baked some cinnamon  rolls and filled the home with the warm scent of the holidays. These buyers were putty in my hands. They didn't stand a chance against my theme of "Home for the Holidays".

It turns out, they want to be in the house for Christmas! We will be signing over the home and handing over the keys on the 21st of December 2012, essentially changing life as we know it for good. And changing the lives of this young couple as they start their new family in a new home.

We unfortunately had not secured a new home yet, as we were not expecting the house to sell in a half hour.
I like to always stay positive and try to always see something before it happens. I find this really works to visualize what you want and leave the details to God or the universe.

Staying positive and always expecting the best outcome worked for selling the house. And now we are doing the same for finding a new one. And after spending the day looking at new construction condos in the area, I think we may have found our new home for Dad and Sis. It has everything that we were looking for and more for a price that works great for the current budget. Going with a new condo will take a lot of pressure off of me when it comes to maintenance and even lawn care. And I will be able to concentrate on caring for the two of them better. Monday we will talk numbers with the finance people and hopefully start moving within the week.

So again I will apologize for not posting very much lately. As you can see, when combined with running the ever growing business and working part-time at a funeral home, sitting down at the computer just doesn't always happen. So I'm hoping that the 21st of December will be the start of something wonderful. So I can get back to telling you folks all about the goofy things that happen on the way to the cemetery.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Holiday Remembrance

Dad at the park, remembering Mom.
The holidays are upon us and it can be a very joyful time of year. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring thoughts and loving prayer right now. Give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. 
 Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I'm not big on holidays, so instead of the typical 'be thankful' kind of post from me, I'll give you a little story of one of my days recently. I do hope that the Americans reading this are enjoying their holiday though.

Every morning for the past week, I have awoken to intense fog.
I am renaming November as
 'the foggy season'.
But let me tell you about one foggy day in particular.
On Saturday, the funeral home where I work part time is open from 9am until 2pm. Here you can see my drive into work that day. Let's keep in mind that here in Michigan, deer hunting season has just started. So you have not only the threat of unruly drivers on the road, but the hunters spook the deer to run right out in front of you. Add to that this thick fog and it can be somewhat nerve wracking to drive for any length of time.
Here I am approaching the end of the freeway. At this point, I am on a bridge and the approach ramp for the bridge to Canada is on my left. You can faintly see the post that holds the sign that hangs above the freeway that reads 'Canada Only'. I have to wonder how many people accidentally went to Canada that day.
 The temperature was just below freezing. So the fog actually froze to the backside of my heated mirrors on my car during the drive.
After putting in my time working the office during the day, I was about to close up shop and head for home when the phone rang. It was a man informing me that his father had died that morning and they wanted us to handle the funeral. I  sympathized with his loss and started to take down all the vital information. We wonder each year who will get the first deer hunting casualty. And it looks like this year, we won. The man had gotten his deer sometime in the night and was dragging it back to his car when he had a heart attack and died. His friends found him in the morning. After the coroner had released the body, it was transported to an area funeral home where it was being embalmed and prepared for the trip home. 

The funeral home was a three hour drive from where I was. So I jumped in the van and headed out. 

 It was a beautiful evening for the drive and I really didn't mind it at all. I reached the other funeral home just after sunset. After loading up the van with all his hunting gear, I swung into my brother's house and drug him out to dinner. I don't get a chance to see him much and had to drive right past the town that he lives in. So it only made sense to stop and catch up a little. Sometime during dinner, my brother told me there was a news report of someone having a heart attack while hunting and he wondered if I'd heard that report.
 Then it was back in the van for the long drive back to the funeral home. The deer population in that area is greater than the human population and they seemed to be lounging on the side of the road everywhere. Maybe they feel safer around the speeding cars than in the woods with the hunters.
 After dropping the deceased off back at work, I headed home. I looked over at the gas station just off the freeway. There was a low laying cloud...aka fog, hovering just above the station and the green, blue and red lights steaked across the night sky and resembled the northern lights. I remember thinking how beautiful it was. Then, as I refocused my attention to the road ahead of me, this is what I saw.

