Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Great Loss to the Community

Another great life has come to an end.

I first came to know Quinnie Cody when I was a young man.
He was the mayor of the town that I grew up in.
Over the years he did many good things not only for Mount Clemens, but the neighboring communities.
Mayor in our town is not a paid position and doesn't come with a lot of perks. But Quinnie had a passion for politics and a love for his city.

As he aged and stepped out of the public spot light, I, like most, lost track of him. But that's when I met Dawn. Dawn took care of my own father in his last year and simultaneously took care of Mr. Cody. When we lost my dad a year and a half ago, Dawn focused her attention on Mr. Cody. He has been her neighbor and friend most of her life. Dawn has also been working for me driving my funeral coaches for the last year and has been an excellent addition to our company.

When Mr. Cody passed, it was Dawn and I that had the privilege to transport him to the funeral home.
And Dawn and I will chauffeur him to church today and then to his final resting place.
At his visitation yesterday, it seemed that anyone who was anyone in our small town was there and we are looking forward to a packed house at the church today. It has been a great honor to serve this family, as it is all of the families that we work for.

Former Mount Clemens Mayor Cody oversaw city's comeback
By Chad Selweski
Tue, 23 Dec 2014, 06:40 PM

The gentlemanly mayor of Mount Clemens, Quinnie Cody, who served until 2005, died at his home Monday evening. He was 93.
Cody presided over the city when it began making a comeback in the late 1980s and again when it established an image as a popular nighttime hotspot in the early 2000s.
"We've always had our ups and downs as a city but most of the years when Quinnie was mayor we were doing pretty well," said incumbent Mayor Barb Dempsey, who served with her predecessor for six years on the Mount Clemens City Commission. "He was kind of the glue that held us together."
Cody served as mayor for 14 years between 1987 and 2005. His reign as mayor of the county seat was not consecutive but he also sometimes ran unopposed. A Mississippi native, Cody's hallmarks were his dapper dress - always in a suit and tie, often wearing a hat - and his easy-going manner.
"Quinnie Cody was a true Southern gentleman who treated everyone with kindness and respect," said Grace Shore, CEO of the Mount Clemens-based Macomb County Chamber of Commerce. "He really loved the city of Mt. Clemens. He was an asset to our community and will be greatly missed."
The mayor's community activities included 59 years as an usher and parish member at St. Peter Catholic Church in downtown Mount Clemens, and a longtime member of The Old Crowd. A World War II veteran, Cody was also a member of the American Legion Post 4. In recent years, his health began failing and he was less visible around town.
Mount Clemens City Commissioner Gary Blash, who first became friends with Cody many years ago while the two served in The Old Crowd, said the mayor deserved his nice-guy image but he also had a temper that sometimes reached its breaking point when someone crossed him.
"The city has lost a true gentleman. He was always very gracious, though he also was quite a character. I enjoyed being around him," said Blash the former city assessor, a post he now holds in Fraser. "But … you knew what line not to cross. He was definitely a man of conviction. When he was committed to an issue he would vehemently defend it."
Dempsey said Cody was fond of remarking, "dag nabbit" at commission meetings when he was unhappy with the way the proceedings were going. But he also had his progressive side, insisting that women play a role in city government.
He convinced Dempsey to get involved, initially by encouraging her to take a spot on the city recreation board.
"Quinnie was instrumental in getting me in politics, first by convincing me to run for the commission. That was 16 year ago. He said (former commissioner) Nancy Dedenbach was not running again and that we need another woman on the commission," said Dempsey, who just began her 10th year as mayor.
"And then, when he decided not to run for re-election, he asked me to run to fill his seat."
Cody is survived by his wife, Jeannette, four children, 20 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
Funeral home visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Friday at Will and Schwarzkoff Funeral Home, 233 Northbound Gratiot, Mount Clemens. A funeral mass will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Peter.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Letters from the Past

One little project. I'm working on a quick project in the house, and suddenly the whole house is a disaster.
I start looking for one item and I find twelve others that I didn't know I was even looking for. Then I ran across a box filled with items from my past. I could have pushed the box aside and told myself to stay focused. But I knew that if I forced myself to deal with these ghost that have been hiding under my bed, I could move on to the next part of my life more easily. So I dug.

At the time, I'm sure that there was reasons for all the stuff that I've saved. Sometimes I saved things because my mother told me that one day I would want them. Well Mom, I've been sorting through your stuff for 3-1/2 years now, thinking to my self the whole time, "Why would someone save this?" But since important things seem to be mixed in with garbage, the sorting continues. And so does the sorting of my own things.

In this box tonight, I ran across some old correspondences  from a pen-pal that I had when I was 10 through 12 years old. I wish I could see what I wrote to this kid. Because the things that he wrote to me were so off the wall and so unrelated to my life. I really don't know how that whole thing went on for over two years. Long before the days of the internet, letters took a few days to send from place to place. Then there was usually response time and mailing back. And throw in the fact that my parents taught me the lesson of the dollar by making me buy my own stamps and I think I see how it lasted so long.

It was funny to read some of the letters that I received. He would write about his beer can collection or the fish that he caught in the river. He wrote of dirt bikes and dead bug collections too. None of these things has ever caught my interest. Ever. Then he ended most of the letters with, "I've run out of words". Children are funny and I'm sure that I was no exception to that rule. I know that there was a lot of stupid things that came out of my mouth as a child and even as an adult. As technology has brought us to blogging, Youtube, Twitter, Tumbler, Pinterest and a half dozen other social networks that I know very little about, I have to wonder how much we've learned. Or are we all just silly kids talking about our beer can collections.

