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YDT – Ep 117

This is you’ll die trying with Nathan Morris. You’ll die trying contain sensitive subject matter and conversation surrounding death and dying and may not be suitable for all audiences. Listener discretion is respectfully advised. Welcome back, season two, Episode 117 of your die trying a podcast, which pulls back the curtain takes down the wall brick by brick and exposes the hearts of the funeral directors providing the care this one’s going to get a little a little tough. Don’t say I didn’t want you. With death, there are no sequences, no sequences of events. I mean, there is no rhyme or reason for things or Beginning, middle in first this than this, and so on 123. Much like the phone ringing at 455. In the afternoon, when you’ve done nothing all day, and you’re trying to lock up the funeral home for the night. You’re on the last door. You can’t control the death call you receive at that moment. This podcast, too, has no pattern. The stories will never be sequential. It’s never just a little old lady lying in her bed. There family holding her feeble little hand. Sometimes it’s much different. This is one of those moments where it’s not big turkeyfoot coffee I’m drinking instead it is a big glass of bourbon on the rocks. This is the story of the last call my wife Megan and I conducted together we traveled west bound in our then 2012 navy, Grand Caravan, Dodge Grand Caravan it smelled of chemicals and hot car. I don’t know how else to describe it. But I know that you know that smell. Megan was six months pregnant with our first son. I’m not even sure why she wanted to go. Because we knew what we were getting into. But she wanted to go anyway. Which is truly Megan in a nutshell. We pulled up to the residents took a deep breath. And all three of us stepped out of the van. This is the story of our last call together caring for a child. I have no idea what I’ve been doing this particular day I imagine working in an ever stressful environment running one way or another. Not because someone’s health and well being are on the line. But things like did you order this? Or did this get done in time for the visitation? Those constant thoughts are screaming in your inner dialogue. Being a funeral director is heavy picture working with your spouse now. Could you do it? Or your significant other? I guess you could. But would it be effective, fulfilling and it’s not just living with someone? This is not just cohabitating This is cohabitating driving to work and then working with them.

Could you do it? Somehow in time, Megan and I we learned to we’re both tough. We both have our ways and we share it. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just is we have realized each other’s strengths. I’m the risk taker I’m the idea guy I make it happen and I make it happen quick. Meghan’s calculated she’s thorough. Both qualities are equally nice. Siri, I am so glad we realized this in a short time. Others in our profession, struggling marriage, actually divorce because of the level of stress and this environment and working together and what all that causes. Anyway, at six months pregnant women tend to show signs of their pregnancy fatigue, swelling, just to name a few. I’m not a woman or a doctor, but it’s what I saw Megan and I, at this moment, are expecting our first. Of course, by this time we are working the same schedule still. nights we have visitation we’re together. Could you imagine while many are going on dates to the movies or dinner, Megan and I are standing door for hours at the funeral home, greeting visitors of those coming to pay their respects to those they love folding and presenting new memorial folders emptying trash together, we were up at all hours of the night to when the phone rang, whether two people were needed or not, I’d be sure to go when just one was as there was never a reason that a woman be out alone in the middle of the night to tend to the dead. So I would go and when two were needed, of course, we went together. Nurses, corners, they all were surprised to see the round pregnant belly followed by Megan and myself. Maybe the decades of men created this element of surprise. Maybe they assumed someone as far along as her would be kicking her feet up by this time. I mean, they were swelling. Nope, not Megan. I learned quickly. You did not tell Megan to slow down. I think there was something lovely about seeing an expectant mother walking up to the house of a grieving family. A sweet woman carrying life coming to honor the family of someone who no longer is. I don’t know. swollen feet, ankles. Never stopped her ever. And I would be damned to have stepped in. She would tell me, she would tell me when that time was this day, though. It’s almost as if the phone rang differently. And if you are a funeral director, you get this. If you work in a funeral home in any capacity, you probably get this. The phone tends to ring differently when it’s a death call. A death call for the common folk of you listening is when a coroner nurse family when they call to notify the funeral home of the death of a loved one who has chosen you to care for them. These these calls More times than not go rather cordial and similar. Any profession or service involving the public and emotion can always throw a wrench though. I mean, that’s pretty obvious. Nonetheless, the phone rang differently. This particular day. I sensed it. Kim since that everyone did. I had just walked by the office where Kim said we call that the heartbeat of the office. The heartbeat of the funeral home is the office. She was speaking on the phone. I had walked by I did not break my stride. In passing though I heard the phone hang up and Kim say we have a call. I backtracked and entered the office. Kim said almost in this whispering voice it’s a little one Megan was coming up the hall the opposite way that I had just backtracked from I want to go she said. I looked at her and asked Are you

