Burying misconceptions

The best looking boy in my high school crowd was from a large family of strapping athletes. He played basketball and football and was a good, decent kid. But, handsome as he was, I never gave him so much as a second look. His family owned the local funeral home, and that was, well … ewwww.

Two years ago, my father and my mother-in-law passed away within a few weeks of each other. Twice, in regular, middle-class towns separated by hundreds of miles, I experienced the unexpected comfort that comes from a wake and funeral planned with class and dignity. I am now in awe of funeral home folks. These people are amazing.

In the hours just after losing a loved one, you are an exhausted, traumatized, disbelieving shell. Into your fog comes a complete stranger to talk dreaded details: obits, readings, hymns, coffins, headstones. How could this experience not be dreadful?

If it’s done by the right person—one who shows up at any hour of the evening with the right mix of comfort and composure, one who knows to leave behind the “I’m so sorry” platitudes and the hand squeezes with fake pained expressions—well, then, it can be peaceful. Miraculous, actually.

There were little things. When they wheeled my father’s body out of the house, they covered him with a careworn, homemade patchwork quilt. Not a white sheet. They moved him lovingly, taking great pains to make his final journey bump-free.

One doesn’t forget such things.

The funeral director remembered my mother’s name in the supermarket months later. This says: Your husband’s death was not just a business opportunity for us. Important stuff.

So, apologies to that hometown boy, who has since taken over the family business. Not that he ever gave me a second look, either, but he is doing honorable work. It took 25 years, but … lesson learned.

From Family Events.

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