Archive for the ‘Funerary tidbits’ Category

Why it shouldn’t snow in S.C.

February 28, 2010

Recently, for the first time in seven years, we saw snow.

Poor flowers. I hope they come back.

I hope all this wetness means abundant peaches.

…that didn’t sound dirty at all.

I think I forgot to mention this beta copy of Wrath of Khan I resisted:

Also recently I went to a show that not only didn’t suck, I LIKED it. I had nothing bad, snarky or otherwise, to say about it. One of my biggest complaints @ Columbia is the lack of art. There are galleries. There are artists. Some of them are famous. It is a staid, boring “scene,” IMHO – or, to put it more kindly, simply not “my scene.” Criminal lack of “modern” (read: interesting, not pictures of Pawley’s Island or dogs) art and performance art.

Anyways. Bitchbitch, moan moan, this show was great. It was a cohesive installation, an actual “show.” As opposed to random pieces hung up by different artists. This one started, and increased in meaning and representation and had depth and a purpose.

Last Words, the accompanying exhibit which has been integrated very well into this show, represents the miles and hours Susan spent visiting cemetaries, literally across continents, collecting silken grave rubbings from headstones and monuments then bringing them home and transforming them into 30 art quilts. The arrangement of the exhibit is such that if Blues Chapel represents the Church, then Last Words serves as the church yard.”

Please to read the whole blogpost  – I wish I’d taken more pictures…because otherwise my comments won’t mean anything to people who weren’t there, and nobody, much less my friends here who were at the show read this blog – so here’s some of my favourite pieces from the show:

Those are from the “chapel,” which had church pews and even fans – that attention to detail that set this show head and shoulders above anything I’ve seen in ten years @ Gallery 80808. I felt the artist really cared about this exhibit, and it absolutely showed (as opposed to the aforementioned “Here’s my shit in frames on a wall, have some wine.” shows they usually have).  It just made me really happy to finally feel like I was at an art show.

It didn’t hurt that the second part of the exhibition, which for some reason got way less media, consisted of two of my favourite things:  death and vintage clothes.

Embroidery, misc. vintage fabrics and headstone rubbings – and some “mixed media.”

One of my “artist” friends commented, “…nothing I’d hang on my walls but I like it.” To which I immediately responded “I would SO hang this smack in my living room.” That dress piece up above would go front and center on the living room wall facing the front door. Which, of course, made them all laugh because they realized how very much up my alley this particular exhibition was (I have worked in the funeral business for nearly ten years).

Stuff I like to look at, and stuff I like to do – and humorous morbidity.

It was earnest, wistful, sad and sombre, colourful and cheeky – just like me (ha ha).

The “textile artist” responsible for my happiness was chatty but delightful, and so engaged and genuinely vested in her subject matter(s). She pleasantly answered all of our questions (where is this? how did you do this? do you do layaway? – I seriously contemplated purchasing that last one, there).

Some of the pieces had seperate scenes embroidered onto the back of them – just a very masterful exhibition, as far as the stitching.

It was so good, I would actually go to another “808080808080808080808….” (as I like to call it) show with an open mind (as opposed to just showing up to support my friends)!


See that my grave is kept clean

February 25, 2010

On my desk, a register of funeral records from June 1915-July 1916, each page recording minimal bio info and funeral costs.

An asylum inmate died of pellagra. So far, all of the asylum/sanitorium residents have died of pellagra. The article says it is a vitamin deficiency, but according to one of my directors, “It’s eatin’ the same thing all the time.”

Mamie Ethel was only 22, and there’s no cause of death listed.

“Electrocuted Accidental”

“Shock following accidental injury”

A co-worker’s uncle’s record was discovered, “gun shot wound of abdomen.” He was shot on the courthouse steps by a criminal.

Asia died of epilepsy. This entry is like a cross between Edward Gorey and the Jim Carroll Band.

Mr. Friday and his death by Bright’s disease were in good company. Lots of nephritis and colitis.

