One year later.


Once again, I’m slacking. I can’t seem to find the time (or effort) to get on here and jot things down. I didn’t even check, but I’m pretty sure it’s been months since I last posted on here. I will just summarize the last couple of months, and the highs and lows.

We were all geared up and excited for our newest member to join the team. He had been a prep room supervisor since 2001. He had been in the business in some way, shape, or form since 1999. He spoke Spanish (major plus). Most importantly, HE was excited to come on board and learn everything, since he hadn’t worked as many services or met with families.

The day he was supposed to start, he was late, and we were all a little perplexed. Most new employees make it a point to show up early on their first day; maybe he was stuck in traffic? Gave him a call and he says, “Didn’t you check your email?”

Apparently, he emailed us the a noon the previous day to say that his old job basically gave him an “offer he couldn’t refuse”. They created a position for him and paid him more than us, so he wasn’t going to be coming aboard.

We were all disappointed. This was our missing piece. This was the relief my manager and I were looking for. Only being the two of us for the last year is burning us out.

Back to square one.

On a more positive note: families love me. I love working with them too. I was told the other day that I come off very “confident”, and I seem to have a way about me that people think I’ve been doing this for years; not just 1 year. That makes me feel good. Backs me up in thinking this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

This isn’t to say that I don’t doubt myself, or mess up, or have the occasional difficult family, because I do. There’s times when I get done with my day, and I go home and vent about how impossibly difficult people make my job sometimes. That’s a given with any service related job though.

And since I haven’t been on here in a while, I can officially say I’ve been at Chapel of Memories Funeral Home for 1 year. My anniversary was January 31st, and my apprenticeship anniversary was February 21st. In one year I’ve met with many families, and I have embalmed or assisted embalming 76 cases (only 24 more to meet the total needed in the 2 years!). I’m more confident now. I feel comfortable in arrangements, but there’s still the occasional “lemme go ask someone” moments.

With all this hustle and bustle, my anxiety goes along with it. I’ve actually had to break down and get medication for my insomnia and anxiety. I take it on my on-call nights, so I can try and get some restful sleep. I even went to a counseling session (and have another scheduled in another week) to discuss healthy ways of relieving stress. I thought it was going to be a weird session, but I found it to be super helpful, so I’m going to continue it for now. But getting that third person to help us out would really bring down my stress levels too.

I didn’t want to right too much, just a catch up of what I can think of that went down over the last couple months. I really will try and keep this up so the entries aren’t so spaced out, and there’s more of a sense of flow, rather than a block of random time.


Just another blog entry.


This photo explains it all: yet another fucking blog post. Every time I come on here, I write how I let so much time go between updates or that I need to get on here more. Every time I write that, I hate myself just a little. Okay, hate is pretty strong, but I do get upset at myself. I always feel like I have more to say, or I have a point of view that people might want to hear, but then I get to writing my thoughts down and I realize I’m just another rambling idiot.

BUT, despite all my self loathing, I write. I write about my days and experiences because I want to look back and remember the moments I was experiencing. Although I may cringe at my terrible writing style, I still like to go back and read what I’ve written about on any particular day.

I don’t think I’m doing anything profound or important. Hell, I don’t even think people who are reading these actually give a shit about what I’m rambling on about, but it’s nice to know that someones reading and listening to my badly written journal entries.

Today is October 2nd, and I’ve been in the industry of death for over a year. I started at the other mortuary in September of last year, and began my stint here in January of this year. I’m realizing now that I’m just now finding my voice in this business.

I finally feel confident in arranging with families. I still get the occasional question that I don’t know how to answer, but I don’t feel as insecure about not knowing the answer. I had a friend of mine tell me that half the time he doesn’t know what he’s doing, but he’s smiling and carrying himself like he’s got everything under control. He’ll tell families, “unless you see me freaking out, there’s nothing to worry about”, and then he’d immediately go in the office and freak the fuck out.

I’ve always had that kind of mindset, but I’ve never worked in a field where my composure means so much. If a family saw me freaking out at a service or during an arrangement, they’d question my abilities. I guess you could say that would apply to most any job, but I think there are few jobs on this level of stress and emotion. Families probably aren’t going to judge and question the clueless cashier at Target, but they’re sure as hell ready to sue for emotional damage when we screw the pooch.

