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Category Archives: New York State Funeral Directors Association

FTC Sells Out Consumers AGAIN!

Republished with Permission from the Funeralization Blog.

This is where you will learn what the funeral chains and funeral corporations, and their lackey the Federal Trade Commission (the federal agency that approves interstate mergers) do not want you to know.


And I have a bridge to sell you…

While you were texting or farting around on Facebook, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was selling you out to the funeral corporations. Keep texting and finding “friends” on Facebook and they’ll be composting you for the Whitehouse flowerbeds! Well, that’s one of the directions the death industry is taking if a Seattle project moves forward. The project is called the Urban Death Project, and it describes the process of turning dead humans into food (A Seattle based eco-friendly ‘initiative’ proposes a radical solution for urban food production: using human corpses as compost to feed crops). And then there’s freeze-drying and pulverization, then packaging. Or you can go for “resomation”, that is, dissolving the body and flushing it down to the sewers. It’s a market economy and it gets as weird as the weirdest ones among us. That’s because our government is handing over control to the corporations who will titillate and tantalize you to buy just about anything, if it means happy shareholders, big dividends, and profit. The Federal Trade Commission is handing over consumers’  choice to the huge corporations, including your deathcare choices.

This is where you’re at now.


In her book “American Way of Death” (1963) Jessica Mitford stunned America with vivid accounts of corruption and abuse in the death industry; in the updated sequel she revised some of her findings as the “American Way of Death Revisited”, published after Mitford’s death in 1996. Mitford didn’t change her opinion to any substantial degree. Nevertheless and by any standard of literary criticism, Mitford’s book was extremely biased by her problematic background, and was written by an obviously very disordered person, resulting in the book becoming a bestseller in the United States. Of course. But that was a time when America still had a hypocrite’s sense of decency, moral and ethical substance, and values. A lot has changed since Mitford published her books; America no longer has even a hypocrite’s sensitivities, only a chronic anxiety and paranoia inspired by rampant greed, dissatisfaction, denial and suspicion. We’ve come a long way in those 30 or so years, haven’t we?

One of the significant developments, however, one that is anecdotally attributed to Mitford’s muckraking and biased exposé, was the action taken by the Federal Trade Commission with its so-called Funeral Rule, requiring disclosure of a General Price List by funeral homes. The Rule requires funeral homes to provide consumers with accurate, itemized price information and various other disclosures about funeral goods and services. Another interesting observation is that Mitford’s rants in 1963, and her revised rants in 1998 were, to some appreciable extent, prophetic— what in 1963-98 was “muckraking” and biased is true reality in 2017 — but the key players have changed.

Or Final Rites

With the growth of the “Walmart-style” [click here to read our article] funeral home chains and factory funeral home groups like Newcomer Funeral Service Group (HQ in Topeka, Kansas) and its Newcomer Funerals and Cremations (locally in Albany and Latham), Service Corporation International (SCI) a.k.a. Dignity Memorial, StoneMor , and others (See “10 Companies that Control the Death Industry”). Families are manipulated into buying expensive goods and services they don’t need or want. Prepaid funeral money vanishes into thin air. Body parts are sold on the black market. Eight states force families to pay a funeral director even if they conduct a home funeral with no need for help from outsiders — not that we are suggesting you should start doing DYI funerals at home without some expert inputs, we do object to the “requirement to pay” for services not necessarily needed. But a consumer movement is now awakening, and Americans are asserting their rights over a key part of life, just as they did in the past with the natural childbirth and right-to-die movements. The two most prominent leaders of that movement are the authors of the book Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death, Joshua Slocum, executive director of Funeral Consumers Alliance, and Lisa Carlson, executive director of Funeral Ethics Organization. In the book they join forces to expose wrongdoing, inform consumers of their rights, and propose legal reforms. The book includes state-by-state summaries of laws, regulations, services, and consumer concerns. (Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death  by Josh Slocum and Lisa Carlson; for other resources please see Funeral Consumers Alliance). Again, you have to be interested to pick up the book; and we advise caution whenever you read someone else’s interpretations, but it’s certainly better than continuing blindly.

Synergy Means the Corps get More Control for their Investment!

You’ve probably heard enough about Newcomer Funeral Service Group with its chain funeral homes in Albany and Latham, NY, and their questionable practices, smokescreen advertising, and irresponsible hiring practices so we’ll move on to more dangerous species of lurkers with their eyes on your credit card. This time we’ll go after Service Corporation International (SCI) who is known to consumers as Dignity Memorial, an addition you’ll probably see alongside the familiar family funeral home names that they’ve gobbled up. See Dignity Memorial, think Service Corporation International and think of a funeral-Walmart with more than 2,100 locations across the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and controlling more than 15% of the death market in the US. Think about a greedy corporation that is continuously grabbing for more and giving less. And we’ll look at another resident of the corporate Ghouls Gulch, StoneMor Partners, who are in the cemeteries acquisition business.

Synergy is the concept that the value and performance of two companies combined will be greater than the sum of the separate individual parts.


 

Bring Out Your Dead! A Monty Python Prophesy

A Message from the Editor

We’ve been sharing some posts on the funeral business and deathcare from several other sites. While this is not the focus of this blog, we don’t mind because the posts have attracted substantial interest. This post will be the last deathcare post we will be re-publishing on this blog. If you want to continue reading about deathcare in the US, please go to the following sites and follow them. Glad you are enjoying the posts so much but we have to get back to local political and social issues.

You can visit the following blogs for posts on death, dying, funeral services, and other death-related topics:

Thanatology Café
Spirituality, Bereavement & Grief Care
Pastoral CareHomiletics & Spiritual Care
The Church, Ministry, and Pastoral Care

Happy Holidays!
The Editor


Republished with Permission from Thanatology Café.

