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My Life With Death.
February 5, 2010 10:09 AM   Subscribe

My Life With Death : is the personal blog of a funeral home "first responder." It occurred to me this morning as I sat before my employer being lectured about my "availability" on my days off, that my life is singularly joyless. I have effectively traded in my own life for other people's deaths.
posted by grapefruitmoon (32 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
After reading a few of those posts, I'm hoping this guy is his own next call.
posted by JeffK at 10:16 AM on February 5, 2010


It's fascinating, but he seems really, really depressed. :( Poor guy.
posted by zarq at 10:17 AM on February 5, 2010


He's got some interesting material to work with, but the writing is a little lifeless.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:17 AM on February 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I initially had the "oh, poor guy" reaction too, but his writing is so affected and awkward that I can't help but think the whole thing is a put-on. He's just trying way too hard to sound morose.
posted by JeffK at 10:21 AM on February 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Guy sounds like he's in the wrong line of work. I don't expect funeral home employees to be fully cheerful, as that would be equally strange, but he just seems to hate it all so much. I'd expect that those who fit well in the occupation have a certain sense of duty, similar to the best civil servants.
posted by explosion at 10:26 AM on February 5, 2010


In the basement I'm met by Collins. "You old son of a bitch, how you been?!" I say. He looks up from the morbidly obese dead guy on the floor and smiles, "Hey there, killer, what's the word?" "You tell me." I reply. "You ready to move this guy?" "Yes sir, I am." "Good," he says, "You're the best lookin' draught animal I've seen all day." The paramedics had been here just moments before. The telltale signs were scattered about the room. Used and discarded gloves. Sterile packaging for intubation devices, paper wrappers for needles and syringes, plastic backings for defribulation pads, used alcohol and iodine prep pads, and to top it all off, the intubation tube was still jammed down this poor bastard's throat and taped to his face. The works. These fuckin' guys. I imagine them tearing a bunch of shit apart and throwing it around the room just so they can look up and somberly report to the family, "We lost him. Damn it, we lost him." Then I imagine they pack their gear up, whistle the theme song from The Andy Griffith show out the door, hop into the van, tune in an oldies station, light up a fresh one and get rolling onto the next failure. Well played, gentlemen and gentlewomen. Well played.

Chuck Palahniuk just lost a character to the world of nonfiction.
posted by phrontist at 10:28 AM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


It sounds like he's working for an awful boss at a terrible company. For a more humanizing, reflective look at the "dismal trade", see poet-funeral director Thomas Lynch's The Undertaking (also the subject of a PBS Frontline documentary).
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:28 AM on February 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


sometimes, a person just has to realize that something isn't his gig
posted by pyramid termite at 10:30 AM on February 5, 2010


Hmm, initially I wondered if the depression preceded the job, or was caused by it, but now I just think this guy is a mean, sick puppy:

Really, the only thing I enjoy about my job is handling particularly messy suicides. There is always something interesting and new to witness. Some ungodly amount of blood or brain, a new fracture pattern in a skull, a new look on each face. I am quite tired of running death certificates and tending to the corpses of aged individuals. They are about as exciting as an empty McDonald's bag blowing down the sidewalk. Each displays almost exact characteristics. Toothless maw hanging open, stupid look on the face, like that of half horror and half surprise, wrinkly, smelly, etc. Each looks like a half-melted tallow candle with a mouth carved into it. Just...plain boring, really.

The thick, heavy, unmistakable smell of death. I've grown to love it.

Interestingly enough, the thing that really keeps me going, the thing that weighs in heavier than gold pound for pound every time around is the pure, unadulterated mind-bending horror of a really fucked up call. The feeling I get when I walk onto a high-risk case, a gut-wrenching decomp or a surprise suicide is unparalleled. It is like my soul is being ripped out of my body by a the devil himself, shoved up my ass and beaten back out of me. When the smell hits and you get the urge to vomit, when you pull back the sheet on that bloated, stinking corpse and what you see makes you want to scream your stomach out, when you walk into a room where someone has just killed themselves and it's as cold as the grave and the hairs on your neck stand up on end, that's what pays the bills.

posted by bearwife at 10:31 AM on February 5, 2010


Inside, the family is gathered and bawling. Knock it off, you guys. You didn't know this was going to happen? I make solemn introductions, offer condolences, then worm my way through the person-packed living room, through the kitchen and down a flight of stairs into the basement. This is going to be fun.

I deal with plenty of death in my own profession as well but I try to do it with some dignity and respect toward the deceased and their families. This is really gross to read.
posted by makonan at 10:45 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I understand that some people might be put off by this guy and his attitude toward the dead, especially if you've been to a funeral lately and are picturing this guy (or someone like him) taking care of your late beloved, but I wonder if this isn't some nigh-inevitable attitude to keep the job from completely getting to you. I don't know if anyone else remembers a cartoonist named Michael Dougan who used to publish his stuff with Fantagraphics (he's still working AFAIK, but mostly doing spot illustrations for magazines), who did a story about working at a funeral home one summer and nearly having a breakdown at the end; of course, he had other stressors (long, messy breakup with his girlfriend, being visited by a "friend" of his predecessor who ended up coming on to him with a rather specific fetish), but there were also a few grisly episodes like the ones described in this blog. See also Alison Bechdel's Fun Home (the "fun" stands for funeral).
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:08 AM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Takes me back to early college when I was stuck on a project with some kid whose parents' owned a funeral home. Creepy is all I thought. He had a crush on me. He would call the house and my mom would be all boy crazy for me. She kept pushing to date him because "they make a lot of money." Yea nevermind I said I was creeped out. But then again, she always tried pushing me off on the butcher when I was 16 and he was 40 because he too "made a lot of money." Doubt it. Thanks for the illegal human trafficing, mom!
posted by stormpooper at 11:11 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Real writers don't need #000000 to get the point across.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:06 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure this is fiction. It reads like fiction. It's like an unintentional pastiche of HST, Chuck Palahniuk, and the writers from Dexter. It's okay writing, but I'm pretty sure these situations are fabricated. Maybe he does work for a Funeral Home, and he's drawing on his experiences, but the reproduced dialogue like this:

"In the basement I'm met by Collins. "You old son of a bitch, how you been?!" I say. He looks up from the morbidly obese dead guy on the floor and smiles, "Hey there, killer, what's the word?" "You tell me." I reply. "You ready to move this guy?" "Yes sir, I am." "Good," he says, "You're the best lookin' draught animal I've seen all day."

