“Why did your people call me in the middle of the night after the death in my family?”

“Why did your people call me in the middle of the night after the death in my family?”

That comment, or a variation of it, is probably the single biggest question or complaint I get at Oakey’s. It comes in the grocery store, in church, and on the comment sheets that families use to respond to me about our quality of service. It comes in phone calls, letters, or personal interactions on the the Roanoke Greenway or at hockey games. I can certainly understand why a family might be curious or even annoyed about this topic. Someone they love has just passed away, and a stranger is on the other end of their phone expressing their condolences and asking about embalming permission. The answer is one I am proud to recite as it showcases yet another example of the high level of service Oakey’s is known for.

Many (probably MOST) funeral homes these days do not have an on-duty staff at night; if a death occurs at a hospital, the funeral home will simply leave the decedent in the morgue overnight and send an employee to pick up the body the next day. These funeral homes use “on call” staff members only to go to a home or nursing facility when they are notified about a death there. Some even contract out body removals to a third-party agency.

At Oakey’s, we do things very differently. With no disrespect intended toward the fine hospitals in our region, I would not want my loved one to be taken to one of their morgues and left overnight. A morgue is cold, dark, and usually has other bodies in close proximity to one another. Having a contingent of our associates working all night long gives us at Oakey’s the ability to respond with swiftness and dignity to each and every death in which we are notified. Whereas many other funeral homes only send one employee on a “removal,” our firm sends a minimum of two to carefully bring the decedent back into our care. Again, our family believes that dignity is a key ingredient to everything we do. This certainly includes the manner in which we physically take custody of a recently deceased individual.

I know I have not even begun to answer the aforementioned question yet, but I feel the average person needs a primer in order to have a full understanding of what happens when we receive a phone call informing us that our services are needed. Our policy is to contact a family as soon as we are notified by a hospital, hospice worker, or nursing/retirement community about a death. The main reason for this initial call is to establish whether or not the next of kin wishes for their loved one to be embalmed. It’s a fact that the sooner a body is embalmed, the better the results will be. However, if a family is considering cremation or anatomical donation, embalming would simply be an unnecessary expense. This is the crux of that first call we make to a family, in addition to expressing our sympathy for their loss. Unfortunately, we are often notified about a death by a hospital several hours AFTER the person has breathed their last breath. In the middle of the night, this often results in our making a call to a family right as they are attempting to go back to sleep after learning about a death. Needless to say, this has upset a number of folks in our community, and they have certainly let me know about their strong feelings.

Thankfully, their queries allow me to explain exactly WHY we make the call that can sometimes come in the middle of the night. After hearing “the rest of the story,” families have a better understanding of our reason for calling, but they also go away reinforced they received the superior service that our company has provided for 152 years now.