I've run out of words.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Spoiler Alert!

I lead a busy life. I don't think that I've watched anything live on television in a long time.
For the past several seasons of Survivor and The Amazing Race, someone, somewhere has told me who won the shows top prizes. Don't get me wrong, I love when people talk about the show. It creates a little more hype and gives me incentive to watch. But inevitably, someone will spill the beans as to the outcome.

I am thankful to say that it did not happen this time around for either show. I will say that both shows had some crazy twist at the end that I did not see coming, and I'm not sure that I like the results. But, they are what they are and I will accept that. And, I won't spill the beans.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Let Me Go

Everyone on this earth is born. And we each much also die. It may not be convenient for those left behind to mourn, but it is something that we all must do.
I do a lot of services for people whom have lived long and full lives. Those services are truly a celebration of life. Unfortunately, there are services for people who's lives seem way too short and often it seems unfair that it has come to what appears to be an untimely end.

Recently, CBN televangelist Pat Robertson proclaimed that "God has given us the ability to raise the dead, we just aren't using it."
And now there is a group called "The Dead Raising Team" that claims that they have performed a dozen resurrections. And finally, a family in Hamilton Ontario Canada kept their dead husband and father in their home since March, praying that he would be brought back to them. Here's the story from Caleb Wilde of Confessions of  a Funeral Director.

I know everyone loves me. But I have one request.
Be it 50 years from now or tomorrow, Let Me Go.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Good News

I'm always looking for a little good news; something to brighten my day, here on the brighter side.
Lately I've been looking forward to each week when a new episode of Russell Howard's Good News comes out on YouTube.
My UK friends may already know of him, but I'm sure he's new to my Yankee mates.
Each episode is about a half hour, but if you take the time to watch, you'll find you'll be wanting more.


Monday, December 1, 2014

White Frogs

I was just pleasantly surprised by a random movie recommended to me by Netflix.  I had a night to myself.  With Pugsley by my side, I turned up the heat, got comfortable and decided to see what this technology that I pay for each month would bring me.  I'm so out of touch with entertainment that I let the computer choose my entertainment.  What it brought me was a small movie called White Frogs.  For most of the movie, I had no idea what the title was about.  But then as all the pieces started coming together, one of the characters conveyed this story....

Grandma would tell a story of growing up in Viet Nam, that people would eat coconut frogs.  Yeah, coconut, and frogs.  She said her mother would take a coconut and make a small slit in it and insert a tadpole from the river.  The tad pole would live inside that coconut for a few weeks.  Then when the coconut was split open, you would find a blind frog with white skin.  The frog had the smoothest skin and the sweetest, softest coconut flavored meat.
Most of us live life, like one of those tad poles,  growing up in a strange world that never seemed right. Trying our best to fit in. To grow into a frog.  Our parents wanted us to be perfect.  They had an idea of what perfect was.  But in the end, we don't deserve to live in a coconut.  No one deserves that.
I am not a white frog.  I will not be a white frog, even if we are weird, different or strange. Because everyone is weird, different and strange.

I could relate so much with this story and these characters.  Growing up I felt like so much was expected of me.  Doctrine was instilled and I was marinated in beliefs that are not my own.  I could see glimpses of the outside world, but was protected from them and led to believe that it was all evil.  I watched how these beliefs effected each of my siblings differently.  I am happy to say that I now have a balanced knowledge and understanding of each of them as well as most of the world.  I am thirsty to learn even more each and every day.
This little tad pole will not reach the end of it's life with perfect white skin and tender meat for the masses to feast on.  No, it's going to continue to be a turbulent river with sunshine, rain, rocks and sand for me. Life will not devour me. Instead I will reach the end with a loving knowledge of hope for all that come after me.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Mental Energy

Today we have rain. I wrote this a few days ago and have obviously survived....

While I type this, there are huge flakes of snow cascading from the heavens, falling gently on anything and everything that is outside. I work outside. Morning promises to be a little more challenging than the mornings of recent days. Hollywood would paint a picture of serenity and peace with the falling snow. But as a professional driver, I see the reality of shoveling, plowing and idiot drivers on the road that don't know how to prepare for such beauty and serenity. I can handle it. I've been doing this professionally for 20 years. If I prayed, I would pray that the less prepared people would all be safe in the morning.

To continue my series on making a positive change in one's life, I come to Mental Energy. Once you've eliminated the negativity and prepared your body with rest, nutrition and exercise, you need to make sure that you are mentally prepared for your new success. Mental energy can come from passion, emotion and motivation. It results from either the search for pleasure or to avoid pain. Yes, pain. Often we are motivated by fear. It could be a threat of unemployement or actual physical pain.

A good vocabulary isn't a must, but a bad vocabulary can certainly hurt you. Surrounding yourself with people that talk poorly of you will only bring you down. But in contrast, if people encourage each other to always do a little better, what happens is, well, people do better.

What would your life's soundtrack be like? Does the music that you listen to lift your spirits? Does it give you the mental energy that you need to complete your task? Each person is very different. What lifts your spirits may be just the thing that brings mine down. In a day when people seem to be obsessed with music, it's a good idea to have a playlist that will help get you through the tough spots. ( A playlist is like a modern day mix-tape ) Make up a playlist for exercising. Make up something to help you relax. What does your work day sound like. Each of these things can be quite different. Music to help you prepare for a meeting will be different than a night out with friends. And for some, such as myself, quiet time will go far in helping to get things done. I'm the kind of person that really listens to the music. I can't help but to dance, even if it is just in my thoughts. So to concentrate, I turn everything off.

