EPISODE 24 — That Bleeping Beeping!

Angel of Patience

Angel of Patience

Here’s a story about an incident that happened when C J was working down in the heart of the big city:

C J had been working late, alone in the big service center. She was dressing and cosmetizing the bodies on the list for their respective funeral homes. The service center was the hub for preparing the bodies for sixteen nearby funeral establishments. The workload was sizeable as a result. As she was changing the dial to a different radio station, something caught her attention. A beeping sound.

A familiar sound, occasionally emitting from one of the dozen or so bodies lying on tables, awaiting dressing.

She knew instantly what that sound was—a defibrillator implant! She laughed to herself, as she recalled the first time she heard this ‘beep’ tone coming from a body. She was horrified at the time. She wondered how to make it stop…Mr. Becker told her it was some kind of an alarm or low battery warning on a pacemaker or defibrillator. She giggled when he said ‘low battery’ because it made perfect sense…the person was DEAD, for Pete’s sake.  Holy smoke! Was this the reason why the person was dead? She did not ask. She felt relieved that it wasn’t her problem — that people showed up here deceased was a cardinal requirement, and that’s the bottom line.  She asked Mr. B if there was a way to quiet the beeping and he explained that it would mean removing it from the body, and such a procedure required a signed authorization from the family.

She located the body making the beep sound…and it was quite loud, too. She dressed the woman as usual. She jotted down a notation on the report about it. Double-checked to be sure there was not a signed authorization attached which permitted the device’s removal—none was found.  She never thought anymore of it.

The next evening, a frantic phone call from the mortuary uptown, where the body had been sent for her viewing and service. The voice on the other end was that of an angry director, whom she was well acquainted with.

“WHAT is this creepy BEEPING?” he demanded to know. “I was setting her up in the chapel and there is NOISE coming from inside this lady!”

“Yes, Jack. I am aware. Didn’t you see the paperwork? It was noted there…”

“I haven’t got time to decipher you people’s chicken scratch writing! You send someone over here IMMEDIATELY to remove the damned thing! The family will be arriving in less than an hour!” he screamed in a shrill high-pitched voice.

“Can’t do it, Jack. Unless, of course, you have a signed authorization permitting me to remove the device. Do you have it? I’ll come right now and take care of it if you do,” she offered. She knew he did not. 

“Why do you need an authorization? Knock off the bullshit! Just come over here and fix it NOW!” he yelled. “Son of a bit…,”he started to swear.

“Hey, no need to get ugly with me, I don’t make the rules,” she replied. “The law clearly states a signed auth is needed; that device is considered to be a ‘body part’ and you know that requires the family’s permission…,” she stated in her calmest voice.

He was really beginning to annoy her. How in HELL did he ever pass his funeral director’s licensing exam? And who was he to scream and curse at her? Some of the directors thought they were God Almighty, at times. They talked to the embalmers as if they were personal servants. They loved to push their luck when it came to details and didn’t like being told “no” to whatever they were demanding of them. Sometimes they had to be set straight. This exchange is a perfect example of such.

“This is ridiculous! What am I supposed to do?” he asked, almost in a panic. “You can hear the thing a mile away!”

“Calm down, Jack. The family is probably aware of the beeping. Did it occur to you that they maybe wanted it like that? Actually, a better question would be: did it occur to you to ask if the person had any devices implanted, in the first place? It’s no different than if you were asking this for a body that is going to be cremated. You could have saved yourself the heart attack, and saved me the time, here. I have ten more people to finish before I move on to my embalming tonight.”

“Well, I guess I can turn up the chapel music, try to drown it out…,”he supposed aloud. “Sorry I got all over your ass about it,” he added.

“That’s cool. We’re good. Forget it. If your family wants to remove the device give me a call and I’ll come over to remove it, okay?” she offered.

“Very good. Will do,” he replied. They hung up.

“Sheesh!” she said to herself. She never got a call back. Apparently, the creepy bleeping beeping didn’t bother anyone except for the funeral director..

Just another day at the office. An unbelievably typical day.

©2013, C.S. Thompson.

11 Responses to “EPISODE 24 — That Bleeping Beeping!”

  1. I have a question, CJ, when the makeup is applied, do you have a photo to go by? I’ve always wondered, because sometimes I’ve seen realistic, true to the person’s live makeup, and other times it looks like a stranger is lying there.


    • Many factors come into play—trauma, disease type and severity, sex of the deceased—with that in mind, the cosmetics applied would USUALLY be in favor of less not more, light vs. heavier application. Usually there is not a picture, unless it is one supplied for the obit print. Of course, technique, experience, and skill are big factors to consider, too. Perhaps I should speak to this question in an upcoming post…thanks so much for such an excellent comment and great question!!! This makes me happy to help others to become more informed and understand what goes into the process of preparing the deceased for viewing. Thanks for that opportunity!


      • I’ve always had a fear of getting rosy cheeks and makeup that was not what I’d ever put on. And curly bangs or flat bangs instead of the way I do them.
        Maybe the Egyptians were on the right track with a death mask that could be created ahead of time and previewed for approval.


        • No you wouldn’t be ‘made up’ in that manner, normally. Most directors ask for photos or at least some direction directly of the family as to what cosmetics to apply. Same for hair.


  2. Hmmm…mmmm… I never thought about ‘that’! That was so humorous, and … amazing. Amazing… because I thought I would have thought about ‘that’… before. Honestly, I never did. I like that!

    You have a way of writing that is just wonderful to read. I like that, too!!!


  3. More than a funeral director sounds like a dictator to me.


    • Well, this person had a quirky, if not high-strung personality, lol. He was a pussy-cat MOST of the time, when in a casual conversation. But this incident created a panic of sorts, I believe. He insisted that we remove that awful beeping device; I was a bit taken aback that he could not remember to ask the family about implants, etc. It’s always a good practice to handle these things at the funeral arrangements conference, BEFORE they actually become an issue. It saves all kinds of embarrassment and confusion down the road. Thanks for your comment…I will admit I thought the guy was a DIC-sans the ‘tator’, myself.


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