Mortuary vocabulary 101

Kenneth McKenzie

When completing tasks around the mortuary, it is not unusual for me to blurt out something to an apprentice such as “get me a church truck.”
Typically, I can overlook the fact that a new apprentice would have no idea of what I am talking about. A church truck is a wheeled device that expands like an accordion and is used to move a casket around, whether it is through a door, down a hallway or in and out of a church.
When moving a casket from place to place using the church truck, we typically do not place the casket spray (flowers) on top of the casket until the casket is in place, as the movement and vibrations can cause the flowers to slide off the casket.
Once the casket is situated, it is opened, and the casket spray is placed just prior to the family arriving, keeping the flowers looking fresh.
One afternoon, while working with an apprentice, I told him it was okay to open the casket, where to put the lamps and where to place the floral arrangements that had arrived. I then asked him to “get me the casket spray.” He was gone quite a while, and I had finished all the last-minute details, when he came screaming with a towel in hand and a frantic look on his face. He then said “Ken, I’m sorry. I couldn’t find the casket spray but I did find the Windex.”

McKenzie is the owner of McKenzie’s Mortuary in Long Beach.