are you sure? I got this look now, guys, when you question your better half out of support or care it doesn’t matter if they intend to. They are going to that’s what the look I got said. We nervously walk to the transfer van at this time. The transfer van or vehicle oftentimes their vans that look just like the one a mom would carry their kids to in a soccer game or An SUV, like a dad would drive or mom, it doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to blend in not raising suspicion of any kind, you know, they don’t want to stand out, they’re transporting a deceased loved one on a cot in the back. You know, the older transfer vehicles, but they were actually the hearse. But even those who continue to be quote unquote traditional, they have this specific decal or window covering. Similar to that of the hearse. It’s, it’s those silver emblems that almost make a swoopy s or a vinyl window covering with the swoopy silver emblem. Trust me next time you see this will be silver emblem, you’ll know they’re either on their way to or back from caring for the dead. Our grand caravan, It screened soccer mom, it was awesome. Only our van had a Furneaux caught loaded in it. Along with boxes of rubber gloves. There are two body bags, and a couple of pairs of shoe coverings. All these items are known as what we call p p e naught p p p which saved us all during a pandemic. They were available for all the many different types of call scenarios. I mean, you’d be amazed and you will hear of some of the scenarios. shoe coverings are a lifesaver. So I drove to the residents. Megan and I did a lot of nervous talking. We weren’t really informed of any previous circumstances. And oftentimes when we get death calls from professionals and they say they’ve been ill for a while or something like, please know this is a sensitive moment, which could allude to suicide. We were absolutely unaware of what we were getting into this child. We are nervous, I’m so nervous. The ride to the residents from the funeral home. It wasn’t long enough. I remember parking the van and Megan arguing with herself on whether she joined me for the first interaction with the family. And the first interaction can be very lovely. Or it can be very nerve wracking. This was absolutely neither. It was gut wrenching. A child? What the hell do you say to the family? One never, ever say I’m sorry for your loss. Really, are you? I challenge you just say things such as you are loved. I’m honored to know insert name. God bless you when you go to a visitation. Prayers rising even be genuine be honest. I’m sorry for your loss is dead weight. intentions may be good. I challenge you to think of something different. I walked into the back door. I entered into the kitchen and was greeted by the coroner. To explain a coroner is dispatched to the scene of a death. You know where the death occurs while someone is not under the care of a facility such as a nursing home, a hospital. A hospice facility even though they are sometimes called there too. So, for example, if a fall at a nursing home causes a death the coroner would need to be involved in

