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  1. #1
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    Default The Dirty Little Secret About The Funeral Industry




    Check out this epic rant on Reddit when some asked the question, "What is a "dirty little (or big) secret" about an industry that you have worked in, that people outside the industry really ought to know?" This was supposedly posted by a guy in the business, and he gives some really good advice as to what people can do now to understand what their rights are. because if you don't think about it until a loved one has died, you're probably not in the frame of mind to give any critical thought about it.

    All I can say to this is, I wish I'd read this before we funded my brother's and our parents' funeral expenses over the past eight years.

    (WARNING: some descriptions are not suitable for the squeamish)

    arrghbrains comments on What is a "dirty little (or big) secret" about an industry that you have worked in, that people outside the industry really ought to know?

    I'm a funeral director. Our entire industry is basically a pyramid scheme. It blows my mind how blindly people accept that certain things "have to" be done to the body of their loved one. Think about that for a second: this is the last tangible remnant of someone you loved and you are now going to pay stranger thousands (oftentimes HUNDERDS of thousands) of dollars to (warning: graphic from here on out) systematically mutilate that body.

    There is nothing dignified about having one's mouth wired shut, eyelids forced closed by spiked plastic contact lenses, and ramming a trocar into the abdomen to puncture organs so that they can be suctioned out. After the embalming fluid is introduced, the anus and vagina are stuffed with cotton and other absorbent materials to prevent what we refer to as “purge.” This charming phenomenon can occur any time after death – yes, before or after embalming, at any stage of decomposition – when the fluid created by tissues breaking down is leaked through any nearby orifice, oftentimes the nether regions.

    The process creates an enormous environmental problem; using toxic chemicals which are flushed into our sewers along with those pureed livers, hearts, spleens, pancreas' which then also flow into our sewers. Oh, what’s that? I told you embalming is a legal requirement for public sanitation? That’s utter ********. If anything, it creates a sanitation problem if the cemetery you use is anywhere near a municipal water line, which most “commercial” cemeteries are.

    In fact, in most states, the law only requires embalming if you are transporting a body across state lines or are not planning to inter for more than 72 hours and/or having a public viewing. It has not a single thing to do with public health. It’s a cash cow, plain and simple. It is barbaric, costly, and does not keep the body from deteriorating. But we’ll tell you just about anything you need to hear to get you to agree to it.

    What I’m doing here is incredibly illegal and I know it, but on the slim-to-none-chance that you’re a sharp-minded consumer in the midst of your grief and call my state’s licensing board about it, all I have to do simply tell them you were mistaken. I’ve seen funeral directors force-feed families absolute ********* – saying anything – to get them to sign a contract. Here’s a hint: don’t sign any pre-printed “form” contracts. Most of the contracts we use are super vague, so we can charge you for just about anything and justify it by pointing to your signature on the dotted line. It is in your best interest to only agree to specific itemized charges – i.e., have the hearse but no limousines. Or have hair/makeup done without any embalming. The law is very specific and on your side, but we count on your ignorance and vulnerability.

    Even better, find a trusted friend or family member who is more emotionally stable right now and appoint them as your lawyer/detective. You know that bitchy sister-in-law everyone has who makes major holidays a nightmare? I can spot her a mile away and will do everything I can to keep her out of financial discussions – because I know she will take that obnoxious nagging and throw it at me for every single penny I’m trying to get out of your family. See my co-workers standing around looking somber and respectful? They’re not there to just have a presence of authority, they are studying you. They are watching the family dynamic and will report back to me with any potential angles I can play to manipulate your emotions, which family members are taking it the hardest and will therefore be the easiest prey, and their estimation of your financial well-being. If, by the way, you appear to be less affluent, I’ll tell you to take your business elsewhere. This is not a hospital and I don’t provide a service – this is a business. If you aren’t paying me (in full and up front, generally), all you’re getting is my sympathy.

