Friday, September 27, 2013

Happy Weekend...

On a daily basis in the funeral business, we are faced with challenges beyond your belief.
While this video might be an exaggeration, it somehow seems so real to us.
But one thing is for sure. We will get the job done, no matter what it takes.
And, as we do it all, it will look good. Like that's the way it is supposed to be.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Where Did Hell Come From?

To answer the question of "How did Hell get it's name?" , I have enlisted the help of Wikipedia.

Hell grew up around a sawmillgristmilldistillery and tavern. All four were operated by George Reeves. Reeves moved to the area in the 1830s from the Catskill Mountains in New York. He purchased a sawmill on what is now known as Hell Creek in 1841. In addition to the sawmill, Reeves purchased 1,000 acres (400 ha) of land surrounding the mill. Reeves then built a gristmill on Hell Creek which was powered by water that was impounded by a small dam across the creek. Farmers in the area were quite successful in growing wheat and had an abundance of grain. Reeves opened a distillery to process the excess grain into whiskey. Reeves also opened a general store/tavern on his property.

The tavern and distillery soon became a thriving business for Reeves. He built a ballroom on the second floor of the establishment and a sulkyracetrack around his millpond. Additionally Reeves sold his alcohol to nearby roadhouses and stores for as little as ten cents a gallon. His operation came under the scrutiny of the U.S. government in the years after the American Civil War. When tax collectors came to Hell to assess his operation Reeves and his customers conspired to hide the whiskey by filling barrels and sinking them to the bottom of the millpond. When the government agents left the area the barrels were hauled to the surface with ropes. As Reeves aged he slowed down his business ventures, closing the distillery and witnessing the burning of the gristmill. He died in 1877.
Reeves' family sold the land to a group of investors from Detroit in 1924. The investors increased the size of the millpond by raising the level of the dam creating what is now Hiland Lake. The area soon became a summer resort area attracting visitors for swimming and fishing. Henry Fordconsidered building some manufacturing facilities in the area but decided against it.

There are two theories for the origin of Hell's name. The first is that a pair of German travelers stepped out of a stagecoach one sunny afternoon in the 1830s, and one said to the other, "So schön hell!" (translated as, "So beautifully bright!") Their comments were overheard by some locals and the name stuck. Soon after Michigan gained statehood, George Reeves was asked what he thought the town he helped settle should be called and replied, "I don't care, you can name it Hell for all I care." The name became official on October 13, 1841. The second theory is tied to the "hell-like" conditions encountered by early explorers including mosquitos, thick forest cover and extensive wetlands.

In the early 1930s, Pinckney, Michigan postmaster W. C. Miller began to receive requests from stamp and postmark collectors for cancellations: Hell had no post office, instead being served by the one for Pinckney, three miles away. On July 15, 1961, a postal substation was established at Hell, operating from May 1 through September 30. It remains at the back of the general store, although the United States Postal Service does not recognize Hell as a town; it instead uses the name of nearby Pinckney as the mailing address
Today, you can still get your postcard stamped in the general store/ ice cream shop. They'll even singe the edges for you before sending it to it's destination.

I would be inclined to believe the German roots to the name part of the story because much of Michigan was settled by Germans originally.

This information is available on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hell and Back

As promised, I have returned with the rest of Hell.

Everyone that participates has a great deal of fun.
Aside from showing off their hearses, many will set up displays around them.

It's fun to see how creative some of these people are.

This man has built himself a tiny model T ford hearse.
It's so tiny that even the corpse's feet are sticking out the end of the casket.

Here's a creative use of last years model casket.
Motorize them and take your kids around the block.

Speaking of kids....
This zombie baby was just having a mid-day snack on top of this flower car.

These custom bikes were quite spooky too.

Here's a child's casket from the 1800's.
Before embalming was common, there was often a glass area
for viewing the body that would be closed before burial.

Another child's casket.
This one was used in a window showcase at a funeral home more than 75 years ago.

Displayed in this full-sized casket (under glass) are antique embalming tools.

Fun is everywhere.
This Mardi Gras type character was lurking about all day in Hell.

After the show, some were planning on spending the night in Hell,
sleeping in their hearses, of course.

This isn't a hearse, but Zom-B-Gone was on scene
 just in case there was an outbreak of the undead.

Here is a small sample of the many creative signs we observed while in Hell.

I could use another driver sometimes.
This guy asked me for a job.