One more way to gain mental energy is to turn to your beliefs. Regardless of your religious affiliations, everyone believes something. Whatever that might be, to spend a little time reflecting on those beliefs, gives you a chance to center yourself mentally and prepare for whatever you are about to tackle.

To summarize, if you have a lofty dream, you must pursue it with passion and urgency, or you will run out of fuel to complete the journey. And if you don't have a driving purpose in life, begin the journey of self discovery today. The Law of Energy says: Human life is sheer physical, mental and spiritual energy. The force for living is abundant in the universe, but may be hidden as mere potential or expressed as kinetic energy. Pursue your goals through a balance of physical, mental and spiritual energy.

I am prepared for what tomorrow holds. Plenty of rest, a good meal and a clear state of mind is a great way to start any day. Snow can be quite peaceful.

Have a great day friends.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Does it Stink in Here?

I love my cars. My long black shiny cars. I am very proud of them. I take very good care of them. They are not only very expensive, but they are how I earn my living.

There are other hearse lovers out there. But I really don't think that they love hearses for the same reasons as I do. I love what we do in my business. We bring a little dignity to an otherwise gruesome experience. We honor the deceased with the finest available for the budget we are given. Whatever that budget may be. I am very proud to be entrusted to drive your loved one to their final resting place. I take my job very seriously and operate with caution and care, every inch of the way.

I feel that these hearse lovers care more about the gruesome side of death and the fact that many people seem to be afraid of their hearse. They use them for shock value. They pick them up cheaply after their life in the industry has ended. They take them to the grocery store or go camping in them. They put zombie stickers in the windows and drive around with coffins in the back. They paint flames down the side and put giant speakers in the back deck. Now I admit that I have been to Hell. Hell Michigan that is for the hearse show held each year before Halloween. It can be fun, but it should not be a way of life.

I operate my funeral coach for funerals only. You will only see it when I am on my way to a funeral, doing a funeral or on my way back to the garage. You will never see it at Mac Donald's. The only place I ever stop is the gas station or car wash. And when I do stop, there is never a body on board. EVER!

Still, the car wash attendants will peek in the back cautiously or I will get odd comments at the gas station. And NO, it doesn't "freak me out to drive that thing".

A hearse is typically the cleanest car you will ever see. Even if a funeral home uses it as a first call vehicle, it must be clean come the next funeral. NO there are no fowl smells!
I recently went around a few times with an on-line forum about how to get the formaldehyde smell out of a hearse a guy had just purchased. I assured him that it was not embalming fluid that he smelled. He more likely smelled cleaning chemicals. To remedy that, simply use hydrogen peroxide and fresh air. Of course throughout the forum, I was told that I know nothing about the funeral business or how it works and that bodies leak fluids all the time. One guy insisted to use Pine-sol because it's the only thing that will cover the smell.

Why?! Why are these people so stupid and yet still allowed to breath the same air as sane people?

Let me be perfectly clear here. I do not haul bodies. I transport people whom have recently deceased. These are people that should always be treated with dignity. The day I start thinking otherwise, is the day I stop working in this industry completely.

I think that people have so many preconceived notions of what goes on and they've heard so many embellished stories from people that have no idea what they are talking about that they can't even fathom the truth. People see a hearse and automatically think it smells bad. So when they smell something, they assume that they know what it is. And that's exactly why we don't use chemicals to clean with.

And while I'm ranting, it is a hearse...H E A R S E. Not Hearst, There is no T. And to be precise, it is actually a funeral coach.

I feel better now.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Day the Corpse Lent Me A Tie

I often start my day at 5 AM. I have a routine with my dog Pugsley that I dare not miss. I look forward to our routine. It is quality time for the two of us that is only rivaled by our ritual afternoon walks. A funeral service at 10:00 means that visiting starts at 9:00 and we typically have to be there much earlier to have everything set up. A church service requires us to transport everything, including the deceased to the church the morning of the service. We often are just finishing set up as the family arrives in the parking area, at which point I scramble to make sure everyone is parked where they need to be for the procession to the cemetery.

This was not one of those early days. These days always throw me off my game. With a service at noon, everything is pushed back a few hours. When I awake in the morning, I go into a completely different mode. Everything is a little more relaxed. Not so rushed as it typically can be. There was no snow to clear, the hearse was washed, gassed and ready for service. A sense of calm permeates the morning. Until I realize that I've got to leave in 30 minutes and I haven't even showered yet. I quickly rushed through my shower and shave and got myself dressed for the day. I was out the door right on schedule. I drove to the garage, switched cars and proceeded to the funeral home to pick up our guest of honor today and take him to the church. As I drove, I reached to straighten my tie. That's when I realized that I wasn't wearing one. I do not have enough time to scurry back home and get one. So I press on, hoping that someone at the funeral home will have a spare. Then I double checked everything else. Did I put on pants? Am I driving the right vehicle? Am I going to the correct funeral home? Wait! What day is it? What time was I supposed to be there?! Everything else checked out and I proceeded.

When I arrived at the funeral home, I informed the director of the situation. He did not have one, but assured me we would find one somewhere. We searched the employee areas, high and low. He went upstairs into the apartment thinking that surely there would be one there. He found one with a huge stain on it and would not let me be seen with such a mess, representing his establishment. To the basement we went. Into the preproom where another deceased man was awaiting his turn to be viewed by his family and friends. There it was, the perfect tie. The director looked at me, I looked at him. We both shrugged and I thanked the man for the use of his tie for the day and promised to return it before his viewing this evening.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Manifesting Change

I believe that we manifest, or bring in to our lives, whatever we think about. I have watched it for years in every person that I have ever met. I believe that people are awesome. They care about pretty much everything and everyone, always. It's just that they are so busy believing what they have been told, and therefore manifesting it, that they genuinely haven't noticed that in our gorgeous little planet's entire history, there has never been:
- A drought that didn't end
- A storm that didn't clear
- Lightning that didn't retreat
- An earthquake that didn't still
-A flood that didn't recede, nor
-A plague that wasn't eventually, completely, and utterly overwhelmed by the healthy

These are all things that will come to an end. And in the end, we will be here. We'll be here a little smarter, a little stronger and a little better off. These are not things we need to worry about.