    Do yourself a favor and read the FTC Funeral Rule. It’s very clear and concise in stating what you as the consumer are required to do and what rights you have. Did you know the casket I’m selling you for $5000 is really just a nicely decorated plywood box? If you were smarter, you’d know you don’t have to buy that from me. In fact, the law requires me to allow you to “BYOB.” Costco and Wal-Mart sell very reasonably priced nice caskets on their websites. If you happen to be armed with that tidbit of information, I’ll try to make it a practical issue: it will be easier to use the caskets we already have here. Another line of crap. All of the caskets at the funeral home are demo models (and are actually nice napping spots on slow days). Anything you buy will be delivered to the funeral home via freight the next day, just like the Wal-Mart caskets.

    Another well-worn sales tactic is to try to shame you into going along with the exorbitant cost, implying you didn’t really love grandma enough if you spend less than five figures with me. You should know, by the way, that everything you buy from me – a guestbook, prayer cards, even the damn obituary notices – is marked up at least 200%. See the picture I’m painting here, kids? Smoke and mirrors. It hasn’t always been like this, but with the corporatization of the death care industry, the almighty dollar is the only consideration anymore.

    Whew, this is getting to be a novel. Sorry, hang with me just a bit longer – we are getting to the major issue here.

    Right now – literally right now, August 16, 2013 – the FTC is reviewing a merger between the two largest funeral service corporations in the United States: Stewart and SCI. Stewart has 500-ish locations while SCI has 2000+. This will create a mega-Decepticon-conglomerate that will control at least 40% of all funeral service business transactions in this country – and that, my friends, is what antitrust regulations refer to as a monopoly. We are racing full speed ahead to the genesis of the McFuneralHome and nobody is doing anything about it. The reason? Misdirection. There’s no Stewart Funeral Home or SCI Mortuary in your hometown. They’re operating under the same names they always have, letting you believe that the good people of Bubba & Sons Memorial Chapels would never steer you wrong. Bubba’s been around for 50 years! Bubba’s handled your family’s funerals for generations! Let me tell you something: Bubba cashed out years ago and is pretty much a figurehead at this point. Check his website carefully: at the bottom, you’ll probably see a copyright for either “Dignity Memorials” (SCI) or “STEI” (Stewart).

    Every single thing you’ve read in this thread about cutting corners, shoddy work, under-trained and under-paid employees, outsourcing certain processes, covering up mistakes… ALL OF IT HAPPENS IN THE FUNERAL INDUSTRY. Now, most of us are decent human beings and aren’t interested in getting freaky with dear old granny, but in terms of services performed and their actual value, you trust us WAY, WAY TOO MUCH.

    You know how ****** the cell phone service provider market is right now and how worked up everyone gets about that? The funeral industry is worse. And we should all be raising hell, because EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is going to have to conduct business with the deathcare industry eventually -- be an informed consumer and know who you're really giving your money to.

    I know I’ve hyperlinked the **** out of this, but please read the last one from the Funeral Consumers Alliance on how horrifyingly out of control this situation has gotten:

    “It’s alarming to think that a company with a long track record of abusing consumers at the worst times of their lives might get even bigger,” said Josh Slocum, FCA’s executive director. “For at least 15 years grieving families around the country have complained to us about the practices at SCI funeral homes and cemeteries. From lying about options in order to boost the funeral bill, to digging up graves to re-sell them to another unsuspecting family, to denying the legal rights of LGBT people to make funeral arrangements for their partners. You name it, we’ve heard it.”
    Funeral Consumers Alliance reminds the Federal Trade Commission that funeral purchases are unlike any other in their potential to harm the customer. Families buying funeral and cemetery services are incredibly vulnerable and have been subject to deceitful and egregious conduct.