And this is moments later. That car is still there. Somewhere. Over and over, the car in front of me would hit their brakes as they entered the next wall of fog and seconds later, would disappear altogether. This would happen every mile or so and it is only a 35 mile drive. Finding exits and keeping track of where other drivers were was quite the challenge. Even trying to ascertain where I was, was a challenge. So I put on my foghat for the slow ride and took it easy.

I was so glad to pull into my driveway at home, walk in the door and see my dog Pugsley. Even though I had been gone all day, he was so happy to see me. This fog has been like this every day for a week and it's getting old. It certainly isn't a place for someone with claustrophobia or hair like mine that frizzes with the slightest bit of humidity.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Maxine Adams

Since I like to say on this blog that it is the stories of someones life that we celebrate at the funerals, and that it is those stories that keep them alive in our hearts, I'd like to share with you briefly the story of my own mother's life.

Born to a poor country family in Northern Lower Michigan in 1933, she was raised with very few luxuries. Although being the only daughter, I'm sure she probably had it a little easier than her two brothers who were ten and eleven years older than her. Still, it was a time and place where homes had only one room and bathwater was shared by the whole family.
By the time she was ten, her brothers had gone off to war and her parents decided to move to Detroit in search of employment. But when she was only eleven, only one day before World War Two ended, her father was tragically killed in a freak factory explosion. Leaving her mother to raise her on her own in harsh times and a strange city.

At fourteen, she started caring for her mother who was injured in an automobile accident and 
by the time she graduated high school, her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. She met my father in March the following year and by June they were married. But before she could give her mother her first grandchild, her mother was gone.

It was a tough beginning to say the least. At that point, her husband (my father) decided he wanted to be a part of the newest craze in health care sweeping across America. He decided to become a Chiropractor. Together, as they started their family, they attended Palmer Chiropractic College in Iowa.

After finishing school, they opened the first chiropractic office in Leesville, Louisiana. It was not a big hit and they made the move to Houma, Louisiana to take over an existing practice. It was a new science then and patience were few. They often paid for services with a barter instead of money.

With a growing family and the promise of a steady paycheck, it was decided to move the family to Michigan where my father took a job with Ford Motor Co.. Their passion was always helping others through chiropractic care but food and clothing for a growing family was not cheap.

Total, my mother had seven children and my father made a very good living with Ford. My mother certainly did not want for much. Anything she thought we needed, we would have. And my father always made sure she always had a nice new car to drive her family around in.

She dedicated her life to raising her children. Taking time out four month every year to help a few hundred friends fill out their income tax forms. Our kitchen table became known as Max's Taxes.

Most importantly, she did not want any of her children to suffer the way she did as a child. She did her best to participate in any and all activities that we became interested in over the years. Then when she was 47 years old she started having problems with her heart. It turned out that a tumor had grown inside her heart and was blocking the valves from operating properly. She survived that, only to spend the rest of her life battling diabetes.

She wasn't perfect by any measure and had a bit of a short temper at times. my father even referred to her as Vesuvius. But she did her best with what she had to offer us. And for that, all seven of us love her and miss her very much. 

This 9th day of November 2012, I am reflecting on her life because today would have been her 79th birthday.

She may not be here to celebrate with us in the flesh, but she will always be in our hearts.


Maxine Ellen Shattuck Adams
11/09/1933   ~   05/17/2011

Life is as the flash of the firefly in the night, the breath of the buffalo in winter time.
~ Blackfoot proverb

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When it's time to go.....

It's time to go.

Well, I could use one of these some days...

What do you think?

Would you use it?

