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(generated from captions) This program is not subtitled PHONE RINGS Funerals, how can I help you? Thank you for calling O'Hare on the worst day of their lives. Clients only call Lynnette Nixon She's A. O'Hare's receptionist. and schedules each day's funerals. Handles the paperwork WOMAN: The demand is high. it's unpredictable. It's intense, it's irrational, Some people are terribly emotional. as more aggressive and boisterous Others come over are still raw underneath. but their emotions A flood of grief fuels the business. To last in their trade, from sadness. undertakers must keep their distance getting the practical details right. Instead, they focus on

Who put these flowers on? Put them on the wrong box. (Man mumbles) That's empty. He said it was the red one. That's red. (Laughs) funeral professional for 30 years. Lynnette's been a doesn't stop her panicking But all that experience Albert John Burton. when death threatens her friend, is not at all well at the moment, My friend Albert

a meeting with me ASAP. so the doctor wants to have This is where the juggle comes in the best for everybody where...you want to do do anything wrong here, and I don't want to so...that's where I'm at. Excuse me for a moment. PHONE RINGS how may I help you? O'Hare Funerals, Lynnette's a perfectionist.

of tomorrow's funerals She finalises every detail before going to her sick friend. I made a promise a long time ago LYNNETTE: if anything went bad, that I would be there, if I could, we like to keep our word. so, I think as human beings, than now. And never a more important time

what options the doctors give. I must...go and see what sort of odds we're playing. And, um...

gentlemen, And...human life is a strange thing, many times. when you've sat and watched it

is an amazing thing. The will to live But depends on how strong... ..and how big a will he's got. Thank you, gentlemen. Marty, I'm out of here. she'll be with him at the end. Lynnette's promised her friend we live - and die - alone. But increasingly, or close friends. John Murphy had no family The caretaker of his apartment block from a stroke. found him dead on his couch showed he was born in Limerick, Because his passport pays for his funeral. the Irish-Australians Welfare Bureau mostly Italians these days O'Hare's buries but the name of the company's founder all pass through this mortuary. ensures Sydney's lonely Irish we acknowledge, too, MAN: God, our everloving Father, John Murphy, that you loved this man, than we know. and that you knew far more about him about John Murphy's faith. No-one's 100% sure at the Catholic Club, But he once drank the benefit of the doubt. so Father McSweeney gives him

that he was a good man. But we can be fairly confident Good man. and the man who found him dead Welfare Bureau members are John Murphy's only mourners.

to Almighty God our brother, John. FATHER MCSWEENEY: We commend to its resting place. And we commit his body dust to dust. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, and of the Son In the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit. ALL: Amen. in the peace of Christ. And let us go LYNNETTE: When you see people alone, week after week, month after month, with nobody in this world. you realise there's a lot of people go I. And there, by the grace of God, in the funeral business Lynnette got started in a New Zealand small town. A carload of teenagers -

own children - died in a crash. schoolmates of Lynnette's Hi. The local undertaker was sick, out of the wreckage. so Lynnette helped haul the bodies How's things with you? Hi, Mike, I'm good. She has no family in Sydney. people like her friend, Albert John. And whenever she can, she helps He was in the air force, to work with racehorses. then came to Australia from England became neighbours. 11 years ago, he and Lynette

as a 'hello, hello' person LYNNETTE: I met him in the street for a long time. Then he wasn't well one day

down to the doctor. and I gave him a lift It just developed as a friendship lived his life more through me. and then as he got sick, he sort of Since she was called to the hospital, to feed and talk to her friend. Lynnette's been back almost every day come out of intensive care LYNNETTE: Albert has... a ward and a private room. and they've moved him on to But he's very, very frail. Sometimes he's responsive and he recognises me. He's not coherent. indications of response But he does show which is lovely. by a smile or a squeeze of the hand, O'Hare Funerals, how can I help you? clings to life, While Lynnette's friend is chasing more funerals. Andrew Valerio nearly 500 Italian funerals a year, He's the expert arranger of 80% of O'Hare's business. the company's inner west heartland And he's keen to expand from full of aging Italian immigrants. to outer suburbs, ANDREW: It's not that I'm hungry. at the end of the day, It's basically, there's staff members there. I've got to make sure bills have got to be paid. We've got 10 to 15 staff members, sitting here on a pile of money, It's not as if we're just saying, "Hooray, hooray!" we've got to make sure At the end of the day,

I do have out there, that what staff members they're looked after as well.

