09 September 2013


Disclaimer: This post is weird. Very weird. I hope it's not offensive. This is just me, being me, about growing up in a funeral home. We were serious when we needed to be. Other times, well, when you grow up around something it just becomes part of you. Let me know what you think. So here we go.

So. Some of you newer blog followers sent me some messages about my last post - namely, the part where I mentioned I grew up around death.

Yeah, I should probably explain that to you who don't know me very well.

Funeral Home Girl.

That's me.

It freaked all the kids out at school, who thought I was weird and scary and bizarre.

Bizarre, sure. But weird and scary?

Come on.

Just because my sister and I played hide-and-seek in the casket room and had full-on funerals for our Barbies after sending them to their deaths (Sis - remember Boulder Barbie? Microwave Barbie? Convertible of Death Barbie?) doesn't mean we're weird.

Ok. Maybe just a little.

One of my friend's dad's owned a car dealership - she had her favorite car picked out

Me? The golden oak casket with the pink and purple quilt design in it.

Or cryogenics. Or donating my body to science.

All acceptable dinnertable conversations.

Dinnertable conversations - in between dad taking bites of spaghetti (with his tie flipped over his shoulder and wearing a dishcloth so sauce wouldn't get on his dress shirt) between running back and forth from the kitchen to the funeral home lobby during visitation nights.

Visitation nights - nights when I got out of practicing the piano because the family paying their respects next door could hear it through the wall.

No running up and down the stairs during visitations, either.

No crazy, colorful Christmas lights all over the house. Just very tasteful and respectful candles in the windows and greenery around all of the columns outside.

No sidewalk chalk on the sidewalk in front of the house - the sidewalk leading to the funeral home entrance. The back driveway was ok...that was the loading and unloading area. I used to ride my bike on the ramp.

Generations of family has lived in my childhood home. My room used to be my cousin Laura's room, and before that, it was my Auntie Mary Eleanor's. Now, whenever my sister and her family visit my parents, my niece Adelyn uses that same room.

Circle of life.

In any case, we knew when to be respectful, and we knew when it was ok to laugh.

Like when dad would use his skull from mortuary school to help decorate the basement for our Halloween parties.

"This is what happens when you smoke, kids."

Which is why I've never smoked. Or went out drinking...no ethical or moral dilemma with that one, just the memory of seeing a cirrhosis-y liver when I was nine.

Thanks, Dad.

Father-daughter dates consisted of Taco Bell on the way to the St. Louis County medical examiner's office. I think my sister lost her Taco Bell after seeing a foot in a bucket at the morgue, which promptly ended her trips with dad. But to me...

It. Was. Awesome.

I wanted to grow up and be Dr. Mary Case - the forensic medical examiner who took time out of her busy day to let me hold an actual human brain...one of eight she had lined up in buckets filled with a saline solution on a stainless steel counter. Everything was so clean and precise and fascinating. Dr. Case had me hold that amazing brain and name every single part, since that happened to be the part of human anatomy I was studying in college at the time.

Maybe also why I looked a little too excited in high school anatomy.

(Picture of me smiling with my lab partner and our dissected cat deleted. Just picture the innards of a cat and an awesome 90's perm with poofy bangs. There you go.)

Everywhere I go, when people find out where I grew up, it never fails to lead to all sorts of questions.

Like, "Have you ever worked with your dad?"

Um, hello. Who did he have running all over town to get death certificates signed at doctor's offices the minute she turned 16 and got her driver's license?

Better yet, who got to learn how to drive...in a hearse?

With another totally fashionable early 90's hairstyle while wearing a white turtleneck under what could only possibly be my grandmother's pink sweatshirt?

Man, I was awesome.

Who also, while learning to drive in a hearse, ran over a curb in front of a parking lot full of people at the Assembly of God church right after a post-funeral luncheon?

My other favorite question: "Weren't you ever scared?"

Of what? What in the world is there to be scared of? If anything, our house was always just nice and quiet. There are no ghosts. No ghouls. No scary noises at night...unless you count dad snoring so loud that the walls shook.

Dad also used the business to promote non-funeral events.

Nothing like the Funeral Home marquee in the front yard announcing your personal life to the entire town of Sullivan.

Plus your mother making you all pose for multiple pictures while everyone driving by slowed to look.

Me and my girls. The first time they ever spent the night, I think they were a little freaked. I also think seeing my dad walk around in his underdrawers contributed to that.
Good times.

No one likes to talk about death, but we sure are curious about the behind-the-scenes aspect of it.

So bring your questions. I'm obviously not shy.

Grew up around death. Worked with my dad around it. Now helping comfort others as they make their journey towards it.

My life...consisting of end-of-life issues from birth to...well, you know.

Today I love: Being ok with being weird. Being ok with talking about the hard stuff. Being ok with eating a full meal while talking about the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility (aka "The Body Farm) and/or reading "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers" (a really, really good read).

I know. I know. We've already established the fact that I'm weird.

1 comment:

Kara said...

This is great... I am a butcher's daughter! That leads to loads of questions and very few dates back in the day! :)