“Intestinal obstructions” sounds like a terrible way to go. Reminds me of a fella we once had, who went and choked on his pork chop during Tuesday dinner with his family.

A 2-year old could die of tonsilitis. A 37-year old woman? Childbirth. A 19-year old male caught the ol’ “Gangrenous Ruptured Appendix.”

The State Penitentiary paid for Tommie’s “legal electrocution” and $19.10 funeral.

Minnie got shot in the head…by her own hand. Her stockings cost 50 cents, her dress $18.

“Railroad accident”

“Dysintary Old Age”

“Suicide by Cutting throat with knife”

“Strangulation” – killed in the elevator of a hotel

“Dropped dead in field”  – a 70-year old man with one of my favourites names, Levi

Lots of apoplexy, too.

Richland County poor house might pitch in towards your bill.

5 years, 5 months died of “Burns Shock” (or Burma Shark) and had an ambulance on her bill.

As I was reading all that, someone went to a hospice to make some arrangements to enter it, and she died there in the office.

A Valentine’s Day tale

February 14, 2010

He and his wife lived in seperate buildings of the same nursing home. She has “Old Timers,” and needed special care. His son came the day before Valentine’s and they went to visit her, taking flowers. Son wanted to take Father to lunch. After seating his father in the car, he struggled to get the wheelchair into the trunk. Upon success he returned to the front of the car to find his father, in those few minutes, had died.

I got the rare, and very much appreciated opportunity to use my creative license (which I posses in abundance) to list, as surviving, “…his Valentine and beloved wife of 60 years…”

What an odd poem for a funeral.

January 8, 2010

And I love Goethe. I was one of those Sorrows-toting college students, rolling cigarettes as I studied history while listening to Nina Simone.

This leaf from a tree in the East,
Has been given to my garden.
It reveals a certain secret,
Which pleases me and thoughtful people.

Does it represent One living creature
Which has divided itself?
Or are these Two, which have decided,
That they should be as One?

To reply to such a Question,
I found the right answer:
Do you notice in my songs and verses
That I am One and Two?

Job opening in Carnieland.

October 19, 2009

I don’t really know what chit-chat is like in other offices, I haven’t worked in one in…ever. I’ve been in the funeral business for nearly ten years, and before that…the er, adult industry. So arguing about Lost, or sports things, I have no experience in. One of the local businesses we work with came in to drop off a bill, and here’s how we catch up:

“Hi, what’s new?”

“Just pulled a carnie out of a trailer…”

They proceeded to describe the living areas, the carnies have. Just rows of RVs, each carny having about the size of two of my desks, side by side. Just a microwave and a fridge.

“He was 400 lbs…easy to pull the stretcher right up to it, but had to get firefighters to help with the removal.”

“Like being a carnie isn’t tough enough already,” I said, “without dying in a trailer somewhere…”

He was 50 or 60, had being working the same ride for years…no money, no family, of course.  I’d love to be embedded with a traveling fair for a year or two, and write about it. Christiane Amanpour it ain’t, but still.

Conklin was the company in charge for years and years. The carny crowd is much younger, than it used to be. And less Hispanic. So now they’re runaways, my co-worker quipped, instead of running from the law.

Last year, the handful I met were from South Africa.  You see, the bar a few blocks from my house stays open 24/7 when the fair is in town. So, one morning (Tuesday, I think) saw me drinking with some carnies at 7 p.m. Sadly, the following years saw me employed, so I haven’t been able to spend any more time with the fair folk.

Faire folk, or fey folk. Ha! Renne faire nerd humour.

October 10, 2009

“South and North Koreans are kinda like…kinda like us and the Yankees.”


 – one of the two “old men,” whom I positively aDOOR.

She was, too.

