The final assignment of my writing class was to produce a short story using approximately 300 words. This was what I read to my class.


                                                           300 Words

I wanted to bring my 300 words to be read at our last class. They stayed home, they had caused me nothing but trouble. I gave them every chance to get organized and line up on the page to create something worthy of reading.

Did they do it? Nope! They continued to torture me so I left them at home. Let them  think about what they had done to me. They did not deserve to be here today.

I didn’t participate in the power struggle. I was the writer, if my threats of drowning them in milk like alphabet cereal, or boiling them like alphabet soup, did not phase them. What would phase them?

What was wrong with them? I arranged them into sentences and paragraphs. They still didn’t make any sense. I tried to get them to cooperate with me all night long.

They would not read the way I wanted them to. I wasn’t asking for much. Just a short story. Maybe I used to many commas and periods. That would be unlikely since they’re used to being close to them in a sentence.

I tried a few exclamation marks to make things exciting, that might cheer them up. It failed, if the words could speak. Then I would have a hint.

Whoever made up that Nursery Rhyme;  Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Oh yeah! Right! They were probably not trying to write a story.

I was fed up, my final threat , which I yelled loud and clear. “I will beat your vowels using the sticks, then crush your consonants with the stones.” Then, I screamed at them “The verbs will die a horrible death, that you wouldn’t want to witness.” Still no response…

Enough of this crazy—ridiculous—nonsense. I swallowed 2 adverbs and went to bed.  “I’ll call you in the morning.”

The Finish Line!

We’re all running the human race, for some the finish line is closer than we would like to admit. Many of us have to endure the loss of someone who crossed that line. We’re left running our own race with a one sided conversation.

The conversation continues  between the living and the dead. There is unbroken continuity. After they have crossed that finish line, their character is kept alive within us.

Think about how often we think thoughts like this. “Mom would of loved that book.” Or “Dad loved to dance.” And what we memorialize in life because we shared it with a loved one.

After death our character is what we’ve left behind, for the living to hold onto. I have heard thousands of people speak and share memories about the deceased during memorial services.

Share your thoughts, stories, and experiences about the deceased. Keep them alive in your heart. Pass around the details of their lives to others who may have known them at a different capacity than you.

There are many facets to a person and we may have only experienced a few. Death brings about an openness and allows us to realize how multifaceted some were while alive.

Character has staying power. It’s the passing of the torch at the finish line of the human race…



Are you Serious? Me?

It was a dark stormy night, the feel of death was present. Two women were approaching me. I wanted to hide and go another direction.  They saw me, I was stuck!

That’s not how the story went. It was daylight and I was in the middle of a grocery store parking lot, on my way into the store. The two women  exiting the store were friends that I had lost contact with.

So that just proves my point, death is not just a dark, hidden, isolated event. Nope! It is an equal opportunity offender. It has a mind of it’s own. Broad daylight or the middle of the night it doesn’t care.

And the rest of the story goes like this; Three women talking all at once trying to cram years of life into a brief chat. To sum it up without getting carried away, I was offered a job selling cremations.

I asked her: ” You want me to replace you?”

She said: “Yes you, I’m moving out of the area. I’m trying to replace myself,  you would be perfect.”

I said: “What do I have to do?”

She said: “Just help people plan their final arrangements. you go into their homes and sit with them.”

After exchanging information and realizing what an unusual job it was, I was hooked. I would of regretted bypassing the opportunity.

Of course, there was lots to learn. If you read a book about swimming, you only learn to swim by being in the water. And I’m going to sell cremations without having had one myself?

Was there a way to prepare for this line of work, other than trial by fire? I had doubts about my abilities. How could I be an expert on death, if I haven’t died yet? Who’s going to take my advice on death while I’m alive. No, I’m not going to die and hire a ghostwriter to prove a point!

The only education I needed was life experience. Helping others dealing with their mortality. My view is simple, the words in a sentence make sense when there are spaces between them.

The words represent mortality and the spaces represent immortality. Known and unknown. Often we reach for the unknown to give us strength, hope and courage to face the known.

