Batten Down the Latches

 I’m sure that all of you have been to at least one funeral so you probably know the procedure, which typically includes the viewing at the funeral home followed by the church service, followed by a trip to the cemetery. The car procession to the cemetery would usually go as follows: the “lead” car, which was driven by my dad, with the priest as his passenger. The lead car was my dad’s silver Cadillac. He has always driven a Cadillac, just like a pimp. The second car was the “flower” car. The flower car was actually a silver station wagon that doubled as our family car and had a permanent smell of dead flower petals. All the flowers that could fit into the car would be taken to the

Ew! I smell dead flower petals

cemetery and placed around the grave. After the flower car was the hearse which was followed by the limousine with the family in it. The family always follows the dead person.

This one time, everything was in place and going smoothly. The procession started out from St. Alice church and was on the way to Saints Peter and Paul cemetery. That was a very popular cemetery in our area. It’s an interesting (and expensive) ritual how we put the body in a casket that goes into a vault that goes into the ground. Since everyone ends up as just bones, why bother? That’s all I’m saying. But I guess that’s not a strong selling point for the funeral business.  

Anyway, the funeral procession was in full swing. It was a fairly big funeral so there were a lot of cars in line. My dad was in the front leading the procession and two cars behind him was the hearse. All of the cars had to cross over a set of railroad tracks on the way. It turns out that whoever was responsible for closing the latch on the back of the hearse failed to close it completely. My dad went over the tracks, the flower car went over the tracks, and as the hearse went over the tracks, the latch opened and the casket fell out!

Oops! Someone left the latch open

Remember that behind the hearse is the limousine with the family in it. Can you imagine grieving on the way to the cemetery only to be jolted by the vision of your loved one falling out of the hearse onto a set of railroad tracks? Thankfully, the casket didn’t open or the body would’ve come out. Although, let’s face it, that would be even funnier. The limousine driver slammed on the brakes just about the same time the hearse driver realized what happened. Meanwhile, the flower car driver sees that the hearse stopped, so he stopped. Then my dad saw that the flower car had stopped so he stopped. The line of cars is now all backed up and the drivers are scrambling to pick up the casket. But you need more than two people to lift a casket. My dad came rushing back to the hearse and practically shit himself. He couldn’t’ believe it. Quickly my dad, the other drivers and a couple other guys lifted the casket back into the hearse.  Did I already mention that my dad constantly thought he would be sued for mental anguish? Well, this was one of those instances.

Luckily, the family didn’t sue but I guarantee whoever didn’t close that latch right got ripped a new one by my dad. Of course, later, much much later, my dad was able to laugh about it. He knew all the mishaps were funny, he just wished it would happen to a different funeral director. But if it did, then I wouldn’t have these fun stories to tell, now would I?

Have a tipsy Tuesday…

(the second picture was our first family/flower car. Remember those stations wagons with the wood on the side? Gotta love the 70’s. Look at the monkey in the driver’s seat. I don’t think my brother was even born yet.)

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About Death To Hollywood

My name is Celeste Donohue and I am a writer/comedian who started this blog to tell stories about my life growing up in a funeral home and my adult life which I have spent in Hollywood, California – hence the name, “Death To Hollywood”. Hopefully, you like to read those kinds of stories. If not, go read something serious and boring.....
This entry was posted in catholic church, death, family, funeral home, funerals, Hollywood, weird and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Batten Down the Latches

  1. klpeach323 says:

    monkey cee!

    funny story, would have been great if the limo rolled over the dropped casket though. can you imagine? i know i can. cheers to tipsy tuesday!

  2. mdonohue says:

    Dear writer,Don’t miss how you lovely little girls and the monkey were dressed.I remember that story well.Love,Mom

  3. Josephine says:

    Cheeky monkey!

    The only thing missing was an oncoming train!

    It is no wonder you went into comedy. 🙂

  4. Christine says:

    At a funeral my mom attended, one of the family friends went up to the coffin as it was suspended over the grave. It had rained a lot the day before, the ground gave way and Mrs. X. slid down into the grave. Years later, I found out that Mrs. X had a drinking problem and was blotto at the funeral. Hmm, symbolism anyone?

  5. Kris says:

    I have always loved that story!! Love the monkey in the front seat of the “flower” car…..check out my fro…..some things never change:)

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