Thursday, August 30, 2012


If you can make just one person smile today, if only by giving them one of yours, it just might change their entire week... which just might change their entire life. 
Truly, your smile could launch 1,000 ships, warm 10,000 hearts, or power a small kitchen appliance.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


It's a buy-one, get-one free sale- at a cemetery of all places.

Memorial Park Cemetery on Indianapolis' far east side was offering plots at the bargain-basement price in one section of it's grounds.

It's not another telling sign of the recession. General Manager Mark McCronklin says it's a promotion the cemetery has run for several years around Memorial Day in May.

McCronklin says it's just a closeout sale on one section and the cemetery is doing very well.

Signs along the street outside the cemetery also advertise that no one with bad credit will be turned down.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Reflections of Yourself

I am no less of a person by the flaws you see in me;
I am no lesser for I am not those flaws!
I know who I am,
my flaws and my strengths,
and there is no better person who can handle me,
but me.

So, take a good look in the mirror.
There will never be another quite like the one looking back at you.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Water, Water, Everywhere...

Or is it?
Living most of my life in Michigan, I find that water is everywhere. A drought is when it doesn't rain for two days in a row.
As the world walks around with water bottles in hand, and Michigan is debating if there should be a deposit placed on water bottles like the one that we have on soda bottles, I'm left a little perplexed as to why someone would buy water in the first place.

Let me state here that I know that Michigan has some of the cleanest water in the world and there seems to be a never ending supply. I also know that there are many regions around the world that do not even come to close to what Michigan has.

Several years ago a canal that would drain some of Lake Michigan to the less fortunate Mid-West states was voted down. But I'm left wondering now, if they didn't get that canal after all, in a different sort of way.

I'm going to ask each of you to look at the back of your water bottle and in the comments below, tell me where the source of your water is. Maybe it's because I'm in Michigan but all of them that I have found, state that they are sourced from right here. Little towns like Evart, Livonia and Stanwood, all right here in Michigan are where this water seems to be coming from. Perhaps I'm only seeing Michigan sourced water because of transportation issues. I'd dread if they were shipping water all around the globe from Michigan. I know that any water can be filtered and cleaned up. So, it makes sense to me that water in Iowa, would be sourced in Iowa. I hope that is the case.

I had to laugh one day stocking the cooler at the store that I used to work in. I was putting some Fiji water on the shelf and on the back of the bottle, they were bragging that Fiji water comes from the cleanest natural springs in the Fiji rainforest. And it went on to brag that proceeds from the sale of their water goes to help preserve the rainforest. I'm left a little perplexed again, that they are able to take the water (that helps to keep the rainforest alive) out of the forest and ship it, in huge container ships, around the world, to a store in my neighborhood and my dollars used to purchase it would somehow replace that water and keep the rainforest alive and healthy.
That being said, please tell me that your water doesn't come from Michigan. Is our precious Lake system being drained from within?!
Personally, I get my water from the tap in my kitchen. It's delicious. But I'm not stupid. When I travel, I go with the bottled option. The water may not be bad, but my stomach is used to my water and you just never know what you're getting.

So where does your water come from?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sports Funerals

In our business, we constantly get  request of all sorts. 
We see these sorts of request as commonplace almost.
But evidently others think it is rare. ....

I remember the one in the recliner. It was all over the internet.

As long as they don't want the funeral at home, we can do just about anything.

We'll personalize your memorial any way you like.
After all, it was a life well spent and we want to celebrate it too.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Farmer's Market

Yoga in the park, Canned food drive, Arts and Crafts, Fresh Fruits and Vegi's. 

Another small little town that is very near to my home is New Baltimore. It sits on the shore of Lake St.Clair's Anchor Bay. It's a town that time seems to have forgotten and the folk that live here are fine with that. You can stop for lunch at the local bakery or get an ice cream cone to go, down there across from the barber shop.  Take a walk on the pier or have a picnic on the grass. It's Sunday, relax.