There is a great deal to be said about our healthcare and deathcare industries in the US, they are similar in many respects and exhibit similar functional flaws in a general sense. In the humanectomized materialist consumerism driven culture in which we live, the corporations have reduced most of us to human means to a corporate end. Most of US humanity has been dehumanized to the level of mere consumers. This is not a new development, however, and can be read in many quasi-prophetic sources.

In a recent conversation with a licensed funeral director and funeral home operator, who read our article on Nicholas Facci and Newcomer Funerals and Cremations (March 26, 2017), we discussed among other things the funeral chains’ exploitation of the demise of our traditions. We continue that discussion here together with some and some interesting anecdotes about the Albany County Coroner’s office.

After that discussion, I couldn’t help but think about one of the many hysterical scenes in the Monty Python film, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” or of the grim portrayal by Dr John B. Huber of the Manchurian Plague (20th c.) and the Black Plague (14th c.).

Monty Python’s “Holy Grail”

The scene takes place during the Black Plague in medieval somewhere, and opens with the sounds of strange medieval music. Discordant and sparse images. Wailings and groanings. Close up of contorted face upside down. A leg falls across it. Creaking noise. The bodies lurch away from and scene pans out to reveal they are amongst a huge pile of bodies on a swaying cart that is lumbering away from the viewer. It is pulled by a couple of ragged, dirty emaciated wretches, the cart drivers. Behind the cart walks another large man, a slightly more prosperous Porter, wearing a black hood and looking rather sinister. The Porter is carrying an emaciated old man over his shoulder who is still moving, and protests “I’m not dead!” The dialogue goes something like this:

The scene: (The Porter carrying an old man slung over his shoulder, approaches the cart and the cart driver…)
Cart Driver: Bring out your dead!
Porter: Here’s one!
Cart Driver: Ninepence.
Old man: I’m not dead!
Card Driver: What?
Porter: Nothing…Here’s your ninepence.
Cart Driver: Er…He says he’s not dead!
Porter: Yes he is.
Old Man: I’m not.
Cart Driver: He isn’t.
Porter: Well he will be soon. He’s very ill.
Old Man: I’m getting better!
Porter: No you’re not. You’ll be stone-dead in a moment.
Cart Driver: I can’t take him like that; it’s against regulations!
Old Man: I don’t want to go on the cart!
Porter: Oh don’t be such a baby.
Cart Driver: I can’t take him like that!
Old Man: I feel fine!
Porter: Oh, do us a favor…
Cart Driver: I can’t.
Porter: Well, can you hang around a couple of minutes? He won’t be long…
Cart Driver: I promised I’d be at the Robinson’s. They’ve lost nine today.
Porter: Well, when’s your next round?
Cart Driver: Thursday.
Old Man: I think I’ll go for a walk.
Porter: (To the Old Man) You’re not fooling anyone, you know! (to the Cart Driver) Look. Isn’t there something you can do?
Old Man: (Singing) I feel happy, I feel happy!
The Cart Driver looks at the Porter for a moment. Then they both do a quick furtive look up and down the street. The Cart Driver very swiftly brings up a club and hits the Old Man on the head. (Out of shot but the singing stops after a loud bonk noise.)
Porter: Ah! Thanks very much! (Handing over the ninepence) See you on Thursday!
(Tossing old man onto the bodies on the cart)
Cart Driver: That’s all right! See you on Thursday.

(View the clip on YouTube)

While transcribing the dialogue I thought to myself how prophetic this 1975 spoof was.  More than 40 years later we can watch this clip and it sends cold shivers down your spine. Back then what was morbidly hilarious has become stark reality for us today.

“Bring out your dead!” Newcomer Funerals and Cremations TV Ads.

Cryptkeeper Newcomer Ad

There you are, sitting enjoying a snack thinking “Life is good!” And Warren “Ren” Newcomer, the cadaver-like founder of the Newcomer Funeral Services Group based in Wichita, Kansas, appears on your television screen. He’s the 21st century version of the Cryptkeeper and plays the part really well. He looks like an embalming gone awry and oozes a false compassion and insincere expression that makes you want to choke on your chips. Here’s a guy who has made millions exploiting the deaths of loved ones and doing his part to destroy our death traditions while grinning like a corpse on the way to the bank.  Newcomer Funeral Services Group has two locations in the Albany, New York, area, and has a presence in some 10 states. There are other similar funeral chains, Walmart-type factory funeral companies that have bought up private funeral businesses, cemeteries and crematoriums across the country. They operate under names like Service Corporation International (SCI), Dignity Memorial™, StoneMor Partners, Precoa, and of course, Newcomer Funerals and Corpse Disposal. What their advertising and marketing messages say to us, despite the actors and the phony compassion, is what Monty Python is teaching: “Bring out your dead!” Toss them on the cart and we’ll see you on Thursday (and don’t forget your checkbook or credit card).

“I’m Not Dead!” The Office of the Albany County Coroner declares a woman dead but she revives in the morgue

In New York Times article “They Said She Was D.O.A., But Then the Body Bag Moved” (Robert D. McFadden, 11/18/94) The author reports that Albany County Coroner Philip Furie and  Paramedics allegedly “found no heartbeat, no pulse, no breath or other signs of life, and the coroner declared her officially dead.”  So they “ zipped Mildred C. Clarke,  into a body bag, took her to the morgue at the Albany Medical Center Hospital and left her in a room where corpses are kept at 40 degrees, pending autopsies or funerals. About 90 minutes later, the chief morgue attendant went in to transfer her to a funeral home. “ The attendant noticed some movement in the body bag, unzipped it and found that Mildred was still breathing. She was moved to intensive care and treated but the case has never been explained. The L.A. Times reports later that “Mildred Clark, the 86-year-old woman who spent 90 minutes in a morgue cooler last week after mistakenly being declared dead, died Wednesday of undisclosed ailments, a hospital spokesman said…. Albany Medical Center Hospital spokesman Richard Puff said Clark’s family had requested that the cause of death be withheld.” Any guesses as to the cause of death?

