Things I’ve Learned From Dead People – Four.

  • When a beloved matriarch or patriarch dies suddenly, the wake of disaster left behind is so far-reaching, that it is often visible from space.
  • Even during the (out-of-ordinary) rainy season, folks still have no tolerance for the slightest bit of mud on the headstone or marker belonging to a loved one.
  • Special Chinese and Vietnamese text characters take very unique precision to accurately inscribe into granite or marble.
  • Yes, it’s true…the crematorium CAN (and indeed, HAS) caught fire during a service in recent weeks.
  • When an “at-need” deceased individual has passed away and his next of kin tries to pay for his services with his own checking account, the police get involved pretty quickly.
  • It is actually quite acceptable to eat lunch each day beneath the shade of the Live Oaks in the “Apostles” section of cemetery.

Things I’ve Learned From Dead People 3.

  1. Dead people are ALWAYS accompanied by paperwork; if they have no paperwork, we unfortunately have NO business with them, or their loved ones.
  2. Even when it comes to a thing as sacred as a family burial plots, the living are conniving weasels behind the backs of their own family members.
  3. When or if you ever find yourself dealing with a service counselor, funeral director or arranger, there is a strong possibility that you are actually engaging with a retired Marine or Navy officer; it is just as strong of a possibility that you are being counseled by a surviving POW (At my cemetery, at least).
  4. Regardless of your own religion or belief system, it is out of a generalized respect for human life and death that you should ALWAYS stand and bow your head to the passing of a funeral procession (even our yard crew guys stop what they are doing and remove their caps when they see one coming or going by).
  5. It is a true fact that a disturbing number of people (that you know) have already planned their own burial wardrobe.
  6. Most people who are buried in a casket are not wearing shoes.
  7. The “toe-tag” has evolved into no more than an urban legend these days.
  8. Where I work, there are record books that are each literally heavier than me from the 1800s that were hand-written and can still be accessed to date.
  9. Thousands of people died of “Dentation” in the old days.
  10. Even in death, we continue to intentionally pollute our Mother Earth through our need to be preserved and maintained.

Things I’ve Learned From Dead People: One.

Since starting my new job at the Cemetery/Mortuary, I have learned several noteworthy things from dead people. I work in a place that is corporately run – with departments, teams, hiring bonuses and paid vacation days. We have over 100 employees physically working the grounds in various positions seven days a week, rain or shine; our shockingly diverse staff is comprised of people from every nationality, sexual orientation, race, social class, culture that are each chasing very different professional goals from day to day.

There are the snooty, stuck-up girl cliques in the offices (including mine); there are the poindexters who don’t know how to make eye contact with someone of the opposite sex; we have the “wise folks” – “the middle school” – and “the babies” (who are young enough to be my children, which has been an eye-opening disturbance in my personal self-image lol), three quite disparate age groups of employees of either sex, ranging from baby boomers to last year’s high school graduates…it makes up a rather striking workforce when it’s all smeared around the break room. Again, I have observed the community affect amongst these people, despite the fact that not a single one of us would hang out together on our own time, outside of work. In this case, it is the job ethic attached to the place we are employed together and engaged in daily actions with the families that we serve as a collective. We each have a task to complete perfectly in order to honor and respect the dead in the most memorable ways for each one that we receive.

It’s mind-blowing to me over and over, as we wrap up another service and interment/inurnment etc.: the absolute and undeniable amount of pride, dignity and poise that I repeatedly see in each and every person’s efforts. I have felt a renewed sense of hope in humanity since I started to notice this about my co-workers; it’s my entire company, in general, as we are trained heavily in ethics, professional decorum and appropriate behavior in this specific industry. It has been a really enriching experience already, somehow, despite the nature of its operations.

 

I have also found some things to be not so positive about working at a funeral home on cemetery grounds, such as:

 

  • Dead people do not have “wishes” any longer; whatever desires a dead person may have put into writing or words during Life get buried or cremated along with them.
  • Despite the hideously dwindling economy, the money being invested into land plots by people from ALL walks of Life before they die is TRULY MINDBOGGLING.
  • When it rains for 19 days straight in a cemetery, the place gets seriously hard on the eyes.
  • Just because people have solid work ethics doesn’t mean they take it home with them when they punch out.
  • It is true what they say about the gossip at the water cooler (which just so happens to be right behind my desk).

Portraits of the Dead.

A tendril invisibly,

wafting stealthily,

a hand-picked,

sentimentality,

flower bouquet,

rotten by decay,

aimlessly floating,

across fields of graves,

comes to me finally,

as I sit alone, sadly,

beneath the shade,

of a favorite pine tree,

and it falls gracefully,

at my muddy feet,

I’ve been drawing,

portraits belonging,

to the faces of the dead,

from memories,

held strongly,

in the spaces in my head.