A Lesson from Grief

Posted on January 25, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

My dad died on January 15. Fortunately, my mom and dad had planned for this situation, so the arrangmenets they had made were easy for us to carry out. This helped tremendously because my mom was so shaken by my dad’s death.

On January 16, my mom, my sisters, and I visited the mortuary where they had made arrangments. The funeral director assured my mom the process would be easy since they’d done the preplanning. When choosing the day for the memorial service, the director suggested February 3 to give time for the paperwork to process and my dad’s wishes to be carried out.

I’ve learned a lot through this process. One of the things I’ve learned is that the doctor has to, by law (in California), sign the cause of death paperwork within 15 hours of death. The other thing I’ve learned is that without this paperwork the mortuary cannot proceed with the family’s wishes regarding the remains.

It’s now January 25, and as of yesterday the funeral director had not received the paperwork from the doctor. That’s 10 days after my dad died.

My mom, who is figuring out how to live on her own after 65 years of marriage, has called the funeral director several times in the last 10 days to find out when the obituary will be published (this, too, must wait until the paperwork is signed by the doctor). She received no response from the director other than “We’re still waiting to hear from the doctor.”

My mom and I stopped by the mortuary offices yesterday. To our surprise, the office was empty, the signs were down, and a note was taped to the door saying they had moved their offices across town. Gulp. We’d had no notice of this impending move, so we became skeptical about the reason and anxious about the disposition of my dad’s remains.

We followed the directions to the new offices. Thankfully, they were there and open. I asked one of the assistants to update me on the process on my dad. I reminded her of the date of his death and told her what my mom had relayed to me about her calls to them. The assistant said she would check with the doctor’s office. Since I remained standing there, she said she’d do it while I waited.

As it turned out, the doctor’s office never received the paperwork from the mortuary because the mortuary had faxed it to the wrong number. Long pause.

The assistant said she would fax the paperwork right over and call me within the hour. It’s now the next day and I haven’t heard a word.

Here’s the lesson: if you don’t hear back from someone on a time-sensitive issue, assume they didn’t receive the message. Either send the message again or call to find out if they received it. Had the assistant at the mortuary simply made a follow-up call as the 15-hour window began to close, this issue would have been resolved, my mom would have been left with the closure she so earnestly seeks, and I wouldn’t be writing this post.

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