I took this photo sitting at my sister's booth where she is selling hand made textiles at the weekend market. Being a chef by trade, she has available hand pies, made from fruits bought at the market, ready to go. And you can order custom pies for any occasion.

The yoga studio near my home is having great success with it's free yoga in the park. A canned food donation to the church's food drive will get you a beautiful place on the beach with the others to practice yoga in the warm summer sun.

But don't sleep in on Sunday, because it's all over by 1pm.

So this is the life that I've been missing for the last several years. I like it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Till Death Do Us Part

‘Til death do us part

Published 11:25am Wednesday, June 6, 2012
My sister serves as a chaplain at a hospital in Alabama and knows some of the people interviewed in this article. She sent it to me and I am passing it on to my friends here because it really speaks about how and why we do, what we do....

When a loved one passes away, funeral home directors step up and can become a stabilizing force for grief-stricken families.
For many Shelby County morticians, they see their profession as a ministry to the community.
Cody Caldwell has been a funeral director for 11 years at Rockco Funeral Home in Montevallo.
“You see a lot of different aspects with how the family deals with loss of a loved one,” Caldwell said. “What we’re here for is to serve the family. We help start the grieving process for the family.”
To become a funeral director, the profession requires a two-year associate degree in funeral service education.
Funeral directors come into the profession for different reasons.
Caldwell went to school with grandchildren of Rockco’s former owner, Billy G. Rockco, and so became familiar with the profession.
Bob Beavers, general manager at Southern Heritage Funeral Home in Pelham, worked as a coal miner before joining the funeral home vocation.
“It’s what I decided I wanted to do,” Beavers said. “It’s a job where you actually help people.”
Lauriann Loveless, a funeral director at Charter Funeral Homes in Calera, worked in a cemetery with her parents, and decided to go to school to become a director.
“I think God puts you where you need to be,” Loveless said.
Loveless was one of the first female funeral directors in the county.
Ed Burdett, a funeral home director with Charter for four years, began his career in 1966. He was one of Shelby County’s first emergency medical technicians, and served as coroner for four years.
Burdett’s coworker, Larry Gilliland, started his funeral home career at Charter in 1964.
“I had never been in a funeral home before I started working here,” he said. “I try to help my fellow man.”
Gilliland said his family was raised in the business.
“Mine wasn’t,” Loveless said. “My first dead body was my first autopsy (during a college class). They were laying bets if I’d pass out on my first day of clinical.”
Caldwell said he and the funeral home staff take time together to talk about loss to “cope with sadness,” he said.
“I look at it as a mission,” he said. “To cope with it, you have to go through the good memories the families give you. If you sit and dwell on it, it’d bring us all down.”
Gilliland, Loveless and Burdett said even after years in the profession, they still need time to cope with certain funerals.
“Little children get to all funeral directors,” Gilliland said.
“It breaks my heart every time,” Loveless said. “But with babies and children – whew!
“You’re there to add structure. If you break down, you can’t provide structure,” she added. “With babies, I won’t say I don’t break down after they leave.”
Burdett said sincerity is important.
“As long as you don’t let emotions handle you, as long as you’re sincere, you help someone because they need help and are sincere about it,” he said.
“People are going to more and more cremations. A lot of local cemeteries are full,” Gilliland said. “Being cremated, the family can do anything with the remains.”
Caldwell said cremation leads to more options, and can be thousands of dollars cheaper than a traditional funeral.
“It’s more financial with cremation,” he said. “You can have the funeral when you want to. You can have the memorial service whenever.”
Gilliland said one of the biggest changes he has seen in the funeral business is the one-day service, where a visitation, service and interment occur on the same day. Caldwell said the same.
“It used to be, you could count on a nice visitation and the service the next day,” Caldwell said. “Now, you see it more on the same day. It’s the expense and you don’t want to prolong it.”
Southern Heritage offers a celebration of life room, in which the family can tailor a memorial service to the loved one.