And, you know, that's...

have to look at as well. ..that's what staff for pulling your weight together You know, when there's calls and basically working as a team, we all have to work as a team. is Andrew's newest staff member. Anthony Cincotta He speaks Italian with style. and wears the company uniform He also comes from a big family. His connections in the Italian market to Andrew. make him especially valuable MAN: Show us. That's it. Thank you. Look good. But today, Anthony's failed to deliver a funeral Andrew wanted. Didn't you tell them that you work here? ANTHONY: Yeah, they knew. So why did they go elsewhere, then? I dunno. I thought, I honestly thought they had it pre-arranged. ANTHONY: We got a family member who passed away two days ago. Unfortunately, who they did go with is pretty much our main competition. Or our enemy, as we could say. I don't think Andrew liked it that that I said that my family was going with them. But unless it's immediate family, it's really out of my hands. For Anthony, the funeral home is a training ground. He wants to be a crime scene investigator, like the forensic detectives he watches on TV. ANTHONY: There's a whole lot of opportunities in forensics. There's not just, you know, the gory stuff. But I think that's what I want to do. Get into all the dirty work. When an unaccompanied body goes to the crematorium, Anthony and two other curious undertakers grab the chance to further their education. ANTHONY: The things we see, the things we smell, even, sort of give me half an idea, an inch of an idea, just of the stuff we're gonna be seeing when we hit, you know, the bad world. When I do come across, maybe, a beheaded man or something like that, it's not gonna make me vomit but it'll, you know, help me to relax a little bit. You open the front door. You got an injector that you put the body in and that throws it in. When it throws it in, it cooks. You always put head first. Because you've got three main burners on the chest. Because looking at your body, you got three burners there and a thing there. But if you accidentally put around it the wrong way around, then this'll turn into dust and then you've still got flesh left over. You've got a little viewing glass screen there, it's around about this big, right? Just to see the body. But when you see no more yellow flame, that means it's really... pretty well done, OK? Then we go to the grinder. ANTHONY: I just want to ask one more question. Before we go over, you're saying you look in through the hole here? Yeah, all you're seeing... ..you can basically see the body, basically. But all you're looking for is yellow flame. So the coffin by this stage is gone, burnt? Oh, the coffin goes in... I'd say, eight minutes.

It's... (Snaps fingers) And then you actually can see the body? But that's the fearful thing, is when you inject it forward, the door's open. When you inject it, you've got to shut that door real quick because the flames just run up that coffin. And you've got to get it... that's the skill of timing it. If not, you'll have the crem half on fire. Tell me, do you actually see the body sitting up and all that? Is that another fallacy? That's, that's...well. Well, technically, if you guys don't do your job, right, and you don't screw the cap in, the body is laying down

and if you do - you're full of water, the body does curl up this way. Cremation doesn't turn the entire body to dust. This is what they call a bone crusher but it's a grinder. Some bone always survives the 900 degree flames. You've got steel balls. Just steel balls like that. They're steel. And they get thrown there. And that helps to grind the bones. Goes through a filter... ..and this is now...a body

that's already there, that's been grinded. Anyone touches this without me knowing it is dead meat. Six weeks before Christmas, Sydney enjoys a run of perfect weather. Every business on Norton Street's Italian strip welcomes extra customers. Except one. O'Hare's fridge is empty. ANDREW: Little bit quiet this week. We've really slowed down, because of the weather, I guess. They say when it's nice weather... ..you don't get such a high death rate. When it's cold, really cold, the immune system's lower, so basically, you've got that higher death rate. The undertakers can now do jobs they've been putting off all year. But a week without funerals is a blow to O'Hare's profits... ..and Andrew's plans to expand the business. ANDREW: Sometimes it makes you wonder what are you doing wrong? What have you done wrong to not sort of gather any extra funerals for the week but it does sort of sometimes give you a shake up and sort of say, "Hey, what's going on?" We don't like the quiet days. We'd rather be out on the road, wouldn't we, Ken? MAN: Yep.

When we're out on the road, we're out of the road. (Laughs) MAN: Oh, Jesus. Did you take the stuff out of it? What stuff? Whatever was in it. It's heavy. Alright, lift. Oh, I don't know. All this stock and no-one to go in 'em. LYNNETTE: When it's quiet, it means that families are happy and doctors are not run off their feet. And it's good. But, of course, for business - dollars in the bank and paying the rent and running vehicles... ..not so good. (Laughs) Slow days at work allow Lynnette to spend more time with her sick friend, Albert John. And he's showing signs of improvement. LYNNETTE: We're thinking that the antibiotics they've put him on now may have found its mark. And he certainly did recognise me and a little bit of response to one or two things that we talked about. And so it was a good feeling. It was a good feeling. Andrew's using the downtime to create more business. At last night's charity auction for the Sant'Antonio Society, the company paid $1,700 for this Mother Teresa montage. We do a lot of funerals for the actual people from Sant'Antonio and that region of Poggialli. So, we're there to support them like they support us. They got a new nursing home. Yeah, they're building a new nursing home. You've got a spot? Oh, for who? For me? (Laughs) And Andrew's building other important relationships. He's bought Christmas presents for people the undertakers work closely with. Including those from suburbs he wants to expand into. Yeah, I gotta go up to Liverpool, so while I'm up there, I'll go see the priest at Smithfield and drop off their hampers. Seeming we're in the good books with them lately, the amount of funerals that we're doing up there, so I thought it'd be the right thing to do. I hope they appreciate it. I'm sure they will. This car needs a clean. It's such a mess. For six weeks, Lynnette has visited her sick friend Albert John most days.