    “This is not a run of the mill merger; this isn’t about whether a $20 retail product will cost consumers $5 more,” Slocum said. “We’re talking real money here. Funeral consumers often make great economic sacrifices to bury their loved ones. The average full-service funeral runs in excess of $7,000 and often for much more at SCI’s Dignity locations. Especially when it has faced less competition, SCI has increased prices and we can expect more of the same if this merger occurs. Given the lack of knowledge about funeral options and the stress of grief, we can’t just say a ‘rational consumer’ will vote with their dollars and choose another funeral home. That’s not how the unique funeral transaction works, and that reality is why the FTC specifically regulates funeral homes.”
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  2. #2
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    Reddit is a great site. I enjoy many of their sub-reddits.
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    I had to go to a funeral last week and another the same day and time that I missed. I told my wife I would really just like to get washed up wrapped up in a comfortable cloth, no embalming and laid out at our home the day after I pass. Have whoever can...come over for a short service of some kind and then transport my butt to the cemetery. In the ground no more than 24 hours after I die if possible.

    I do not want embalming.
    I do not want 4 days of 'viewings'.
    I do not want a big mass.
    I do not want a procession.

    Get me comfortably in the ground ASAP without breaking the bank.
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    The study of money, above all other fields in economics, is one in which complexity is used to disguise truth or to evade truth, not to reveal it - John Kenneth Galbraith

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    A really good exposé of the funeral industry is Jessica Mitford's book The American Way of Death. Written in the '60s but still very relevant.

    American Way of Death: Jessica Mitford: 9780449215067: Amazon.com: Books

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    ballmich is offline MotownSports Fan
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    Not that I've ever dealt with this, but I always just figured that I'd go the cheapest route on this stuff. I won't be shocked if someone tries to upsell me on unneeded services, but I can't imagine that I'd go for it. I suppose I could be suckered if they told me that it was "required", ie lied to me. But in the end, this body (whoever we are talking about - Mom, Dad, Grandma, Brothers, Wife, Kids, everyone...) is getting torched in the cheapest box possible. And I can provide the container for the ashes if need be. So I don't think I'm going to fall for much "required" work to be turned into ashes. But you never know.

    I just don't believe that the burial of a body has much meaning, and I don't plan on spending money on it. I think there are better ways to honor loved ones who have passed.
    Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight; my goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me. -- Psalm 144:1-2

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    Wow, its true. Walmart does sell an array of caskets and urns. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

    But still, their cheapest creamation casket is $889. That has to be at least 300-400% mark-up from the build cost. If not more. Must be someplace cheaper.

    The urns are about $28 to $50, on the cheap end.

    Funeral : Home - Walmart.com
    Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight; my goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me. -- Psalm 144:1-2

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  9. #9
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    A little over 10 years ago I was in a relationship with a gravedigger at one of the bigger cemeteries in Detroit. Let's just say I heard some interesting stories about the death/funeral biz. I remember at one point the cemetery decided it would start selling caskets knowing this was another way to make a profit and they'd still charge less than a funeral home would for the same product. I don't know if there is such a thing as a mortuary mafia but some of the local funeral homes, who regularly recommend this cemetery, threatened to stop sending clients their way unless they stopped selling caskets. The cemetery owners didn't buckle and it didn't hurt their business . This cemetery has seen many owners as well; you'll find it's very common for cemeteries to be bought out by bigger companies just like any other business.

    There are a lot of scams and ridiculously inflated prices at cemeteries as well. The cost of plots, interment fees, vaults, markers, tents for graveside services, etc. can quickly put a family in the poor house.

    When my time comes I've decided to go the route of cremation. While the costs have increased for this service, and it's not always perfect either, I would still rather go this route for a few reasons.

    Let's face it. When a loved one dies we may go to visit them in their "resting place" a few times a year initially, then just on birthdays and certain holidays and after awhile people just stop visiting (yes, there are exceptions). But take a walk through a cemetery and just look closely at all the grave markers grown over with grass. You know how cemeteries offer perpetual maintenance? Well that pretty much means they mow the lawn and keep the place tidy. You need to remember to call the cemetery every now and then and ask for the marker to be raised; this is when they take out a shovel, dig beneath the stone and tuck earth back under it to lift it. It will settle and sink again over time an once again be taken over by nature. Cemeteries won't do anything about it unless you request them to take care of it.