According to the article, “Albany is the only major city in New York State that does not have a medical examiner, an official who is trained in forensic pathology, and this would be a real advantage,”  The office of the coroner is  a relic still found  in many American cities. Albany elects four coroners to declare deaths and investigate their  causes. They have no medical training but are required to attend a “death investigation course.”  The coroners are expected to evaluate crime scenes and suspicious deaths, but they have no medical training.

We’re investigating some leads relating to the performance of the Albany County Coroners, and will report on our findings in a future article. We suspect that the Albany County Coroner isn’t very popular among local funeral directors. But Hey! this is Smalbany, isn’t it? There’s a job for every misfit in the Albany Democratic Machine, isn’t there?

“Look. Isn’t there something you can do? Ah! Thanks very much! See you on Thursday.” Inconvenience of the Dying Process.

We’re so very busy and so much in a rush. Why? Because our handlers tell us we are. We’ve lost our sense for distinguishing what is nice and what is necessary. We no longer have to think. Advertisers tell us what we need. Marketers tell us what to ask for. Government tells us how to live. Churches tell us how to die. Emails tell us we need to Hurry! and to Rush! because time is running out to buy a certain something. Hell! We don’t even die in peace. Hospitals transform us into cyborgs with tubes and electrodes at every available spot, and when all else fails, they still want to provide “billable services.” Only when you have had enough watching the technology fail do you scream STOP! Even when the so-called healthcare team has the good sense to admit that they can’t do anything more, they recommend shipping what’s left of mom or dad to hospice. And so at hospice the saga continues. When death finally occurs, whether it’s helped along or drags out to the end, we are still in a hurry, still have other things to do. But yet again, the materialist consumerism we are addicted to has the solution for immediate relief of any inconvenience, even death. There are customized death packages for every budget ranging from direct burial or direct cremation to the “traditional funeral.” Just ask for the Detailed Price List required by the FTC’s Funeral Rule and prepare to be nickel-and-dimed. You have abandoned the traditional funeral home with the family funeral director and have opted for the Walmart funeral chain, the factory funeral service provider. And you deserve everything you get. Sorry but it’s true.

We’ve all read about states like Oregon and Washington that have legislated physician-assisted suicide (PAS), euthanasia in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. We all know about the hospice movement that has degenerated into another instance of corporate exploitation of death and the demise of the family. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that Monty Python prophesied the hastening of death movement. True, we no longer use a club to help the dying along; we’ve become much more refined in the 21st century. We now use chemicals and drugs. Or, if we’ve made mom or dad into an ICU cyborg, we simply remove the respirator, inject some morphine and “Ah! Thanks very much. See you on Thursday” at the viewing. We’ve come a long way into our degeneration!

Get the shocking truth about Service Corporation International (SCI) here.

We really have to chuckle when we read such crapola like “Service Corporation International is dedicated to compassionately supporting families at difficult times, celebrating the significance of lives that have been lived, and preserving memories that transcend generations, with dignity and honor. (SCI site at , last accessed on April 6, 2017). If you’re ready to believe that operations like SCI or Newcomer, corporations with their eyes on the bottom line, with their programmed funeral directors and staff operating on a corporate agenda, are there to do what the family funeral home once did, you’re already brain dead. SCI is constantly being sued, settling, or paying out huge judgments resulting from their mistakes. But when you’re making billions, who cares. The living keep dying; sky’s the limit! Get on the cart.


A bit of history: In 1962, Robert L. Waltrip, a licensed funeral director who grew up in his family’s funeral business, founded Service Corpration International. SCI started out as a small network of funeral homes and cemeteries in the Houston, Texas, area.

SCI gradually increased its offshore presence, and it continued to acquire business interests in North America. Since the late 1990s the US and Canadian marketplaces a  saturated battleground of competing companies intent on buying up and exploiting the deathcare business sector. SCI, In the course of the melee, Alderwoods Group and Stewart Enterprises emerged as the three principal companies in the resulting funeral corporation industry. As of December 31, 1999, SCI owned and operated 3,823 funeral service locations, 525 cemeteries, 198 crematoria and two insurance operations located in 20 countries on five continents. In 1999, SCI introduced Dignity Memorial, the first transcontinental brand offering deathcare goods and services in North America. By consolidating its network of funeral homes and cemeteries under a single brand, SCI expected that they could create a recognizable and marketable brand image. In 2000, poor market conditions forced SCI to reevaluate operations. While foreign operations had once shown promise, nearly 70 percent of SCI’s revenue was generated by operations in the United States and Canada. The company decided to divest many of its offshore businesses, in addition to many North American funeral homes and cemeteries. The UK arm now operates as Dignity PLC.


“I don’t want to go on the cart!” How we treat our dying; how we treat ourselves.

Monty Python presents an interesting scenario at a time when Jessica Mitford was enjoying the fruits of her muckraking book, “American Way of Death,” (1963), and the funeral home chains and funeral service factory corporations were reaching their peak of exploitation when Mitford’s “American Way of Death Revisited” was poshumously published (1998). Monty Python had it right. But we all laughed our way straight to hell.

 

J.B. Huber MD: “Psychology of Grave Epidemics”
(Med. Times, 1911)

Moving from a 1975 comedy spoof we can cite a remarkable article that appeared in the December 1911 journal, Medical Times, by John B. Huber MD. Dr Huber writes about the great Manchurian Plague (1910-1900), and compares it to the Black Plague (1347-1351). I’d like to quote some passages from that 1911 medical journal article. See if you can draw any parallels with our 21st century society.

