The holidays are upon us and it can be a very joyful time of year. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring thoughts and loving prayer right now. Give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
I'm not big on holidays, so instead of the typical 'be thankful' kind of post from me, I'll give you a little story of one of my days recently. I do hope that the Americans reading this are enjoying their holiday though.
Every morning for the past week, I have awoken to intense fog.
I am renaming November as
'the foggy season'.
But let me tell you about one foggy day in particular.
On Saturday, the funeral home where I work part time is open from 9am until 2pm. Here you can see my drive into work that day. Let's keep in mind that here in Michigan, deer hunting season has just started. So you have not only the threat of unruly drivers on the road, but the hunters spook the deer to run right out in front of you. Add to that this thick fog and it can be somewhat nerve wracking to drive for any length of time.
Here I am approaching the end of the freeway. At this point, I am on a bridge and the approach ramp for the bridge to Canada is on my left. You can faintly see the post that holds the sign that hangs above the freeway that reads 'Canada Only'. I have to wonder how many people accidentally went to Canada that day.
The temperature was just below freezing. So the fog actually froze to the backside of my heated mirrors on my car during the drive.
After putting in my time working the office during the day, I was about to close up shop and head for home when the phone rang. It was a man informing me that his father had died that morning and they wanted us to handle the funeral. I sympathized with his loss and started to take down all the vital information. We wonder each year who will get the first deer hunting casualty. And it looks like this year, we won. The man had gotten his deer sometime in the night and was dragging it back to his car when he had a heart attack and died. His friends found him in the morning. After the coroner had released the body, it was transported to an area funeral home where it was being embalmed and prepared for the trip home.
The funeral home was a three hour drive from where I was. So I jumped in the van and headed out.
It was a beautiful evening for the drive and I really didn't mind it at all. I reached the other funeral home just after sunset. After loading up the van with all his hunting gear, I swung into my brother's house and drug him out to dinner. I don't get a chance to see him much and had to drive right past the town that he lives in. So it only made sense to stop and catch up a little. Sometime during dinner, my brother told me there was a news report of someone having a heart attack while hunting and he wondered if I'd heard that report.
Then it was back in the van for the long drive back to the funeral home. The deer population in that area is greater than the human population and they seemed to be lounging on the side of the road everywhere. Maybe they feel safer around the speeding cars than in the woods with the hunters.
After dropping the deceased off back at work, I headed home. I looked over at the gas station just off the freeway. There was a low laying cloud...aka fog, hovering just above the station and the green, blue and red lights steaked across the night sky and resembled the northern lights. I remember thinking how beautiful it was. Then, as I refocused my attention to the road ahead of me, this is what I saw.
And this is moments later. That car is still there. Somewhere. Over and over, the car in front of me would hit their brakes as they entered the next wall of fog and seconds later, would disappear altogether. This would happen every mile or so and it is only a 35 mile drive. Finding exits and keeping track of where other drivers were was quite the challenge. Even trying to ascertain where I was, was a challenge. So I put on my foghat for the slow ride and took it easy.
I was so glad to pull into my driveway at home, walk in the door and see my dog Pugsley. Even though I had been gone all day, he was so happy to see me. This fog has been like this every day for a week and it's getting old. It certainly isn't a place for someone with claustrophobia or hair like mine that frizzes with the slightest bit of humidity.
Since I like to say on this blog that it is the stories of someones life that we celebrate at the funerals, and that it is those stories that keep them alive in our hearts, I'd like to share with you briefly the story of my own mother's life.
Born to a poor country family in Northern Lower Michigan in 1933, she was raised with very few luxuries. Although being the only daughter, I'm sure she probably had it a little easier than her two brothers who were ten and eleven years older than her. Still, it was a time and place where homes had only one room and bathwater was shared by the whole family.
By the time she was ten, her brothers had gone off to war and her parents decided to move to Detroit in search of employment. But when she was only eleven, only one day before World War Two ended, her father was tragically killed in a freak factory explosion. Leaving her mother to raise her on her own in harsh times and a strange city.
At fourteen, she started caring for her mother who was injured in an automobile accident and
by the time she graduated high school, her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. She met my father in March the following year and by June they were married. But before she could give her mother her first grandchild, her mother was gone.
It was a tough beginning to say the least. At that point, her husband (my father) decided he wanted to be a part of the newest craze in health care sweeping across America. He decided to become a Chiropractor. Together, as they started their family, they attended Palmer Chiropractic College in Iowa.
After finishing school, they opened the first chiropractic office in Leesville, Louisiana. It was not a big hit and they made the move to Houma, Louisiana to take over an existing practice. It was a new science then and patience were few. They often paid for services with a barter instead of money.
With a growing family and the promise of a steady paycheck, it was decided to move the family to Michigan where my father took a job with Ford Motor Co.. Their passion was always helping others through chiropractic care but food and clothing for a growing family was not cheap.
Total, my mother had seven children and my father made a very good living with Ford. My mother certainly did not want for much. Anything she thought we needed, we would have. And my father always made sure she always had a nice new car to drive her family around in.
She dedicated her life to raising her children. Taking time out four month every year to help a few hundred friends fill out their income tax forms. Our kitchen table became known as Max's Taxes.
Most importantly, she did not want any of her children to suffer the way she did as a child. She did her best to participate in any and all activities that we became interested in over the years. Then when she was 47 years old she started having problems with her heart. It turned out that a tumor had grown inside her heart and was blocking the valves from operating properly. She survived that, only to spend the rest of her life battling diabetes.
She wasn't perfect by any measure and had a bit of a short temper at times. my father even referred to her as Vesuvius. But she did her best with what she had to offer us. And for that, all seven of us love her and miss her very much.
This 9th day of November 2012, I am reflecting on her life because today would have been her 79th birthday.
She may not be here to celebrate with us in the flesh, but she will always be in our hearts.
The moon is just past the full stage and the wind has finally died down. The rain has, at long last stopped and I am exhausted.
The devastation along the Eastern shore of the United States can not be ignored. That was one huge storm system that reached as far as the Eastern shores of Michigan. For four days, the wind has been blowing and the rain pouring down. The neighborhood that I live in is fairly new construction and the power lines are all buried. But in the sleepy border town of where I work, the trees snapped under the heavy rains and high winds. Taking with them power to thousands of homes and businesses. Our funeral home was one of them. Two days of no power. Getting the business by on the small amount of power supplied by a single generator. The show must go on! It is times like these that a business like ours is even more important and you can't just close up shop for a couple of days. Yesterday, we had a candlelight service for a five day old baby. And over night, we picked up a ninety-nine year old woman. Fortunately the power was restored this morning because we have a service tomorrow for a forty-eight year old man. Three completely different ages of people. And yet each and everyone of them died of natural causes. For each of them, their mission was complete here on earth.
As for me, after standing in the 60mph gust of wind and rain for three hours on Monday with 20 foot waves crashing on the shore just over the hill from where I was standing, my body is in need of some rest and relaxation. But it's shaping up to be a busy weekend. There is a lot of office work to catch up on now that the power is restored and new business keeps flowing in. But such is life in the death business.
Every day, I see death. I look it square in the eye. I see the old, well traveled bodies of people that lived long happy, healthy lives. I hear the stories of how they spent those lives. I too, see the young and I wonder, how much life will I squeeze into my time here on earth?
A couple of weeks ago, during a service, a woman about my age walked into the funeral home. She was there to make arrangements for her daughters funeral. You see, the night before, her daughter was riding in the back seat of a friends car. When the friend drove through a stop light at full speed, the on-coming truck had no time to stop. Out of seven people involved in the accident, this twenty year old girl was the only one that did not make it.
Later that day, I picked her up from the medical examiners office. It is sad to see such a young person lying on that stretcher.
The visitation brought out hundreds of young college aged kids. I wish that I could say that I did not see them in the parking lot smoking weed and drinking. But I did see them. And I wonder which one would be next.
I can only hope that this young girl had completed her mission here on earth. We all touch the lives around us in so many ways. It is my goal that everyone that knows me, is somehow a little better having known me. Even if for just a short while. I take my experiences with each person I meet and I always try to learn something. By doing so, I am enriched by each of you. I know that the people touched by the three lives at the beginning of this post are a little better off having known them. And I hope that everyone that knew this young girl has been blessed by knowing her as well.
In my business, we are here to help the people that are left behind to cherish the memories. In doing so, we have to remember that to relieve someone else's burdens makes it more about us and keeps others the way they are. But by walking with them through it makes it more about them and helps them move through it.