Friday, October 19, 2012

Neighbors & Friends

Neighbors and Friends..... till the end!

It's been a crazy week down at the mortuary. People are just dying to be next.

We had a death call come in at 3:30am and had just enough time to take care of that before we had to head out for the morning funeral. It was just one director and myself at a church down in the city.

As we made the turn off the boulevard into the old brick church that overlooked the Lake where the freighters pass by on their way to their destination, the director received a text saying that another death call had just come in. Since there was another director back at the funeral home, we had nothing to worry about but the funeral that lie before us. Then just as we were getting the service started, we received another text stating that there was yet another death call. At this point, we know there will be work to do when we return.

While we were concentrating on the service at hand, we had no idea what was really going on back in our little town. The calls were being handled by the secretary in the office. So those of us on the road only know what we need to know as we need to know it.

As the other director and his assistant backed the van up to the house of the second call of the day, a distraught man came up to the driver's side window. The director lowered the window and the man instructed him that he had the wrong house. That it was the house next door. Afraid that he's made a grave mistake, the director apologized and quickly confirmed the address with the man standing at his window. He was a bit puzzled when the addresses did not match. He picked up his phone to call back to the funeral home and verify the address. That's when he got the call for the third death. He was given the address of that death and suddenly realized that the two deaths were next door neighbors! They had died only thirty minutes apart and maybe thirty feet away from each other. Death had certainly visited that neighborhood that gloomy morning.

The funeral home owns two locations in the same town. One is an old 1850 home, the other is a more modern 1978 building made specifically for funerals. After meeting with both neighboring families, it was determined that they both wanted to have their funerals at the old home location. ( Just to make things interesting, there was a fourth death call that day that also wanted that location)

It's been years since we had multiple funerals out of that old location. As you can imagine in a home that is 160 years old, although the home is quite large, the rooms are very small by today's standards and the restrooms are very tiny. The families decided together that they would have the visitations together and the services a few hours apart. So while there was two visitations going on at the newer location that is designed for such things, I got to work the two at the old house. Generally as people walk in the door, we'll ask them who they are there to see. Inevitably, everyone that walked in the door that night said "both".

It was a long evening. Six straight hours of people everywhere. I couldn't make the coffee fast enough and there was a constant line at the tiny restrooms. The caskets were set up in opposite rooms on the North and South sides of the long tiled center hall. People would meander from room to room reminiscing all the good times that they had shared as friends and neighbors for over 40 years. In a world where people are constantly moving and no one says hello to their neighbors anymore, it was so nice to see these people that grew up together and spent countless hours in each others homes, backyards and swimming pools mingling like family. It was a sad day for everyone, having to say goodbye to not just one, but two of the neighborhood patriarchs. But it was also a joyous day for everyone to be reunited. To come together in a time of need. Not just for one family, but for two. These were people that spent most of their lives together. They took trips together, their kids went to school together and played together. Now, at the end of life, they were together, as neighbors still, with their families together as they always have been.

The next day, was the funeral service for both neighbors. First one and then the other. There was a two hour break in between for us to move everything around and get the place set up for the next service. When the people started showing up for the second service, I noticed that it was all the same people as the first service. Exactly the same people.

Both people had chosen to be cremated. Since the local crematory has two retorts (cremation ovens), we made the appointments for then to be cremated at the same time, side by side.

Together, neighbors and friends, till the end.



That corgi :) said...

Wow, Stew, I have never heard of such a thing for neighbors like this to pass within such a short time of each other. It is "neat" though how their viewings and funerals were at similar times/same day so that both could be honored by the same group of friends/neighbors. I'm sure it helped in the grieving process and the start of closure.


MorningAJ said...

Oh Stew! "People are just dying to be next." You couldn't resist, could you?

Fascinating tale, as ever. There must be so few chances for such togetherness these days.

Stew said...

You can't plan something like that

Stew said...

The whole thing was inspiring

Mitchell is Moving said...

How heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.

laura.forestdreams:) said...

"People are just dying to be next." ha! you're too much!!
the whole story...sad but sure do have a way of bringing death to life!! i love it!

Stew said...

It's good to know that I am reaching my goal of bringing a little light to such a dark subject.

It was such a beautiful story that I had to share it.

Jim said...

Whew!What a busy two days!! That was strange that the neighbours died around the same time!!! You do, Stew, have a way of relating all of this to us in an upbeat manner about a usually downbeat subject.....death.

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Ms Sparrow said...

I don't know how I overlooked this posting last week but I'm so glad I caught it today. What a charming story you relate of the neighbors who took life's journey side-by-side and ended it the same way. Well done!