Again, I ramble, but I think I say all this to say: I finally feel like a funeral director. I didn’t feel worthy to sign my name to a contract. I felt like a fraud. I felt like the families knew I was new, and I didn’t know what I was doing, and the sideways glances made it worse. Now, I feel a sense of confidence, and I finally have families looking at me like I’m the beacon of hope they were looking for. I have answers to their questions. I tend to get people feeling comfortable enough to laugh and joke and tell me stories about their loved ones, and it feels good.

Last week, I had a family who lost their husband/father. The wife has alzheimer’s and didn’t fully know everything that was going on, but her children were letting her help pick out the casket and the memorial folders. She would glance at me and have this puzzled look on her face. The children were talking amongst themselves and I was waiting patiently for their response to whatever question I had asked them. Every so often I caught her reading my face while I was glaceing between her three children. Then they;d look at me for an answer and I would confidently answer their question and smile. I looked right at the wife after answering a question and she seemed to relax at my answer. She may not remember much, but I think she could feel the certainty with which I was answering all their questions, and it seemed to have a calming affect over.

At the end of this particular arrangement, the family and I were chit-chatting for a couple minutes. The one daughter told me,”thank you so much for all your help in answering all our questions, you’ve just been such a big help for us” and I told her it was “no problem, it’s what I’m here for”. She thanked me again and said this whole process what new for their family and I made it easy for them. I told them that I was still new at this process too, so I was glad they felt comfortable.

They couldn’t believe that I was so new to this. The son said to me,”you’re new?! You don’t seem new at this!” And I told him that I just graduated school in December and had only been working here since January. The daughter then said to me,”well, you picked the right profession, you’re a natural at this and we need more people like you”.

*swells with pride*

It’s nice to feel confident in yourself, but it’s doubly nice to have someone else confirm those feelings. I was made to do this. I still sort of kick myself for waiting so long to find this career path. I love photography and art, but nothing has made me feel this happy and rewarded as working as a funeral director.

Finishing a decedents hair and makeup and leading a family into the room so they can see their loved one for the first time is nerve wracking to say the least. But when they come out of the room smiling through tears and telling me how good they looked, I feel amazing. I’m so happy I had a positive impact on their death experience. No one wants to cause more grief for a family (and if you do, you’re doing it wrong). Being able to bring a sense of calming to this chaotic time is a wonderful feeling. Whether it’s because I made their loved one look good, or I made them feel comfortable in the arrangement, or I made the service go smoothly, it all makes my job worth it.

…3 months later.


Holy shit, I haven’t posted in 3 months?! I chalk it up to the fact that I’ve been super busy. Plus, I’ve been writing in my actual journal, and not on the internet. In these 3 months, A LOT has happened. Not in like big, life-changing moments. More like “experience”, and that’s a big, boring “duh”, so I didn’t think to come on here and update constantly. But now, it’s been 3 months, so I should probably make a blog post.

In the last 3 months, I’ve even closer to being on my own in the prep room. Tomorrow morning I have my 20th case to embalm, and after 25, I can be unsupervised. I’m excited to be able to be in there by myself. I know my boss wants to let me loose already, but as soon as he’s not needed, he’s gonna be all worried about me. I just want to be in there and have my space and take my time.

I’m definitely more confident in my funeral directing abilities, including but not limited to, running a church service by myself, and also arranging with families. I’ve had a couple families that were needy as hell, but I still like my job. I still like I provided something for them. I don’t like that I get attitude every so often (who does?), but snarky remarks are so few and far between, they’re more like a funny story for an otherwise normal day.

I say “normal day”, but it’s possibly the worst day for some. Part of my normal day could include forming a lip out of clay, or pulling a deceased out of their shower. Part of my normal day could be seeing (and smelling) a decomposing body. Part of what I think is a normal day is driving a hearse in the Costco gas line (see photo). 19430091_1980525581973008_6128252661533870947_nOther people think I have a weird/cool/interesting/disgusting job. I think I have an awesome job, and it always feels nice to hear,”thank you so much for what do”.

