The Order of Service - Dealing with Death

    At my recent grandfathers funeral I became aware of the significance of the order of service book.  How this one simple book could have such an impact upon people.  Thus I've decided to do a series of posts about it, from how and why it can help deal with death to how to make a useful and interesting booklet.  So read on and find out about an often overlooked and yet significant part of the funeral practice.

    The 'order of service' can be called many things, for example the Catholics would refer to it as a "mass book".  Despite the many names it is always the same thing at every funeral.  There may be slight variations but basically it is the booklet which lists what is to happen at the funeral and gives some information about the deceased or their family.

    One thing I noticed during my grandfathers funeral was how much effort and care was put into making the order of service.  My aunt, who was organising it, wanted to get the working and design perfect.  Which was a tricky task considering she had a couple of days to organise and print them off.  After printing them off we all helped to fold them.  Here again I noticed how much care was put into folding them, everyone made sure the folds were straight and crisp.  For everyone the orders of service were very important and personal.  This has made me realise how the order of service can be used to help deal with the loss of a loved one.

    An issue I've realised with organising funerals is how little progress there appears to be.  One can spend a week arranging and organising a funeral for their loved one and yet it does not feel like much gets done.  Important and emotional decisions are made and yet there is nothing to show for it.  For example when people pick a coffin it is usually through a book.  They look through the book at the pictures and pick the one they like.  No different from how one would pick furniture out of a catalogue.  This distances people from the significance and emotions of their decision.  Then after all these decisions are made people do not see them enacted until the day of the funeral.  Going back to the example of the coffin, it is not seen until the funeral.  It is an emotional and expensive thing which is not seen until the end.  This creates a sense of stagnation as though little progress has been made.  That the decisions made have little impact.  Which is not a good feeling for the family or friends.

    Here is where the order of service can be used to counter this.  The family can be directly involved in all aspects of the booklets.  They can design them, print them and sort them.  They can be involved throughout the process and see it develop first hand.  As such this will help to create a sense of progress and make people feel involved in the funeral process.

    The order of service are a great way to get everyone involved in the funeral process.  People can discuss and preview the design.  Later everyone can be actively involved in preparing the order of service, people could fold or staple them after they're printed.  Getting people involved like this lets people think about the funeral and death of the deceased before the event.  To build up slowly rather than be suddenly confronted with the funeral.  Plus it's a great way to bring people together, to have everyone sit around a table doing the same task, chatting and eating as they do so.  Sharing food and tasks are good ways of connecting and communicating with each other.  So this will help people process and prepare for the funeral, but it will also bring the family and friends together and prevent people feeling lonely.

    Yet the order of service is so much more than this.  It is a representative and physical part of the funeral and deceased.  The order of service is treated as a physical part of the funeral process and is bound up with many emotions.  The way my grandmother held the first printout was a great display of this.  She held it with longing care.  A sad smile slid slowly over her and she looked over the book for a while before handing it back.  It was not just a book but a bit of her husband, one of the very last bits of him, and it was a bit of his funeral yet to come.  In other words the order of service is an actual piece of the funeral process and the deceased.  This is most obvious in the way that the order of service often has a picture the and dates of birth and death of the deceased.

    Unlike many other parts this is one people can hold and keep.  The coffin for example is possibly more important (emotionally and physically) but it cannot be taken home.  It canot be kept and it is barely interacted with.  On the other hand there is the order of service is something people can take and keep as long as they like.  When working as an undertaker I found people really wanted an order of service, and that almost everyone kept them.  Rarely where the orders of service left behind in the chapel and when they were left it was by the immediate family.  This was because the family had been distracted by other things such as carrying the coffin and often left other personal belongings behind as well.  Or because they had a copy or two at home and knew they could (and would) print more copies later.

    It is also a piece that can be sent and given to others who did not attend the funeral.  Thus it can make people who did not attend feel part of the funeral process.  They were not able to go but could bring a bit of the funeral to them.  I noticed this while working in the funeral industry, that many who could not go would ask the family for an order of service.  Then at my grandfathers funeral I saw how the family overseas who could not make it were really happy to get an order of service.  It's a really nice gesture that will make people feel involved and part of the event.

    This post only covers the surface of the order of service.  It is a very complex and intricate thing which is bound up with a lot of emotions and meanings.  This makes it the perfect thing to help people deal with the upcoming funeral and death of a loved one.  So pay attention to the order of service and try to involve people in its creation.


A Personal Death - The funeral

Fig 1. Front of the little handout.
It's actually a really nice silver, but
my scanner can't pick it up properly
    The funeral was held yesterday (Thursday), and overall it was exactly what was wanted and needed.  I did notice some mistakes and really interesting things

    Firstly I'll run through the funeral, what happened to give some background understanding of the event.  The family car arrived, which was blue, for my grandmother and off we went.  The funeral was only a short distance away so the trip was quick.  On arrival I saw the hearse was also blue, I'd never seen a blue hearse so that was rather fun.  It was just a basic ford hearse, a fairly common one and no different to many others I had seen save its color.  We entered the chapel, a rather nice and spacious place.  The coffin was down at the end, lying parallel to the stage and with the podium slightly to the side.  The service went well, short and to the point while still covering the details.  It was a fairly formal service, kind of surprising considering how liberal my grandfather and the family were and are.  At the end of the service I and three other family members wheeled the coffin out, loaded him into the hearse and watched it drive off.  Then we all went back inside the chapel and had some food.  The food was provided by Celest Catering, who are InvoCare's preferred caterers as they always do a very good job.  Overall it was a good funeral and everyone came away happy.

Fig 2. Back of the handout.
His date of birth is wrong here.
He was born 11 of September 1929.
    We had 100 orders of service printed up on nice paper.  My aunt organised them from the design to the printing and she did a rather good job.  It was also the exact number we needed, I noticed there were about 20 or so left over which meant everyone got one and not too many went to waste.  But we also had little hand outs which I really liked.  The hand outs were small silver cards, about double the size of a business card.  His picture was on the front, as seen in figure 1.  The back had his name, date of birth, date of death and a small message as seen in figure 2.  At the bottom of the back was an ad for the funeral home, and nobody minded this ad.  Actually I, and others, appreciated it as it's a great way to see which company did the funeral.  It is a great idea that I hope is a standard option with all InvoCare companies.

    Naturally working in a funeral home I have developed a different view and understanding of funerals.  I do not and cannot see them the same way as I did before joining the industry.  It's strange how others do not see the same things I do when we are presented with the same scene.  For example I noticed that they turned the coffin anti-clockwise instead of clockwise, and that the conductor only used one hand while simultaneously talking to the family.  To me these are two rather large mistakes, the coffin should always be turned clockwise (to represent the passage of time) and it should be treated as important enough to use both hands.  While I noticed this nobody else did, none of my family or the other mourners saw the mistake.  Once I mentioned it they realised, but until I said it they never thought of it.