As you can imagine, Hell is a busy place.
While we were there, one lucky couple got married in Hell.
There was a motorcycle gang hanging out at the bar a block away.
And there was a 5k run that was traversing Hell Creek, below the dam.
Here comes a runner now. Or is that a zombie?

As with any car show, there were trophies handed out for various things.
Things such as the furthest traveled, oldest hearse, best display, best costume, how-the-hell-did-it-make-it-here?, and the 13 best in show. Or was I the best looking driver?

After the awards, I used my Exit Visa
and we started a parade of hearses.

Seventy-one hearses all in a row
Going down the Road to Hell.

You don't see that every day.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Oh Hell!

Saturday morning, Ed and I headed out for yet another road trip.
This would turn out to be the Road Trip to Hell.
On the Road to Hell

For those that have been following for a while now,
 you may remember two years ago, 
we went to Hell as well. So this was not our first time there.

As we entered the Gates of Hell, we knew this would be a trip like never before.

Hell, of course, is a small, out-of-the-way "town" in Michigan about
 an hour and a half's drive from our home.

This year, aside from the festivities that is Hellfest '13,
We have a hearse for sale.

It's a 23 year old Cadillac Superior Crown.
It has been at a single funeral home it's entire life and is looking to retire.
Yes, this baby is still in service!

So we took the newest member of our fleet to show off and the oldest to sell.

There were 71 hearses in total at this year's show.

Samplings from all ages and styles were represented.
This old Buick is in need of some TLC but I'm sure it will make a return
to it's former beauty soon.

This was certainly the star of this year's show.
It's a 1938 Cadillac LaSalle.
Carved side panels have been lovingly restored.
Every detail painstakingly worked to bring back it's opulence.

Here's another restored beauty.
A Cadillac Superior, just a few years older than the one we have for sale.

Every detail of the interior has been restored.

Here's one that on the outside, looks like any other hearse.
But the interior has been removed and in it's place, it's been converted to a limousine
for use for parties, weddings, etc...

Some have had meticulous paint work done to personalize them to the owners taste.

Although the hearses are the stars of the show in Hell, tomorrows post will showcase some of the other oddities you'll find at Hellfest'13.

Come on back.

If you dare.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Two Old Ladies

In the past two days, I've buried two women.
Each of them was ninety-six years young upon their deaths. These women lived in different towns at least an hours drive from each other. Both women had spent their entire lives in their home towns. 

I thought about the lives that they have lived. Having lived through the second world war, watching the invasion of the automobile in our world and overall a completely different world from where they came evolve around them. I thought of the towns where they lived their lives and how rural they are and how remote they must have been as these young girls went to grammar school. Even today one of them was down a narrow, gravel road over hills and curves. Poor land for farming but beautiful beyond words.

Something else these two women had in common was the fact that almost 60 years ago, they and their husbands purchased their cemetery plots and headstones. Both had chosen a large stone with room to share with their husbands. And it was common in that time to put the  year of birth and leave the death year blank to indicate they are still living. However, at that time, no one would think that they would ever live to be so old. The average life expectancy was only 54. They would have been around 40 when these stones were purchased. They thought nothing of engraving a "19__" for the death dates. Who would ever think that they would see the turn of the century back then?

One chose to have brass plaques placed over the dates and new dates placed on those. The other chose to have the stone filled with a resin and re-engraved.

The other thing that struck me about these two women was their commitment they made to their husbands. Yes, they had been together 20 years at the point of purchasing the stones. But then to live for another 50+ years together and still wish to be buried next to him. I wondered how many people today would be willing to make such a commitment. Have we become to complacent? Does marriage mean what it used to? Or did our grandparents just suffer through because it was expected of them. Something tells me that it is the later.
What do you think?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Use It...

Dominion over all things doesn't come with age, spirituality, or even gratitude. In fact, it doesn't come at all. You were born with it and you use it every moment of every day, whenever you say, "I will... I am... I have..." 

And for that matter, whenever you say, "It's hard... I'm lost... I don't know..." 

So, be careful where you point that thing!

Life is not about learning to find your power. It's about learning to use it.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Kit Kat

It was a warm day in August when I decided to wander down to the mail box to see what the postman had brought me that day. I rarely check the mail since there is even more rarely anything worth the effort in the box. Since I had just checked it the day before and received all the checks that I was expecting from customers already, I was not expecting anything but flyers. 