We need to stop believing the folklore of the past. Take a good look at reality and create our own future.
Start living a life filled with meaning. A life that will be remembered long after we are gone.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Father was a Pioneer

No, he didn't blaze any trails across the wild West or battle Native Americans for land rights. He wasn't part of any gold rush either. But yes, my father, and mother, were pioneers. They both looked to bring Chiropractic care to America in the 1950's and 60's. They believed in everything it had to offer. In a time when "modern medicine" had very little to offer and diseases such as polio were running rampant with no cure in sight, they looked to bring natural, holistic cures to people seeking relief from their aches and pains. You see, in 1933, my father received a vaccination that was popular at the time and a bad reaction to the serum almost took his arm. He wore the scars of that vaccination for 80 years until the day he died in July of 2013. And he vowed to find a better way to heal people that were sick.

In my previous post, I wrote about eliminating negative people and things from your life. Surrounding yourself with positive people and situations. But once you've done that, you still need to remain positive yourself. In order to do that, you must take care of yourself. Take ownership of yourself and stop blaming others for your shortcomings. Proper sleep and nutrition is a must. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you are able to get the rest and nutrition that it takes to achieve your goals.

To complete the balance in your life, you must take care of your body completely. Exercise of some sort is essential to your well being. My father would be quick to offer an adjustment to keep you balanced and keep your organs operating optimally. I swore by what I was taught my entire life. That pinched nerves can cause numbness, dizziness, shortness of breath and allergies. Vital organs can function improperly if the nerves working them don't receive the proper signals from the brain. So, whenever I would have anything from a headache to a pain in my foot, I turned to Dad and chiropractic care. My father taught me that the body wants to be "in line". In recent years, I've seen chiropractic offices offering massage therapy and I thought it was genius. The body wants to be in line. Relax the muscles and the joints will almost fix themselves. The problem is though, if the muscles are too relaxed, it is even easier to joust something out of place. I thought that there has to be a better way.

That's when I found Yoga. And I know what the images are that come to mind about yoga. They are ALL untrue. Recently many Youtubers have been doing the Yoga Challenge in an effort to entertain their viewers. There are untrained kids trying to do the most ridiculous maneuvers and poses. While it is entertaining to say the least, it is NOT Yoga. Many people often confuse yoga with meditation too. Yes, it helps to concentrate but meditation is something different.

I'm sure that if my father had been born in a different time, he would have been a Yogi. As it were though, it was known as something from the East and having served in the US Navy during WW2 in the Pacific, anything remotely Japanese was tabu.

The truth is that Yoga has eliminated my asthma. It has eliminated my allergies to pollens and danders. Yoga has improved my posture and helped in my digestion. My muscles are more toned and I've been able to maintain a healthy weight, well into my forties. Last year, I ran my first 5k when in the past I couldn't run a half mile.

All this has given me confidence to do so many things that I never thought I would be able to do. Anyone can do yoga. Most days, I do simple beginner stretches. They keep me balanced and help me to feel better about myself, so I can take on the day. The assisted living home where my parents lived offered chair yoga for those that could not get up and down easily. It is simple stretching. Any runner or swimmer will know how important stretching can be. And any doctor will tell you how important it is to stay active and exercise.

This is what works for me. Everyone is going to be different. I guess my point is that over the years, I have taken the knowledge given me and searched out what works for me. It took many years and trying different things.

Find what works for you. Eat well, get plenty of rest and exercise.
Once you have yourself ready to take on your next challenge, you will wonder why you didn't start sooner.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Negative Influences

Growing up in the United Penticostal Church as a gay man, I had a lot of suppressed emotions. As I've aged, I have found that there is a lot of negativity that comes in growing up that way. As one friend explains it, they have a list of Do's and Don'ts that consist of a whole lot of Don'ts. Having come to terms with myself and educating myself about the laws of nature and humanity, I've been working the last few years to better myself in a more positive way. To live my life in a way that is more accepting of the diversity around me. But yet, surrounding myself with positive influences and eliminating the negative influences of my life.

Many conditions can drain or waste your vital energy. Examples are boring routines, excessive indulgence, guilt and self blame. These are all things that were prevalent in my life but are also obvious and so they need no further discussion. Instead, I will focus on something that is poisonous , subtle and often underestimated.

One of the most destructive sources of energy drainage is negative people. These people surrounded me as a child and young adult. Their pessimistic words and attitudes can kill you, both figuratively and literally. They can shut off your vision of hope and expectancy, emphasize fear and doubt, and focus on the ugly and sad. Expose your dreams to them, and you may never dream again.

You should love people with all your heart. But choose wisely the ones with whom you share your time with. Negativity manifest in a variety of shapes and forms. You may see it in any or all of these forms

* Cursing
* Gossip
* Fear
* Low self-esteem
* Unforgiven wrongs
* Envy or Grudge
* Regret
* Procrastination

Think about the 10 people that you spend the most time with and compare them against those eight items listed above. Don't be surprised if the people that you are closest to have some or all of the qualities listed. It is important to carefully and systematically reduce the amount of time that you spend with those negative influences.