The blue ford hearse.
    Another 'mistake' was the instructions given by the conductor.  The family were to wheel out then carry a short distance to the hearse.  The conductor instructed us to wheel by the handel, incredibly strange and actually quite difficult to do.  To wheel by the handel one has to bend and cannot push as hard or as accurately as needed.  Instead I have always been taught to wheel by the thumbscrews.  Taking ahold of the thumbscrews and pulling or pushing them to move the coffin is much better and safer.  It means there is no risk the coffin will slide off the trolly and needs less effort to move the thing.  So naturally I took hold of a thumbscrew and they held the handels.  Then they did not push much meaning I had to push it along, difficult to do well with just one corner.  The other issue was as we went down the stairs, the conductor had not told everyone to keep it level, as in raise the lower end.  Keeping it level makes it easier and safer to carry and means anything like flowers wont slide off.  Again, it was lucky I was at the lower end and knew to keep it level.  I feel the conductor should have given better and different instructions.

    Not only do I see these little mistakes but I see the whole funeral differently to others.  To me it is not as sad as other people found it, well, that isn't right.  I have been to a lot of funerals and as such they have become mundane and predictable.  In just one year I lost count of how many funerals I went to.  So for me a funeral was almost like another day at work.  However most other people go to a handful of funerals in their whole life.  For them it is a special unique event which they have little experience with.

The hearse moving away, taking him
to the crematorium.
    So I took pictures with my phone, which I noticed others saw as strange.  Nobody took issue with my taking photos (mainly as I was discrete) but they did not like it.  It made them uncomfortable, and when I questioned this they could not exactly say why.  They said it was "unusual" or "not normally done", but this is not a good reason as while the unusual our strange can make us uncomfortable it was not the impression I got.  I'm not sure why it made people uncomfortable but it was because it was more than just 'unusual' to them.  It was almost wrong, taboo or inappropriate to be taking pictures there and then.  But I took them anyway, and know that in the future others will appreciate it.

    However my previous experience at funerals has almost always been as an undertaker and not as a mourner.  One moment in particular made me realise how I didn't actually know what to do as a mourner and how others must feel at funerals.  The desire not to mess up, to get everything right and yet the lack of experience or understanding about what is going on.  This moment was just after we loaded the coffin into the hearse.  I went to stand next to the hearse driver and realised that was wrong, it was were the undertakers stood, not the mourners.  Then I stood there for a moment, unsure where to go.  So I took a few steps back and stood with the crowd of mourners.  But it was really surprising, how my instinct kicked in and I made my way to stand next to the staff and did not know where to stand as a mourner.

Front of the Order of Service book.
    The next thing was when they shut the door of the hearse I immediately thought of going back inside and moving the trolley which the coffin had been wheeled on.  I even started to move off and realised everyone else was still standing and watching the hearse.  Without instruction or communication they had all just known to wait until it was out of sight.  Whereas I was wanting to move away, because as an undertaker we are not to move until the back door is shut.  Once shut we immediately make our way about to the various things that need doing.  And this is exactly what I was instinctively doing, to me shutting the door is the signal to move away.  People do not normally notice but all the undertakers will evaporate away from the hearse at this point.  Thus I found it strange and awkward that everyone stood about and expected me to stand about also, normally I can and should leave at this point.  It was just really strange and uncomfortable for me.  It was that unsure feeling as though something had been forgotten.  Like wondering if you really locked the car, or left a light on or whatever.

    I also felt like this as I entered the funeral, it was so odd to be signing the book rather than getting people to sign.  As I walked in I felt as though I should be behind the table with the book.  It was so very unnatural to be standing in the room as a mourner.  Then sitting there at the front during the service was also odd.  I had always existed outside the service until the end points.  I would wait outside, or sit way at the back, never had I sat down amongst the other mourners.  All through the service I felt out of place, that I should be at the back with the other undertakers.

    Now I know how many mourners feel at funerals.  Unsure what to do or where to go, and with so much pressure to behave properly.  A funeral is a rather busy event with a lot to know and yet nobody to tell you.  So I will make more posts about how to be a mourner at a funeral and hopefully this will help someone someday.

    One of my other uncles on the other side of the family, unrelated to my grandfather attended the funeral.  He had gotten on really well with my grandparents for several years and it was nice he could come.  After the funeral I was chatting to him and he said how strange it was that nobody was in tears much.  To me that was normal, people were sad but not bawling their eyes out.  Yet to him, being Greek, people are normally very emotional at funerals, and with life in general.  I thought that was an intriguing comment about the emotional display.  It really supports this other post of mine about how emotional displays (such as crying) is socially and culturally learned rather than instinctive.

    And all this is after just one year in the industry!  It makes me wonder how other undertakers who have been doing this for decades feel as a mourner.  Perhaps they do not feel as out of place as I did or maybe they feel more out of place.

    As for the funeral home I would be happy to go back to them.  The staff were nice, approachable and acted professionally.  So overall I feel there was good value for money and they did do a good job.  The mistakes they made would go unnoticed with most mourners and did not impact affect the service.

Inside the chapel.

The family car which drove my grandmother. 
The blue ford hearse.

Securing the coffin.
Walking the hearse off.

The hearse about to turn onto the road and drive away.
Inside the Order of Service, first page.
Inside the Order of Service, second (and last) page.

Back of the Order of Service book.



A Personal Death - The little details

    Tomorrow is my grandfathers funeral.  If you read yesterdays post then you know that by now I'm in Brisbane to help prepare for the event.  We arrived at the airport just before lunch, checked into our bead and breakfast and then headed over to meet up with my uncle and aunt at my grandmothers for lunch.  There were so many things I had never seen organised or being finalised.  I have been on many funerals and only ever seen these things in their final and finished stage.  So this was a fascinating and very informative.  Overall it was a fairly nice day, but it was not without issues.

    My grandmother has dementia, bad enough that the doctors have determined she is no-longer mentally competent to sign legal documents, yet she is not completely lost.  She has a bad understanding of time, thinking of a quick moment as an eternity and then thinking of a long time as just a second.  She has no issue with the idea that she went skydiving with my grandfather yesterday and will go to his funeral tomorrow.  Naturally everyone wants to keep talk of the funeral to a minimum around her, when she stresses her dementia gets worse.  Plus it obviously upsets her as she really cared for her husband.