“Instead of the sad funeral, they have their friends in there and are telling stories about the loved one they’ve lost,” Beavers said. “It’s a big help to people. We do themed events for them, if they’re an Alabama fan or Auburn, ice skating, pretty much everything.”

Another trend in the funeral home profession involves the weather. Both Charter and Rockco funeral directors agreed a rise in funerals follows the weather changing.

“Some (people) hang on until a symbol, like a birth date or a wedding date,” Caldwell said.


Once a person passes away and the family contacts the funeral home, the funeral home director takes the body into a room full of chemicals, tools and hair supplies such as hairspray and a curling iron.

“Behind the scenes is like you’re stepping back in time,” Caldwell said. “All the aesthetics are for the public.

“We keep everything sanitized and clean as we can keep it for our own health,” he added. “It’s like an operating room.”

Funeral directors prepare the body for the funeral, which includes setting the features and adding hair and makeup in some cases.

“We fix their features, the mouth and eyes, bathe them down and make the incision in the right carotid artery (collarbone area),” Gilliland said.

“Back when I started, gloves were non-existent, but with diseases, now we wear gloves and protective gear,” he added.

Caldwell said the chemicals change every three years.

“It’s a more natural appearance,” he said of the current chemicals. “You won’t have to use as much cosmetics. They look like they’ve fallen asleep.”

Gilliland said they measure the body from elbow to elbow to determine the casket size, and 23 inches across is the standard size.

Charter offers the only on-site crematorium in Shelby County.

According to Burdett, the crematorium can reach temperatures of 1,600 degrees or hotter and burns for approximately three hours.
While embalming is an “art within itself,” Caldwell said, the profession’s impact involves community involvement.
“Being in a community and involved with people, you relate back to those actions throughout life, and it makes you a better person,” Caldwell said. “It helps me with closure. I know that person and am glad they chose us because I can facilitate what the family wants and needs.”
Loveless said it’s a tough business, as it runs “Monday to Monday.”
“Wherever we’re needed, we’re there,” Gilliland said, “even if they live here and want to be buried 100 miles away.”
Caldwell said he sees people joining the funeral home business for financial reward.
“A lot of people are getting into too much business and losing the personal touch,” Caldwell said.
“It’s about servitude,” he added. “You have to have that mentality. We’re here to serve, not to dictate. We’re caring for families and making a difference.”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why do you do what you do?

Why do you do what you do?

Ever give that question much thought?

My recent shift in my career focus brought this question to the surface many times.
It's crazy that since I quit my job to focus more on our business and caring for my father, I seem to be busier than ever. A friend was concerned that I might be trying to do too much.

I have to admit though, I feel like I am really doing something that matters here. I am helping people through some of the hardest times in their lives. And in return, I feel better than I have felt in years.
Tomorrow, I'll post an article containing interviews with a few funeral directors that really tells the story of why we do, what we do.

For years, I was trying to pay the bills and keep my head above water in the sea of life. It's been a courageous move leaving a secure job for an unsure life. But it has made all the difference in the world for me. I've preached for years that we need to follow our dreams, find our purpose, and walk the path less traveled. And I've tried to do just that, but still holding on to the safety line. For once, I have closed my eyes, let go and am loving every second of it. At the same time, I am sustaining the dream that my husband had for this business. I don't know what the future holds, but something tells me that it's going to be wonderful.

Won't you join me on my adventure by setting out on your own adventure?
What are your dreams?
Why do you do what you do?
Is it what you love to do?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Staying Positive

Today's "Note from the Universe" reads like this....

"Of course, you can't control other people.  Not even a little; not a smidge. Every man and woman is their own sailing vessel powered by their own thoughts, emotions, and imagination. You can't improve their smile, nor even add to their woes, unless, at some level, they let you. 

So, does that pretty much clear up the effect others can have on you?" 

