A Courteous Man

I stood close by and watched the suited man check the pockets of the body. Effortlessly he removed car keys, a mobile phone, a notepad. He handed them to me. I wondered what type of car the dead man drove and resisted opening the cover of the notepad to discover the scribbles that would bring the poor soul back to life for a moment.

Was it a shopping list beyond the cover? Appointments?

I glanced at the police officers standing back- maybe they could open the notebook looking for answers?

Yes, the cops would reveal this strapping old man’s plans for the day.

A date perhaps?

He was elderly, but looked younger than the age printed on the Life Extinct form I had sighted moments ago. Handing the contents of the dead man’s pockets to the officers, a lump formed in my throat when I saw them place the keys and notepad on a nearby bench.

I’d never know.

The suited man who emptied the pockets and was now preparing a body bag on a stretcher is my new work partner. He has been in the business for almost twelve years and he’s four years younger than I am. His movements fluid, professional, I’m momentarily intimated until it’s time for me to help lift the man from the hallway floor onto the funeral cot; a collapsible stretcher we lowered right to the ground.

It’s my very first police call.

“Ready?” he peers up at me.

I nod.

“One, two, three!” he counts and in one movement, strangers become a team as we remove the dead gentleman from the floor where he lost his life.

Coming from a big city where we handle up to twenty bodies a day, I was not used to being in the presence of somebody who had died only an hour earlier. I had conducted copious body removals from homes and aged care facilities, but in a city with traffic jams and winding motorways, the decedent had usually been dead a couple of hours by the time we arrived- rigor mortis well and truly set in and skin cooling. I was in a smaller town now, where it takes thirty minutes at most to get from one end of town to the next, and the hospital morgue only a five minute drive from our facility.

I’m also blessed to be employed by a funeral home with the police contract- which means we are the team who remove the body from an accident, suicide or any other case requiring further investigation by the coroner. 

Today was my first police call and less than an hour earlier, shoes polished and tie fastened, I dived into the van excitedly. I couldn’t wait to discover the case that awaited, my eyes wide as my partner told me stories of some of the cases he has worked on. From aeroplane disasters to murder cases, the wannabe forensic journalist inside me somersaulted! My heart always aches for the family involved in any loss, but it’s a well known fact in the funeral biz that Emma Jane loves the coroner cases.

Back in the city, whenever a removal from the forensic science unit was required, the funeral directors loosened their ties and flicked off their polished shoes. “Emma can do it!” they’d sing, reaching for their microwave lunch meals. It was break time for them while I leapt into the van and headed off towards the giant building of secrets. Black body bags, detectives – I felt like I was apart of a crime scene investigation TV programme!

I always dreamt of working for a company granted the police contract- and now my dream had come true. 

We arrived at our scene today with little information and I admired my partner’s ability to predict the scene we were about to walk into, simply by the appearance of the dwellings around us. “A lot of older people live around here,” he studied the houses through the windscreen as we turned down our designated street. “I betcha it will be a case where a doctor will sign off on his death. Nothing too exciting,” he winked my way.

I pouted.

Although no decomposition kit was needed (a go-to pack containing heavy duty gloves and goggles) I was deeply moved by today’s police case. It wasn’t because the poor soul’s body defeated him only moments before paramedics arrived. It wasn’t even the tiny frown line between his brows, indicating a little pain when he took his final breath.

It was his perfectly ironed trousers, his shiny leather belt, the notepad and car keys in his pockets. Not a hair out of place,  he smelt of Classic Brut. Only a short while ago, he rang the ambulance service reporting chest pain. His heart failed him before they arrived. Had he dressed well out of courtesy for the hospital staff? He sure did look lovely. His skin still warm, limbs floppy as we moved him from the floor, I experienced a little chest pain of my own.

Once we strapped him in and lifted the stretcher in the back of the body removal van, my partner and I climbed back into our seats and headed off towards the hospital morgue where further tests would be carried out. We chatted about our favourite TV shows and the sunset casting brilliant pinks and oranges across the sky but, inside all I was thinking to myself was “Mr. Wilson had no idea a few hours ago, that tonight he would be dead.”

I had anticipated a gruesome discovery with the call from the police.

Instead- I was moved by pleated trousers and a notepad.

Dreadlocks and Dragons

I nursed Brad* on my lap in the passenger seat of the van as it climbed higher up the mountain. Brad wasn’t a baby or child. His cremains (cremated remains) were sealed in a lovely oak box with his name carved in the wood. We were en route to his funeral service. Normally a body would be cremated AFTER the funeral and the last ride is always a hearse. Today was different. EVERYTHING would be different.

We brought the van as we were carrying half of the funeral home up the mountain, from a lowering device to an empty coffin in place of stretchers. I began to think we should have also packed a tent, food and water as we had been driving for quite some time now, and the winding road seemed neverending. My ears began to pop like on an aeroplane and noticed just how high we were, taking in the extraordinary view. There were green-blue mountains for as far as the eye could see, we were level with low cloud and felt the drop in temperature even with all windows closed.  ‘Feel that?’ my work partner chuckled as he shifted gears and the van heaved uphill further. ‘I can feel the cold through my suit!’