I'm not saying to separate from your marital partner or close relatives. In those cases, we must show kindness, avoid arguments and NEVER expose your dreams to them.

You may be tempted to remain in the company of those that are negative because you hope to turn them positive. If you want to help a negative friend or relative, you must first work on yourself and your dreams. Gain some victories in your life. Then, you can reach back with strength and compassion, and lift your loved one. If you try to remain with the negative influences, they will only keep you from ever achieving your goals or helping them.

Now think about the ten most positive people or groups that you know that you would like to have as a regular part of your life. Regardless of how you know them. Start contacting them. Carefully develop relationships with them. Be sure that you have something to bring to the relationship and that you are not just using them for your advantage. Feed and nurture these positive relationships. Associate with leaders in your profession or area of interest. Find people who are moving forward. Your growth demands that you avoid regressive forces that seek to complain, assign blame, or forecast doom.

There are many people in my industry that look at increased cremation rates as the demise of the funeral industry. I like to surround myself with people who see it simply as a change, and that we all need to change with the times instead of burying our heads in the sand.

I will let you digest this information and we will come back to this subject in the near future.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Letting Go

A double booking with back to back funerals in neighboring towns kept me out much later than my regular time. When I finished up at the second cemetery and headed back to the garage. The sun was setting the windswept clouds on fire with color. The sky was ablaze with deep and light blues, yellow, green, orange and even red, casting amazing colors across the fields with drying corn waiting to be harvested.

As I drove, I reflected on the families that we serviced today. Both families were filled with very nice people.
I thought about how I used to write here about the strange happenings at some of the funerals. I don't know if there are just super nice people out there now or I have become accustom to the chaos. I know that people react to however they are treated. And I have started to treat everyone that pulls into my parking lots as though they are my best friend that I haven't seen in a long time. That doesn't change the family dynamics that go on inside, but at least in my parking lot, everyone feels welcome.

I managed to juggle keeping everyone well organized and still take all the incoming orders for future funerals. You see, while the directors have enough to worry about with all that they do, when they call me, they just want to place an order and be done with it. They have more calls to make and things to organize because it takes a lot of people to come together to make what we do happen. So I take the orders and figure out later how I am going to make it all happen. It was only Monday and already I have nine funerals booked for the week. And I am ready for whatever the rest of the week might through at me. I've got a trusted staff and directors that love me and my staff. As I proclaim on my company website, I am there to make a great first impression for the funeral home that I am representing.
Today's weather was a delight, especially when I consider what the rest of the week has in store for me. Temperatures are expected to plummet and be accompanied by rain and snow. I have to admit that I do not enjoy the change in seasons when faced with winter. Here in Michigan it can be very harsh. I work outdoors. I am expected to present myself in a professional manner. The vehicles are expected to be clean for every family, without exception. But weather has a way of letting us know that we don't control everything. That sometimes you have to let something go.

Working in the business that I do, you would think that I would know that. I've had so many personal losses in the last few years, I can only guess at what will be next. Will it be the love of my life ( my 13 year old Tibetan Spaniel, Pugsley)? Will it be my 95 year old father-in-law? Life has a way of keeping us on our toes. Keeping us guessing. I arrived home this evening with the news that my brother has suffered a heart attack today. His daughter and my sister have traveled the three hours to be by his side. The rest of us, await word of his condition. With a full schedule ahead of me this week, I think it is best if I let my niece handle things the best she can. And I hope that she knows that she has the support of a large loving family, even though we don't always get along with each other.

I guess mother nature and father time have just reminded me once again how valuable life is. That we need to appreciate what we have, while we have it. Hold on to the good memories and let go of the petty things.

I hope that all my readers are finding themselves loved today regardless of any other issues.
Love really is what makes the world go around.
And we need to enjoy life while we are still on the Brighter Side of the Grave. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

The End of the Road

Recently, I've brought you the story of Brittany Maynard.
If you've followed the story thus far, please click this link.
I will let the article bring this story to a close.
 However, I hope that her wishes can be followed through, not only in the States, but wherever people are suffering terminal diseases. When this issue comes to a vote where you live, may her story come to mind.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


A touching update.
My heart really hurts for this beautiful young woman
And her family.

And in case you missed the first video.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Haunted Houses

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 - 1882

 All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the "Fireside Poets," wrote lyrical poems about history, mythology, and legend that were popular and widely translated, making him the most famous American of his day. 

I've always loved a good ghost story. I find them fascinating.
But not in the way that most people do. 
I don't believe in an afterlife. I believe we all should live our lives to the fullest and leave a legacy for future generations. Our ability to live on comes from living through the lives of people that we touch along the way. I do believe that houses and buildings hold a residual effect of those that came before us. And that we each leave our mark in the places that we call home and where we work and play.

Do you believe in ghost? Do you love a good ghost story?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Going Out of Business

According the skeletal old man, Pat Robertson, from The 700 Club, you, me and everyone else on the planet has the power to raise the dead. We just aren't using it.

This came as a response to a question from one of Robertson's viewers who asked:
"Do we have the same power that it took to raise Jesus Christ from the dead? If so, where is it in the Bible?"

Robertson (who has the power to raise the deceased from their eternal slumber) responded:

"He gave his disciples the authority... to raise the dead. That was part of our power... God is almighty... That power is there, we just aren't using it."

So, all this time we've been dealing with this pesky death thing, building an industry around helping people cope with the loss of a loved one, we could have been bringing them back to life. I think he's trying to put me out of business!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Engulfed in Color

I wish it had lasted longer and that I had a camera ready when it happened. Instead I will paint a picture for your mind that blew mine.