Then, much to my surprise, there was a package stuffed in there. 
I am so glad I didn't let this one sit in there for a week before picking it up.

This package was no ordinary package. 
It had traveled a great distance to arrive at my home. 
It had made it all the way from Merry-Ole' England!
A wonderful blogger/ reader and I'd dare to say, internet-friend, Anne or "Morning AJ"
 sent me a sampling of KitKat bars from England.

Not just KitKat bars. But she also sent Chunky KitKats.
Who knew there was such a thing.
And it gets better.
There's Chunky Mint KitKats too!
I do love mint chocolate!

Living so close to the Canadian border, 
I know that KitKats are a big thing on the other side of the river.
But I never really paid much attention to it.
I knew that there are entire vending machines dedicated to them.
But I didn't pay attention to the products available inside.

For one, in America, KitKats are made by the Hershey Chocolate company.
I have to admit they are one of my favorite treats. But one must take these things in moderation.

In England however, KitKats are made by the Nestle Chocolate company. Yes, the same people that make that chocolate syrup to squirt into your milk or poor over top of ice cream.

I decided to do a side-by-side taste test.

Although the coloring was about the same, the scent was quite different.
The American version almost seemed stale in comparison to the sweet scent of it's British counterpart.

Pugsley was looking on with anticipation as Edward and I took in the color, bouquet and eventually the taste of each tasty bite. Waiting for the lingering aftertaste before making any judgements.

We took our time and kept an open mind.

In the end, we had ourselves a winner.
Which of these chocolaty treats is our favorite?

The British version wins!
The chocolate itself seems softer on the pallet, smoother on the tongue and even seemed a little more buttery, if that's possible. 
It stayed with me longer and thus could be enjoyed longer.

I have not been to Canada for a few months now, but I know that the Canadian version is also made by Nestle' and I am stashing some of these British KitKats away so we can do a side-by-side with the Canadian and British versions.
 And we'll probably throw in the American again just to give them a fair second chance. 
But this American lad is a British fan on this one folks.

And since I have to take these things a little at a time, 
I am also saving the chunky ones for a special occasion.

Monday, September 2, 2013

That's What I Am

The name of the blog is "A Brighter Side of the Grave" and I have to admit that the last few months, I've seen a little gloom. I've been trying to adjust to a new life. I've given so much to helping my parents over the last eight years that now, I find myself wondering what to do next. Oh, the business is doing fine. In fact, we've picked up a couple new accounts that have made things a little easier for the bills to be paid. And I've got a plan for the next step in my life and am waiting patiently for everything to fall into place for that to begin.
While I am waiting however, I find myself finishing projects that I started years ago and even starting new ones. My husbands father is not doing well and I am trying to be supportive in the dealings there. But for this one, I must step back and let them breathe their own breath, much as he has done for me.

I was not always my parents biggest fan. I didn't always agree with their methods. I am glad that I was able to put all that behind me and we all came together in the end to love and accept each other. I can appreciate all that they tried to do and understand that they were always doing the best they knew how at the time. In time, they grew to appreciate the diversity of all their children including myself, despite the hateful comments I overheard as a child.

It's a new world now from when they were raised. It's changed a lot just in my own lifetime. And in my asking for love and acceptance, I've learned to love and accept others wherever they are in life. It's a little thing called Tolerance. It's something that happens when people take Human Dignity and add Compassion. It all comes together to equal Peace.

(Just a random picture I took this week.)
I spend day after day listening to funeral services. Some pay tribute to the life that was lived and yet others give glory to God for letting that person live. Despite my own beliefs and how I feel about any particular service that I attend, I must respect the wishes of the family to chose that send off. Even if the family chooses no service at all, I must accept that, and honor that.

I am a Funeral Assistant and Hearse Driver. That's what I am! I have found my place in this world. And now, with my parents passing, I have been given a new life. A life where  I can spend time with neighbors and friends. Where I can plan romantic get-a-ways with my husband. A life where I, for the first time in my life, have a life. I can mow the lawn because I want to. I can wash the car in the sun, because I think it looks dirty. A life where I will be able to help more people through a tough time in their life because I have been there. I have experienced that loss. And I am learning to live again.

For those that have been with me for a while, I thank you. And for you new ones ( yes, I see you) welcome. I've got new ideas and big dreams in the works. As I grow into this new skin, you will get to grow along side me. I'm looking forward to it all.