Yet business was conducted as ordinarily—by those still alive; and the stroller “viewing the manners of the town,” would hardly realize from the superficial aspect of things, that a dreadful scourge was gradually but surely destroying its people. Yet the plague had, from November last up to this New Year’s Day, done for one-fourth of the twenty thousand inhabitants of that community; and it was then expected that more than half the remainder would be doomed before the plague would expend its energies.

On this festive New Year’s Day in that Manchurian town, the mounted policeman’s horse had its tail brightly decorated with green and red streamers; a shop keeper burst merrily out upon a group in the street, scaring them with a bunch of firecrackers which he flung up into the air. A green house was decorated with bright red, gilt lettered posters, festive banners and green paper flags, all by way of celebration. Next door the yellow poster of the Sanitary Bureau was in evidence, sealing up that house, and marking it unclean; “eight dead, two dying,” are the tally with which it began the New Year. (Huber p. 353)

Sounds like our modern lifestyle: death looms around us but we just continue partying, ignoring it, until we have to go down that dark alley and have no choice but to confront the darkness, the gloom. Manchuria in the early 20th century doesn’t seem much different from Troy or Albany in the early 21st century.

“Eight dead, two dying.” Sound’s like Monty Python’s Cart Driver, “They’ve lost nine today.” Or like the handoff report in an ICU. Whether you’re tallying plague victims or scheduling body collections, or handing off your charges to the next shift, the language used tells it all: We’ve all become mere garbage bags laying about until we get collected, transported, disposed of. Don’t you think there should be more to the final chapter of a life lived, and the received legacy?

Plague: carting the dead, by Moynet
A cart with the dead.

“The carters that loaded the dead on the wagons and took them away would not walk, but sat companionably beside the corpses.”  (Huber p. 353)

And so do we in the 21st century. The 21st century carters load up the dead and take them away; the bereft sit complacently beside the corpses. One would hope that we have advanced a bit farther along than our ancestors, that we would observe the traditions handed down to us, perform the grief and mourning rituals so important to psychospiritual healing. Some of us do. Most haven’t a clue, and rely on the bean counters to guide them.

Direct Burial: Coffinless in Pits

“Nine hundred were buried coffinless in pits; above two thousand frozen corpses, in a most desolate stillness, awaited burial near the town, in a heap a quarter-mile long. Some coffins were in evidence, standing upright, without covers, the bodies erect in them; here an arm stuck upright out of its receptacle; there a naked leg protruded. Near the pile of which he was soon to become a member, was seen an outcast kneeling, worshipping, half falling in his weakness, as he bowed his head and rose again, before the grave of an ancestor.´ (Huber p. 353)

On the one hand we get a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes at one of the funeral home chains or factory-funeral homes as described by a young licensed funeral director now employed by Newcomer Funerals and Cremations. On the other hand, we are presented with a feeble suffering wretch who, despite his own suffering, has not forgotten his obligations in continuing his bonds with the dead, one of whom he shall soon be. It’s a rich, telling image; in a sense very real but very metaphorical. Once you create that image in your mind, you’ll not soon forget it.

“[T]he plague was coming to its most dreadful stage, for it was now destroying the family affections…Thus, most gruesomely, does the twentieth century repeat the fourteenth.”  (Huber p. 354)

While Dr Huber is describing a real epidemic, the Manchurian Plague of 1910-11, and describes the Black Death of the 14th century that swept away a substantial part of medieval Europe’s population, we are faced with a more insidious plague that is robbing us of our core values to family and kin, both living and dead. Huber, a medical man, calls this the “most dreadful stage” because it was destroying the core of the culture, the bonds of family. I’d guess he’d probably go further to say that the 21st century repeats both the 14th and the 20th, but that our plague is materialist consumerism promoted by greed and the catastrophe of so-called individual choice.

“Next to the fear of death was the fear of desertion.” (Huber p. 354)

Early 20th century China had very strong family ties, ties of responsibility, filial piety. This sense of duty was the basis of the veneration of ancestors, a form of continuing bond with the dead, similar to the West’s veneration of its sacred dead, the saints. Huber is describing a fear of abandonment, of “desertion” to be on a par with the fear of death. In clinical practice, whether in the nursing home or the hospital setting, or hospice, we find persons who are ready to confront death but fear doing it alone; they have a fear of desertion. We might extend that fear of desertion to the bereaved, as well, but their desertion is far more subtle than committing the dying to some remote corner of the medical ICU or to a hospice facility. The bereaved are not only saddled with their loss but also with the daunting confrontation with the corporate funeral director with his endless list of goods and services with their respective prices. All is done with the sensitivity of an embalming trocar. What ever happened to the compassionate family funeral home and its director, frequently assisted by his family.

Black-Death-Plague-Doctor-Clothing

“Who, then, would be so foolhardy as to throw good life after bad, by nursing a dying friend, when the Black Death lay per chance in his last sign, in the farewell pressure of his hand. So the nearest and dearest ties were dissolved, the calls of kindred and humanity neglected; the sick left to die and to be carted to the grave by hirelings…” (Huber p. 354)

Indeed, who today would be so traditional as to give up his or her self-time to care for a dying relative or friend, especially one who is in the disturbing phases of life’s end. Most persons are ambivalent about the whole process: On the one hand they look to the death as something unbearable in its finality; on the other hand they just want to get it over with. The death occurs and the bereaved are fed the 20th century psychological pablum that their connection with the dead person has ended, that they have to get on with a productive life. That was Freud’s teaching: You had to cut your ties with the dead. Quite the opposite of that in the East or in traditional societies, and quite a contrast to what we now teach in the 21st century. We now teach continuing bonds with the dead, a transcendence phenomenon, meaning-making, that the living’s relationship with the deceased is not only normal and healthy, it’s encouraged! We do it in the rituals of the support group or in ways like the AIDS quilt. We may do it differently than the poor wretch venerating his ancestors described by Huber but we nonetheless do it. We do it because it’s the human thing we do. But it’s also so very inconvenient for the chains and the corporations; they don’t encourage humanity, they encourage production and consumerism. Take three days and get over your grief. Back to work with you. See you on Thursday.