    I also have no desire to be buried after hearing stories of bodies that had to be dug up, whether being moved to another part of the cemetery or a different cemetery all together so as to be in a family plot. Gravediggers had to wear protective clothing and masks. A funeral director and family member had to be on hand for the exhumation and the vault and casket would have to be opened to verify you had the right person. You never knew what condition the body would be in or the level of stench coming from it. If the body was buried in a lower lying part of the cemetery it could have water seeping in over time. I recall the story of them opening a vault only to find a casket bobbing in water with a soggy bloated body inside.

    So for those of you thinking you'll be buried and stay nice and dry and slowly decompose, the fact is things get into those vault, and due to embalming it can be ages before you're dust.

    Yep, when it's my turn my wish is to have them burn my biscuits and then have my nieces and nephews sprinkle my ***, I mean ash, wherever they'd like to take me. They know me well enough so I hope they'll have some fun at my expense.

    Last thing. If you every have a chance to take a casket lid down a snowy hill in the winter, do it. They make the best sleds.
    Last edited by Velma Dinkley; 08-20-2013 at 07:38 PM.
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    Motown Bombers is offline MotownSports Fan
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    How can one be assured the ashes given to you are the actual ashes of the person? For me I cannot imagine being incinerated and nothing left of me. When I die I just want to be placed in a body bag and have my body placed in the ground. I do not want people looking at my body or burning me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Bombers View Post
    How can one be assured the ashes given to you are the actual ashes of the person?
    You cannot. By the way, "ashes" are bone dust. Everything that isn't bones (and teeth?) burns away completely and leaves no ash.

    Yep. Naked in a pine box for me.
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    Here's some info on cremation. And yes, you can make sure you are receiving the correct cremains. You can even watch the box being placed into the retort if you really need to be sure you know who's going in.

    ICCFA Cremation Guidelines | ICCFA

    How we wish our remains to be handled is a very personal thing. Maybe I'm just a bigger fan of BBQ than I realized. I'd rather my empty shell be sprinkled with an awesome spice rub and be done in 4 hours rather than wait 40+ years to decompose (it's really gross what an embalmed body goes through and is exposed to during that time). And yes, it's not ashes but bone dust. They take your bones and grind them to a texture like sand. Green burials are great, biodegradable casket, no embalming. But I'm more comfortable with quick conversion rather than being placed in the ground. Again, it's a very personal choice. My mom is firm believer in a traditional burial. I've already warned her that if for some reason I should go before her that if she goes against my wishes and buries me, or worse yet buries me wearing pantyhose, that I will come back and haunt her!
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    Where I go and how i get there are unimportant, I'm going to haunt a few people anyhow.
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    I can't deal with any of this... just burn me up and send what you think are my ashes into space. How much is that?
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    When my grandparents died, per their instructions we had each of them cremated then drove the ashes to another state and buried the urn in the family plot of the little country cemetery where their ancestors back to the 1830s are resting. Per state law, to bury the ashes we had to buy a waterproof urn. But the cemetery allows the family to dig their own hole, whether for a coffin or an urn. It just has to be a particular depth to fulfill state law. My grandpa's brother-in-law dug the grave for him. Out of desire, not necessity.

    When grandmother followed several years later, we paid a local funeral home there to open the grave, and to mix grandmother's ashes with grandpa's in a double urn that we had engraved with their names, marriage date, and a personal message. Something we could have done according to the state law there, but mom and her brothers preferred to have a funeral home take care of it for them. Kind of hurt their uncle's feelings a bit; he liked contributing in that way and frugal farmer that he was, he was appalled by the idea of paying for it. But he was in his 80s by that point. LOL

    My father was cremated, and his urn is buried in a cremation grave with a marker in the national cemetery. My stepdad was also cremated and is at the national cemetery, but his urn is placed in one of the columbarium walls there; mother will join him there when her time comes. Both dad and stepdad's ashes were laid to rest with full military honors, and the beauty of the ceremony was not negatively impacted at all by the lack of a casket and body.

