“All of you. Outside, now. This will not happen here. You won’t be the first family I’ve thrown out in the middle of a service for not knowing how to act.”

I physically removed six fighting people from the funeral home, as in, I stood chest-to-chest with them and pushed them out the front door like a five-foot-tall bulldozer. They later were allowed in, one at a time, with the understanding that if they hit one another again, the police would be called, the service cancelled, and their mother driven to the cemetery and buried without ceremony.

It definitely was not the first time. Police presence at a funeral is also nothing new. Luckily this time it did not come to that.

Grief can cause a family to lunge for one anothers’ throats. But I cannot allow it at one of my services. This woman died a week ago; the family had plenty of time to beat each other up. Not at my service.

Sometimes there has to be someone to blame, someone to take the blows and absorb all the feelings the grieving people do not know how to unload. But my service is not the place.

I’ve been doing this for ten years now, and it goes without saying that I’m a completely different person from when I started. Good in some ways, bad in others. One thing different is I have absolutely zero patience for jackassery at a funeral. I have patience in other ways; patience for the “one last look” that turns into two hours; patience for the family who change their service date three times in a row or who call me at midnight to ask what color the flowers will be. I can deal with that. I cannot deal with disrespect to my building, my staff, and the other funeral guests.

I will turn down business before I will allow certain things to happen. I remember one of my removal staff got called the n-word by a grieving family member when he showed up at a house to pick up a body, and I told him to go home and let him know that he would be paid for the call anyway. I spoke with the family and let them know if they disrespected my staff, I would not be able to serve them. They were clearly embarrassed and ashamed of their behavior and ended up choosing another funeral home. I would have been willing to work with them with the understanding that they control their angry outbursts, but I was also equally willing to lose the case to someone else. Not all money is worth it.

I will step in and discipline a child who is out of control during my service. Do children belong at funerals? Absolutely. No matter how young; if you’re old enough to love, you’re old enough to grieve. But that is all you can do as a child in my funeral home – grieve. Pray, remember, show respect. Once you are done with that, if all you can do is run around and knock things over and throw things and yell, you will be removed from the building. I don’t mind looking like the jerk who hates children if it means the rest of the funeral guests will have an appropriate service.

This was a very large family; twelve children. I remember one week where I had two families in a row that large; two women died each leaving twelve children behind. Each family was a completely different experience. The first was a dream; everyone got along and they had a great service. The second was a month-long nightmare that ended with all the children suing one another. I learned a lot from that one.

I learned that I should never try to be anything but your funeral director. I will take care of the body, set up the entire funeral, and do all the paperwork. That’s it. I will not get involved in your disputes. I will not stay on the phone calling all twelve of you because you can’t bear to speak to one another. I will not arrange separate funerals just so some of you don’t have to be in the same room as the others. I will not sift through twelve burial outfits and try to come up with something all of you will like – first outfit that shows up at the funeral home is what she’s getting buried in. I am just a funeral director, and have no desire to be a psychologist, mediator or peacekeeper. I take care of the body. YOU fix your messed-up family, or remove yourself from the funeral service.

With that messed-up family, the woman was being buried with military honors, and after the shots were fired the serviceman gave the three bullet casings to the oldest son [I’ll bet they later fought about that, too] and then, inexplicably, handed three other bullet casings to me. I have no idea whose they were or why he did this, but I still have them. To me they are a symbol of bloodshed and strife; of feeling like you are sometimes rattled with gunshots; of a sign that you must know when to duck.