    At one stage about 5 of us gathered to the side and quietly discussed tomorrow.  Basically when and what was happening.  My cousin was concerned about the weight of the coffin as we would be carrying it.  I told her about how there won't be far to go or much weight, at the foot end everything is rather light.  This is because well over half of our weight is above our waist, from the waist down there is very little weight.  The coffin itself should only be about 20kg and he was losing weight towards the end (as he was unable to eat or drink) os he wouldn't weigh much more than that.  Knowing this really comforted her and she was happier about the idea of carrying.

    I think most people are nervous about carrying a coffin if they've never done it before, as with most new things.  There is a lot of anticipation and pressure, you're up there, infront of people and carrying something, no, someone who is very important to them.  To drop the coffin, trip or just mess up would be terrible.  I remember this from the first couple of times I carried, the nervousness I felt.  But everything went fine and stories of dropped coffins are so very rare.  There are plenty of close calls where a handel has come off or someone trips as they are walking with the coffin.  However in every case they or someone else saves the coffin.  The most common time a coffin is dropped is when it's being lowered, not carried.  Yet that's another story as it's not what we are doing on this funeral.

    Something that I had never thought about and is very important is the orders of service.  Someone has to print them, or organise them to be printed.  In this instance my aunt printed them off (and did a good job) then brought them over for us to fold.  It was almost strange how much emphasis and importance these booklets had.  They were only one A4 page folded in half and yet a lot of work and effort had gone into them.  My aunt was so concerned with the wording that she had been tempted to reprint all 100 just to change a few words which nobody else noticed.  My other family were then so attentive to folding the booklets, making sure each and every fold was straight and sharp.

    I'd never thought much of the orders of service (or mass booklets) before today.  I mean, they have always been very important to me.  I knew how the family love getting a few extra to sent to "those who were unable to make it" to the funeral as I use to say.  The order of service was always an important tool on the funeral as it gave an idea of how long things would take, what was to happen (and when) and where the family was going back to if I was driving them.  I also knew how people loved to get one, that it was such an important part of the funeral, like a pice of the service that they could take home and literally hold onto.  So the order of service was always important to me, but not in the same way as I now see it.  I saw how much effort and attention was put into this single A4 page and how much it meant to everyone.

    It is a actually a physical piece of the funeral that people can hold and keep.  A piece that the family can directly make and shape.  They see little impact of their decisions until the day.  For example they pick the coffin, where the funeral is and so on.  Yet none of these things are seen or happen until the day.  To pick a coffin out of a book does not feel like much of a decision or that important.  All they did was talk of prices and pick a picture from a book.  We put more effort into buying a TV and inspect it before buying it.  It is not until the funeral that most people will actually see the coffin or the other decisions they made.

    Even then many of the more important choices are invisible to families.  They make quite important decisions and yet never ever see the result or progress of these choices.  For example how many see or know about how the body makes it to the funeral home.  Another and more relatable example is clothing. Families often put a fair bit of thought into what the deceased should wear or have in the coffin.  Then in many of these cases they never see inside the coffin.  They do not see the deceased wearing the clothes, holding what they are meant to and so on.  This creates a tension, to make important emotional decisions then be totally divorced from the results has a dehumanising effect which makes the whole thing a little unreal.  To be separated from the outcome of our emotional decisions reduces the importance and reality of these decisions.

    The order of service is a wonderful way to counter all this.  It is a product families can see as it's being made; how it's being made, when it's completed and so on.  It is something they can put emotion into and personalise, such as including photos and dates of the deceased.  And it is something they can actively participate in, from designing it to printing it or even just folding copies.  It is something they can 'create' and make.  It then becomes so much more than just a 'booklet', it is a physical piece of the funeral and the deceased.  What lead me to realise this was the way my grandmother held the first test copy, she held it with longing care.  A sad smile slid slowly over her and she looked over the book for a while before handing it back.  It was not just as book but a bit of her husband, one of the very last bits and a bit of his funeral yet to come.

    Now I realise the significance of the order of service and will do a post dedicated to it another time.  Things to include and avoid, it's significance and how this simple bit of paper might very well be an unsung tool to deal with the death of a loved one.  It makes me wonder what other little details actually hold more significance than I realise.  Things like the food I had always thought of as vital are treated as trivial while the other supposedly mundane and unimportant are treated as crucial.

    All is set and we are just waiting for the funeral now.  And 'waiting' is the perfect word, I notice the family are basically counting down the time.  Time has become more important, 10 tomorrow morning now has more meaning and significance than it did yesterday morning.  They wait and I wait, it will be a long night for some and a short night for others.  But I think everyone will remember tonight.


Another strange realisation has just crept into my mind as I finish up the post.  Both in this post and in earlier conversations I refer to my grandfather in his coffin as "the coffin", just as I would at a funeral as an undertaker.  I talk of him in the coffin no different to any other dead person who I'd never met on a funeral I had no personal attachment to.  While strange, and arguably impersonal, I do not know any other way to refer to it or him.  He is "the coffin" to me once the lid is on.  And I realise that others also referred to "the coffin", but did they learn this from me?


A Personal Death - Arranging the funeral

    My grandfather died last week, not to anyones surprise and in some ways actually welcomed.  The whole process of his death and organising the funeral was interesting and very relevant to this blog.  Hopefully by examining this from a personal perspective I can get and share a deeper understanding of how funerals are done.  But from the perspective of a family mourner rather than an undertaker.

    My grandfathers health had been deteriorating over the last couple of years so everyone saw it coming, even him.  He had gone into hospital a few weeks before his death to treat his sore foot.  During the exames they found a serious cancer and admitted him where his health worsened rapidly.  His last few weeks were spent bed ridden, unable to eat or speak.  So his death was not as unpleasant as it could have been.

    When the doctors informed us he had a week or less to live a few of the family came to me about funeral information.  After all, I do have some experience in the industry, however I reminded them that I only had one years experience and was just a 'pleb' amongst many.  Even so I was able to help and suggest some things.  Because my grandfathers' brother is in England and quite old himself he would be unable to attend the funeral.  So I said we should make sure to send him an order of service or anything else like that.

    Things were left here and no more plans for his funeral were organised.  Many of his family (such as myself) live in Sydney which makes it difficult to organise things all the way up in Brisbane.  The family in Brisbane have been very busy with things I can't go into.  So they were unable to make anymore arrangements.

    However I think there was another more important reason for delaying plans for his funeral.  It was as though not planning his funeral while he was still alive was delaying or denying his death.  In reality everyone (including him) knew his death was coming, yet nobody was pushing toward organising his funeral.  this delay came from emotion rather than reason.  Quite understandable really as death and loved ones are more emotional than reasonable things for us.  So the delay in organising his funeral until after his death was predictable and understandable.  Perhaps this is why most people do not organise funerals until after the person is dead, even when they see it coming.