    And that's what I want. As a lover of family history, I like the idea of a resting place with a marker for future generations. But just a graveside service, and plant an urn with my ashes in their choice of a plot or columbarium. The idea of being spackled and painted, then having people that I didn't even like in life filing past to stare at my dead body in a coffin is beyond abhorrent to me.

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    It seems like I am hearing more people say they don't want the traditional funeral, but want to be cremated instead. Both my parents and my brother went that route. My brother went first--his ashes along with some of his mementos are at a mausoleum at a cemetery in the way west suburbs, but not only have I not visited since the ceremony, I don't even know the name of the cemetery or how to get there. If we wanted to visit my mom's ashes, we went to my dad's house because he kept them on the living room mantle. And I don't even know where my dad's ashes are.

    A few decades ago people took for granted they would be buried, and cremation was not a consideration, and was even thought of by some as a sin against God (the Catholic Church banned it until 1963). Now I believe about half of all people are cremated, and I think that percent will keep going up as long as it's a lot cheaper than burial.
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    Quote Originally Posted by chasfh View Post
    A few decades ago people took for granted they would be buried, and cremation was not a consideration, and was even thought of by some as a sin against God (the Catholic Church banned it until 1963). Now I believe about half of all people are cremated, and I think that percent will keep going up as long as it's a lot cheaper than burial.
    The Catholic church does not speak for all Christians. The Bible doesn't reference cremation or opine on it at all. But it does say that we shall return to dust. So if anything, you could make a case that embalming and unnatural burial procedures that preserve the body from dust are not what God had in mind. Though I wouldn't necessarily go that far either.

    For me personally, cost is a part of it. It's hard to rationalize spending the money on dust and bones, even if they were a loved one. I certainly don't want my family spending their money (or what they inherit from me) on burial rituals or procedures for me.

    The other part is that I have been to many grave yards, and in large part most headstones go unvisited. And if I were to bury a family member, I do not think I would visit the site.... both because the impracticality of it due to the transient nature of society (ie I move quite a bit as do many people) and lack of interest to stand 6 feet above a corpse in order to honor their memory. I'd rather flip through a photo album to honor their memory, rather than visit a grave yard.

    I'm also not one to hold onto a cannister of ashes either. My wife has a small box with part of the ashes of her father. The rest were released back to the earth in a very small memorial ceremony. But I don't know where she keeps the ashes, it's certainly not the mantle over the fireplace. But I generally am in favor of releasing them back to the earth, in some manner. Hopefully in a spot picked out by the deceased. My wife and I have both picked such a spot.
    Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight; my goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdueth my people under me. -- Psalm 144:1-2

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    I wish to be cremated and I want my ashes to be dumped in Robert Ficano's jail cell, so he has to sweep it up and for the first time he'd actually have to really work for me.
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    I can't imagine living with the ashes in my house. But we DO visit cemeteries. We go to the national cemetery every year on Veterans Day, except this year because my husband isn't quite up to walking that distance across grass yet. And we visit his dad's grave once a year including this year since his grave is next to a road. Any time we go to my mother's hometown, we always go out to the family plot. We've even traveled well out of our way to visit a very old cemetery and photograph the grave markers of ancestors.

    It's a good place to reflect for a minute or two.

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    My dad kept my mother's ashes in a closet for a couple of months until he purchased the headstone and made arrangements with the cometary. We had a private family ceremony on her birthday. Since had had done business with one of the local funeral homes ( he was a florist for several years and knew most of the managers in the group) he prearranged and paid for their services when it was his time. Our only decision was when to hold the service.

