Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why do we have funerals?

I had the pleasure of meeting a funeral director that had recently lost his 7 year old son to cancer.

This man has been around the business his whole life and been a licenced director for 11 years. The thought of death is a daily thing when you grow up your whole life around it. He's been making arrangements for years with people who have recently lost their loved ones and has become quite the expert at helping people cope.

The loss of his own son has brought a whole new perspective for him however. He met with a fellow director that he had worked with in the past. Totally expecting a sales pitch and thinking that this is going to be the worst experience ever in his life, he braced himself. He was quite surprised when the director followed many of the same teachings as he had learned and did not force anything extra on him.

Then came the day of the viewing. He prepared himself for the worst as he anticipated seeing his son layed out in a casket. His nerves were causing him to feel a bit nauseous as he approached the funeral home and was petrified to go in.
When he entered, he was met by the other director and asked to wait as a few last minute preparations were made. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, was ushered in to see his son. His knees were shaking at the thought of seeing him. As they approached the casket, he felt a sigh of relief come over him. His son looked as though he was sleeping in his bed. He had on his favorite shirt and snuggled with his favorite blanket. He knew his son was dead. But was at peace with it.

What happened? Why was he suddenly OK with his son's death?

Because his son had suffered for most of his life and was seldom at rest, it was a good feeling to see him look so peaceful. This is why we have funerals. Often before death we are hit with many tragedies. We think that we don't want to see our loved ones "that way". We'd rather remember them the way they were. But do we? Do we want to remember Mom with dementia? Or our sister-in-law with cancer? Or do we want to see them finally at peace.

For this funeral director, it changed the way he dealt with the families of the deceased. He has a new found respect for the living as well as the dead. I hope that we can all find someone that truly understands, when it comes time. I am lucky enough to know quite a few of these men and women that have been graced by God to be given the gift that helps them help us in tough times.

It's a difficult business to be in. I am very fortunate to be involved in the process of helping people cross from their earthly being into whatever waits for us on the other side. And more importantly, to help those that remain here, to cope with the loss.


Jabacue said...

Glad there are people like you who do what you do. I would find it very difficult.

I remember when I was an alter boy and assist at funerals.......I would well-up and tears would eventually start streaming down my face. Seeing all the emotions around me got me going.

Stew said...

Watching all the emotions literally pouring out of the friends and family is the hardest part. I've always felt sorry for the alter boys.

The trick is (and this is as a courtesy as well) to not look at anyone directly unless they speak to you. Find something to focus on and get your job done without crying yourself.