that. Really. There’s never this simple scenario. I could throw all kinds of them out there. Hospice facilities don’t need a coroner. They don’t the loved ones are terminally ill. They’re being cared for under the orders of doctors and nurses. So they don’t need the coroner to sign off on the death. The coroner was here for this particular morning because although this child had been ill for their entire life, they were a kid a kid I had never received a sweet called from a residence before. I have gone to the hospital more and more times than I’d like to admit to receive little babies, victims of accidental drownings. car wrecks, not this. I’m standing in the kitchen, and honestly, I am uneasy. I have no idea what’s about to happen. I hear crying, faint crying. Of course, there’s crying. This little one drifted away in their sleep. The night prior and the family. This family is lovely and beautiful mind you were just beside themselves. To explain, the grandmother have spent her days tending to her grandchild. This grandchild needed round the clock care grandmother never wavered. As I’m signing the provisional and all of this is going on around me and the provisional is a document. For those of you who don’t know, it’s required by the state of Kentucky and it travels with the loved one. Throughout the entire care process. Where the paper ends up, it depends on the family’s choice for service. So if a family chooses cremation, the crematory the coroner who signs off permitting cremation after all documentations on the cremation authorization are signed. And then finally, that would go to the health department receiving copies of the original, the provisional, if a burial we take them to the cemetery for record keeping, and they send it off to the health department. So that’s important to know this. So anytime in the future provisional paper, you actually may have seen me sign one if I have cared for you. I always share with families, everything that I’m doing, by the way, when I sign these, I think it’s important to and you know, I think it’s important to say, Hey, I’m going to get with Robin, the nurse who has this document called a provisional, that allows me and my family to receive your loved one into our care and will be filed accordingly. There’s value in education. It’s why I actually am doing this podcast. It’s, it’s why we’re the best. I’ve just finished signing this paperwork. I’d like to think it was deputy, Matthews, but I honestly can’t even remember and it’s absurd. Why I can’t my memory is photographic, which is absolutely annoying. You try it try remembering everything. The bad, the embarrassing. Yeah. For those of you who have that, and mental health and all those other things, to challenge you, I tip my hat. The uncle of the little one walked up a gentle, sweet man. As he walked up to me in the kitchen, entering from the doorway, the kitchen in the living room connected through this doorway, Megan steps in from the back door to the kitchen. So she comes in, as he comes to me. The air is thick with grief. You know humans actually are very nonverbal communicators and most of our communication is nonverbal. I mean, it’s absolutely why when you’re text messaging, and you actually are stupid enough to choose that route for like a serious conversation, because that we assume there’s anger or annoyance behind the words when there may not be so just actually talk face to face so that we can see your nonverbal cues on your face, you know,

write that down. I turn and I look at Megan, and she knows what I’m asking her without even making a noise and her glance back to me is yes. Now let’s take care of him. Already. The uncle and I are exchanging conversation scheduling times, to gather as a family to support each other and discuss how we’re going to celebrate this little fella I promised him I promised the ladies that were beginning to swarm he and I on the same. They literally created almost to circle to hear everything that we said in this moment, any wall that they had up in defense that had come down, they literally let us in and not just into the residents, they let us in. They knew at this moment they did not have to be overly protective of their little one for fear if we’re good enough or worthy enough, gentle enough caring enough to help because they knew that we were all of those things. Megan and I received permission from the family we always do to go to the vehicle to retrieve our cot. We do not ever spring things upon people. And a cot picture, an ambulance and then and the ambulance is a gurney but our cot it’s not as advanced with those automatic collapsing legs. And the wheels the yellow, I think it’s yellow. Our cut is a simple silver cut. Collapsible wheels. Yes. Two buckles to reverently hold the loved one on the bed and the cut cover itself. Many funeral homes I want to point this out for the longest time use these disgustingly ugly ziplock bags, maroon mostly sometimes gray, heavy,

cold backs. I don’t know how else to explain them. Who’d want to see that? I mean, really, not me. Not you listening. We actually have a family that sews quilt covers for us. Looks like a really pretty blanket gold navy. It’s like one of those really cute quilts that your grandmother would have. It’s draped over the back of the corner of her loveseat sitting in the living room that no one ever sits in.

Yeah, you can picture that. There’s a perfectly placed white pillow on the top of this folded quilt buckled by the straps of the carpet. That is our cart. At the back of the van, I placed two pairs of rubber gloves into my suit jacket pocket. And I want to let you know being on call with someone your partner not even if you’re married to them, you actually develop little quirks when you work with them. And being my wife, I knew that she never had a pocket for her phone or gloves or anything. So you know, my pocket would suffice. So I would always grab gloves for Megan.