    When the time gets closer I'll probably visit the local crematoriums, talk to the local piano store about a used crate, and make plans. What they can't harvest will be cremated, not sure where the to put the ashes. May ask my survivors to make a clandestine ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway
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    I am certainly no Bible buff, but didn't the Egyptians embalm? I don't want to be embalmed but I don't want to be roasted either. I would rather nature take it's course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Motown Bombers View Post
    I am certainly no Bible buff, but didn't the Egyptians embalm? I don't want to be embalmed but I don't want to be roasted either. I would rather nature take it's course.
    In ancient Egypt embalming was part of the mummification process. The Egyptians figured out that decomposition worked from the inside out due to bacteria in the internal organs. Internal organs were removed and treated with natron and the body was covered and stuffed with natron in order to dehydrate and preserve it. Embalming and mummification would not be used interchangeably and today's embalming would not be done with the intent to mummify. Believe it or not Ripley there are some folks out there actually interested in being mummified the old fashioned way when their number is up. For the heck of it I checked out a website and for a paltry $67,000 (base cost) you too can go the way of the Pharaoh.
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    Six Feet Under.... great show, fantastic ending, probably the greatest ending to a series ever. But I find it unbearable to watch in reruns. Everybody was so nasty and mean to each other... all the yelling. Not entertaining at all the 2nd time around.
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  25. #25
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    I read somewhere that Giza's economy during ancient times was entirely dependent on the funeral industry. In addition to embalming, building the monuments, etc. the deceased's send off included burial goods for use in the afterlife which were typically purchased new and on site instead of carried in.

  26. #26
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    I'll take cremation. Dump my ashes down the drain or toilet as far as I'm concerned because it just doesn't matter.
    Country strong

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Velma Dinkley View Post
    In ancient Egypt embalming was part of the mummification process. The Egyptians figured out that decomposition worked from the inside out due to bacteria in the internal organs. Internal organs were removed and treated with natron and the body was covered and stuffed with natron in order to dehydrate and preserve it. Embalming and mummification would not be used interchangeably and today's embalming would not be done with the intent to mummify. Believe it or not Ripley there are some folks out there actually interested in being mummified the old fashioned way when their number is up. For the heck of it I checked out a website and for a paltry $67,000 (base cost) you too can go the way of the Pharaoh.
    You know far too much about body prep my dear friend. You never used one of those coffins to.........nevermind.

    Quick story. During high school I volunteered at the little hospital in our town. We had an elderly black man I had been tending to for about a week. His back had fused so he could walk but not bend to get in and out of bed. As small as I was, I could easily pick him up to get him in and out. One afternoon as I clocked in, I saw a couple nurses moving monitoring equipment out of the man's room. A little while later as I made my rounds I asked the head nurse what had happened to the old guy earlier. She responded he had passed about 3:30 that afternoon and they were waiting for the resident to confirm his death. My head spun for a moment as I blurted "you better tell him, 'cause he just asked me for a glass of water." All did not turn out well though. Seems he had experienced a heart attack and he did pass a couple days later.
    Live your life for what it can be and not for what it was.

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    I have always thought that visiting the cemetery thing was useless. The people are not there, they're bodies are just lying in the ground. My parents are both buried in a cemetery in Saginaw, I have visited there maybe once in the last 10 years. I don't get that whole thing.

    I'm not sure what I want done with my body, and mostly I don't care.

  29. #29
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    Graveyard visits puzzle me. My father's kin is buried in an ancient cemetery that goes back to the civil war. I think our family occupied that area in the late 1500's. When I visit, it is a touch of untouched old Florida and quite serene. My mother's side is buried about 15 miles away and I am neutral there. Then there is Oak Hill where my wife's kin is buried as well as our son. I find no solace there and wish to leave as soon as I can. My wife enjoys the time and I endure it. I rationalize the effects as so many old memories tying me back to my family vs the pain of losing our son and how I have blocked so many memories to allow me to go on. Luckily I have Faith to comfort me.
    Live your life for what it can be and not for what it was.

    MMXIV AAT: KYLE RYAN
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  30. #30
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    Traditional funeral, no way. When I go I want to be laid out at my place of residence and have a gathering of close family and friends. I also would like for someone with a clear, yet subtle speaking voice to read a collection of various selected quotes. Such as this one from Thoreau...

    "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
    I then want a monologue and short collection of George Carlin comedy bits played, I want guests to laugh and think more than cry and mope. As well as a Spanish dinner of Pallea served. Finally, I want to be cremated and have my ashes scattered off a ride at Cedar Point.
    "Did you ever grow anything in the garden of your mind"- Fred Rogers

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