I found a way to connect and be true to myself while I was employed. Honesty I had no idea what I was doing when I started. It was later, that I realized I was a human bridge connecting the known with the unknown. You gotta love a good mystery!

I was helping people get through “This” whatever “This” was at the time. It was amazing how many people just wanted to get their affairs in order after the recommendation of their financial planner or attorney.

There were also the ones that had been given their death sentence.

Exhibit A: About 2 to 3 months time to live.

Exhibit B: Burial?

Exhibit C: Cremation?

Exhibit D: Death

Did this work affect me? You bet it did! If it didn’t I would of quit. That would mean I was immune to the nature of human suffering.

It was ham and eggs. The chicken participated, but the pig was fully committed. You can’t fake it, be there 100% or move on to another job.

I was committed like the pig, I had never heard of a pre arrangement counselor, then I became one.  I believe in advanced planning. It provides the map, your survivors  can rely on at the time of your death.

Questions, questions, and more questions. What to do with the body? Cremation or burial? Who do they call? Did anyone know your final wishes?

In the mobster movies Guido answers the phone and the caller asks him to make the body disappear. Guido represents the funeral home that has your plans on file. People do not always die between office hours of 9:00 to 5:00.

Your survivors will know who to call. No plans on file, no problem. Guido always answers the phone. The question for them is not if, but when will we need Guido?









Kiss Your Ashes Goodbye (part 4)

Many families came bearing gifts. Family jewels that had sentimental value only to them. Then there were the beasts of burden. They were the ones who had to clean up after the deceased.

The possessions accumulated (hoarded) were beyond one person’s responsibility.  The family told the burdened one – ” Just toss it out.” As long as the beast did the tossing out, they were guilt- free of the disposal.

If you’re reading this, you might consider telling everyone in your family. “Go through your things carefully after your death. There are large sums of money hidden throughout your home.” Hey, why not? It brings a little adventure, and they can all share the burden.

The tone was set by the type of emotions the families were feeling. They drove, and I was passenger, metaphorically peaking.

When an elderly member of the family died, it was a reunion of sorts. The family had gathered, many had not seen each other in years. The elder was the backbone that kept family (vertebrates)  close. After they’re gone, the family gets scattered.

Whoops! Wrong choice of words. The ashes of the deceased gets scattered, never their memories from the past they shared with that person. The family continues on and becomes less informed about each other, as time passes.

Story after story, things I’ve witnessed were heartfelt and soulful. People gathering to share emotionally what death has taken from them. It’s raw, unrehearsed, and authentic.

My experiences were rich and have taught me to cherish and value life of any kind. Nature, people, animals, food are examples of a wealth that is perishable.  Dead is dead and gone is gone.

Kissing my own ash goodbye is inevitable. I have made my own arrangements to be cremated.  Yes, I’ll finally get the smoking hot body I’ve always wanted in this lifetime! I have a file in the back of my drawer labeled THE END.

Kiss Your Ashes Goodbye (part 3)

Throughout the day families boarded the boat to attend services. This was the final farewell of their loved ones. I remained unobtrusive while serving the families, as they cared for their dead.

Services were a lifetime condensed into an hours time for each family. Final words, flowers, and sometime clergy.

Some families had written their own thoughts to share, some had brought readings pertaining to death. Often the same Bible reading of Psalm 23, and Mary Elizabeth Frye’s poem, Do not stand at my grave and weep were repeated over and over by several families.

I was handed pages to read when leaky eyes blurred their vision. I was always close by when an unexpected situation arose. The repetitive passages that I had to listen to or read out loud, made me want to cry too. Not because of sadness or being swept away in the moment.  It was because of boredom, same repetitive readings over and over. They were killing me!

My favorites were the families being casual, nothing rehearsed. Those (remember when) moments were the best. They told stories, everyone contributed. Each shared personally, adding to the story.

As time passes, you realize the stories of your past are no longer interactive. You standalone with your precious moments.

Some situations were funny. The people that prepared for seasickness, arrived over medicated on Dramamine. They were sicker than sea sick! The prevention was worse than the illness.

Babies in the arms of the mother adapted beautifully; they fell asleep from the motion of the water. The rocking of the boat on water was a familiar sensation, like a womb with a view!

One particular situation stood out as unusual. The urn with the man’s name on it appeared normal. The sequence of events that occurred were abnormal. Lost and found was the name of the game I played. After transferring urns from the crematory to car, then to the boat, where they stayed until the day of their service.

The amount of transporting left room for errors. It was count and recount to make sure I wasn’t leaving any urns behind. This one urn kept disappearing on me. The urn was (always) where I placed it. Somehow, I kept overlooking it and thought it was lost in transit. It had never moved from where it was placed. The only thing I was losing was my mind! The urn just appeared to be lost…

The day of his service, family had arrived and shared stories about what a practical joker he was. No Kidding, maybe I should of shared my story with them.



Kiss Your Ashes Goodbye! (Part 2)

“Yabba Dabba Doo!” I yelled like Fred Flintstone. Leaving the cremation cave behind me. Most people wouldn’t have a clue about where I’d been earlier that day. I made no bones about it,  the crematory was not a favorite place of mine.

Driving to the boat, I noticed life being lived. Kids playing, dogs being walked and gardeners pruning their yards. Unlike me with a backseat of dead people. It was a nice contrast.

The death care industry is a hidden part of society, until you need us. You had the party, we’re here to help you clean up. We didn’t end the party, death did that.”Death is a Killjoy” There, I said it…

My 55 urns in the back seat were headed out for their one-way boat trip. Knowing the routine, I’d been the travel agent that booked those one way trips.

Working on a boat had it’s own challenges. Water has an insatiable appetite, it will instantly accept anything you drop into it. Keys, jewelry, cameras, anything that doesn’t float. Floating items can be swept away quickly making retrieval impossible, before those items go under too.

From my car, was a steep ramp, a fifty foot stretch of dock over water. Carry the dead, over the water, on the dock, to the boat we go!

Carrying these urns on moving slippery docks was risky. My worst fears were dropping the urns into the water. As a precaution , I thought about wrapping the urns in life jackets. You’ve heard of the Dead mans float, right?

It’s my job to keep them out of the water, until the day of their scheduled sea scattering. Sounds like an oxymoron, life jackets for dead people…

All Aboard! I counted the urns after they’re on board. Hail! Hail! the Gangs All Here. It’s time to make calls to the families that would be present the day of the services.

About half of the urns would be scattered without family and/or friends present. This was a separate trip, this option was chosen for various reasons.

Many of these people did not have extended family, or had outlived their friends. There were some that had family and friends that could not attend because of distance.

And the dreaded thought of seasickness kept many away. If you’ve ever had severe seasickness, it could make you envy the dead…


The remaining ones would have their services attended by family and friends. Each family had a different type of service and I was always surprised by what what could and did happen.

You have leverage with cremation. Scattering parents together, when one has died years earlier, is a possibility. Families liked that option. They can plan and gather at their convenience.  Why not have it your way?

Reading and hearing different viewpoints about what the dead feel, think , or do. These opinions are stated by the living. Until I hear from a dead person, the events I’ve witnessed are questionable and valid.

I consider myself a seasoned living death expert. I did not play God. Like I have stated before truth does not always equal facticity. Follow my thoughts and you may agree with me.

The family has gathered for the memorial service for Grandmother June. The scattering has already taken place. They’re reminiscing about her love of birds. A seagull has landed on the wheelhouse of the boat. They spot it and were in agreement, it was a sign from her.

They’re convinced, Grandmother June sent this bird thanking them for her service. It’s true, the bird was on the boat, is it a fact their Grandmother June sent it? Divine Intervention? Maybe Grandmother June herself?

Those moments were  sacred to the family, likely passed onto others who were not in attendance. I never took comfort away from a family. I did not rain on their parade, and thankfully neither did the seagull…