“Boccaccio attests vividly how the human organism in all its phases—physical, spiritual, moral, intellectual—deteriorated in stamina and in co-ordination. Compassion, courage and the nobler feelings were found in but few; whilst cowardice, selfishness and ill-will, with the baser passions in their train asserted their supremacy. In place of virtue, which had been driven from the earth, wickedness everywhere reared its rebellious standard and succeeding generations were consigned to her baneful tyranny.”  (Huber p. 354)

Boccaccio here is describing the pitiful demise of humanity in the Middle Ages. We could describe the present state of affairs without changing a word, couldn’t we? Take a moment and go to the Newcomer Funeral Service Group or their Albany/Latham websites for Newcomer Funerals and Cremations and read their ridiculous claims of what they offer the bereaved. Go to the Service Corporation International site and read about their “compassion”, their caring, their sensitivity to the needs of the bereaved. That’s worse than General Motors telling you they care about your lower back pain. Yet how many consumers actually swallow that sordid brew. These factory-funeral corporations aren’t making billions because no one’s falling for the marketing hype, the sales pitches pressuring the bereaved in their most difficult moments to sign and buy. We say look at the lawsuits and how much they’re paying out for failing the bereaved, for causing the bereaved more suffering than they had ever bargained for.

“[t]he Black Death “seemed to arise the worst passions of the human heart, and to dull the spiritual sense of the soul.” Who would think, declared Papon, “that in the midst of horrors so suitable (it would seem) for extinguishing the passions, there were two—libertinism and greed—which should be carried to so high a degree!” (Huber p. 354)

Indeed! Who ever thought that liberties, individualism, choice could lead to the present situation we find ourselves in. How is it that human beings in their worst possible moments should be exposed to the worst possible motivations and motives of modern mankind: libertarianism and greed. Those very libertarians preaching choice and liberty are deeply rooted in the horrible hypocrisy that such choice and liberty give life to. The plague that is upon us now in the 21st century is not a plague that is carried by fleas, and it’s not a plague that kills in five days. Our 21st century plague is called materialist consumerism, market economy, capitalism and it’s carried by fellow human beings, and it kills insidiously but totally in mind, body and spirit. There’s no way to discern with any certainty the extent of the infection but one thing is certain, there’s no effective vaccine, and most people would not want to undergo the cure.

One woman was married five times in one day—four of the bridegrooms having been buriers of the dead, dressed in the clothes they had stripped from the bodies of the deceased.” (Huber p. 354)

Huber describes the total depravity of the people who now have lost all sense of morality and values, and who now in a devil-may-care attitude of let’s be merry because we’re dead anyway. He describes a woman who marries five men in succession who are carried away just as quickly. She describes those who profit from the belongings and property of the dead, whom they have stripped. For all of Jessica Mitford’s muckraking, she would have had a picnic with this line, somehow drawing a connection between these “buriers of the dead” and those “dressed in clothes they had stripped from the bodies of the deceased.”

Like horrors disgraced many other communities. He: is furnished another example—such as are so deplorably frequent in history of how fanatical frenzy, associated with hatred and the play of the baser passions, will work powerfully upon nations and peoples to the utter exclusion of the restraints of reason, of law, or of any other wholesome factor. And the greater part of those who, by their education and rank, might have been assumed to raise the deterrent voice of reason, themselves led on the savage mob to murder and to plunder the Jews. (Huber p. 355)

Throughout history, Satan has always been the “other”; humankind has never really been able to see its true self, it’s never been able to accept its shadow side. Huber is describing the desperate search for a cause of the plague and, then as now, hatred and baser passions take control, and the necessary scapegoat is found. Whatever doesn’t support the new agenda has to be demonized and sent packing. The dead are not producers, the bereaved are not efficient workers. The dead are distracting the living from their production or consumption. Make the dead and dying disappear, marginalize the traditions, deny grief, exploit the bereaved, then send them back to work. The voice of reason is muted. Our institutions teaching and training the healthcare and deathcare professionals teach technology and business law, not ethics and humanities. The mortuary science programs wouldn’t want to whisper a word against the multinational funeral chains and factory funeral homes, after all they pay the bills and hire the graduates. Why cut your own throat? Why bite the hands that pad your pockets? Of course they won’t hire anyone teaching real deathcare, psychospiritual support, tradition, ritual, healing. The bereaved are, after all, consumers. And you wouldn’t want to keep them from their producing activity for any longer than necessary. Besides, there’s always another body and we have to keep turning over the visitation rooms and chapel. Headquarters wants to see numbers, you know.

That the emotions played a part regarding the plague was observed by many. Those who were terrified were more prone to contract the disease. Those who feared not and were of a cheerful, equable mind were, to the extent at least of that benign influence upon the organism, the more likely to escape. Boccaccio, in writing the Decameron, recognized that pleasant thoughts were the best preventive….Those who despaired threw away their one chance of life; those of sanguine temperament resisted well. (Huber p. 355)

It’s really ironic that I should close with this passage from Huber’s article. Not really. What Huber is saying here is that if you despair you’re lost already. If you become complacent, you’re dead in the water. Those who step up, ask the questions like: Are you part of a funeral home chain? Are you owned by a funeral service corporation? Are you still family owned? will likely come out on top. It’s not necessarily the pleasant thoughts that get you through any plague, it’s the positive, affirmative thoughts that will prevent you from being taken for a ride. It’s really very true what Huber and Boccaccio are preaching here: You have to have the courage to ask the questions, to look beyond the bells and whistles, to see through the smoke screens, and to assert what you feel you need in your bereavement, not what’s on the corporate menu. The more you do your own thinking and planning the more likely you’ll escape the snares set by the corporate funeral directors. The article may have been written in 1911, over a hundred years ago, but it still has substantial relevance today. I hope to have shown that in my analysis.