With that in mind, I began my day. A day that began like so many other days. But you never know what the day will hold in this business. I was determined to make it a good day regardless of anything that might come my way.

I left with a bit of a stomach ache. I wasn't able to hold down any breakfast.
When I reached the garage, I noticed that the gas gauge read empty. But the on-board computer said that I had 68 miles left before running out completely. Since the funeral home is only 30 miles away, I contemplated filling up closer to my destination. In my mind I did a little math and if I only had less than a gallon of gas, then how could I go 68 miles in a gas guzzling funeral coach? So I opted to turn into the gas station. As I was crossing the on coming traffic, the hearse stalled out. After a couple of attempts to restart it,  the engine turned over and got me off the road and then stalled again. Aiming the car toward and empty pump, I restarted it again, only to have it stall out again. Just then, someone drove around me and took the pump that I was trying to make it to. Choosing another pump, after several more attempts, I made it to the pump and quenched the thirsty car of its need for gasoline.

Then trying to make a left out of the gas station proved impossible to head to the freeway, so a right was in order. Since I was now traveling past a car wash, I opted to wash the car first, then drive to the funeral home. This car wash doesn't take debit cards, so I had to go with the quarter option. Only to realize that I don't have enough quarters. So I exhausted my wallet of all the single dollars to make change and proceeded to wash the car.

Having taken a different route, I now found myself trying to enter the freeway in a construction zone, where the freeway entrance ramp was closed. I was detoured four miles up the road for my entry. Still in the construction zone, I found myself driving through a bit of a muddy area. (See where I'm going with this)
By the time I reached the funeral home, it looked as though I had not washed the car at all.
We loaded up and headed over to the church anyway, with the understanding that I would get the hearse washed again after we set everything up. The trick was to find a car wash in that neighborhood that took debit cards.
Everything went great for the service. There was a huge turn out for this 40 year old woman that had died of cancer. We were glad that they had chosen to have the service at the church because the number of people and cars would not have been possible back at the funeral home for just this service, let alone the other large service going on at the same time.

The trip out to the cemetery was a long one. Both the number of miles and the number of cars. It is my understanding that we had traffic tied up for quite some time.

The committal ceremony took place in the tiny chapel at the cemetery where it was standing room only. Afterward, we had the pall bearers stay behind to help at the graveside where a few of the family members had gathered as well. It wasn't until after I had the pall bearers carrying the casket to the grave that I noticed the cemetery workers had not taken the tarp off the grave that had been placed there to keep the rain out of the open hole. So I hurried up ahead some to pull the tarp off. As I did this, a piece of the lowering apparatus fell into the open vault below. With the gentlemen coming my way carrying the deceased woman, I had no choice but to jump in and recover the stray part. And since we have a rule, only one person per grave and they must be deceased before entering, I had to climb out, in my suit, with six pall bearers and family watching.
Thanks to my quick actions, everything went well.
Then on my way back to the funeral home, I spied something up ahead in the middle of the road. It's orange. And black. It's one of my funeral flags! In the middle of the coastal highway, with cars zipping by it at upwards of 50mph, I couldn't leave it there. So I pulled the hearse over to the side of the road, turned on all the warning lights that I could and ran out to save the poor discarded flag from a fate no one should endure.

By this time, it's getting late and I haven't eaten anything all day. The crazy weather changing from sunny to rain and back to sun and all the excitement of the day had taken a toll on me. I was developing a head ache to go along with that stomach ache. So I pulled into a gas station and grabbed a bite to eat for the ride home.

There was nothing and no one that was going to stop me from having a good day. And I can say that it has been a good day. Through it all, I was able to come home and spend some time wrestling with my best friend, Pugsley. Any day that I can do that, is a great day.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Island Time

It's a little slower here.

I only have the one photo for you today of the casket spray.
Ordinarily, if I'm doing a post about a particular event, I'll try to get more.
In fact, I did get video.
I was having a great time gathering video footage of the day's events.
But for some reason, my computer won't allow the sound to go with the video.
And since I was talking on the video explaining what was going on, I decided to nix the video and do some old fashioned writing.

It's been crazy busy here the last two weeks. Since I left my retail job, I have not had a day off work.
It's my goal to spend some time each day "downloading" my stories.
Returning to what this blog was meant to be, telling the stories of what we encounter every day in the funeral business.
I'm disappointed that I was not able to share with you the video because it was like riding along and getting a play-by-play of the action.
I decided to do the video before I had any idea of what was about to happen.
I showed up at the funeral home, like any other day. Today's service was to be at the church. So we loaded the casket containing the deceased woman into the hearse and proceeded on our way.
The church today was across the river on an island accessible only by ferry. Life on the island is a little slower paced. Things happen when they happen. And not a moment earlier. For those that live there, it's a different kind of life than what we experience. And for the visitors, it's a pleasant place to visit and forget about your troubles. San Souci is the name of the small town on the island. It overlooks the shipping channel that runs between Michigan and Ontario, Canada. Large Ships containing iron ore meander up and down the river silently just off the shore. The occasional power boat will go roaring by and then it's silent once again.
As we pulled up to the tiny country church, we noticed there were no other cars around. It's 9:30am and we need to have everything set up for the viewing and service by 10am when the family arrives. The church is locked!
At 9:45am, we still can't get in contact with the pastor and the family begins to arrive. 
At 10:05am, we finally get the pastor to answer her phone. She said she'd planned on arriving at 10:45 for the 11am service and that someone should have stopped by to unlock the church. And went on to say that she was on the mainland and just 10 minutes away. (Now, since it takes at least 10 minutes to get across on the ferry, she'd better be waiting in line at the boat.) More family and friends have arrived and some need to use the restroom.
At 10:20am I throw out the idea of an outdoor service on the lawn. It's turning out to be a beautiful day on the island. The idea is snickered at but no one is keen to it.
It's 10:30am and just about everyone is here except the pastor. We're still locked out and people are starting to wonder what's going on. I've tried to calm them. But we have old people doing the pee-pee dance here.
10:45am, the pastor shows up, the family rushes the doors and there is a line at the restroom door. 
When they come out of the restroom, they want to know where the deceased is layed out. I remind them that we were locked out as well and we'd like to bring her inside if we could get a few pall bearers to help us up the steep steps. At this point we have to try to clear a path wide enough for not only the casket but the six people carrying her. 
As we are setting up the body for viewing, something flutters past my head and I realize in a heartbeat what it is. Just last week, I had to wrangle a bat out of a church and here we are again. Remaining calm, I don't say a word and proceed as if nothing is going on. 
After everyone has filed past the corpse of their mother, friend and grandmother, we get the service started.(Only 15 minutes late!) I closed the interior doors and proceed to throw a jacket over the lost little flying mouse. So easy to catch, they are. I escort him outside, where he unappreciatively hits the sun light and falls to the grass, wondering what has just happened to him.
When the service ends and they load the woman back into my hearse to be transported to the cemetery on the mainland, no one is the wiser that my nerves are about shot. 
To them, it was just their mother, not wanting to leave. It was a beautiful service performed by the pastor, who arrived just when she said she would and not a minute before. Now it was time for cocktails at the yacht club. Things happen at their own speed out here on island time.

This map shows Harsen's Island in the center. The right side is Canada. And look at that! You can see my house from here! Just over there on the left near that air field. (But that's as much as I'll put here about that).

Harsen's Island is the location of the first funeral that I ever did. That was an experience all of it's own. Click here to revisit this classic tale.

Sorry you didn't get to see the video. But honestly, I can be boring sometimes when I'm trying not to look flustered. Thanks for coming along on the virtual ride. Maybe I'll try the video again. 
We'll see....