    After his death there was movement within the family.  People had to be called and the news passed around.  There was a lot of talk about the funeral, what should be done and when it could be held.  ANZAC Day was around the corner  (and still is as I write this) which limited the possible days.  There was an interesting and strange sense of urgency here.  Once he was dead that the funeral should be held sooner than later.  While there was not 'rush' there was most certainly a 'hurry' to get it sorted.  I found this interesting, how the funeral arrangements had been delayed (actively on some levels) while he was still alive, even though everyone knew how long was left, yet now after his death were urgent.  It was almost as thought there was an unspoken and uncertain time limit.  From working in the industry I know how a funeral could be delayed as long as desired.  Refrigeration (which is standard) can preserve a body for a week or more and embalming can preserve a body forever if done right.  So it was not as thought he would 'go bad' or something while the funeral was arranged.  On some level I think everyone knew this, but it was not the reason for the urgency.  The urgency came from a desire to 'finish the business' so to speak, closure in other words.  He was now dead for sure and people wanted to deal with it through putting him to rest.

    In Brisbane they approached a couple of funeral homes before settling with an InvoCare owned one.  We planed a small service within the funeral home chapel, after which his coffin will be carried out and taken to the crematorium for a No Service No Attendance (NSNA).  The reception or wake will be held in the same chapel after he is driven away.  To be honest I was a little disappointed because driving in cortege is the best part of the funeral to me.  It would have been good to experience this from a mourners perspective.  But this way was considerably cheaper, simpler and easier for my grandmother, all of which I think he would have preferred.

    All in all the funeral is costing about $8,000, not too high a price considering.  But I worked at one of the most expensive funeral homes in Sydney and had little to do with prices or costs.  So while I thought $8,000 was a little high for such a simple service the price is understandable and reasonable.  My grandmother did not see it this way, she thought the price was well and truly too high and was quite unhappy about it.  But that is just her way and she appears to have accepted it.  Again, it's interesting from a mourners perspective to be talking about 'costs' and 'prices' in relation to a dead loved one.  It is not putting a value on their life (or death in this case) but it is still strange.  And I'm not sure why it's strange, it just is.  It's also surprising that my initial reaction at hearing the price was to think of it as high without thinking  Once I heard a breakdown of the costings and thought about it I realised how it was, or is, a decent price for what we get.

    Anyway, there it stands, I'll fly up to Brisbane with some family tomorrow morning (ANZAC Day), a day before the funeral so we can spend time with the family.  The funeral will be held the next day (Thursday)

    On a side note one thing that also interests me is how the funeral is with InvoCare (Metropolitan to be exact) and my attitudes considering I know how they operate.  They are a good and bad company when handeling the dead.  Everything is quite respectful and decent.  Yet it is a modern process, much like McDonalds.  I'll go into detail about this in another post, but for now I will say that while the staff and this system try to be personal and caring they do not always succeed.  The system becomes cold to remain efficient.  Yet knowing this I have no issue with my grandfather going through the InvoCare system.  They may be cold, efficient and profit driven but what big company isn't?  At least they genuinely try to do right by the mourners and deceased.



Funeral Fun - The attack

The garage at Newtown.
    It was a late night, just three of us were to work back after hours for a vigil when one of us was almost attacked.  This incident was perhaps one of the funniest things that has ever happened to me, I ended up laughing so much and so hard that I actually hurt my lungs a little.  I may sound a little strange or mean to laugh so much at the attack of another employee, but read on and see why.


Hotdogs Out of Hearses - Serving hot dogs the living will relish

    I came across this interesting little article on Nothing To Do With Arbroath.  The articles is about a car collector who bought a used Cadillac hearse for only $12,000 at an auction (quite cheap actually).  When picking it up he was surprised to discover that there was a coffin inside.  One thing lead to another and he converted the inside of the coffin to a stove and started selling hot dogs out of it.

    What got my attention was when he said "some people take a dim view of this because of the controversy of mixing food and death."  Ie goes on to say that  "I've had a lot more people stop me just to take a picture."  This was interesting to me as it says a lot about how we see the hearse and the coffin as well as death.

    To me (and most other undertakers) there is nothing special about the hearse of coffin.  I see the hearse as just a car and little else.  And the coffin is a cheap wooden box (or sometimes metal) with nothing else to it.  To me a coffin is as special as a table and the hearse is as special as a taxi.  I most certainly do not associate the hearse or coffin with death or anything like it.

    However this is not the same for others, especially those who do not or have not worked in the industry.  From the quote we see that some people do not like the idea of "mixing food and death".  That there is something taboo about this, that people think of it as wrong.  This could be because some associate or at least link the hearse and coffin with death and that food should not be associated with death.

    On the flip side the desire to sell food from a hearse says just as much as the ideas against it.  The idea of mixing food and death (as the article puts it) is novel or strange.  One customer stated that they were "going to tell everyone in the office about this," so clearly to them buying a hotdog here was a story worth telling to others.  It's not because anything unusual or special happened, they bought a hot dog.  We would hardly tell our co-workers about buying a hotdog normally.  But she caught it from a hearse, and this in itself was worth telling for her.  There is clearly a certain novelty about this business, for both the customers and sellers, which is also evident in the fact that this was considered news worthy.  I highly doubt a story about a new hotdog vendor would gather much attention normally.

    Despite this it is clear and understandable that the novelty is only temporary with the business owner saying that "once the novelty goes over, and people laugh, I want the food quality to be tops."  The article follows with "in other words, keep serving hot dogs the living will relish."  The novelty is only temporary, which is expected.  Repeated interactions with most things will make it mundane, only new things are novel.  I also expect it to be a temporary novelty from this business as there is really nothing special about it.  It's no different to selling hotdogs out of a truck as the hearse is just a long car and the coffin is just a stove and table.  So once people by a hotdog or two they would come to realise this, that really it was only a superficial novelty at best.

    Another thing that grabbed me was the taboo of mixing food and death.  Yet we do this constantly at almost every funeral.  Almost all funerals will have food at the end, it is rather unusual not to eat at a funeral.

    This business brings a hearse and coffin to the public, showing how food and death can be directly mixed.  However in doing this it is also saying there is something strange or novel about the hearse and coffin which is untrue in many ways.


Original Article at Mercury News.


Macquarie Park Videos

    Originally I wasn't going to post these, they're basically advertisements and as such are a bit bias.  However they're a good look at the place and show a bit of detail.  Plus most people like to see things.  So rather than just explaining and describing Macquarie Park I thought some videos would be nice.

Macquarie Park Cemetery and Crematorium
    A background of the crematorium and a look at the facility.  Note the emphasis on 'caring', 'personal' and 'modern' facilities and staff.

Produced by Sonic Sight.

Macquarie Park Cemetery and Crematorium - The Chapels
    This looks specifically at the crematorium chapels, showing how they are set up and what is offered.  It shows how the service can be recorded, what the chapels look like and so on.

Produced by Sonic Sight.

Macquarie Park Cemetery and Crematorium - Funeral Advice
    A look at the services available and how Macquarie Park will make the funeral as "easy" and "smooth"as possible to arrange and carry out.  It shows the function rooms (only briefly) and the playground for children.

Produced by Sonic Sight.

    These three videos are an interesting look into how Macquarie Park wants to be seen and used by others.  That it is convenient (or "easy"), efficient, caring, personal and most of all modern.  The emphasis on the technology provided and how it can be integrated into a funeral is quite interesting and not something most other crematoriums emphasise or even provide.

    Either way I hope these videos give a better understanding of the place and how it operates.  It is the model of a modern and efficient system that does a good job and delivers value for money.



An Inside Look: Macquarie Park Cemetery & Crematorium

Birds eye view of Macquarie Park.
The entrance is via the road on the right.
    This is perhaps one of the best cemeteries and crematoriums in Sydney and certainly my favourite.  One of the best things about this place is that at the crematorium a concierge is provided for free.  Overall the staff, facilities and location are all very good.

    A common mistake many make is they confuse Macquarie Park with Northern Suburbs.  This is a major issue as many take a while to realise and are late for the service.  It may appear a silly mistake but it's quite understandable.  Both are located only 5-10mins drive from each other and they even shared the same name until recently.  Macquarie Park was called 'Northern Suburbs Cemetery' as it did not have a crematorium and Northern Suburbs Crematorium did not have a cemetery.  But then Macquarie Park built a crematorium and a name change was needed.  If you do make the mistake then do not panic, they're only 10mins appart and on the same road (Delhi Rd).

    Another thing to note is that Macquarie Park is not owned by InvoCare or any councils, it is an 'independent' organisation.


    Macquarie Park Cemetery & Crematorium is in a lovely area, surrounded on one side by a bushy valley and far enough from the freeway (which is on the other side) that you would never even know it was there.

Macquarie Park directions and maps.

Getting There & Getting Around:

Pond on the right of the gate as you enter.
    If going by train or bus you want North Ryde Station, NOT Macquarie Park Station.  This is a common mistake as despite the name Macquarie Park cemetery & crematorium is not near Macquarie Park station at all.

    Another issue many face is when driving they cannot put an address into the GPS as the place has no actual address.  Instead put in Plassey Rd, Macquarie Park.

Driving there:

    When driving if you are going North on the M2 freeway do not miss the turn off after the Lane Cove tunnel.  If you miss this exit it is about 9km or 15-20mins each way to the next exit.  To avoid this keep in the left lane through the Lance Cove tunnel and exit left shortly after the tunnel ends.  After exiting the M2 you will need to do a right into Delhi Rd, so keep to the right lane.  Stay in the right lane when turning right as it will make merging ahead easier.  If you are going South on the M2 and miss the turn into Delhi Rd do not panic.  There is a small side street ahead on the left, go up this and follow the road straight into Plassey Rd.  But this turn off is small and easy to miss, so keep an eye out and only use it as a last resort.

    The main gate is located on Plassey Rd, just off Delhi Rd, this is actually the only gate which you can drive through, the rest are pedestrian access only.  You are able to turn both left or right onto Plassey Rd with the aid of traffic lights.  This gate is on the left as you drive up Plassey Rd and almost impossible to miss due to the large sign.

    The crematorium is perhaps the easiest place to get to and yet once there many mourners or taxies go the wrong way.  Firstly, to get to the crematorium enter Macquarie Park then turn right into the first driveway.  That's it, you're there!  It's only bout 10-20 meters from the min gate and hard to miss (although not well signposted).  Once there many people continue straight and go into the car park, yet some will turn left and go into the funeral car lane (which is sign posted)  This lane is narrow, one-way only and has tight corners, this means the car could end up blocking another funeral.  Usually people do this when trying to drop someone off as close to the chapel as possible.  However this is unnecessary and disruptive as there is a free shuttle service offered by Macquarie Park if you ask at the main office and there is lots of disability parking nearby.

    Getting to the function rooms and main office is very easy and simple, follow the road as you enter.  Pass the crematorium car park and here you have two options depending on who you are and what you want.  Most people should park in the next car park on the right and walk the very short distance to the office/function rooms.  The next option is to follow the road past this car park, turn right at the intersection, turn right again and continue straight for a little bit.  You will see another car park and the function rooms on the right.  Another thing is that there will be a green line painted on the road from the main gate to the office, so you can just follow this.  This other option will let you park closer but it may be parked out or reserved for funeral cars, so it is not always viable or appropriate.

    If entering as a funeral cortege you will be going to the main office before continuing to the grave.  Sometimes people get out when the cortege stops at the office but they shouldn't.  I will explain in detail elsewhere but stay in the car until the grave.  For now to get to the office follow the green line on the road as you enter, turning right at the first and second intersection.

    Navigating the cemetery itself can be tricky, although it is well signposted it is full of twisty streets and few obvious land marks.  So unless you know the place grab a free map from the main office.

Macquarie Park directions and maps.


    The most notable and unique thing about Macquarie Park is the crematorium which was opened in late 2004.  With three large chapels (named Palm, Camellia and Magnolia), large and close car park and very modern design it is bigger and better than many other crematoriums.  All three chapels are exactly the same in almost every way.  The entrance is covered by a large awning and glass doors at the entrance.  As you enter there is a "crying room" to the right, which is sealed off yet has a window into the chapel.  This room is often used for viewing or as a change room.  Also on the left as you enter is the concierge room where the concierge will sit and monitor the service.  The floors are white tiled and the walls are a creme, there is a glass wall with doors on the left which leads to a courtyard and garden.  This area can be used as 'over flow' if the chapel is full.  Naturally there are toilets near every chapel.  Another notable and wonderful thing is the catafalque, it is completely mobile, silent and looks decent.  So you can wheel it out of the chapel and right to the hearse.  This makes handeling of heavy bodies very easy.

    Each chapel can seat about 200 people and through use of the overflow areas can easily accomodate over 300.

    There are three function rooms (or reception center), each of varying size.  All lead out to a nice courtyard with seating if people prefer to sit outside or just need the extra room.  Just next to the rooms are several toilets and a playground.  This playground is perhaps the best thing about the function rooms as despite it being basic it is quite nice, new, fenced in and within sight of the rooms.  No other function centers offer a a playground like this.  Another handy thing is that there is plenty of parking nearby and the it is within a short walking distance of the crematorium.  So it's quite convenient.

    Most large cemeteries have a cafe nearby, the one at Macquarie Park makes a nice coffee and sandwiches and has good staff.  However it is a little costly.  It also sells a few flowers.

Macquarie Park Facilities.


Memorial Hill; the new section of the cemetery.
Opened in 2011.
    The best thing about the crematorium at Macquarie Park is that they provide a free concierge to assist the funeral.  This concierge will run all the Audio Visual equipment (playing videos, playing music, recording the service, etc) and help out if needed, such as carrying the coffin.  No other crematorium currently provides a staff member like this let alone for free.

    Macquarie Park also provides a free shuttle service for those less mobile or when traveling a long distance.  They have a couple of special shuttle cars, much like large golf buggies which will come and pick up the person.  To get this service just ask the concierge at the crematorium, the grave digger at the grave or the staff in the main office.  It can take them a few minutes to get the shuttle and collect the person, so just wait patiently as they are on their way even if it appears to take a while.

    The grave diggers are Macquarie Park staff so unlike council diggers they can actively help at the graveside.  Often they will carry the coffin or help lower it, so if you are short of staff or able bodies do not worry.

    Catering can be provided for the function rooms, the details of which can be arranged while organising the funeral.

    The office is happy and able to help with most requests or issues.  They can find the location of a grave (if you give them the right information) and can help with navigating the cemetery.

    Mourners are not allowed to see the body be cremated at Macquarie Park and there are no exceptions.  The cremation area is a work zone and like any other work place there are OH&S issues and insurance concerns.  I have been in the back area and there are machines and people moving about making it impractical and unsafe to let people wonder through.  Thus no matter how much people ask they will never see a body being cremated at this facility.  But having been in the back areas I can honestly say everything is decent and there's nothing to hide.  The place is clean, organised, professional and very respectful and the staff are the same.

Behind the Scenes:

    All the staff here are nice and helpful people, great to interact with as a mourner or funeral director.  I have never seen or heard of a bad experience with the staff here.  However the system at Macquarie Park is strange with regards to its staff.  If a worker puts in their resignation they are walked off the premises within a few hours.  I remember when a senior and respected staff member put in their resignation.  They had been at Macquarie Park for many years and were very well liked.  So it surprised and shocked people to see them walked off by security.  It created a very uneasy atmosphere with the staff for several weeks as the wondered if the person and done something wrong, and how despite working there for years they could just be escorted off as a criminal.  The other strange thing is how difficult it is for staff to advance or be promoted.  It is very difficult if not impossible to go from a digger to a concierge.  Despite all this everyone I talked with did enjoy working here, it was a decent atmosphere with good pay and good people.

    The operations behind the scenes is very efficient and professional.  They do a good job in front of mourner and away from mourners.  However here lies my criticism of the place.  I remember and incident where one of our crews took a coffin over to the crematorium, it was a no service no attendance (NSNA).  In other words nobody was going to attend and nothing was to be done other than load up the coffin.  When the hearse arrived there was already a service in the chapel.  The undertakers asked the concierge what was going on and they told the crew to take the body around the back.  Procedure for many funeral homes is that on a NSNA they take the body in a van (not a hearse) around the back of the crematorium and straight into the processing room.  Despite the fact that the deceased has paid for a funeral, as in a hearse and to go through the chapel.  This caused some issue as WNBull "never goes through the back" like that.  Normally Macquarie Park is quite willing to let a NSNA go through the front but this was a busy day and they had chosen to send the coffin around the back.  After a long stand off the crew eventually took the body through the back.  But the point is Macquarie Park is quite willing to downgrade the priority of a NSNA in favour or getting more funerals through.  Which is in many ways wrong, people should get what they pay for.

    Overall Macquarie Park is one of the best cemeteries or crematoriums and around Sydney.  From the staff to the facilities, everything is efficient and to a high standard yet not distant from people.  Everyone here is approachable and generally a pleasure to work with.  I remember one nice concierge showing me her recent holiday photos while we waited for the family to arrive.  The people and the system here are very personal and approachable.

    Macquarie Park is also a wonderful model for modernity, particularly the crematorium.  They spent millions to refurbish it and did a great job.  The aim was to make it efficient and practical and it most certainly is.  All three chapels are identical, from size and style to the location of everything within.  If you know one chapel you know them all.  Everything about the place is so controlled, predictable and organised, nothing is left to chance.  Many may look to McDonalds or Disney to examine modernity but they should really go to the crematorium at Macquarie Park!

Essential Details and Links:

Hours: The office and main gate is open 6am to 7pm weekdays and 9am to 4pm weekends.

Office Number: 1300, 389, 888.

Macquarie Park official website.

Macquarie Park Facilities.

Macquarie Park directions and maps.


Funeral Fun - Smashing a Tree

    This is not my story but a story that was told to me by a co-worker about an od accident he witnessed while on a funeral.


Funeral Fun - Crashing the car

The car, repaired and happy after the accident.
    We all make mistakes and have accidents, some are silly and some are serious.  This one was a little of both as it resulted in me ripping the front bumper almost off a brand new car while trying to get out of a tight driveway.  And it all happened infront of a few hundred people!

   The day started like any other day, I was set to assist on one funeral as it was going to be quite big and in a small church.  After that I was to drive to another funeral to drive around the family of the deceased.  Nothing out of the ordinary so far, just another warm summer day on the job.

    We all arrived at the first funeral, the church was a small one in the Eastern Suburbs.  Quite a nice little brick church actually, built in the 50s or 60s.  Unfortunately there was little to no parking on the street and what street parking there was would be taken up by the hearse and mourning cars.  So I decided to park my car in a small car park on the church grounds, it was out of the way and yet very close and in the shade, a perfect spot if there ever was one.

    The car park was quite tight to get into as the gates were low and narrow, but I managed without any real trouble.  Proud of my little parking spot I headed into the church to help out.  As predicted there were a few hundred people at the funeral, unfortunately the church was quite small and filled up fairly fast.  So I had to run about and set up chairs outside for the extra people.  While many sat down most chose not to, quite common at funerals as people do not want to stand out (so to speak) and so they stand about.

    When the funeral was coming to an end I was told to move my car and head off to my next job.  So I hopped in my little black car and proceded to attempt to get out of the car park.  As I entered I had intended to pull forward, swing left and then reverse out.  This way I could see the low gates in my wing mirrors.  However due to the now large crowd of people I could not pull forward or swing left.  People were standing in front of the car and a large group of older people were sitting to the left.

    This meant I would just have to turn right and drive out, tricky but possible, or so I thought.  As I drove forward slowly people moved out of the way, they knew what I was doing and were happy to move.  However the gate was very close to the car, so I had to move forward and back in little steps constantly, edging my way around to face the gate.  It was actually really difficult, I couldn't see the gates as they were too low and there were people everywhere.  Some people came over to help guide me, saying when to stop going forward or back.

    While someone was guiding me forward slowly the car suddenly hit the gate.  I felt it just before the people guiding me said stop.  The impact wasn't hard at all as I was going slowly, I thought at worst the car might have a scrape and not even a dent.  They said to reverse and turn as I did so.  I tried to turn the wheels but I could feel them blocked by the wall.

    This is where it got ugly, as I reversed back I felt the bumper had been caught on the gate and was being pulled off slowly.  There was nothing I or anyone could do about it, to get off the gate I would have to ripp up the front bumper.  It was quite stressful because this was a brand new fancy car.  Yep, this was a three week old Holden Caprice and worth about $60,000 or more that I was pulling appart.  After reversing bit by bit for what seemed like forever the car was finally free.  As a small consolation it was at least now facing the way out.

     With some relief I drove out and parked in a no stopping zone on the other side of the street to inspect the damage.  I hopped out and want around to the front, the bumper was still attached (thankfully) but not by a lot.  From the passenger side to the middle of the car every clip was broken or pulled out leaving the bumper hanging loosely about 2 inches from the ground.

    To say this was a serious issue was a bit of an understatement.  Not only had I broken the car but I was meant to drive a family in not very long and I could hardly drive them in this car.  To make matters worse the boss was conducting on the second job and I knew she wanted me there asap.  I immediately informed the conductor then phoned the boss and told her the situation.  She said some fairly understanding and kind things but I could hear how annoyed and upset she was, which did not help my situation.  We decided I would drive the damaged car all the way back to Newtown, collect the remaining family car and  head over to the second job.  There would be time if I hurried.

    Well, driving over to Newtown in the damaged car was perhaps the most stressful and worrying drive of my life.  With every bump I felt the bumper hit the ground and hoped that it wouldn't fall off.  But thankfully I made it in one pice, more or less.  I jumped in the other car and raced over to the second job, making it there in plenty of time.  Entering the church I spot the boss sitting down watching the service, so I went over and sat next to her.  After a brief talk she said that now wasn't the time to talk about it, that we would discuss it at the end of the day.

    The rest of the day went like normal, except it dragged on.  I had to work like normal while knowing what had happened, and that I was yet to discuss it with the boss who was obviously very unimpressed.  When I finally made it back to garage the damaged car had already been taken to a mechanic.  So I made my way up to the bosses office for our 'talk'.

    We actually had a fairly nice talk, I admitted I was driving and as such was completely at fault.  As the driver I was responsible for the car and the accident.  She was understanding and sympathetic for my situation.  However I could tell that behind her words she was very unhappy and upset with the accident yet as it was an accident she could hardly tell me off.  So instead she took the kind and sympathetic approach.

    The damages cost almost $2,000 and took a little over three weeks to fix.  All in all it was quite a stressful day and the worst accident I've ever had.  And in a brand new company car!



OH&S - The mortuary

    OH&S is an important part of the funeral industry as there are many hazards to contend with regularly. From back injuries to infections or even burns, while not a dangerous industry it is hazardous.  Here is a briefe guide to keep you safe in the mortuary.

Look at the board as you enter: Any decent funeral home will have a white board in its mortuary.  This board contains all relevant information about the deceased within the fridge, from name and date of death to size and whether they have a pacemaker or are infectious.  So have a quick look to see if anyone has an old date of death, lots of fluids or is infectious before jumping in.

PPE or Personal Protective Equipment: Protective equipment and clothing is key with any OH&S.  It can range from basic gloves to special masks.


- PPE; Gloves: This is rather simple but easy to miss.  Put on gloves before entering the mortuary and continue to wear them at all times once inside.  Naturally there will be times where you have to take them off while in the mortuary.  This is not an issue so long as you touch as little as possible without gloves and wash your hands afterwards.

<>   Warning: Wearing latex based gloves or other equipment regularly and often can result in latex allergies, especially with products containing latex powder.  Symptoms include; skin irritations/dryness, vomiting, nausea, difficulty breathing, headaches, etc.  Latex free gloves and equipment will prevent this.   <>

- Double glove: This is where you wear two gloves on each hand, so a total of four gloves.  Some think that this is a little silly or over the top.  But it reduces the chance of something getting through a broken glove and if you need to take the outer gloves off for some reason then you are still wearing a pair which are clean.  I really liked to double glove in many situations and not just where the work was dirty, even transfer.  So while I really recommend it it is not always praticale or viable.  For one it waists gloves (which add up) and can take time if they gloves do not fit well.

- PPE; Shoe caps: These are basically shower caps to wear over your shoes.  It prevents you walking things in or our of the mortuary on your shoes.  Not all mortuaries will have these, nor are they actually that important.  If they are available then use them, if not do not worry.

- PPE; Masks: Not always essential or useful but necessary in certain situations.  For example with a bad decomp body or when embalming.

- PPE; Goggles: Just like the maks it is not always useful but when it is it becomes essential.  For example when embalming fluids can squirt, these are not fluids you want in your eye.

Wash and disinfect hands: Again this is simple and easy to miss yet so important to basic safety and hygiene.

- Alcohol based cleaning: Alcohol based cleaning products and hand sanitises greatly reduce the chance of infection.  Just after exiting the mortuary or as soon as you are back in the transfer vehicle use a small bit of this type of hand sanitiser.  It i simple and effective.

- Wipe up fluids as you go: This falls into two categories as it presents two different types of danger.  Fluids (such as blood, stomach contents, etc) can contain infectious diseases and so they should be dealt with asap.


- Careful when lifting: The biggest hazard in the mortuary (and industry) is back injuries.  Keep your back straight and bend your knees.  Always ask for help if you are not confident and do not be a hero.

- Get a grip on the body: When moving the body about, especially if rolling it on its side, make sure you have a good grip on the body and good footing on the ground.  Bodies are often surprisingly heavy and do not help, they're just dead weight.  To roll a body safely put one hand on the furthest side of its hip and using your other hand take the furthest arm of the body.  Next pull towards you with both hands together and the body should roll to the side.  Do not pull too far or you will end up on the ground with a body on top of you.

Wipe up fluids and liquids as you go: This falls into two categories as it presents two different types of danger.  Fluids (such as blood, stomach contents, etc) can be slippery and give you trouble when try to move the body.  So wipe them up and prevent an accident.



Sexism in the Funeral Industry: A case study of W.N.Bull

    The Other Side Of Funerals is about brining to light certain aspects of the funeral industry.  One of these is the issue of sexism within the industry.  To understand the issue better I thought of taking a close look at WNBull as this is a perfect example of discrimination and role assignment based on sex which is a deep and untended issue in the company.  I will also say that it is and issue in the industry as a whole and not just WNBull.

You can read my previous post on sexism in the industry by clicking here.