A couple weeks ago, I buried a family’s mother. They were all super nice, a little demanding, but super nice. Everything went smoothly, they loved how their mom looked. When we were at the cemetery and I was saying my goodbye’s and hugging the family, the eldest child stopped me and said, “thank you, Taryn. I found strength through you.” Needless to say, I went home feeling awesome.

That’s all I can hope for when I serve families. I want them to be able to get through this difficult moment with the least amounts of stress as possible. I’m not going to say “get through it” or “get over it”, cuz they’re not gonna just “get over it”, and “getting through it” means there’s an end point, but I don’t feel like there’s ever a real and true ending to this thing we call grief. Sure we could go decades without thinking about it, but oh man, when you do? It’s like you’re reliving the moment all over again. Maybe not as painful, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel great.

I sort of got off in a rambling tangent, but I just gotta say, I really do think I’ve found what I’m supposed to be doing. And to further my career: I went and took (AND PASSED) my embalmers exam last week! 19944450_1997956006896632_2762880515929851420_oI actually felt super confident when I was taking this one. My funeral director and my national board exams were much harder. Or at least, I didn’t feel as for sure about my answers when I was in the middle of it. This time, I was clicking through it and finished in less than 20 minutes. I walked out knowing I’d passed, and I’m not usually that confident on tests, so that was nice to get out of the way. Now the only other test I “need” to take is my pre-need insurance license so I can make some commission!

Girl Power!

636132018562050109-2083959007_82674-original-8137I’m writing 2 different blog entries today, because I need to address something that’s been weighing on me. Since I was in school, we’ve talked about it. I’ve now been working in the industry since last September, so I’ve now witnessed it.

Here’s how it goes: I ended up having one day where I met with 2 families in a row. The first family was simple and easy; the second family tested my patience. I did the arrangements easy enough, but the second family brought up what’s been bothering me about this industry: sexism.

I’ve noticed it a couple times in what people say, and how people act around me, but it hadn’t been directed at me. I’ve had male orderlies in hospitals take it upon themselves to move a body to the gurney for me, even though they were usually tiny old woman that I could’ve picked up by myself. I’ve had family members try and assist in the rolling and wrapping their loved one in a sheet when I’ve gone on a house call. That never really struck me as sexist, only that they wanted to help carrying their loved ones to the gurney, so I brushed it off, but always wondered, would you try to assist this much if I were a man?

I’ve heard a family tell their female funeral director,”we’d like a male director instead”, and since they were all busy, they were stuck with their female director. In this particular instance, it worked out fine and the family ended up loving her. Another time, same female director came into the office with tears in her eyes because the family said,”no, you have no compassion. We want a male director.” We were all mad about it, but luckily, one of our male colleagues was available to take on the family. So it’s happened around me, and I’m aware of it, but it hadn’t yet happened to me. But then it did, and it had me pissed off.

Two woman came in to make the arrangements for their father/grandfather. I was speaking mostly to the daughter, and I was building a nice rapport with the two of them. Then the granddaughter got a call and said that “uncle’s coming”, so we continued until we heard him come in the facility. The granddaughter went out to get him and lead him into the office, where upon entering, immediately asked,”how much?”. No greeting. No handshake.

I turned my attention to him and began to tell him where were at in the arrangement process, then he held up his hand and started to fish hearing aids out of his pockets. First of all, if you’re going to come in a room demanding answers to something, maybe you should be ready to hear the answer? I started my answer over, informed him where we were at, and once again his answer was,”so how much are we talking?”.

I told him the package price and informed him that it didn’t include the casket. He says,”then lets go look at the caskets”. Now, we weren’t that far from actually heading over to the showroom to do just that anyway, but I dropped what we were doing and lead the way to the caskets as requested (demanded). Once in there, he takes a quick glance around and says,”that one!”. He didn’t care about actually finding out the difference in pricing on anything; he just needed to make that decision. The daughter and granddaughter shopped around a little, and they agreed on the one uncle had chosen. But now, uncle was having second thoughts, and in Spanish, I heard him asking the ladies if he thought it was “masculine enough”, they shrugged shoulders and nodded their heads that they thought so. He turns to me and in English says,”this color is good for males?”, and I informed him that yes, it was actually a popular one for men. He said,”then yes, this one”, and we went back to the arrangement office.