Thus are all phases of individual existence mutually and inextricably interrelated: extensive and prolonged deterioration in any one aspect is bound in time to affect perniciously the others in time; such hideous psychic phenomena as are here stated do not obtain in the beginning of any such calamity as the Black Death. But it is the circumstance (and a most pathetic one) that the exercise of the heroic virtues for any lengthy period is contingent upon the maintenance of normal living conditions in general; otherwise the psychic stamina deteriorates, manners become dissolute, morals depraved and consciences debased. (Huber p. 355)

What Dr Huber is saying in this paragraph is that life events are intimately interrelated — I understand these life events to be the basis of our traditions and rituals — and that if we allow any of those events to be exploited or to lapse into irrelevance, all others will suffer as the result. Huber’s phrase “heroic virtues” equates with human values and ethical conduct, which logically rely on “normal” living in our society. When “psychic stamina deteriorates” we have a disturbance in coping and resilience, we forget the ritual and become lost, we forget our obligations, and our whole mindset, our worldview, deteriorates. This, in the 21st century, is what happens when we fall victim to the materialist consumerism of our age and become slave consumers of the corporations and their perverse messages.

And so you have it: From none other than Monty Python’s 1975 depiction of the Black Death, and from a physician writing in 1911 about the pneumonic plague in Manchuria, China, do we have the evidence that really nothing has changed; we have learned nothing. What more can one say?

Support Your Local Funeral Home

(And don’t forget to ask for some time with
the interfaith bereavement chaplain!
(518) 479-0525 or compassionate.care.associates@gmail.com)

 

Our Editor’s Response to the Newcomer-Facci Exposé

Update

A reliable source has reported that Mr Facci has allegedly been reprimanded by his Newcomer keepers for failure to comply with Newcomer policies. Surprised? He’s also been reported by his colleagues at Newcomer Funerals and Cremations for alleged noncompliance and misconduct. Could it be his mouth? His attitude? We also hear Facci’s taken down his Facebook page. Wonder Why? Facci’s really quite unhappy, we hear, and is considering relocating to Florida. We suggest Cuba. We wonder if he’s that immature to think his reputation won’t follow him? We can’t say that we didn’t expect these developments. Facci made his bed; now he has to sleep in it. Too bad he didn’t appreciate what he had from the start.


The Editor’s Response

We recently republished an article about a recently licensed funeral director, Mr Nicholas J. Facci, and his online activities, his relationships with former mentors and associates, and his recent hire by a local chain funeral services provider, Newcomer Funerals and Cremations (Albany and Latham), a member of the Newcomer Funeral Services Group, a Kansas based organization with funeral homes in some 10 states. We’d like to make our own statement on that article. We’d like to respond to some of the private comments we have received in response to the article, “Birds of a Feather? Lying down with dogs? The Politics of Funeral Corporations….”


Despite the appearances and although Nick Facci is plastered all over the Internet as being associated with Riverview Funeral Home and Simple Choices Cremations, he was fired from his employment with Riverview and Simple Choices; furthermore, Facci has published numerous times on his Facebook page that he is no longer associated with Riverview or Simple Choices. He has recently been hired by the Newcomer funeral home chain, a “Walmart-type” provider, and is now working in the Albany-Latham area.


We vetted the author and verified the sources of the article. The facts were true and the majority of them came either from public sources, the Troy Record newspaper, or from Mr Facci’s own Facebook page. The facts, opinions and conclusions stated by the author were credible and truthful, and based on research of information available to anyone who is interested.

Some readers — apparently those with short attention spans — have suggested that the article is a bit long-winded. Yes. The article is a bit longer than our typical article, and while it may be a bit hard on Mr Facci, we feel that given the circumstances and Mr Facci’s conduct as well as the environment in which Mr Facci is employed, the article is important and the facts and conclusions are of significant interest to the pubic. We had and continue to have  the opportunity and the control to edit material out of the article but we chose not to do so. We continue to stand by the author and the content of the article. As for being hard on Mr Facci, Whose fault is that? The facts are the facts.

That having been said, we’d like to make some editorial remarks about some of the feedback we’ve been receiving from readers, both in the funeral services business, consumers of those services, and persons who just found the article of interest. We would like to note that we have information that Facci, Newcomer and some of the funeral directors who know Facci have been very responsive but have kept their responses pretty much under wraps. That’s how the funeral profession is, we guess. Others with personal knowledge have come forward with their information. Nothing we have received so far indicates that the article is in any way misleading or untruthful. Far from it. Most of what we have received so far actually confirms the author’s facts.

Here, in a nutshell, are our responses to the article and to our readers’ responses:

The article has been vetted and found to be substantially true in its facts. As our regular readers and followers are aware, we are very diligent in assuring that what we publish on the Smalbany blog is factually true and credible. Our community of readers and followers also know that we don’t take sides, and our sole purpose is journalistic integrity and community service. Enough said.

The author of the article was vetted and found to be reliable. The author of the article has no personal, political or economic interest in publishing the facts of the article. The author of the article is a well-known figure who has a fine reputation, is known for his defense of truth and ethics, and has excellent professional qualifications. The author is credible and the facts truthful.