September 19, 2009

IMG_2372Charles Bukowski – “The History of One Tough Motherfucker” February 18, 2009 at 5:25 am (Charles Bukowski, Poetry & Literature)

he came to the door one night wet thin beaten and terrorized a white cross-eyed tailless cat

I took him in and fed him  and he stayed grew to trust me until a friend drove up the driveway and ran him over

 I took what was left to a vet who said,”not much chance…give him these pills…his backbone is crushed, but is was crushed before and

 somehow mended, if he lives he’ll never walk, look at these x-rays, he’s been shot, look here, the pellets are

still there…also, he once had a tail, somebody cut it off…” I took the cat back, it was a hot summer, one of the

 hottest in decades, I put him on the bathroom floor, gave him water and pills, he wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t

touch the water, I dipped my finger into it and wet his mouth and I talked to him, I didn’t go any- where,

 I put in a lot of bathroom time and talked to him and gently touched him and he looked back at me with

those pale blue crossed eyes and as the days went by he made his first move dragging himself forward by

 his front legs (the rear ones wouldn’t work) he made it to the litter box crawled over and in, it was like

the trumpet of possible victory blowing in that bathroom and into the city, I related to that cat-I’d had

 it bad, not that bad but bad enough one morning he got up, stood up, fell back down and just looked

at me. “you can make it,” I said to him. he kept trying, getting up falling down, finally he walked a few

steps, he was like a drunk, the rear legs just didn’t want to do it and he fell again, rested, then got up.

you know the rest: now he’s better than ever, cross-eyed almost toothless, but the grace is back, and

that look in his eyes never left… and now sometimes I’m interviewed, they want to hear about life

and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed, shot, runover de-tailed cat and I say,”

look, look at this!” but they don’t understand, they say something like,”you say you’ve been influenced by Celine?”

“no,” I hold the cat up,”by what happens, by things like this, by this, by this!”

I shake the cat, hold him up in the smoky and drunken light, he’s relaxed he knows… it’s then that the interviews

 end although I am proud sometimes when I see the pictures later and there I am

 and there is the cat and we are photo- graphed together.

he too knows it’s bullshit but that somehow it all helps.

August 6, 2009

We offer families coffee, water, etc. when they come in to make arrangements. We have an ice machine, and will take in ice and cups. Apparently, one gentleman is notorious for providing more than enough ice (to put it nicely).


The director walked in, took a look at the big pile of ice (and the leetle cups and small bottles of water) and said “Would you like some water with your ice?” The family smiled, laughed politely.


“You can always tell a brown liquor drinker…” the directed continued.


Luckily, the family thought it was hilarious. To us she exclaimed, mortified, “It had fallen out {of my mouth} before I could even think what was falling!”

July 3, 2009

More often than not, the human aspect of the funerary business ensures – well, I can’t say hilarity. But we are all precious snowflakes. And sometimes we sit on mama’s casket. Or put in our will, to cremate us with our favourite Elvis purse and poodle’s cremains. We want to be carried to the cemetery in a dump truck, not a hearse.


Rarely – never, in my experience – does the death of an infant provide any anecdotal fodder. Sometimes, babies get put down for a nap, roll in between the mattress and the wall, and suffocate to death.

Spellcheck, anyone?

July 1, 2009

A little girl’s funeral – she loved motorcycles, so they rolled her through town in a Harley “hearst.”

Yes, those exist.


And yes, the person telling me the anecdote said “hearst.” She also said Debbie Rowe (I think? I don’t care enough to google it and check) “insinuated” herself with Michael Jackson’s sperm.

Anyways, in the words of an on-looker, “It was a gd parade. They had balloons. They didn’t use any of the funeral homes cars, just their own. And them white trash hillbillies, the logo of the day was ‘___ is an angel.’

So on all the windows of all their cars, they had written like they just graduated high school, on all the windows, ‘___ is an ANGLE.”

A dead girl, being paraded through town in a glass, see-through hearse (pulled by a motorcycle), balloons everwhere, and cars parading behind her…because she is now an angle in heaven.