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Hurricane of a Week

The moon is just past the full stage and the wind has finally died down. The rain has, at long last stopped and I am exhausted.
The devastation along the Eastern shore of the United States can not be ignored. That was one huge storm system that reached as far as the Eastern shores of Michigan. For four days, the wind has been blowing and the rain pouring down. The neighborhood that I live in is fairly new construction and the power lines are all buried. But in the sleepy border town of where I work, the trees snapped under the heavy rains and high winds. Taking with them power to thousands of homes and businesses. Our funeral home was one of them. Two days of no power. Getting the business by on the small amount of power supplied by a single generator. The show must go on! It is times like these that a business like ours is even more important and you can't just close up shop for a couple of days.
Yesterday, we had a candlelight service for a five day old baby. And over night, we picked up a ninety-nine year old woman. Fortunately the power was restored this morning because we have a service tomorrow for a forty-eight year old man. Three completely different ages of people. And yet each and everyone of them died of natural causes. For each of them, their mission was complete here on earth.
As for me, after standing in the 60mph gust of wind and rain for three hours on Monday with 20 foot waves crashing on the shore just over the hill from where I was standing, my body is in need of some rest and relaxation. But it's shaping up to be a busy weekend. There is a lot of office work to catch up on now that the power is restored and new business keeps flowing in. But such is life in the death business.

Every day, I see death. I look it square in the eye. I see the old, well traveled bodies of people that lived long happy, healthy lives. I hear the stories of how they spent those lives. I too, see the young and I wonder, how much life will I squeeze into my time here on earth?

A couple of weeks ago, during a service, a woman about my age walked into the funeral home. She was there to make arrangements for her daughters funeral. You see, the night before, her daughter was riding in the back seat of a friends car. When the friend drove through a stop light at full speed, the on-coming truck had no time to stop. Out of seven people involved in the accident, this twenty year old girl was the only one that did not make it.
Later that day, I picked her up from the medical examiners office. It is sad to see such a young person lying on that stretcher.
The visitation brought out hundreds of young college aged kids. I wish that I could say that I did not see them in the parking lot smoking weed and drinking. But I did see them. And I wonder which one would be next.

I can only hope that this young girl had completed her mission here on earth. We all touch the lives around us in so many ways. It is my goal that everyone that knows me, is somehow a little better having known me. Even if for just a short while. I take my experiences with each person I meet and I always try to learn something. By doing so, I am enriched by each of you. I know that the people touched by the three lives at the beginning of this post are a little better off having known them. And I hope that everyone that knew this young girl has been blessed by knowing her as well.

In my business, we are here to help the people that are left behind to cherish the memories. In doing so, we have to remember that to relieve someone else's burdens makes it more about us and keeps others the way they are. But by walking with them through it makes it more about them and helps them move through it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Meaning of Life

When God created humans, he realized that we would have questions. As he wanted us to search for our own answers and grow our knowledge, instead of always turning to him, he decided to hide.

First he hid deep inside the earth. Then realized we'd dig and find him there.

Then he hid in outer space. And then realized it was only a matter of time before we found him there too.

So he decided to hide in plain sight. He decided to hide all around us. In the trees, the grass, the birds and the animals. And just to be safe, he hid inside each of us.

To find the answers that we are looking for, we must look inside. It is only when we ask ourselves these tough questions, that we will get the answers. The answers we've been looking for. Perhaps even, the meaning of life itself.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Neighbors & Friends

Neighbors and Friends..... till the end!

It's been a crazy week down at the mortuary. People are just dying to be next.

We had a death call come in at 3:30am and had just enough time to take care of that before we had to head out for the morning funeral. It was just one director and myself at a church down in the city.

As we made the turn off the boulevard into the old brick church that overlooked the Lake where the freighters pass by on their way to their destination, the director received a text saying that another death call had just come in. Since there was another director back at the funeral home, we had nothing to worry about but the funeral that lie before us. Then just as we were getting the service started, we received another text stating that there was yet another death call. At this point, we know there will be work to do when we return.

While we were concentrating on the service at hand, we had no idea what was really going on back in our little town. The calls were being handled by the secretary in the office. So those of us on the road only know what we need to know as we need to know it.

As the other director and his assistant backed the van up to the house of the second call of the day, a distraught man came up to the driver's side window. The director lowered the window and the man instructed him that he had the wrong house. That it was the house next door. Afraid that he's made a grave mistake, the director apologized and quickly confirmed the address with the man standing at his window. He was a bit puzzled when the addresses did not match. He picked up his phone to call back to the funeral home and verify the address. That's when he got the call for the third death. He was given the address of that death and suddenly realized that the two deaths were next door neighbors! They had died only thirty minutes apart and maybe thirty feet away from each other. Death had certainly visited that neighborhood that gloomy morning.