It was cold and dark this morning. There was a frost on the car in the driveway that delayed my departure to this morning's service. Eventually, I was able to head out to the garage where we keep the hearses. I quickly switched cars and hurried on my way to the funeral home.

As I traversed the freeway through the open farmland and light began to fill the morning sky, I noticed a thick fog obscuring my view of the fall colors. About half way to my destination, I noticed the moist air was drenching the freshly polished funeral coach.
A little annoyed at the thought of water streaks on the paint, I watched as the water streamed across the side window.

That's when I saw it. Beyond the window was the most vivid green color I had ever seen. I turned to keep my eyes on the road, as a good driver does, and I noticed that everything ahead of me was an amazing red color. I blinked a few times not understanding what was happening. I then surveyed everything around me. Color was everywhere! That is when I realized that the rising sun was hitting the fog all around me refracting the light in a rainbow like I had never seen before. I was inside the rainbow!

I've never even heard of this being possible. It lasted for only about 30 seconds before I drove out of the fog patch. I kept looking for more, but I guess it was a once in a lifetime moment.

This got me to thinking. With all the scientific knowledge that we have now, we can easily understand what was happening. But what would someone a few hundred or even a thousand years ago think of such an occurrence? Simple scientific phenomenon or miracle? Or both?

Either way, I am so glad it happened to me.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Bigger than an Iphone 6

Many times in the last few months I have felt that I really missed sharing my thoughts with the world through this blog. Several times I've gone back over some of the post that I've done and wondered what direction, if any, I was taking. These are my thoughts on the matter.

I often try to post things that I find inspirational. If you follow me on facebook, you may have noticed this too. Over there, I try to keep things short and simple. This is where I can come to finish a thought though. And for some reason, you all seem to care what I think. Thank you for that.

Many times, as well, this has been more of a travel log of sorts. Chronicling my many adventures.

At first, I did not see how these things all went together. It seemed a little random to me. But what I have found is that A Brighter Side of the Grave is all of these things. Life is about the adventures that we share. We share them with family and friends as they happen. And we share them over and over again, sometimes for years afterward, with people that we meet along life's way.
 With age, comes experience. And I love the fact that I have inspired several people to experience more than they ever thought possible simply by sharing my adventures and experiences.

I'm not a materialistic person. I don't need to surround myself with things. I don't need the latest and greatest gadgets. In fact, I usually let others work the bugs out before I invest in anything new. But, what I do love to spend money on is adventure. Sometimes we can plan for a year or more for an adventure. Some people call them vacations, others call them holidays. I call them adventures.

These adventures give us something to look forward to. As the day draws closer, we find ourselves getting excited. When we embark, we can hardly believe that it is happening. And when it is over, we have stories to tell for the rest of our lives. Sometimes we don't even know how great the adventure is until after it is done. Have you ever planned a beach vacation to have it rain every day that you are there? I did. Over a year of planning a trip to Cape Cod and it turned out to be the coldest wettest month of June in the history of Cape Cod weather. We threw on some jackets and went exploring anyway. It was a wonderful time and I wouldn't have changed anything. On the way home, we stopped in Plymouth. We had planned a cemetery tour in the evening. We contacted the tour guide who informed us that everyone else had cancelled but since we had traveled so far, if we wanted to continue, to meet her at Plymouth Rock. We did. She handed us some lanterns and led us to the cemetery. The sun set and as she was trying to spook us with her stories, the weather worsened. A cold wind was blowing and the rain was coming down sideways. I think our stories frightened her more than her stories, us. By the end, we were drenched and frozen. It was an experience I will never forget and wouldn't change for anything. Stories that will last longer than any Iphone 6.

It is life's adventures that keep me going. I appreciate every second that I am given here on Earth. Sometimes those adventures are cloaked in the veil of every day work. But if you look closely, they are always there. In everything we do, there is adventure. And when you realize this, you will look forward to every day, not just your next vacation.

Just remember this, one of my favorite quotes by Mark Twain;
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

So, the adventure goes on....

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Shadow of Death

Through the threat of death, she is living and taking charge of her own life.

But in less than a month, the world will lose this wonderful woman.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blood Moon

Please excuse my inexpensive camera for not taking better pictures of this phenomenon.

For those of you in North America that find it necessary to sleep the morning away, this is what you missed around 6 AM Eastern time.

It is what is known as the Blood Moon. 
And it is what happens when the earth passes between the sun and the moon,
casting a shadow on the moon. 
As you can see even in my photos,
the shadow is a red color which gives it its name,
the Blood Moon.

According to the folklore, this will mean that I will be busy this week.

What do you think?

Monday, July 14, 2014

"IF ONLY..."

Those two words, when paired together create one of the saddest phrases in the English language.

I've chosen to live my life with no regrets. Sure, there are things I would have done differently if given the chance for a do-over. And yes, I often feel as though my upbringing might have cheated me out of many things that others take for granted in life. But in the end, I am pretty happy with who I am right now and know that changing the past, would only change who I am and nothing else.

Here are a few things that lead to that "If only" phrase of regret, and perhaps how to elude them.

Wearing a mask to impress others. If we are always trying to be something that we are not, one day we will wake up and realize that we are not ourselves. When we spend too much time concentrating on everyone's perception of us, or being who someone else wants us to be, we eventually forget who we are.
You don't have to be perfect to impress or inspire people. Instead, let them be impressed and inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.

