Archive for Death

The ‘Cooling Board,’ Explained

Posted in bereavement, Death, Embalming Room, Funeral, Funeral home, Funeral Service Professional, Grief, Life, Losing A Parent, Loss, Memorialization, Mortuary, Mourning, Remembrance with tags , , , , , , , on February 3, 2014 by Morguie

Today we thought we would pass along this gem we found a few weeks back. It is an old-fashioned implement, the cooling board, explained beautifully by the town’s funeral director. The gentleman also speaks of his years caring for those bereaved in his community through their darkest hours, his family’s funeral home, and his personal realization that age has become an obstacle that hinders his ability to give his mental or physical best to the work anymore. He gives a candid and thoughtful testament to what it means to serve others as a small town director. We hope you enjoy this selection as much as we did.

Have a beautiful day and thank you for coming by…we hope you’ll have something to say in the comment box before you go.

Hugs,     C J  and  Morguie



C J's- Mortuary College Pic 1999

C J’s- Mortuary College Pic

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EPISODE 20 — She Went To Be With Jeeesusss

Posted in Death, Embalming Room, Funeral home, Humor, Mortuary with tags , , , , , on July 18, 2013 by Morguie
List of criminal gangs in Los Angeles, California

List of criminal gangs in Los Angeles, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Crip Walk!

Crip Walk! (Photo credit: kev:kev)

Crip handsign.

Crip handsign. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Angel ‘throwing a sign’

While there are seldom “funny” or laughable things connected to a death, the story here WAS funny. I just hope to be able to describe it right! I think the Disneyland episode didn’t get the justice it deserved due to not being able to tell the story on paper in just the same funny way I have delivered it verbally. I guess one just really had to be there, to get the full measure of that event. But here I will try my best…

I will stick my scrawny mouse-neck out here and go ahead to assume that most people who are reading this have not witnessed a person’s death first-hand. You know, like front-row seating witnessed. For those who have had the occasion to do so, they may know what I mean, as I talk about this ‘look’ seen on some of the faces of the deceased, when they expire or just afterward. It is downright off-putting, the first time or two that you see it. It causes one to wonder: what are they LOOKING AT? Or, were they looking at?  It just makes you want to reach right out and quickly close those eyelids…then that weird question in your mind instantly goes away.

When CJ was working in a major service center in the big city she was assigned with another girl, Patty, to work the late evening shift. They were the only two embalmers on duty and the place would be quiet. CJ said she and Patty got on famously with each other, and they’d have fun, in spite of the grim surroundings of death and dead bodies, and the tragedy of it all. NOTHING disrespectful or offensive mind you. Both girls enjoyed a little gallows humor. Hey, who could fault them for trying to find something to lift their spirits in a ‘dead place’ like the mortuary basement?

(Very punny, Morguie. Punny indeed.) J



The first thing they would do is go over the roster of embalmings to get done. The day crew usually pulled the bodies they’d need for night shift from the coolers before they left, and leave them in the alcove outside of the prep-room. So on one particular evening, CJ and Patty were getting ready to roll the metal tables, with their respective bodies on each, into the embalming room. CJ stopped to pull the sheet back on her case…a young man, male Hispanic. A Gang-related death, MS13. Lots of those, in that huge city, unfortunately; CJ estimates about 20-25% of her cases (in the city) were made up of gang members. Stab wounds on arms and chest. Tattoos everywhere. Maybe a GSW (gun shot wound). She’d know more after she unwrapped him. Oddly, he wasn’t fully posted. This means the coroner’s office was swamped in a big way, as the coroner’s office generally posts EVERY homicide.

Image depicting member of MS13 gang. Work of t...

Image depicting member of MS13 gang. Work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Public Domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, Patty does the same. Embalmers just DO this. They always like to take a quick look under the sheet to see what they have there. CJ said she knows why they do that down in the big city: the embalmers just hope they can look to see the ‘easier’ cases before someone else sees it. Then they hot-foot it into the work area, claiming their stake, thereby leaving the ‘difficult’ case to the poor guy still suiting up or on his lunch break. A difficult case would be a time-consuming body; full posts (autopsied) are an example of a time-consuming case. It requires a completely different injection strategy, separate cavity treatment, putting the calvarium together, plus a LOT of suturing to close everything up. Cases that have major facial trauma or other visible tissue destruction are considered ‘difficult’ as well.