The funeral home owns two locations in the same town. One is an old 1850 home, the other is a more modern 1978 building made specifically for funerals. After meeting with both neighboring families, it was determined that they both wanted to have their funerals at the old home location. ( Just to make things interesting, there was a fourth death call that day that also wanted that location)

It's been years since we had multiple funerals out of that old location. As you can imagine in a home that is 160 years old, although the home is quite large, the rooms are very small by today's standards and the restrooms are very tiny. The families decided together that they would have the visitations together and the services a few hours apart. So while there was two visitations going on at the newer location that is designed for such things, I got to work the two at the old house. Generally as people walk in the door, we'll ask them who they are there to see. Inevitably, everyone that walked in the door that night said "both".

It was a long evening. Six straight hours of people everywhere. I couldn't make the coffee fast enough and there was a constant line at the tiny restrooms. The caskets were set up in opposite rooms on the North and South sides of the long tiled center hall. People would meander from room to room reminiscing all the good times that they had shared as friends and neighbors for over 40 years. In a world where people are constantly moving and no one says hello to their neighbors anymore, it was so nice to see these people that grew up together and spent countless hours in each others homes, backyards and swimming pools mingling like family. It was a sad day for everyone, having to say goodbye to not just one, but two of the neighborhood patriarchs. But it was also a joyous day for everyone to be reunited. To come together in a time of need. Not just for one family, but for two. These were people that spent most of their lives together. They took trips together, their kids went to school together and played together. Now, at the end of life, they were together, as neighbors still, with their families together as they always have been.

The next day, was the funeral service for both neighbors. First one and then the other. There was a two hour break in between for us to move everything around and get the place set up for the next service. When the people started showing up for the second service, I noticed that it was all the same people as the first service. Exactly the same people.

Both people had chosen to be cremated. Since the local crematory has two retorts (cremation ovens), we made the appointments for then to be cremated at the same time, side by side.

Together, neighbors and friends, till the end.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The real reason for my back pain.

I knew that my husband had purchased this Voodoo Doll while we were in New Orleans. But now I know that it was really him that had stabbed me back there in Texas. He told me that it was going to be a decoration for our Christmas tree.

Now, I know better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dove Tales

Dove tails; a strong joint holding a corner together. No! not that kind of dove tail. I'm talking Dove TALES.

When we release doves at a graveside committal, it is to represent the deceased persons soul being released and carried "home" to God. We know it's symbolic and the doves just fly back to where they are fed and not off to heaven. Or do they?

It was a funeral like many others. The family had gathered around the grave. After the Reverend had committed the body to the ground and told the loved ones to leave all there unfinished business in the ground with him, he stepped aside and let the dove handler have the spotlight. One by one, she handed the three doves to the key family members. One dove in particular was being squirmy. It was difficult for the gentleman to hold him while she said her verses. Then upon cue, they released the doves and thereby released there father. Only the squirmy dove flew right up to a branch above the grave. As the other doves circled to get their bearings and then flew home, the one continued to sit above the grave.

As usual when something happens like this, someone will make a joke that "He doesn't want to go to Heaven".
With that, they decided that they wanted to witness the lowering of the casket. So we obliged them and slowly lowered their father into his final resting place. The dove, continued to sit there.

A son proclaimed that the job wasn't finished yet and that we needed to seal the grave. So we lowered the vault lid into position. As the vault sealed, we heard the flapping of wings and the dove flew away.

Was that man's soul really in that bird that day?

Did he stick around to witness his own burial?

Did he fly away to heaven on the wings of a dove?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Odyssey 2012, One More Stop

Often when you live in the North and vacation in the South, there is that middle that just seems to be in the way. That couple of states that you "could just do without". For both myself and Edward, those states are Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Well, on the last day of our odyssey, we found ourselves in southern Kentucky. We'd each been here before but never took the time to look around. While enjoying breakfast at the hotel, we noticed that we were not more than an hour away from Mammoth Cave.

Having plenty of time before we had to be anywhere, we decided to go cave exploring. Ed had never been in a cave before and remembers his father saying what a waste of money it was to pay to go into a hole in the ground.

