No matter how hard we try, funeral directors make mistakes too. Yet, it seems, that once something has gone wrong with a funeral or its planning, then it just snowballs during the entire process and everything else goes wrong too. Then the more careful and intentional you are to make things go smoothly, the worse it gets! Like suddenly your hands are covered in ink and everything you touch gets a smudge. Sometimes it’s small things and the family never knows and sometimes it’s a big thing and not only does the family know but all of their friends know as well!
I met with the family of a younger man (mid-50’s). This family was great! We hit it off from the beginning. We had some laughing moments and some tender moments, and everything was going smoothly for the circumstances. During this time I went over the details of the service, day, time, place etc. I wrote everything down finalized it all with the family and then sent them home. I sat down to my desk and completed all of my tasks, called the cemetery, ordered staff and cars for the service, ordered the casket and vault and called the bishop and coordinated when to have the curch building open. I was to be off for the next couple of days, so I carefully went over everything to make sure that nothing was left undone. Filled in death certificate information, put the day and time of the family dressing in the book, I made sure that everything was in order so that my coworkers knew what was to happen while I was away. I then wrote out the obituary according to my instructions, I sent it to the family for final approval before I sent it to the newspapers. At the end of the day, paperwork filled out, cemetery confirmed, clergy and church building confirmed, obituary approved, paid and sent to the papers… then I went home, confidant that nothing was out of place or left undone.
The day of the funeral my staff and I showed up the mortuary early and loaded the cars with everything we would need for the day, register book, programs, flowers, tissues, lamps, TV and DVD player etc., we then placed the casket carrying the deceased man into the hearse, checked the address of the church and made our way out. It was winter time and lightly snowing, the roads were covered in slush thick and muddy that clung to our tires and made the drive slippery and slimy and slow. We found our church and pulled into the parking lot. There was one car already there parked way in the back corner of the lot (usually that meant someone was there and they had opened the building for us to unload for the service). We noticed that the sidewalks were shoveled and ready for our funeral. We walked around the building, found the open door and let ourselves in. We busied ourselves with unloading all of our equipment, including the casket with its passenger. We set up the flowers got the DVD playing on the TV screen, set out the register book, programs and tissues for the guests and then sat and waited for the family to get there. It was unusually quiet at this church. Normally by this time more church members were there, setting up tables for the luncheon and making sure the trash was emptied but we were the only ones there. It was getting closer to the time for the visitation to start and still not even the family was there. Of course, we thought nothing of it, we were at the right address, the building was open and the sidewalks were shoveled, other than the lack of people everything was as normal.
I received a phone call from a coworker and said the family had called and asked where we were?! Um, at the church, all set up and waiting for them, where were they?! I got the number for the family and quickly called them, curious as to what had happened. After some discussion, it was determined that over the course of the couple of days I was gone, the family had changed the location of the funeral and no one had told me or changed it in the book! I was mortified. There are few things that cause panic quicker than for a funeral director to realize we are at the wrong church and now will be late getting set up for the funeral! My staff and I quickly started loading everything back up, and got in our cars as fast as possible. I had written down this new location and got the GPS running as we exited the parking lot, thank goodness it was close to where we already were. We turned into the new parking lot and there was no one there! The parking lot and sidewalks piled high with fresh snow! Something was wrong. I called the family back only to be told that there were 4 churches all in the same area and GPS couldn’t find 2 of them, one of which I needed to be at an hour ago! The dead man’s son got on the phone and directed me turn by turn to the correct location. As we finally got to the right church, the entire family and several of their friends were crowded on the sidewalk to watch our cars pull in, an hour late! It was mortifying.
Everyone there got busy helping us unload the cars for the second time and soon we had everything set up, again, for the funeral. I apologized to the family stating I was not aware of the location change. They, now that panic was over, laughed it off and said that the man was late for everything else so why not his funeral. The rest of the day went on without a hitch, everyone was happy, and the man was successfully buried, as scheduled!
So, lesson learned, communication is everything! It may not have been a snowball of small errors, but it was a big enough blunder to make up for it!Picture provided by Pixabay