The year was 1999. It was February 14th, Valentine's Day. I had been emailing and IMing a cute guy on the Internet from a nearby town for a couple of months now. Niether of us had been OUT before, so this was something new for us both. We had met briefly two previous times in person very recently and decided to pursue whatever was happening between us. Through our conversations, and our two previous dates, I had learned quite a bit about him. Amongst other things, I knew that he was into gardening and canning and he was a proud papa to a dozen or so chickens. This would be our third date and being that it was Valentine's Day, I brought a gift for him. It was sort of a joke, I placed a TY Beanie baby chicken into a canning jar and gave it to him. It was received well and has somehow metamorphosed into a collection of over a hundred chicken items that are now displayed throughout our kitchen.
We were enjoying a nice lunch together, when his cell phone rang. Knowing that he ran his own business, I patiently waited while he took the call. He jotted some notes on a scrap of paper then proclaimed that he had to go. After what seemed like forever, but I'm sure was just a few seconds, he asked me if I'd llike to go along. "It should only take a few minutes" he said. In a flash, we payed the bill and were in his old woody wagon (a staion wagon with the "wood paneling" aka contact paper or sticky back plastic, on the side. Since he was dressed in a suite for our date, he didn't need to go back to his place to change. So minutes later, we pulled up behind a nursing home, he pulled the stretcher out of the back and headed in with a "I'll be right back".
Sure enough, a few minutes later, he showed up. He quickly opened the rear door and slid the stretcher inside the car. Pushing it all the way in until the head of the stretcher bumped the back of my seat, he said, "Stew, meet Gladys".
On the ride to the funeral home, we hit every light red. And with each one, he would hit the brakes gently, except once that he had to brake harder and sent her sliding into the seatback again. Upon arrival, he offered to show me inside. Gladys was covered and I had not yet met her face to face. So when the cover came off, I was surprised at how yellow she was. This is someone that just died, moments ago. So the thought of her being that yellow meant that she looked like that when she was alive. That's when it hit me. These are real people, with real feelings. This woman suffered her last few months and is now better off. It wasn't the dead woman before me that freaked me out. It was the sick woman that had finally passed away.
I was trying to stay out of the way as Ed and the director transferred her to the prep table, so I took a few steps backward. Then the director says to us, "Look at how that one from this morning turned out" and points in my direction. That's when I turned and bumped into a gentleman that had died earlier in the day. These dead people, they don't make a lot of noise and thus can sneak up on you.
After finishing up at the funeral home, we then reconvened our date as if nothing had happened. But something did happen. I was fascinated. The way that everyone conducted themselves, the way that I fit right in. I was surprised with how easy it all was.
I thought to myself, even if things don't work out with this guy, maybe this is something that I should be looking in to. Well, I'm happy to say that things have worked out quite well for the most part. And that, my friends, is how it all started.
I'm a lot more hands on now and know quite a bit more about the business. But we all have to start somewhere, and that's mine.