We took the historical tour that took us 350 feet below ground and over two miles into the cave. The largest cave in the world. Thus the name, Mammoth Cave. Huge caverns and tight passages with low ceilings, all with a mountain on top of us.

What a great last stop on this trip.

But really. It was just a hole in the ground.

And for once, we weren't putting someone else in it.

It was an Odyssey to say the least.

If it was just about surviving, getting by, and keeping things the way they are, then how would you explain imagination?

If it was just about sacrifice, selflessness, and altruism, then how would you explain desire?

And if it was just about thinking, reflection and spiritual stuff, then how would you explain the physical world?

Get the picture?

Want it all?

That's what it's there for.

And, if it was just about working, how would you explain weekends and this odyssey?


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Odyssey 2012, Takes Me Home

Today, I found myself picking up a body from the airport. She had died in (of all places) Texas and was being transported home to Michigan for burial. 
 As I drove several hours through the city as well as the country side, I began to think of how lucky I am that I get to do what I love each and every day.
The fall colors are just about at peak right now. And while others are cooped up in offices, stores and factories, I get to enjoy these amazing days that the Michigan weather has given us.
The bright reds, yellows, dark greens and browns are a delight to witness. I realized that this is the first year that I've ever been able to see this. Standing in the cemetery yesterday brought a tear to my eye because of the beauty surrounding me.

My last post, we had taken Spencer to his first Gay Pride Parade. It warmed my heart to witness a young man like him enjoying being who he is instead of hiding himself like so many of us had to do in the past. His positive outlook on life now helps me to realize that he is capable of great things not only in his school days, but for years to come throughout his lifetime.

Now, to continue with our Odyssey....

On our last full day in Texas, the sun came out and warmed the air and our souls. We decided to visit the Arboretum where there was a traveling display of Chihuly's blown glass art. The combination of finely manicured gardens and the glass installations was inspiring.

Then to round out our stay, Spencer had requested a night out with his G'uncles. We were happy to oblige him.
When I left my retail job a few months ago, my co-workers pitched in and got me a gift card for my "retirement". I was directed to use it for something special. Dinner out with Spencer was the perfect occasion to use that card.

We left Texas the next morning. Sad to be leaving our friends. But excited to be heading toward home. But first, a stop at my old childhood home.

In 1981 my mother underwent open heart surgery to remove a tumor from inside her heart. At the time, she was a year older than I am now. As you know, she survived until just last year. It was a slow recovery though. So when my Dad's father died a few months later, our family wasn't in any shape to attend his funeral in Arkansas.
Before that year, we spent every summer there on my Grandpa's farm in the Ozark Mountains. I haven't been back since. I had decided that I didn't want to see either of the old houses. I want my fond childhood memories to be intact, forever. So I set the GPS for the cemetery to visit my grandfather's grave for the first time. Wouldn't you know, the GPS took us right past both of the old houses. The one house that my cousin now lives in looks great. The old farm house however, is suffering from time and neglect. I opted not to photograph either home and hold my memories and childhood photos close to my heart.

I managed past my emotions and found the cemetery. Ed was joking that he could "feel" my grandfather guiding him to the left as we entered the gates of the old country cemetery. Just then, he looked down and there at his feet was the headstones of my grandfather and his wife of many years.

Grandma Flo didn't seem so happy to see me though. As I reached to remove the clump of grass to photograph her stone, I found an army of ants crawling all over my hand. I let the grass stay there.
What was I thinking wearing flip-flops in a country cemetery in Arkansas?!

I felt like ants were all over me for the rest of the day.

After paying my respects to my beloved grandparents, we found our way back to the freeway and made it all the way through Tennessee and into Kentucky before stopping at 1am to rest for the night.

This Odyssey has changed the way I see things. For the better. This was no ordinary vacation. This was Odyssey 2012! And without a doubt, right here and now, as you read these very words with eyes that sparkle, this golden day, in a perfect world on an emerald planet while our hearts beat and blood flows and angels peer over our shoulders, I think we might be the luckiest people alive. To be living in this world right now where all this can happen, anytime we want to make it happen. Thanks for coming along.

But wait! Yes, there's more!......