Letting someone else create your dreams for you. We all have trouble discovering who we are. Then we must learn to be happy with who we find ourselves to be. It is often a struggle to stay true to your own goals and dreams. If you have people that that don't agree with you, Good! It means you are standing your ground and walking your own path. When you catch yourself excitingly losing track of time, you know you're doing it right.

Keeping negative company. Bad attitudes are infectious. Don't allow yourself to get caught up in someone else's trouble. Being around negative people is your choice, not an obligation. Free yourself to keep the company of compassionate, generous and patient people, leaving the anxiety behind.

Being selfish and egotistical. A life filled with loving deeds and good character is the best tombstone. Those who you inspired and shared your love with will remember how you made them feel, long after your time here has expired. So carve your name on hearts, not stone. What you do for yourself alone dies with you; what you have done for others will remain.

Avoiding change and growth. If you want to know your past, look in to your present conditions. If you want to know your future, look in to your present actions. We all must let go of the old to make way for the new. The old way, no matter how good or bad, is gone. If you accept this now and take steps toward the future, you will position yourself for lasting success.

Giving up when the going gets tough. There are no failures in life, just results. Even if things don't go the way you expected, don't be disheartened. Learn what you can and move on. As long as we keep moving forward, we will come out ahead. Even the smallest of steps, keeps the momentum going.

Trying to micromanage every little detail. Life should be touched, not strangled. Sometimes you've got to relax and let life happen. Learn to let go a little and take a deep breath. When everything settles down again, take the next step forward. You don't always have to know where you're going to be headed somewhere great.

Settling for less than you deserve. Be strong enough to let go and wise enough to wait for what you deserve. Sometimes we have to be knocked down further than we thought possible so that we can stand up taller than we've ever been. Our eyes need to be washed with tears so we can see the possibilities in front of us with clear vision.

Endlessly waiting until tomorrow. We always think we have more time than we do. One day we will wake up and there won't be any more time to work on the things we wanted to. I've seen too many lives "cut short", with goals left unachieved.

The world doesn't owe us anything. It is us, whom owes the world something. There comes a time to stop daydreaming and start DOING. We need to develop a backbone, not a wishbone. We each need to to take full responsibility for our lives and take control. It is our life! We are important and we are needed. If we always wait for the right time, it will never happen. Someday is now; the somebody that the world has been waiting for is YOU. Your life until this point has been training for the exciting things to come.

Life is The Brighter Side of the Grave. This is your chance to make a difference in this world. Chose to leave a legacy of Love. The more you love for the fewest of reasons, the more reasons there will be.
You know, love life, love another, love yourself, love people, love mornings, love French toast, love sunshine, love rain... everything.
Same goes for the more you laugh, smile and skip. But be careful with waving, winking and honking.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A New/Old Home

Lately, I've been fascinated by people who choose to restore old homes and buildings rather than just tear them down. Living near Detroit, I see thousands of buildings that were designed and fabricated during the industrial age. As time found them in a state of disrepair, many were stripped of their grandeur in fear of pieces falling off. Many more were abandoned and left for time, weather and vandals to have their way with. It is sad that it has gotten to a point where there are no more options but to tear them down and start a fresh. But the truth is, starting fresh will not happen until people start to take some responsibility for their own actions and lives. To watch the Detroit newscast, even for just one day, many would loose hope for all humanity. It seems like there is no end to the destruction. Destruction that starts in the mind and spreads to the surroundings.

Leaving a neighborhood is not the answer to saving it. Chasing the riff-raff out, is not the answer either; they will only go somewhere else. Saving these historic landmarks, starts with education. From there, we can teach people to take responsibility for their own selves, homes and neighborhoods. We also need to lead by example. I believe this with everything I have.

Having stated that, I recently was thinking of leaving my own neighborhood. I've been living in the home that I had built twenty years ago. In that time, I've made that house into the home that I've always wanted, with attention to every detail. It is a modest home by any means. I never intended to stay here and didn't want to sink a lot of money into a temporary place. But during my years here, I have witnessed the rise and fall of the neighborhood. I've seen many faces come and go. I've always taken an ownership in the entire area. And yeah, I'd say that I love it here. I'm comfortable here. But with my new found freedom from family obligations, I thought it might be time for a change.

In the interest of combining my home and business, I've had my eyes open for something with a little more space. Character is a must in a home that would welcome me every day. I'd love a small yard in a small town atmosphere. Walking to stores and entertainment would be great. Considering the nature of my business, a garage is a must. At least space for three large cars. The other day, I ran across someone that has a home on a main street in a small town. Built in 1926, it's an Early American Craftsman with lots of wood moldings, stained and leaded glass windows and a lovely garden in the back. They have not put it up for sale yet and I would have first option to buy. After falling in love with the charm of the home, reality peeked it's head into the room and reminded me that it has only a small two car garage and a narrow driveway.

Feeling dejected at the reality of the situation, I turned to my own home and looked at it with new eyes. I've come to recognize that my home and the surrounding neighborhood is exactly what I have made it. It is exactly what I need and want. There has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears put into this house and I like renting a garage. It gives me a sense of "going to work".

Each of the cabinets in my home was put together by hand, piece by piece. The floor was laid one board at a time.

Every color and every finish was selected by me (with the input of my beloved)

Only the finest is worthy of entering here, my little oasis from the chaotic world.

Sometimes walls had to be moved to make things just right.

This is a place where neighbors and friends are always welcome.

This is a place that I am not leaving. Not anytime soon.

For those of you that have been following this blog for a while and wondering where I've been, I've been working out private issues after the loss of my parents and you can see some of the results in the photos of my home above. Design and hard work, help me to think my way through things.