We’re ready to get this started. We’re at the back of the van. Both of us, at this point have tears in our eyes.

I continually am asking MEGAN I’m saying can you do this? Can you do this and that’s not at all because I doubt her it’s not because she’s pregnant with our first child

but all of that comes with those things it’s if you have never experienced it, moms and moms to be immediately develop this instinct

I you call it you know it as motherly instinct. Their abilities to be in tune with and to feel for are heightened for ever. Megan assures me she can out the cut comes from the van by this time, there’s a crowd that’s gathered concerned neighbors, kids on bikes. Everyone knows something solemn is happening and whatever was previously on the schedule, up their sleeves, whatever, it did not matter as much. And these moments, I am reminded people are genuinely good people. Personally, these moments for me are moments of grace and peace. I hold on to those moments. Megan is now leading the cot down the sidewalk. In the front. I’m in the back or head end I’m steering the wheels and they click over every crack in the sidewalk sections. We arrive at the back door of the residence in the corner holds the glass door open. Megan enters first, reverently. The family is standing through the kitchen doorway in the living room. The lights in the living room are off, windows are drawn. And that remember some cartoon on mute was flickering color on the walls. We began to prepare the cot by taking our time removing the pillow. The quilt, the two perfectly pressed white bedsheets that we had placed underneath the quilt. I released one set of the buckles. She Megan releases the second set and just as we are about to collapse the cot on either end. We were asked to leave it up. Of course, of course we did. It’s very important to let you know this in every other case, every case since then, before then, I have always taken a look as to where someone is located, backroom bathroom kitchen are they on the couch are they on the floor so that you can prepare as to how you are going to conduct care. There’s a lot of lifting and pulling and strategy involved. We don’t choose where someone passes away. We had not this particular time because I knew where we were going. We were going upstairs. It’s where the faded and constant crying was coming from. I had looked at the uncle and asked for permission to go to the holy of holies He nodded. And slowly I walk up at the top of the stairs was the baby’s bedroom. Perfectly framed door open toys, cars, colorful it was a kid’s dream room. Honestly, a big kid bed them lying there forever asleep. Being held hair rubbed and kissed apart and knelt down by the family placing my hand on theirs. And I assured them gentle, exceptional care a nonverbal communication happened and grandmother was not going to leave and I did not want her to. I wanted her to continue what she had always done before and to help. Grandma gently, tenderly lifted the child from the bed in her arms and brought them down the stairs.

Knee walk walking in front one step after the other the family and Megan weren’t expecting this selfless, beautiful act. Heartfelt, holy, somber. I turned after the banister. I made eye contact with Megan still standing on her end of the cot.

And we cried everyone did we shouldn’t be doing this. But we were but we must grandmama place placed the child on the cot that we were told not to collapse.

The little one was barely half the size of the cot. Another reminder that this is not normal. We are supposed to grow up grow old and die. How unfair. The gloves that I had placed in my pocket were useless to me about this point. I wouldn’t have even put them on just so you know if I’m needed to Megan and I asked to help with placement to which we were granted permission. Megan worked to straighten the ankles of the pajama pants. They were green actually, Ninja Turtles. And I pulled the pajama top down. reverently straightening the fabric safely. We buckled the straps like a child being tucked in at night, we placed the sheep up to the chest. I hugged every person in the room, Megan to I mean, at this point, we are all family now. I won’t share the personal exchanges that we had with our new family. That’s forever ours. I will say they know our love for them in that moment. And to this day. Just think of the powerful opportunities. Funeral Directors have to connect to truly connect to significantly impact and make a difference. Fast forwarding back in the van with our precious, precious little one. Megan wiping tears as we travel east on Fourth Street back to the home said nothing.

Not a thing that that was our last call together there’s not really any way to in this episode, maybe a little instrumental music. I would venture to say you need to go hug somebody maybe or have a deeper appreciation for those grieving. And those of us who take care of you and those who are grieving. We’ll see you at the next one. I told you and get tough in here. Take care