--Is not believable. (To me--I admit I have nothing solid to back this up.)

Really? draught animal? I don't buy it. A Million Little Pieces.
posted by exlotuseater at 12:43 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kinda wish he hadn't embedded that youtube autopsy link.
posted by Lucinda at 12:44 PM on February 5, 2010


Based on the lack of dates and the consistency of the writing and presentation, I would guess... Creative Writing major.
posted by mek at 12:57 PM on February 5, 2010


"In the basement I'm met by Collins. "You old son of a bitch, how you been?!" I say. He looks up from the morbidly obese dead guy on the floor and smiles, "Hey there, killer, what's the word?" "You tell me." I reply. "You ready to move this guy?" "Yes sir, I am." "Good," he says, "You're the best lookin' draught animal I've seen all day."

Is it just me, or does that sound more than a little homo-necrotic, to coin a word.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 12:59 PM on February 5, 2010


It's like Waiter Rant but with more corpses.
posted by The otter lady at 1:10 PM on February 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know several funeral directors and they are a lot more fun to be around than this guy is, from the sound of it.
posted by revgeorge at 1:23 PM on February 5, 2010


I tried to read the prose but the purple hurt my eyes.
posted by echo target at 1:25 PM on February 5, 2010


MetaFilter: like Waiter Rant but with more corpses.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:32 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


When the mood strikes; some of this sounds like how my day-to-day's go around the office. While it has the air of fiction; it may just be flair. Either way, I really dig it.
posted by NiteMayr at 1:42 PM on February 5, 2010


He's no Thomas Lynch.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:50 PM on February 5, 2010


I hear the whispery shufflings of an MFA candidate.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:51 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder if this isn't some nigh-inevitable attitude to keep the job from completely getting to you

ColdChef talks about his job pretty regularly around here, and it never comes off like this. If this guy's trying to keep the job from getting to him, he's not doing a very good job of it.
posted by mendel at 1:55 PM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


If this guy is real, he needs to get out of this line of work. Being depressed and hating your life does not mix well with death.
posted by autoclavicle at 4:20 PM on February 5, 2010


This reminds me of a friend of mine who works at a nursing home and she says somewhat similar things.

That said, hoo BOY, this guy needs to get out of this job, because when the only part of your day you look forward to is cleaning up someone's blown-out brains? BAD SIGN.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:23 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


OH SHIT NOT PRESCRIPTION AMPHETAMINE SALTS

.........


He truly is facgin down death, him and a bunch of 12 year old boys on adderall and ritalin. Really though he probably needs it to keep him awake on a 36 (!) hour shift.

Anyway, in some kinds of jobs we require that people be perfect to the point of inhumanity because it freaks us out too much to think of, say, our dead relative being dealt with by people. Which is understandable. But people who do jobs like this have shitty days, and like exciting projects, and get irritated by customers.

But more dead people
posted by kathrineg at 9:26 PM on February 5, 2010


If this guy's trying to keep the job from getting to him, he's not doing a very good job of it.

That's quite possibly true.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:00 AM on February 6, 2010


He, as well as all the people he comes in contact with, speak like the ill-conceived love child of 1940's film noir and a Tarantino crime movie. I don't know if he is what he says he is but most of what he says is at least embellished if not fabricated.
posted by substrate at 6:33 AM on February 6, 2010


He's no Thomas Lynch.

The first poetry reading I ever went to featured Thomas Lynch as the main talent. I was in high school at the time. When I told my dad about it, he surprised me by saying he knew the guy. They went to high school together, he said. "That guy stabbed me in the ass with a freshly sharpened pencil once--it hurt like hell! You're going to see that guy?"

Lynch is a pretty good poet, actually, but it seems like being an undertaker should provide any writer with a veritable goldmine of shocking, moving, yet totally ordinary experiences to write about.

I, too, suspect that the writer of this blog had serious depression way before he got this corpse-handling job.

A wonderful high school teacher took our Econ class on a field trip to a local funeral home my senior year, to help us a understand of the costs of dying, and to show us a side of the funeral business many people don't get to see. It was an interesting trip, and one of the things I remember most is that all of the staff, including several young guys, fielded all of our questions with kindness and good humor. They told us you have to maintain a certain sense of humor about that kind work or you'll go crazy. Not a ghoulish indifference, but a pluckiness and can-do attitude that the author of this blog seems to lack.

He sounds like he'd hate any job, but this one seems a particularly bad choice. Too depressing for me to read very much of, despite being interesting subject matter.
posted by apis mellifera at 5:56 PM on February 7, 2010


The first poetry reading I ever went to featured Thomas Lynch as the main talent. I was in high school at the time. When I told my dad about it, he surprised me by saying he knew the guy. They went to high school together, he said. "That guy stabbed me in the ass with a freshly sharpened pencil once--it hurt like hell! You're going to see that guy?"

The downside to Lynch is that he is basically a right-wing hard-hearted motherfucker who complains about baggy pants and kids on his lawn and etc etc. But as a writer and a poet, he is worlds ahead of this dude.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:30 PM on February 8, 2010


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