It is a Holiday, Thanksgiving to be exact. A Day in the life of a funeral director is rarely normal even on Holidays. While my wife starts the preparation for the family gathering later at our house I am trying to pry my eyes open. Members of our team and I were up way late last night crafting an extremely difficult restoration of a person who experienced severe trauma and decomposition. It was a case most funeral homes would have said would result in a closed casket, there is nothing they could do. We saw how the family wanted and needed to see their deceased family member and so we took on the task to help them say goodbye and heal.
We have completed many difficult restorations before, however, I called in a friend who is also an excellent restorative artist to help us in the monumental task. It helps to have another skilled set of hands and eyes. We had worked into the wee hours of the morning to recreate and repair the features of the friend so the family could see, say goodbye, and begin their healing.
I cracked my eyes open and shuffled to the kitchen for some orange juice and to figure out what the schedule for my day would be. I had promised the family that they could come in sometime during the day to see their family member because they needed too. Waiting another day wouldn’t help them. My wife understandingly said if I helped her pull the turkey neck out of it’s backside (surprising how this metaphor has worked its way into daily life) then she would have everything ready so we could entertain our mob of relatives that was descending on our home for dinner. Then I could meet the family after dinner to see the family and share their time with their family member. Hopefully I would make it back before the early evening games that our family often pulls out or makes up as part of a family gathering.
My family arrived at our home, led by our toddler grandson whose blue smiling eyes always said “ come play with me Papa” without his smiling mouth uttering a single word. After numerous trips around the house on hands and knees (I have a pair of gel filled knee pads) dinner was served and again, as in previous years, I lost the wishbone challenge.
I took leave and headed across the street to the funeral home as the family pulled into the parking lot. They were apprehensive as I could understand. The reports they had been given by law enforcement officers did not conjure an image they wanted to see. As we entered the room, they first hesitated in the back of the room staring at the open casket. I coaxed them to accompany me to the casket, their tears of sorrow turned to tears of comfort as they all started talking to the deceased at once. Later, as they took leave the room, they all exclaimed that they couldn’t believe they had the chance to say goodbye face to face with their loved one. They all appreciated the gift of goodbye. As they left the funeral home, I received the best thank you of all for my team of professionals, hugs.
I crossed the street back to my home even more appreciative for my wonderful family that was gathered under my roof. As I entered the door the first hug that I shared was with my father who had taught me the importance of the ministry we live. I gave out more hugs around the room. Then the big blue eyes looked up at me and the smiling little cherub said “ Papa play with me”, and I reached for my knee pads.