    It should be noted that these devisions and many of these policies are not official or written anywhere, and there have (apparently) been exceptions.  However they are strickt policies I personally saw actively put into practice regularly at WNBull.  So while not official they do exist and do influence the company heavily in many ways.

    The 'garage staff' go out on funerals, they do the transfers, prepare coffins, prepare bodies and do all the physical work or driving.  This is not sexist itself as it is the role of garage staff, they are the ones who do the physical work and the funeral labour.  However what makes it sexist is that garage staff are always male.  Women are not allowed to be, or assist, garage staff at WNBull. the garage staff also have a very informal uniform (while mostly optional) while not on a funeral or transfer.  The two groups are primarily defined and identified by sex such as "the boys in the garage".  And as such all physical labour, even office related, is done by the garage staff.  Even simple and easy tasks as taking the post up are almost always done by the garage staff.

    The 'office staff' never go out on funerals (except two who I will get to later).  They are the arrangers who go out to family homes and arrange the whole funeral with the family, then they are baned from attending the funeral itself.  This causes a tension amongst the staff who get to know a family and assist them in arranging their loved ones funeral and then do not get to see it in action.  They never see the fuit of their work.  It also means they have no experience of how WNBull operates as they have never seen a funeral by WNBull and do not know about certain procedures or places.  An example is a couple of times inappropriate chapels have been booked at crematoriums, either a chapel that is way too small or way too big, because the arranger simply does not know how big or even where that chapel is.  One must wonder why the office staff cannot, must not, go on funerals if it would help them with the job emotionally and professionally.  It is simply because they are women, all office staff are always women at WNBull and always older.  There is a strickt and almost official policy that the office must be staffed by women, except for the superior who is a guy that has been with the company for too many years to count.

    Garage and office staff do not mingle much, there is a physical separation between the two groups.  For example there are two lunch rooms, one for office staff and one for garage staff and despite being quite close to each other they are very separate and prevent interaction between the two groups.  When an office staff member did join the garage staff in their lunch room it made the boss obviously unhappy and uneasy.  The boss actually poked her head into the lunch room and made note of the mixing of the staff.  At WNBull one can go without seeing the other group of staff for a good week or more.  This in itself is not really sexist, but because of the division of gender between garage and office staff it becomes very sexist.

    Sexism is prevalent in many policies that are not in themselves sexist.  These policies become sexist because of how they are excited and their very reason for existence.  A great example of this is the policy expressly banning women from wearing pants.  The women at WNBull must always wear a long skirt of dress and are not allowed to go out on funerals, which is also related to being office staff.  These policies do not apply to the boss who is female, she is usually seen wearing pants and not just going out on funerals but also conducting them.  It is obvious that the boss does this to deliberately appear separate, more important, than the other staff.  The rules do not apply to her as she makes them and is above them.  She literally wears the pants among the women.  There is a lot of evidence to support this from her need to control everything and inability to delegate to her constant desire for power shown through changing things for the sake of it and stating her beliefe in "the power of the pencil" when referring to her her ability to make decisions about WNBull and the staff.

    This only serves to highlight the divide between staff and create a negative rift.  The women see how it is quite possible for a woman to go on (and conduct) funerals and how wearing pants can be acceptable.  Yet they are not allowed to do either and actively punished if they even discuss doing so.  Here a 'power display' policy becomes sexist in how it forces women to do something unnecessary because they are women.

    Naturally there are staff who do have a foot in both the garage and office.  To be a conductor at WNBull you must also be an arranger (but not necessarily the other way around).  And the arrangers are office staff, thus all the conductors in the garage are also office staff.  However they are not seen as proper office staff or even 'real office staff' or real arrangers.  As such I came to divide the conductors into 'garage conductors' and 'office conductors' which, was based primarily on sex.  I witnessed several important arranger meetings that the conductors were not able to attend and as such they missed key information.  The office has a 'round up' meeting every morning for its arrangers, which the conductors are extremely rarely part of.  Only once did I see a garage conductor attend a round up meeting in the whole year I was there.  Instead it was only the 'office conductors' who attended regularly out of all the conductors.  These office conductors are the office superiors (who as I discussed earlier he is the only male who works primarily in the office) and the boss (who as I discussed before is the only female allowed on funerals or to wear pants).

    There are also certain preferences and special treatments towards staff based on their placement as 'garage' (or male) and 'office' (or female).  Not only are the office staff freed from physical work, due to being both women and office staff, but they are also given things first.  A few times baskets were sent by pleased mourners, company contacts or others and always they were opened in the office and very rarely shared with the garage staff.  One particular example is of when a mourner sent a fruit basket to thank the funeral staff (who are the garage staff) for what a great job they did on the funeral.  This basket was opened and distributed in the office to those who had no part in the funeral.  The garage staff only found out because someone found the card.  Yet the office staff do not get all the perks, the garage staff get to go out, get to have free food on funerals and get to see a funeral from start to finish.  The office staff who often work on the funeral never see it pan out, never see the result of their work and as such have surprisingly low satisfaction for their work at WNBull.

    The physical separation of the two groups of staff and the different ways the groups are treated creates a rift between staff.  People who would quite like each other do not know one-another.  All they see is two groups based primarily on sex and how the other group is treated better because of it.  The women do not have to do anything physical and the men get to go on funerals.

    As a result the staff themselves become sexist even though they are not actually sexist.  It was interesting, and worrying, how people became part of such a sexist and prejudice system.  The women in the office start assigning all physical tasks and roles to the men without realising, such as physical ones.  The men started to foster attitudes of women, such as that women were not as good at driving as men or that the women were more likely to fight amongst themselves.  What should be noted is that the staff were actually not sexist (at least for the most part).  The garage staff believed the women to be capable to go funerals and the office staff believed the men to be capable of working in the office.  Yet they all fell into sex rolls and assigned sex rolls without realisation or hesitation.  The staff at WNBull became part of the sexist machine.



Video - Cremation of a body

    After my last post someone sent me this fairly interesting youtube video.  The video shows the cremator  'burner' (or retort) in action, then what the ash is like after being burnt and how it is turned into what we know as ash.

<> WARNING!! The video does show human bones being burnt <>

    Although I personally see nothing wrong with the video, they show less than many TV shows or movies. But I understand some would not want to see this.

    Something I will note is that in America they must take the body out of the coffin before burning it.  Here in Australia this would be against the law as a body must be contained in a coffin and the crematorium staff are not allowed to open the coffin.  Of course there are exceptions for certain religions but I am not sure how that would work.  I know crematorium staff do not have the equipment or training in Australia to open a coffin nor do they want to.

    So do not worry, if your loved one was cremated in Australia they were never taken out of the coffin at the crematorium for any reason.