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Season 2 Episode 118: I’m Not That Important

Oh, hey. Glad to see you again. Let me guess. You’re driving. No, you’re working, one airpod in, one out, like a beast. It may be a variation. Regardless, thank you for taking the time to join me. Truly. In a world longing for honesty and real, I’m working to always be. 

This is Season 2 Episode 118, a show devoted to pulling back the curtain, taking down the walls brick by brick, exposing the hearts of those who spend their lives taking care of and serving you and those you love most, this is You’ll Die Trying. 

I’ve had people talking an awful lot about Big Turkey Foot. Ian, Kelsey, Doc and Hadley are the hearts behind the beans and muscles. Really, they’re ripped. And good people. 

Head over to youlldietrying.com right now, visit the store and grab a delicious bag of coffee. Might I suggest Rough River . From Honduras comes this unique coffee from a direct trade, female-owned farm. Roasted to a medium roast to bring out the notes that include a hint of chocolate with a maple aroma and a sweetness reminiscent of green apple. This coffee is also certified organic and the direct trade program allows farmer to receive a higher, sustainable wage for their crop to continue operations and improve practices. 

You haven’t heard of it until now. But you have.

The longest trek I recall working is 8 weeks straight. Disastrous for ones mental health, I assure you.

I used to look forward to my nights off. Off call, yes, but weekends off period. The phone not ringing. Well, that never happens either. You always have what I call “bleed over”. Maybe not the best title but it’s when your team on the opposite schedule takes a funeral you’ve scheduled and planned, have taken AP format notes on. No matter how thorough though, there is a question. Your phone is your chain. Not just because we can’t not be with them because developers designed things to make us think that, but in our line of care, we just want to be there. To help. And that, in and of itself, creates addiction.

My name is Nathan Morris. And I’m addicted to the funeral home.

This is the only profession I can think of which complains when they’re not busy and complains when they’re busy. Yes. They complain when the phone isn’t ringing. People don’t need you in a given week. Bluntly put. No one is dying. You’ve scrubbed every fathomable inch of your locations’s chair rails and you’re sick of stepping off stage to smoke…again. It’s awful.

Then, the phone rings. And rings. Over and over, you’re getting back from one transfer, to prepare the cot for another. Queue the fiddle. “I wish we could catch our breath.”

It is the most absurd realization ever. You cannot track death. We can pull census tracts, study deaths by zip codes, traffic patterns, age, demographic and population. But it’s figured on averages. It’s incapable of being tracked. God, and all. So when I’ve heard “it’d be nice to just have one funeral a day.” Feast or famine. All or nothing. Those in this profession, owners specifically, are some tough and valiant people. Digging their heels in when the mortgage is calling, the staff payroll is up and Batesville sent a $15,000 invoice. Somehow, some way, though, it worked out for them. They not waiver. There are simply so many deaths each month and none you control. All they can do is continue showing up to church picnics, donating cups and napkins blasting their funeral home names, running half page ads in church bulletins, obituary sections in newspapers, yellow page ads. Yes, most homes still do this. Is it right. wrong. Not for me to say. My brief stint in sales, someone once said, “if they feel they got a good deal, then they got a good deal.” – if owners think that’s what works, then it works.

Any way, back to death. When it’s happening rapidly and families are calling on your home, you specifically over time even, this sense of need and have-to develop. You have to be there from the beginning to the end. Flying to Florida with the kids though? Not anymore! Celebrating an anniversary?! Nope

Opening Christmas presents? That can wait.

Endearing, right? It’s a blessing and a curse. This constant need to not let down. That need of needing to feel…needed, keeps you volunteering to come in on your weekends off. To cover for someone, even when there’s already coverage. Taking call 9 nights straight. Let’s face it, it might be the chaos directors love.

Eight weeks straight. Eight. “We’re so busy.” “They need my help.” “They asked for me.” “I went on the call.” “They asked “are you going to be there?!” And I said ‘yes’”

The funeral Homes, only two at the time, were slammed, yes. We had a schedule and competent team, but I believed I needed to be there. My team mate could’ve led a beautiful service. But not as good as me, right? Or wrong?

Week 8, last day, I’m gassed. I get in my suv to drive the longest way home possible after being annihilated by death and grief, I had a huge epiphany. I’m the leader now, I’ve implemented some communication tools to help streamline things. Morale is high. Staff are more competent than ever, and I’m here inserting myself because I’m “needed”. How not true. The family called Morris Family. Not me on my cell phone. I was disrespectful toward my wife and kids, my team for showing them i essentially didn’t believe in them, when my words would say otherwise at morning meetings.

Never again. I stopped. I created the delicate handoff, which we utilize daily, and train staff of its importance. Sat with a family for arrangements? Scheduled to be off at 4:30 the day of their first view? “Hey Jane, this is Kristine, she and I work very closely together and she is honored to stand door this evening and be available to you and the family. Tomorrow morning when you arrive, I’ll be watching door to see you in. Before you leave tonight, Kristine will make certain all has been comfortable and show you to your vehicles, as well as where to park in the morning.” – that easy

Ever know someone, get invited, you and a plus one to their little get together-but your plus one friend doesn’t know this group? You walk in and say, hey meet Plus One, she’s amazing and we’ve been friends for 8 years. You’ll love her.” And they do. They love and welcome because you permitted them to. Psychology.

There are instances unique, yes. I don’t want any ugly emails or DMs with circumstances a delicate hand off would suffice. I get it. I’ve heard it penned as “passing them off” which sounds so negative. I personally feel the ways in which we are serving are shifting. Families who own the homes and live in the homes, literally upstairs, we’re expected always. It’s what was then. Now, families are living off premises and trusting, or trying to, trust in support staff to help in helping.

I continue to be a part of every celebration, but my team are the heroes. They have devoted their lives to you, as have i. But now, I shift my hopeless devotion to them, so they feel they can thrive, and then trust in their partners to cover for them when their tanks are on ‘E’.

Go to the baseball game out of town. Go see your sister. Stop feeling bad for it too.

And lastly, when a family you sit with during arrangements ask “will you be there?” A family you had to sit with because there are two other simultaneous arrangements happening, and that weekends’ coverage is assisting them, so you have to insert yourself and pivot, The answer is simple. “I will personally see to it our family provides an absolutely lovely service for mom, taking every request today down and providing it to Tommie who you will meet before we depart this afternoon and is honored to lead moms funeral celebration.”

Don’t say “I’m off.” Or “no, I’ll be at Keeneland.” I mean, you can, but that’s stupid.

Maybe you’ve burned yourself out to the point of an a-ha moment. Or, maybe you were too exhausted to see the yellow lines on the road, let alone think, on the drive home.

Maybe this can be your silver lining. You’re a great director, yes. But so is your teammate. Trust them. That’s when magical things happen. And it’s not just mental clarity and self-induced breakdown prevention.