On the weekend, she has a few hours to herself before going to his nursing home. LYNNETTE: John would say to me, "I want to be cremated, you know." And I said, "Yes, I know that". And he'd say things like, "I don't ever want to be on my own." And I said, "Well, as long as I can help it, you won't be." And he said, "If I call for you, will you come?" So I said to him, "At any time that I can physically be there, I will." But one Saturday morning Albert John slips away. The nursing home doesn't call Lynnette in time for her to keep her promise. LYNNETTE: So I wasn't with him at the moment of death but I was there just a little while afterwards. And, um, yeah, that made me sad. It still makes me sad that that last point in time, I wished I had been... to get that last promise. But it wasn't to be. It wasn't to be.

Albert John isn't alone in the fridge.

The barmy weather has changed to killing heat and humidity. O'Hare's is back in business. With three funerals scheduled today, the last thing Andrew needs is a coffin stuck in the hearse. Vincenzo Peci was well-known amongst Sydney Italians. MAN: In the end, we are really celebrating life. We are remembering and we are thanking. Remembering first this journey of life for this dear one, Vincenzo. 'AVE MARIA' PLAYS More than any marketing ploy, a beautiful funeral builds reputation and business. Vincenzo Peci lived and died in O'Hare's traditional market. But mourners come from all over. Andrew grabs a chance to promote O'Hare's to the potentially profitable

Northern Beaches Italian community. Here's a nice Calabrese from over at... Oh, they're Italian, not all Calabrese. The nice Italians from over the Northern Beaches. Bravo. (Speaks Italian) That's right, he's right. You right for drinks, everything? Yes, thank you. Are you coming to the cemetery? Yes, we are. Good, OK.

I'll see you out there, OK? Ciao. Ciao. Take care. Another kiss, just in case I don't see you there. Ciao. Ciao. Yeah, OK. Despite the loss of her friend, Albert John, Lynnette doesn't miss a day of work. She arranges his funeral on top of her usual tasks. And there's trouble in the mortuary. The drain that receives body fluids is blocked... ..and overflow would be gruesome. But while the plumber clears the drain, his hose bursts, soaking coffins and their expensive silk linings. With all the undertakers out on funerals, it's yet another job for Lynnette. You know the blow section on your vacuum cleaner? Mmm. Or a hair dryer. LYNNETTE: You have your moments, as I mentioned the other day, where you've got to take a deep breath, let your emotions have 10 minutes and then move on. Because to be a professional at what you do, it doesn't stop you having the human emotions. You just try to control them and get on with what you're doing and, basically, the last couple of days, that's what I've been doing. And each of us have to handle our own grief in our own way. MAN: We come here this afternoon to offer these very special prayers on behalf of Albert John Burton, known, of course, as John. We thank God for his life, for his contribution and his presence among us. Would you please be seated for just a moment. LYNNETTE: For me, the passing I chose for John, right from the clergy down, was small but very, very close.

Because John was a very private person. I think a personable, private man... ..with those very close to him. He would not have wanted it to be any other way. John grew up in England, left school at 1943. He had a love and a passion for horses.

And in recent times, when he was so ill, it was a way I used to get him to eat a bit, was to talk about his famous horses.

And Star Kingdom is at rest and I believe John will - in his dreams, at least, he used to ride it, so let's hope he's still doing that. So John, dear friend, we walked many a road and many miles. Farewell. Take care. God be with you. And peace be yours. While her friend, John, may rest in peace, death hasn't finished with Lynnette today. LYNNETTE: I've been missing some calls lately 'cause I've been so busy. And, um, it turns out that a dear friend of mine who I'd spent time with, at 102, she's now being buried, or cremated, I should say, in the chapel adjacent. So, two people close in my life... ..have gone in the same day. (Sighs) I must have done something bad this week or something. No, you haven't, dear, no. So I gotta get myself together before I go and say a prayer there. Oh, dear. Never-ending. Two weeks after the funeral, Lynnette forces herself to go through John's papers and possessions. LYNNETTE: Through life you make a few close friends. And I mean friends, because I came from another country to here. My children are scattered far and wide. A lot of my associates and friends are in different countries. And I have a few very close people here. But I think what we leave behind us is a mark on friendship. And that, to me, is a true measure of a person. This is my John. And I've been putting off this day of having to go through... ..and sort out...his personal items. That is what life boils down to, gentlemen. A few possessions and a suitcase. Closed Captions provided by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd