Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Meaning of Life

When God created humans, he realized that we would have questions. As he wanted us to search for our own answers and grow our knowledge, instead of always turning to him, he decided to hide.

First he hid deep inside the earth. Then realized we'd dig and find him there.

Then he hid in outer space. And then realized it was only a matter of time before we found him there too.

So he decided to hide in plain sight. He decided to hide all around us. In the trees, the grass, the birds and the animals. And just to be safe, he hid inside each of us.

To find the answers that we are looking for, we must look inside. It is only when we ask ourselves these tough questions, that we will get the answers. The answers we've been looking for. Perhaps even, the meaning of life itself.

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.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012


The real reason for my back pain.

I knew that my husband had purchased this Voodoo Doll while we were in New Orleans. But now I know that it was really him that had stabbed me back there in Texas. He told me that it was going to be a decoration for our Christmas tree.

Now, I know better.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dove Tales

Dove tails; a strong joint holding a corner together. No! not that kind of dove tail. I'm talking Dove TALES.

When we release doves at a graveside committal, it is to represent the deceased persons soul being released and carried "home" to God. We know it's symbolic and the doves just fly back to where they are fed and not off to heaven. Or do they?

It was a funeral like many others. The family had gathered around the grave. After the Reverend had committed the body to the ground and told the loved ones to leave all there unfinished business in the ground with him, he stepped aside and let the dove handler have the spotlight. One by one, she handed the three doves to the key family members. One dove in particular was being squirmy. It was difficult for the gentleman to hold him while she said her verses. Then upon cue, they released the doves and thereby released there father. Only the squirmy dove flew right up to a branch above the grave. As the other doves circled to get their bearings and then flew home, the one continued to sit above the grave.

As usual when something happens like this, someone will make a joke that "He doesn't want to go to Heaven".
With that, they decided that they wanted to witness the lowering of the casket. So we obliged them and slowly lowered their father into his final resting place. The dove, continued to sit there.

A son proclaimed that the job wasn't finished yet and that we needed to seal the grave. So we lowered the vault lid into position. As the vault sealed, we heard the flapping of wings and the dove flew away.

Was that man's soul really in that bird that day?

Did he stick around to witness his own burial?

Did he fly away to heaven on the wings of a dove?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Odyssey 2012, One More Stop

Often when you live in the North and vacation in the South, there is that middle that just seems to be in the way. That couple of states that you "could just do without". For both myself and Edward, those states are Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Well, on the last day of our odyssey, we found ourselves in southern Kentucky. We'd each been here before but never took the time to look around. While enjoying breakfast at the hotel, we noticed that we were not more than an hour away from Mammoth Cave.

Having plenty of time before we had to be anywhere, we decided to go cave exploring. Ed had never been in a cave before and remembers his father saying what a waste of money it was to pay to go into a hole in the ground.

We took the historical tour that took us 350 feet below ground and over two miles into the cave. The largest cave in the world. Thus the name, Mammoth Cave. Huge caverns and tight passages with low ceilings, all with a mountain on top of us.

What a great last stop on this trip.

But really. It was just a hole in the ground.

And for once, we weren't putting someone else in it.

It was an Odyssey to say the least.

If it was just about surviving, getting by, and keeping things the way they are, then how would you explain imagination?

If it was just about sacrifice, selflessness, and altruism, then how would you explain desire?

And if it was just about thinking, reflection and spiritual stuff, then how would you explain the physical world?

Get the picture?

Want it all?

That's what it's there for.

And, if it was just about working, how would you explain weekends and this odyssey?


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Odyssey 2012, Takes Me Home

Today, I found myself picking up a body from the airport. She had died in (of all places) Texas and was being transported home to Michigan for burial. 
 As I drove several hours through the city as well as the country side, I began to think of how lucky I am that I get to do what I love each and every day.
The fall colors are just about at peak right now. And while others are cooped up in offices, stores and factories, I get to enjoy these amazing days that the Michigan weather has given us.
The bright reds, yellows, dark greens and browns are a delight to witness. I realized that this is the first year that I've ever been able to see this. Standing in the cemetery yesterday brought a tear to my eye because of the beauty surrounding me.

My last post, we had taken Spencer to his first Gay Pride Parade. It warmed my heart to witness a young man like him enjoying being who he is instead of hiding himself like so many of us had to do in the past. His positive outlook on life now helps me to realize that he is capable of great things not only in his school days, but for years to come throughout his lifetime.

Now, to continue with our Odyssey....

On our last full day in Texas, the sun came out and warmed the air and our souls. We decided to visit the Arboretum where there was a traveling display of Chihuly's blown glass art. The combination of finely manicured gardens and the glass installations was inspiring.

Then to round out our stay, Spencer had requested a night out with his G'uncles. We were happy to oblige him.
When I left my retail job a few months ago, my co-workers pitched in and got me a gift card for my "retirement". I was directed to use it for something special. Dinner out with Spencer was the perfect occasion to use that card.

We left Texas the next morning. Sad to be leaving our friends. But excited to be heading toward home. But first, a stop at my old childhood home.

In 1981 my mother underwent open heart surgery to remove a tumor from inside her heart. At the time, she was a year older than I am now. As you know, she survived until just last year. It was a slow recovery though. So when my Dad's father died a few months later, our family wasn't in any shape to attend his funeral in Arkansas.
Before that year, we spent every summer there on my Grandpa's farm in the Ozark Mountains. I haven't been back since. I had decided that I didn't want to see either of the old houses. I want my fond childhood memories to be intact, forever. So I set the GPS for the cemetery to visit my grandfather's grave for the first time. Wouldn't you know, the GPS took us right past both of the old houses. The one house that my cousin now lives in looks great. The old farm house however, is suffering from time and neglect. I opted not to photograph either home and hold my memories and childhood photos close to my heart.

I managed past my emotions and found the cemetery. Ed was joking that he could "feel" my grandfather guiding him to the left as we entered the gates of the old country cemetery. Just then, he looked down and there at his feet was the headstones of my grandfather and his wife of many years.

Grandma Flo didn't seem so happy to see me though. As I reached to remove the clump of grass to photograph her stone, I found an army of ants crawling all over my hand. I let the grass stay there.
What was I thinking wearing flip-flops in a country cemetery in Arkansas?!

I felt like ants were all over me for the rest of the day.

After paying my respects to my beloved grandparents, we found our way back to the freeway and made it all the way through Tennessee and into Kentucky before stopping at 1am to rest for the night.

This Odyssey has changed the way I see things. For the better. This was no ordinary vacation. This was Odyssey 2012! And without a doubt, right here and now, as you read these very words with eyes that sparkle, this golden day, in a perfect world on an emerald planet while our hearts beat and blood flows and angels peer over our shoulders, I think we might be the luckiest people alive. To be living in this world right now where all this can happen, anytime we want to make it happen. Thanks for coming along.

But wait! Yes, there's more!......