This is only a sampling of the many things I've been working on. Stick around and you will see some of my other projects.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


June is Pride month in the good old USA. And I am not here to convince anyone that it is a good thing or bad. I will say that I am proud of who I am. I am proud of the life that I have built with my husband. I've been to but never marched in a parade or even danced on a table at an after-party. But in 2005, after 6 years of a committed relationship, when Ontario legalized marriage equality, we proudly declared our love in front of a magistrate at Toronto city hall, during Toronto Pride weekend. And I like to think that we sent a message to the government back at home, that we were willing to travel to make it official.

I like to think that I don't know many people that would argue against my right to live as I see fit. And I never try to tell anyone else how to live their lives. I do however get tired of being called a "non-believer" or "sinner".
Firstly, I don't believe that either of those is real. The term non-believer could be used for anyone who does not believe the way another does (about anything). Just because a person believes a certain religion, does not make them any better than someone who believes another religion or someone who believes in science or inner spirituality. I know what I believe and if you believe some old book written by men that did not know that the earth is round and floating in space, I could call you a non-believer.
Second, I don't believe there is such a thing as sin. I believe that all people should respect other people regardless of how stupid you might think they are. Respect them for where they are in their own journey. And if I choose to overeat or lust after someone, that is my issue. As long as I respect the people around me, then who's business is it but mine? And I really don't care if you like who I choose to sleep with because odds are, I wouldn't choose whom you've chosen either.

There has been a lot of religious nuts out there recently pushing back against the momentum of equal rights for all. I will remind them that our country was founded by people looking to escape persecution. And that the 1st amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an established religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, as one of the ten amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.

Recently, I bit my tongue when I was helping my sister move to a new apartment and two of her friends from church rode with me in the moving van. They were blindly debating that gays should not be allowed to marry. One even suggested that he knew someone that had been healed of his sin of being gay simply by repenting and accepting Jesus into his life. The other asked if the man now had a girl friend and the reply was "No, but he would like one." It was all I could do to keep from laughing and driving the truck off the road. They then went on debating the "rules of being saved". I was so proud of myself as I drove silently listening and absorbing how stupid they sounded, talking about Paul as if he were their neighbor.

I grew up in the Penticostal church. I listened and learned what I was taught. I lived that life for far too long, blindly going along with what I was told. I had no life of my own. I was not gay. I was not straight. I was Christian. I believed what I was told through and through to the point of giving up my life for Christ. There were many events in my life that brought me to where I am today. In my daily work, I respect each church and all that attend. But in my private life, I will not pretend to be something that I am not any longer. I will not be ashamed of who I am either. I will be proud.

So, even though it is now July, Happy Pride!

Monday, June 30, 2014

An Obituary filled with Hope

Since this is the Brighter Side of the Grave, and this obituary is already being shared around the internet, I felt it was appropriate to share it a little more.

Wouldn't it be great if we could all look at death this way....

Nevena Ann Topic

Newburyport, MA — Ann would like to let you know that her work here is done. She received a call, a sort of an offer you can’t refuse, for an appointment from which she will not be returning. This assignment comes with a huge sign-on bonus, a reunion with family and friends she has not seen in a long time. Job security is exactly 110 percent. Her new mission takes her to a wonderful place where she will be socializing, dancing, gardening and reading to her heart’s content. Music, laughter and love are guaranteed. Food is delicious and you never gain an ounce. She left detailed instructions for her husband and children to celebrate her mission here, which has now been completed. Low adherence to this instruction will not be tolerated.
We want to let her know that she did a great job and wish her a safe journey. We will remember her smile, her warmth, her energy, her love for life, family and friends, but also students, colleagues and clients, many of whom over time also became friends. She worked very hard all her life, up until the very end. She made a difference in the lives of many. We invite you to join us and celebrate together.
ARRANGEMENTS: Life Celebration will take place on Saturday, April 6, at 1 p.m., at Roger’s Funeral Home, 35 Green Street, in Newburyport. Internment will be private

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Snow Day

Let me tell you about the day I had on Wednesday.
We'll start with this photo from last Monday. 
This is a typical military marker found at cemeteries across America.
When not covered by snow, it looks like the markers in rows just to the right in the sidebar.

We've had enough snow this year.

I started my day off at 4am.
The winter storm started right about then.
Since I had to be to work by 8 and I always allow an hour to arrive, 
I thought I would double that time, just in case.

After two hours of driving in blinding snow, I arrived right on schedule without a minute to spare.

With a two hour visitation before the service, I had to be out in the parking lot the entire time to line up cars for the procession and direct people that just wanted to visit.

Dodging the snow plow truck and shoveling myself, the two hours finally passed.
That is when I was informed that the procession had been canceled due to weather.
I still drove the casket and body to the cemetery for burial.
(What a mess that was!)
Then it was time to head for home.
I got on the expressway and immediately found that I could not see where I was going through the drifting snow. Since my commute takes me through open countryside, I decided to turn around and head back to work. I remained there for the rest of the day until I felt it was safe to drive home.
Even then, it was difficult at times.
There were accidents and spin-outs to the right and left.
At one point there was a semi-truck cross-ways of the road forcing everyone to exit from the expressway. 

When I got home, the storm had passed, but the winds remained.
I had just started to warm up when my neighbor called me and asked me to meet him in my back yard.

The sun was low in the sky and casting shadows on the drifted snow.

Such beauty had been dropped in my own back yard.

I would have stayed for longer if the wind hadn't been chilling me to the bone.

I ended my day with a little yoga in my nice warm home.
Reflecting on a day that made me glad to be alive to witness such force and
 such beauty.