Mr Facci is responsible for his conduct and his statements. The article points out a disturbing trend in the funeral services industry, how funeral director candidates are educated, trained and licensed, the importance of ethics in the funeral services profession, and the fact that poor education and immaturity can result in serious detriment to the reputation of the funeral services profession and significant injury to the customers served by unscrupulous providers. While we feel our funeral directors and family funeral homes provide a necessary and very important service to those who have lost a loved one, we have our concerns about the direction the funeral services business has been taken by the corporations and funeral home chains. We also share the author’s concerns about the quality of the people working for these funeral home chains and their motivations, and their character. These are all reasonable concerns and are presented in the article.

The article may have scared the hell out of Facci and/or Newcomer and Facci was forced to remove his Facebook posts but removing them doesn’t undo the fact that they were posted, read, and noted. Just because he removed his posts doesn’t undo the fact that he posted them in the first place. Unfortunately for Mr Facci, he can’t undo the Troy Record article and the statements he made in that article. Too bad, Mr Facci!

Unlike Facci’s former employer, we do not underestimate Facci nor are we ready to present our back to him for target practice. We are monitoring these developments closely and have our ears to the ground, so to speak.

It is all about Mr Facci, not about the author. As stated above, the article points out Mr Facci’s character and professional flaws, using Mr Facci as a so-called stereotype of a trend in the industry. The article is about Mr Facci and how he got to where he is, wherever that may be. The article is about how one immature and flawed individual can manipulate situations for his own selfish benefit, and how even veteran professionals and a large funeral home chain can be taken in by such a person.

One commenter suggested that Newcomer has a “file” on the author. Our response was: “Big deal!” If Facci or Newcomer feel that they have something interesting about the author of the article, share it! If it’s good information, we’d love to know about it. But all things considered, we can’t imagine what they could have because we’ve already checked. The so-called “file” may be printouts from anonymous Internet sites, anonymous blurbs by critics who don’t have the guts to use their real names, or sociopaths who think they have an ax to grind. No doubt, if Mr Facci had anything to do with the assembly of any file it must involve some breach of confidentiality or other unethical practice. Sorry, gentlemen and ladies, that’s not the kind of information or the sources we tend to use on this blog. Hard facts and reliable sources are what you get here. Our suggestion: Go stuff your file!

For the sake of argument, even if the author has a skeleton or two in the closet, what difference would that make. None at all. If the facts are true as presented in the article, nothing in a so-called “file” about the author can change Mr Facci’s character or conduct, nor can it justify Newcomer Funeral Services Group (Kansas) or Newcomer Funerals and Cremations (Latham and Albany) in deciding to hire Facci without even checking with his former employer(s). And if Newcomer had checked with Facci’s former employer and hired him anyway, despite the facts disclosed and Facci’s unethical conduct, Shame on Newcomer! The article is about Facci and Newcomer, not about the author.

Silence is an admission of complicity. We provide ample opportunity for anyone with something to say to say it by leaving a comment. If no one comes forward with contrary facts we have to assume that they have no defense. Fair enough. After the appearance of the article, Mr Facci was very quick to clean up his Facebook posts and many of his scandalous posts disappeared (fortunately we had already collected some of them such as those exposed in the article). A number of persons who know Facci either personally or professionally have provided comments by email or by electronic message confirming the facts in the article. Other parties have contacted us with concerns that the article could be misinterpreted. Alternative interpretations are in the head of the reader, not in the text of the article.

We are grateful for the comments about the facts. Any time we receive confirmation of facts or clarification of the facts we are very grateful because we place great value on the quality of the information we provide. Regrettably, most commenters don’t have the ability to comment, and tend to rewrite. Those comments are worthless and they don’t get published.

As for the concern that the article could be misinterpreted. Misinterpreted? How? Does it make Facci’s former employer look bad? We think not. Facci’s former employer has an outstanding reputation; even Facci made that clear in the Troy Record article, even while Facci was badmouthing Newcomer! Facci’s former employer did everything possible to teach Facci the trade and to get him through the licensing process. Even so, Facci bit the hand that literally fed him. It’s ridiculous for anyone to suggest that Facci’s mentor should have been able to have second guessed Facci’s devious mind. We cannot take responsibility for the state of mind of some readers. The article is pretty clear. If some bleeding heart wants to make believe that Facci’s conduct is excusable, that’s their problem. If some hard-nose wants to lynch Facci or Newcomer, while we wouldn’t go that far, we can’t control such a reaction. The article says what it says, no more no less. Repeat: Alternative interpretations are in the head of the reader, not in the text of the article.

Again and again and again, we have stated in our articles that we don’t want to take control of minds, we only want to get them working, thinking, and learning about what’s going on in our communities. That’s all. Our readers are free to make any decision they feel is right; we just provide the facts.

Our personal take on the situation: If Mr Facci were an elected official or a municipal employee, or if Mr Facci were a doctor, a dentist, a car dealer, whatever, we’d have the same response to the conduct and character described in the article: He’s got problems. He needs to fix those problems. Anyone who knows about his problems and continues to do business with him or hires him assumes responsibility for those flaws and problems and the repercussions. The same applies to Facci. In fact, we hold Facci’s feet to the fire particularly because he is in the position he is in. Facci is responsible for what he did, said and posted. Facci was fired from his former position when his employer had had enough of Facci’s shenanigans. Facci had even prepared for that possibility and was already providing a way out for that eventuality. Newcomer chose to ignore these facts and hired Facci. Newcomer now has to deal with those facts having been made public. Either Newcomer is willing to carry Facci’s baggage for him or they can free themselves of him; it’s their choice, and Newcomer has to live with the consequences.