As we approached the doorway, I did as I always do, and stood to the side and gestured for them to enter the room. I work here. It’s my “home” and I’m welcoming you into the room. Makes sense, right? Well uncle did a stutter step entry. Now, I’ve seen this happen a couple of times with men. I think it’s the “ladies first” mentality, and they think I need to enter the room before them, and it throws them off when I don’t. But this is my office and I’m inviting you to come back in, so “please, have a seat” *smile*.

Once back, he now won’t sit down. For the rest of the arrangement, he was standing over me. Watching everything I write down, and questioning things we weren’t even talking about. At one point, when I was asking about music selections, he said that he wanted “Mexican guitar” music. I told them that if they had someone they knew or had someone in mind, they were welcomed to have them perform, and he cut me off and says,”we don’t know anyone!” I repeated that we can contact pianists and organists or soloists for music in the church, but if they wanted something else, that was something they were going to need to find. The granddaughter nodded in understanding and was about to say,”we could find someone”, but uncle cuts her off and starts angrily speaking Spanish at both ladies.

I don’t speak Spanish, but I know some words. I caught “dinero” for money, and in the tone and they way he pointed at himself, I gathered that he yelled,”who’s paying for this?!” or “who’s got the money here?!” and both women looked away and sat quietly. He turned back to me and once again was starting to say they would like Mexican guitars, and I hear the daughter say to him in Spanish that we have piano and organ players, “no guitarra”. He finally relinquished hope, and we moved on.

While still standing over me, I continued to now ignore his gaze and speak only towards the daughter (who was signing everything anyway!), and only directed my attention at him when he asked a direct question. By the time we were wrapping up, I could see him out of the corner of my eye pulling a wallet out. I wasn’t asking for payment yet, but he seemed to be doing a, “look! I’ve got the money” gesture. I ignored it up until we were done signing papers for everything, and then he throws the card onto the clipboard as a final dickwagging, gesture of importance.

I ran the card, and I gave it back to him. I stood in the room thanking them for entrusting us with their loved one and shook their hands. The last great thing about this arrangement (for me), was standing over this man to shake his hand. I could tell he didn’t like that I was taller than him (I’m probably around 5’10” with my work shoes on, he was probably 5’7″), he tried to puff his chest a little (making him maybe a 1/4 inch taller) and gripped my hand a little extra hard. Lucky for me, I have a firm handshake as well, and I smiled politely and took his hand like nothing. I saw in his face that he was annoyed by this. Momma always says,”kill ’em with kindness” and I did just that. I smiled like it was nothing, and I escorted them to the door.

After they were gone, I let out a big sigh and spent the rest of my day starring at a computer screen and wondering: why does it have to feel like this? Why does it need to feel like such a push and pull? I understand that, culturally, things are going to be different. I grew up in a very egalitarian household, and I understand that societies are usually patriarchal in practice, but respect is respect, no? You go into a place of business to spend you hard earned money. You don’t know the ins and outs of this business, so you seek a professional. So why are you treating me like shit? If there was a man in the room telling you all this information, would you have stood over him? Would you had at least shook his hand when you entered the room? I deserve respect, and it pisses me off when I can tell it’s not given to me when it should.

I may be new at this, and I may be a little shaky at times, but I knew what I was doing with this arrangement. There was no surprises to throw me off, and I was confident in what I was doing. I don’t understand why I get the push back if I know what I’m talking about. If it makes you feel better to talk to a man, fine, talk to my boss. But if you really have that much of a problem with speaking with women, I have a newsflash for you: women make up a huge part of this industry. Hell, in school I think there was only 3 men in my graduating class, and there was maybe 3 more in the rest of the semesters. Everyone else is female. As a rough estimate I’d say there were 70 women and 6 guys in the program?

There are numerous articles stating these facts too: this one. this too. another one. And those are 3 of many articles on the subject, just a quick Google search away. And it’s not just in California, it’s across the nation. More and more women are becoming funeral professionals, so get used to us. We shake hands just as firmly, we can maneuver a body/hearse/gurney/flower car just as easily as our male counterparts.

We’re not better or worse, we’re equals, so treat us as such.


Don’t forget the tax!

It’s been a whirlwind of a month since I last posted on here. We’re basically settled into our apartment, only a couple of boxes still remain, and that’s mostly because they’re gonna be storage things anyway. We’ve spent more money than I want to mention at IKEA and Target and other places, but it’s finally feeling like home.

My boss went on his week long vacation last week, and this morning was the first time I’ve talked to him since then. It was kind of a slow week, nothing crazy happened, but I felt uncomfortable being the only one here to do arrangements and things. I wasn’t completely alone, I did have the ladies in the office with me during the week, so they could help me when I had questions, but I still felt like a fish out of water.

I had my first solo arrangement with a family who were super nice, but I felt like an idiot the whole time. When I was about to leave the room for the 3rd time with a question, I admitted, “this is the first time I’m doing this by myself if you can’t tell”, and they let out a giggle. Made me feel a little better that they found the humor in it and not annoyance. And even if they were annoyed, they didn’t show it. I ended up having to do an itemized contract instead of a package, which is a little harder since I was going to have to remember all of the little things they were going to need. I ended up forgetting to charge them tax *face palm*.

They were really sweet though, and I ran their service by myself. It was nice to be the one to do everything because I knew who to go to and they knew who I was, so there was a little bit of a relief there.

I’m starting to get in the groove of funeral directing. My arranging and embalming needs to get better, but that comes with experience. Still lovin my job though!


21 Days


It’s only been 21 days since I last posted, and things couldn’t have change more! Change for the better of course, since in those 21 days: my coworker who lived in the apartment over the mortuary quit and left, so not only am I now the 2nd in command here (and the only one listed as a funeral director on the website cuz my boss has “manager” as his title, but he is a FDR/EMB). Since he’s gone, my boss and I had a chat and he ended up offering me the apartment and my dude and I SWOOPED on that opportunity! We talked over the details with him, but there wasn’t too much to discuss, we were pretty set.

That may or not may not be an actual photo of our move by the way.

Telling my parents was kind of a pain in the ass, since I knew they weren’t going to like the fact that we weren’t going to be able to bring my dog with us and they were going to be stuck with him. We’re allowed the cat since he’s small, but I’m really missing my big baby boy. After we dropped the bomb, they were pretty peeved. Peeved is a nice way of saying that when I told my mom, she shut down and didn’t want to hear the details of it. We gave it a day, and my parents ended up sitting us down and voicing their concerns (mostly the pets and their care). After we talked and we finally got to tell them the benefits of moving in here, they were on board.

It’s only been a week since we had that conversation with them, and as I type this, I’m sitting in my new living room. We figured that the way that our work schedules don’t sync up and the fact that the mortuary didn’t have anything going on this weekend, it was the perfect time to strike! So my boss gave me Saturday and Sunday and the van from work and we moved all of our stuff from our storage unit, packed the house, and bought a couch. Then on my actual day off on Monday, we moved the rest and I spent the first night in the new place last night!

It’s a little weird, and I don’t think I’m going to feel at home until we’re settled. We’re living in box world right now and the way that schedules are working out, we’re not gonna be settled for a while. BUT, we’re here. I’m going to be on-call for my boss so he isn’t doing 5 days a week by himself anymore. I’m going to be involved in the business more since I’m literally living in it now and I’m BEYOND excited.

Also, as a side note: my new couch is super comfy and bright blue and I’ve never been so excited about a piece of furniture! I might be more excited when we eventually buy a new bed, but for now, I feel like a full fledged adult with my first ever big furniture purchase!

[Insert Witty Title Here] I Can’t Think of Something Better To Say Than: UPDATE!

It’s been a month since I wrote on here?! My bad…

You know that saying, time flies when you’re having fun? Yeah, that’s totally how work has been going for me! In the last month, I’ve done so many “firsts”, I don’t even know where to start. I guess, FIRST first would be to say the memorial service that I mentioned in my last post that I was the director on went smoothly. There wasn’t really anything to that one.

Since then, I’ve gone all over the place in the hearse and the first call car. I’ve picked up from 2 convalescent homes and 1 residence by myself. I’ve had to drive to the crematory and then out to Riverside to pick up a case we got from another home out there. Then about a week ago, I was on my first church mass alone. THAT was kind of a shit show, but I blame the church more than anything. Mostly because any of the running around I had to do was because they were late, but everything seemed to go smoothly after that.

Speaking of that service, here’s a new something that I hadn’t experienced before: a pallbearer who was too cool to be there and ended up sucking at being a pallbearer. On top of the running around I was already doing, dealing with the Johnny Depp wannabe, wearing too many scarves made it that much worse. At one point the guy took off out a side door at the end of the mass and when I went up to the front for the recessional to the back of the church, another guy (an uncle I believe) stepped in without asking and helped us walk to the back. Once we were at the back of the church, cool guy appeared again and lugged the heavy end (which he should NOT have been on) into the hearse, while making the comment,”grandma only weighed 80 pounds, why is this so heavy?”…maybe it’s full of her high hopes for you Scarves McGee.

After we got to the cemetery, he posted up in the shade till the last minute before we had to pull her out, and then when we were placing her on the vault, he almost dropped his side and the casket ended up being all askew. At the end of the graveside service, I asked for all the pallbearers to come up and leave their gloves and boutonnieres on the casket, and he made no attempt to come forward. One of the other guys whispered,”what about him?” and they all kind of rolled their eyes and one said,”whatever”, so they were equally annoyed with his presence, I think.

Back to being annoyed with the church though: the priest, nor the attendant, would answer their damn door so I could give them the clergy record and honorarium. It got so close to being time for mass that I was told by my assistant (who attends said church), to go around the building to the kitchen and knock and see if someone in the office could help get it to him.

When I finally got it to someone I thought was going to help me and then made my way into the church with the casket, the alter attendant comes running out to tell me the priest has been “waiting on me” to get him the lecturers and the record.

[insert giant eye roll]

I ran up and down the aisle of the church about 3 times before we were set to go. Once to get him a lecturer and another time because he didn’t have the record. I explained to him that I gave it to someone who said they were going to give it to him, and obviously they had not. So I ran and got him a memorial folder so he at least had the decedent’s name. Once I thought we were ready, I was waiting at the casket in the back of the church as he made his way to us. He sprinkled holy water on the casket and then suddenly I realized, he didn’t bring a pall out! So he turns around to walk and I look at my assistant and he gestures like,”What about the pall?” and I just shrugged my shoulders and walked.

I don’t think the immediate family saw any of the chaos. If they did, they made no mention to it. I felt more confident about doing another service after this one, cuz I can’t have a smoothly done one as my first, I gotta make it a little hard on myself the first time around.

Besides that service, I’ve helped and done a couple viewings and services that went smoothly. As I type this, we have 2 different visitations going on. Neither of them are very big crowds, so it’s still kind of quiet. I like having the night to myself here, it’s peaceful and I can do things like this blog post!

On the exciting news front, I got my OFFICIAL16797572_1803920942966807_6089374996680411587_o apprenticeship paperwork and license number! I’ve already got 1 assisting written down for it (only 99 to go!). I also found out that my coworker is quitting, so I’ll be taking his shift basically. I’ll be on the day shift with everyone and then I’ll actually get every other weekend off, so that’s a bonus! I made a good amount in overtime so far in this pay period, and I’m sure I’m going to be getting some more after he leaves. I just hope we hire people soon so that we’re not overdoing ourselves.

I feel like I need to reiterate this though: I love my job. This is the first time that I’ve been at a job (besides the record store), where, even after a month, I felt happy to come into work. I’d always heard that if you’re doing what you love, it doesn’t feel like work. I don’t think that’s necessarily true in my case. I do love this, but it’s damn hard work (and constantly reminds me that I need to join a gym and work out more). I go home exhausted, but I’m not exhausted and hating life. I’m exhausted and still want to tell people about my day.

My dude and I were stopped in a store a couple weeks ago by another couple, and I happened to be wearing my mortuary school sweater. The girl noticed it and we got in to a half hour discussion about my job, and by the end of it, they both said that they could tell that I loved what I was doing, because they could hear it in my voice. It’s true! I feel it, and I know it comes out in my tone. I sound excited when I talk about it, because I am! I’ve never felt so jazzed to tell people about my job before. Hopefully this feeling keeps going. It sure feels like it will, and hopefully that means I’m in this career for the long haul.