I guess I am one of those fossils who still likes to hold a newspaper in my hands, have a bagel and some morning caffeine and see what happened since the last bagel was digested. What did I find? In the first seven pages of the Post Tribune for 1-22-14 there were headline stories on the first seven pages that made me question the wisdom of my morning ritual.
Purdue Campus Attack Kills 1
Death Often Unpleasant to See
Sister of Birmingham Bombing Victim to Speak
Man Testifies He Saw His Friend Gunned Down
Wow! We read these stories, or watch the news and hear about man’s inhumanity to man and we barely break stride as we hit our remotes to The Bachelor or X-Factor or some silly sit-com. And that is probably a good thing to do as our very souls can only take so much bad news. I looked at my daughter’s facebook this morning and she, along with thousands of Purdue grads and students, changed their profile to the Purdue P with a black ribbon behind it…and I cried. Yes, I am not afraid to admit it. I have always considered myself a pretty tough guy and I cried for that poor young man’s family.
Being in the cemetery business, we hear the jokes – “so, people are dying to get in, huh?” Many of us deal with death, dying, loss of friend and family, celebrities and strangers in a building that disappeared from the NYC landscape in 2001 with humor. But after the laughter dies, forgive my pun…after the people go home to their loneliness and pain, a little of the hurt is left behind. Funeral directors and cemetery people are people just like you who happen to be in this business of tears, and our jobs are fulfilled in the truth of the joke…people ARE dying to get in and we take care of those left behind by taking care of their lost loved ones.
It takes a special kind of person who knows that they are driving to work to meet with families of the departed. Almost 700 families came through our doors last year due to God’s unique timetable of bringing His children home. Someone shoots up a school and immediately and rightly so, counselors and pyschologists are summoned to be there to help those who want help. And within 24 hours a funeral director and cemetery personnel quietly go about the business of helping care for another round of grieving people. When the day ends for these wonderful people, there is no psychologist who is waiting for them when they get home to talk them down from their emotional stress of the previous 8-10-14 hour day.
It is odd to me when a husband or wife or parent jumps all over the very person (funeral director or family service counselor) who has committed their life to helping a family when they lose someone near and dear to them. We get screamed at sometimes, and verbally abused and sometimes even threatened when every single thing of hundreds of things necessary to have a funeral do not go exactly right.
I understand that the anger is being directed at the person across the table from them when they are mostly angry with what life just dished out to them. But understanding something and letting it not affect you are two different things.
This is not an article about the poor, poor cemetery or funeral home staff. After all, each of us chose this profession. The purpose of this article is to enlighten and to suggest that we are here to help you and we do everything within our power to make those first few days after a death go as smoothly as possible.
So, back to the “Wow” of the title of this article: Yes, the world is full of ugly stuff. But it is also full of good stuff. Remember how you felt when you said “I Do” or held your baby for the first time? Or when you won that trophy for football or the spelling bee? Or when you got good news from the doctor instead of the bad news you thought you were going to get? All I am asking is to be a little kind in your time of sorrow to the person who is doing their best to help you and make no mistakes. Believe me, nobody wants your day to go better than the funeral director or family service person as they see people in pain every day and want to do their best to take some of that pain away. Their goal is to make at least this last ceremony for your lost loved one a time filled with goodness and celebration of the life that was lived instead of the horror that caused you to come to us with your trust that we would “see to things”.
Yes, I will keep reading the paper. But I will tell you secretly, I look forward to the sports and the comics for balance. Oh, by the way, our team of caring professionals do a pretty good job of putting their own trials and tribulations on a shelf each morning as they prepare to help the next person who walks through the door or calls for help. Thank you for letting me (us) vent a little. There would be no need for us to exist if we were not able and willing to lead you during your time of sorrow because, let’s face it, who wants to come see us until someone dies?
Actually, when people discover that they can prepare in advance, freeze prices and pay on a monthly program with no interest, the circumstances of our meeting is dramatically different. That’s when the jokes start flying. In fact, I will leave you with two thoughts: 1. you can prearrange and save big money while you get exactly what you want and 2., here’s a few of the better ones that I have heard. These are shared out of no disrespect to anyone but rather as a way to lift one’s spirit through the miracle of laughter.
The hardest years in life are between 10 and 70.
Graveyards are full of indispensable men.
Death is hereditary.
What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
No taxation without respiration!
He is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death.
Some men are alive simply because it is against the law to kill them.
A friend of mine stopped smoking, drinking, overeating, and chasing women –all at the same time. It was a lovely funeral.
According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two! Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. Jerry Seinfeld
For information on how you can prearrange, call (219) 769-8803.
My own litany that gets me through the day: Teach me thy way, oh Lord, and lead me in a plain path because of my enemies. Do not be afraid for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about for I am your God and I will strengthen you. Surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Lord, I am not worthy that you to come under my roof, only say the word and my soul will be healed (substitute whatever your trial of the moment is). And please remember, this too shall pass.