We have also been informed that one person who provided Facci with a letter of recommendation actually demanded that Newcomer Funeral Service Group disregard that recommendation. The person making the recommendation, upon learning of Facci’s conduct, decided to withdraw the recommendation for reasons of conscience.

Facci and Newcomer are the authors of their own crisis. To be honest while not violating a confidence, it must be said that when the article first appeared, Facci’s former employer wrote to us requesting that we remove the article. Here is a guy who has sustained considerable damage to his business done by Facci, and he’s asking that the exposé be removed. We politely declined to remove the article. But that’s how funeral directors are. They are so used to doing their jobs and remaining behind the scenes, not intruding that they tend for forgive and not to make waves. That’s why Facci is such an interesting subject because he doesn’t care as long as he comes out on top. He’s an individual that the article uses to draw attention to the way the funeral home chains and corporations are changing the politics of death and deathcare. It’s not pretty.

Facci and Newcomer are not the only players in this dirty game. Without offering any excuses for Facci’s conduct or Newcomer’s choice of employees, we cannot avoid pointing an accusing finger at the Hudson Valley Community College Mortuary Sciences Program and the New York State Bureau of Funeral Directing, and the New York State Department of Health, all of which have their fingers in the pie. As organizations involved thickly in the training and education, the oversight, and the licensing of funeral homes and funeral directors, those organizations should be put in the spotlight. While we are informed that the Hudson Valley Community College Mortuary Sciences Program curriculum was put on hold and substantially revamped last year, it remains to be seen whether that has any concrete effect on the quality of candidates it churns out. Is Facci a perp or a victim? Is Newcomer a perp or a victim? What is Warren “Ren” Newcomer,  and Arthur Fitch, manager of Newcomer Funerals and Cremations in Albany and Latham, doing to defuse the situation? Jury is still out on those questions.

Mr Facci and Newcomer Funerals and Cremations have another reason to be grateful. Mr Facci had to be reminded to be grateful to his former employer and mentor for the fine training and formation he received. We mentioned that  in our original article. Mr Facci’s former employer and mentor has again asked that we withdraw the article; he’d like to put the experience behind him. While we don’t agree to letting Facci or Newcomer off the hook that easily, we have considered the request, and on compassionate grounds, have complied with the request as of March 31. This is an unusual action taken only at the request of the victim of an offence, we do not routinely remove an article from public view, unless we are convinced that  the victim might benefit. While the article is no longer visible to the general public, it still exists and, if a reader makes a specific request to rcs.confidential@gmail.com for access to the article, we will provide a password for accessing the article; otherwise it will not be visible to the wider public. Mr Facci and Newcomer Funeral Services Group will continue to be monitored, if only to ensure that they do not engage in any further self-destructive behavior, however.

All that having been said, we can’t ignore such headlines as, “Funeral Chain Exploits Demise of Tradition,” which asks the question “Newcomer Family Mortuary ignored industry taboos by advertising discount funerals on television. Will competition usurp tradition in this high-growth industry?” That article was nothing less than current, relevant and prophetic article and appeared in the online magazine Inc. It’s an historic article but could have been published today.

As usual, if our readers have anything to add, comments to make, information to provide, we will be very grateful if you leave a public comment by using the comment feature on this page, or if you want to leave a more confidential message please use our email at rcs.confidential@gmail.com.

Reminder: Mr Facci’s former employer and mentor asked that the original article be withdrawn. We do not withdraw articles but in compromise and out of respect for Mr Facci’s former employer and mentor,  we have restricted access to the original article by requiring a password. Readers interested in accessing the original article may request a password by making a request to rcs.confidential@gmail.com.

Thank you all for your interest and loyalty. It’s now a time for healing.

The Editor

 

 

A New Feature: Articles and Essays

skulls

Learn More about Death and Dying.

The Principal Facilitator at Thanatology Café writes about a number of subjects relating to death, dying, grief, and the funeral services profession. Published on several blogs these articles have stimulated interest among people who never thought they’d be talking about the dread subject of death, and those readers and participants in local Thanatology Cafés have asked for more about the subject of thanatology; so many readers have requested copies of the Chaplain’s essays and articles that responding to every individual request has been quite a task. To make it easier for anyone interested in reading the Chaplain’s articles, he’s decided to create an online page on the Thanatology Café blog, where you can click on the essay title and either read the article online or download it. It’s that easy!

The article “Interfaith Bereavement Chaplain — An Essential Asset” is actually an article written for the benefit of funeral homes and funeral directors, and gives them a good talking-to about how they are failing to provide the bereaved with essential grief services and aftercare. It’s a must read if you are going to make pre-arrangements or are making arrangements for a loved one. Local funeral homes like Babcock Funeral Home (Ravena), especially (!) with their expensive and shoddy services, and A.J. Cunningham (Greenville and Ravena), the Capital District’s very own “factory funeral home”, Newcomer Funeral Home, could learn a lot from that articel.

The article, “Why is Funeralization Desirable and Necessary” is directed more to the consumer than to the funeral director, although funeral directors could benefit considerably from this article. It focuses mainly on the benefits of the traditional funeral for survivors and mourners. It’s a must-read for anyone who is or will be involved in funeral arrangements — that means everyone!

One of the most interesting articles is “Plain Talk About Cremation,” which is a real eye-opener for anyone considering cremation as a final disposition of their mortal remains.

Those articles and more are available on the Thanatology Cafe Blog page, “Articles & Essays.”

Click this link to go directly to New Feature: Articles and Essays.

As soon as we have it, we’ll also be publishing the September and October Thanatology Café program for the RCS area. Stay tuned and stay informed!

Please let me know how you like the Chaplain’s new service.

Happy reading! The Editor

Happy reading!
The Editor

Source: A New Feature: Articles and Essays

Other blogs by the Chaplain include: