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The Real Poop

“I see dead people.”

No child dreams of becoming a funeral director when they grow up. Instead, they stage elaborate funerals for Ken and Barbie and, when Granny Gert died, explore the funeral parlor in search of closed doors. Perhaps through adolescence they wander wistfully and lonely in their morbid desires and feel odd for even considering the profession. But the acceptance of one’s oddness can be quite liberating and a fascination with time’s oldest taboo can become an intensely rewarding career. Then again, maybe you grew up in a funeral home, just like your father did, and his father did. Or maybe - you twisted little dark-ling - maybe you always knew that your first job would be washing hearses and dusting caskets and that you couldn’t wait to slip on a stiff suit and meet your first family.

So what exactly does a funeral director do aside from the obvious directing of funerals? It all begins with what the industry refers to as the “First Call.” The first call begins when a member or person representing the family, such as a nurse, priest, or friend, calls the funeral home and reports the death. From there a bit of information is recorded and relayed, and a one- or two -person team is usually sent out to the location of the deceased right away. You could be part of that team or you could stay at the funeral home and begin the process of paper flow in preparation of meeting with the family. Of course, we need to throw in the certainty that there will be some sort of dynamic which will keep any two funeral rites from ever being exactly alike. Think eight children, half of whom want cremation and half want burial. Think horrific car accident and an open casket. Think famous last requests of scantily clad dancers at the funeral and the demand that it happen despite the priest saying, “Absolutely not!” It happened in China, but luckily they were Buddhist, so nobody complained.

The Funeral Service industry is strictly regulated by the government. In California, the Department of Consumer Affairs has adopted this task in the form of the Funeral and Cemetery Bureau. They issue Funeral Directing and Embalming licenses, as well as provide you with every legal do and don’t you will have to deal with at one death or another. Every state is different, however, and the differences can be extreme. For instance, in Colorado a formal Mortuary Science education is not required. Only a hands-on apprenticeship is required to do the deed. Regardless, from Colorado to Maine, and everywhere in between, the state government will be the final authoritative yay or nay on when, where, and how you can bury or cremate the deceased.

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