Patty’s case is that of an elderly, frail little woman. The lady had a very familiar expression on her face. One that most embalmers have seen hundreds of times. CJ calls it the “Jeeesusss” look.  This expression commonly includes mouth agape and the eyes are open, but “fixed on” something; almost as if the last thing they saw was perhaps,, Jesus standing before them, perhaps holding his arms open, gesturing to them to come to Him.

Okay, that IS a bit dramatic, but CJ admits this is what she envisions. Honestly, wouldn’t that be the most awesome last thing to lay your eyes on, though?

Imagine being in the final throes of death, as you draw in the very last breath, you open your eyes and… THERE’S JESUS!!

Whoa, that thought just scares me to death! Holy wordplay, Batman!

So, CJ remarks to Patty as they roll the tables into the room, “Awww! Look, Patty, that sweet little lady has gone to be with Jeeesusss!” Patty giggles as CJ mimics a voice like a televangelist. CJ giggles, too.

A few minutes later, CJ had the young Hispanic man unwrapped, and was checking the i.d. tags on him. Patty was working right beside her in the next space, only a foot away.

“Oh my God, Patty!” CJ exclaimed, as she began to laugh. “She really DID go to be with Jeeesusss…”

Patty, looking puzzled, asked her what the heck she was laughing about.

CJ pointed down at the toe tag:    Martinez,  J e s u s.

© 2013, C.S. Thompson.

Gang Graffiti

Gang Graffiti (Photo credit: peoplesworld)

Episode 5: A Most Unexpected Turn of Events

Posted in Death, Embalming Room, Funeral home, Mortuary with tags , , on May 13, 2013 by Morguie


As I’d mentioned last time, I have a poor circadian cycle; that’s the wakefulness and sleep cycles MOST creatures have built into their bodies…a body clock. Chester, like most cats, has practically no body clock, therefore can be on the prowl at any given time. But, for myself, the same can also be true. I must always be on my guard here in this expansive house because Chester could be anywhere. As a mouse, my vision is low, and this means I travel along the baseboards most of the time. I awoke in the wee hours, to a commotion in another room. I must have slept the entire day away. OH NO! Cousin Sid was to come for a visit yesterday! Where must he be? Oh my…must be on my feet and try to see if he ever arrived, I panicked.


I popped out of the hole in the brick through which I entered and ran the length of the walls from the main parlor, down the hallway, to the basement stair. I could see the light coming through the space under the door down at the bottom. The commotion was coming from there, in the basement, also known as the “Prep-Room” or embalming room. I made my way to the bottom, squeezing easily through the familiar space where the door jamb meets the baseboard. This is the place I mostly live. CJ must be working on a fresh case.


CJ is the embalmer in her second year with this funeral home. It is quite common here for her to be called from her sleep in the middle of the night, to go out to a nursing home, a hospital, or even a private residence to pick up a deceased person and bring them back to be embalmed or bathed and made presentable before placing into the cooler.

Mr. Becker is the owner of this place. Been in business almost 50 years. He is ‘old-school’ in that he expects ’round-the-clock availability of his staff during their five-day weeks here. CJ says that is really old-fashioned ethic, and that modern, “big-city” funeral homes are  conglomerated by huge companies that do not work their staffs this way. But this is NOT a corporate place. And Mr. B is the Boss. CJ never seems to mind the odd hours, though. Or that on some days, business is such that she is literally on the clock twenty or more hours. This is her dream — to be a licensed funeral director and embalmer. To most, it is more of a nightmare, in their minds, that anybody in their right mind would ever dare to ‘dream’ of this work. Or hanging out with dead folks.

CJ says someone should be called to do this special work. Like one is called to the priesthood. 

I think I would have called a doctor, first.


I timidly make my way towards the table, where she is carefully massaging the rigor mortis out of the limbs of the old soul lying on the table. CJ sees me and immediately I know what is going to come out of her mouth: “MORGUIE!! I hope you know that Mr. B is really PISSED OFF at me! I told you about making extra sure not to be seen, by ANYONE or ANYTHING! Chester was after you in the parlor and I got into big trouble!”


I curled into myself and winced as she yelled. I know that she lied to Mr. B and told him she succeeded in killing me in a trap. Of course, we ARE located just across the road from a field, which is just on the edge of the main town. I mean, there are others like me out there. It is possible that others might be within these walls.  But, she doesn’t talk back or argue when Mr. Becker tells her to do something. He expects results, today, or really five minutes ago, more preferably.  I give her my most pathetic face, to gain her mercy. She stares sternly down at me and I can see she is not falling for my pitiful look. She goes back to her work at the table, when I give up and begin to head to my nest.


I am nearly asleep, when suddenly, CJ exclaims loudly, “CHESTER! Oh God, WHAT IS THAT?”  I run to see through the crack in the wall what it is that is horrifying her. And what I see horrifies me more…


…poor Cousin Sid, whose lifeless body Chester promptly releases and drops onto the tile floor. 

How I Came to Exist In This House of the Dead

Posted in Animals, Death, Embalming Room, FOOD, Friendship, Funeral home, Funeral Service Professional, Gratitude, Humor, Life, Mortuary, Pets with tags , , , on May 8, 2013 by Morguie



Dear Friendly and Esteemed  Disciple-in-Waiting* —


Thanks for taking a minute of your precious leisure to stumble upon my blog. My name is Morguie. As the photo suggests, I am indeed, a mouse. Yes. That is what you read. A mouse. I am a simple house mouse. I assure you, though, that I do not dwell within just any old house! Perhaps this is the cause for my solitude here. Everyone else I know or was kin with was not brave enough to take on this house. Me, I’m not proud. Nor am I picky. Especially when warmth, shelter, space, and frankly, food are of any import. And they all are! Backing up to the food comment I just made…don’t fly off with any crazy notions that I meant anything other than what a regular house mouse considers as food. Let’s be clear, crystal flippin’ clear about that! This house may be one designated as one for the deceased, but there is plenty of living going on in the in-between times. Plenty of comers and goers, visitors and visited, etc.




English: House mouse, 4 days old.

I’m 4 days old and blind! And, nude!  Just like any other baby !

I was born in a shed close by this main house. It seems oddly fitting to be a ‘survivor’ here. You see, one by one, my kinfolk fell away, whether from want to move to bigger and better digs,  fell prey to the feline appetite of Chester, the predator in charge of vermin control, or victim of the guillotine thingy, the common mouse-trap. Now there’s a misnomer if ever I heard of one! A “trap” indeed! A trap infers the possibility that one within the trap may yet have a potential release in store. The guillotine insures against that possibility. I have SEEN what it does. I also miss a few of my siblings and cousins, courtesy of the contraption’s mechanical jaws. Somehow, I figure I was too lazy to get out and see the rest of the world, but fortunate to be quicker than Chester in ability to outwit and outrun him.  And, if Chester is any sample of what’s out there to see in the rest of the world, I chose pretty wisely, if you ask me! Amazing that he’s made it this far without a bad accident…he was given 9 lives by design!



                                                                                        English: Laboratory mouse

Anyway, so I remain here alone, but certainly not bored. And, bravely so! You ought to see this place in mid-winter, during high flu and pneumonia season! Busier than all-get-out! It’s quite a miracle I haven’t been claimed by the heavy rolling casters on some of the ‘moving’ equipment, or for that matter, smashed like a fly by the heavy landing of supply boxes, or pressed flat by a rolling bier. That’s the pretty wood thing they set a casket on to present to the family at visitation time up in the main chapel.

I feel pretty blessed being  in this old house. I have all the creature comforts, and the food is exceptional. There’s a real kitchen on the main floor where the business office is. Since the business is a family owned operation, lunch has always been a family meal here as well. A couple of those humans can really get my curiosity up, with the smells of lunch cooking in the plug-in crock. I have taken my life to the literal edge just to sneak a peek at what’s going on at lunch! I cannot do this carefully enough…especially since I am technically not supposed to be here anymore.

Pułapka na myszy z myszą:) Mausefalle mit der ...

An unfortunate ancestor inside the jaws of the guillotine thingy.

Until CJ, I was a wanted mouse! A veritable price upon my head, for the removal of my head.  I charmed my way into her heart with my dashing good looks, beady brown eyes, and my disarming wit!  So CJ and I came to an understanding with one another, and part of the deal was that I was to be a rarity around here, not to be seen or heard. In exchange for my life, I agreed to be the ‘eyes and ears on the ground.’ Literally. It is such an exciting life for me, actually. I am a covert spy reporting underground about things happening above-ground. Pleased to make your acquaintance. I do hope you’ll be back very soon. I think I can charm you with my stories about what happens around this old place, known more commonly as a funeral home, house of the dead.

©2013, C.S. Thompson.

Common house mouse (Mus musculus), wild type.




English: Laboratory mouse

CJ holding me when I was a little younger (baby fur still)

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