In a mountaintop cemetery overlooking the country side, Brad would be farewelled by friends and family. His death was a coroner’s case- it appeared the twenty six year old had died at his own hands. And made quite a mess while he was at it…of himself. His mother had requested we cremate him and during the funeral she would place the ashes inside the coffin with some of his favourite belongings. It sounded rather straight forward but as soon as things sound simple, a funeral director must be prepared for the opposite.

‘Apparently he was quite the gypsy,’ my partner began his brief as we turned onto an unsteady dirt road. ‘There may be quite a few things going in the coffin. Who knows what is going to happen up here. The locals are a little different in these mountains!’

Usually a lowering device is fitted before our arrival. All we need to do is place the coffin on the straps and at the appropriate time, flick the lever and the decedent is lowered into their grave. 

Not up here!

We were required to bring our own that had collected dust in the work shed. Now I would learn how to actually set one up!  I felt a flutter in my stomach- this service was going to be one to remember, I could feel it. My intuition was screaming at me, hope you’re ready for a banger!

I held Brad’s box of ashes tighter.

We finally pulled into the tiny cemetery with only a dozen headstones peeking through the fog. There was no time to appreciate the scenery- we had twenty minutes to set up all of our equipment before the family arrived! I climbed down from the van onto the dewy grass and placed Brad on the passenger seat where he would wait until it was time. Our hands aching from the cold, my partner and I unloaded the empty coffin, set up the chairs, sound system and lowering device. It’s amazing the strength and energy a funeral director can muster in challenging conditions. The icy air burned our skin, but ensuring Brad’s goodbye was perfect mattered more than a little windburn…or frostbite. Once all was prepared, we straightened our ties and waited. 

Then a beautiful thing happened. The sun broke through the clouds and the harsh wind settled. With the light I noticed we were surrounded with avocado trees and the cemetery had a view that gave Sydney Harbour a run for its money. The family began to arrive in droves- the mother greeting us behind large dark sunglasses. She acted strong, not a quiver.  Too many people refuse to shed a tear at funerals, and while I understand no two people grieve the same way, I sometimes long for them to take advantage of the reason for funerals. Funerals are a time to cry, scream, shout! It’s a launching pad for the grieving journey. However I could not imagine what it would be like to bury your own child and the pain a caliber of its own.

‘I have so much to set up,’ The mother pointed towards the family members approaching us holding large boxes. ‘I’m sorry it’s not the traditional way…’

‘Please,’ I placed my hand on her shoulder that I noticed was trembling beneath her coat. ‘Don’t apologise. It’s perfect and very special.’

‘It will be special,’ the mother agreed. ‘But I’m not allowed to cry just yet. I’ll set it all up and then I can deal with it.’

I nodded. 

‘Please let me know if there is anything I can do.’ I leant forward and hugged her and I heard her sniffle.

My partner and I stood back to supervise as the family set up a table by the open grave with the most beautiful belongings- spell books, crystals, incense, dragon ornaments, candles…so many candles! His favourite chocolate biscuits were set up by a canvas of photos and for the first time, my eyes met with Brad’s. Prior to this moment I had only known him as the cremains in the box with a glossy finish. In the photos he was laughing, pulling funny faces with a head full of long purple dreadlocks. A lip piercing sparkled on his smile and he wore trendy fur coats.

‘He loved dragons,’ his mother busied herself with his shrine, placing so many crystals and dragons around the grave I thought I had stepped onto the set of a fantasy film. His friends began to arrive, all dressed gothic style and glitter patterns on their cheeks. I could see in the photo collage Brad enjoyed glitter with much of his clothing sparkling with it. I felt a lump form in my throat and suddenly felt an intense connection to the  young man as if he were friend.

FINALLY! A service that was brimming with the deceased’s personality. No somber black suits and depressing music! Fleetwood Mac floated on the mountain breeze as his friends placed mementos by his coffin from witches brooms to more dragon ornaments. A stunning velvet cloak was placed in his coffin along with his spell books and letters… it was endless.

Before too long the cemetery was busy with eccentric characters, dancing and crying, hugging and dancing, throwing glitter in the air and dancing, sharing stories and you guessed it…dancing. You’d think you were at a dance festival if it weren’t for the coffin which was now loaded with all that made up the story of his life.

There was one thing missing.

Brad.

‘I would like to see him now,’ his mother approached us a few minutes before the service was scheduled to start.

‘Certainly,’ and I led her to the passenger side of the van and opened the door. She began to cry now, reaching forward and hugging him. ‘Oh my baby!’ she sobbed. ‘My dear boy. This world was never for you. I’m so sorry!’ She cradled her son in her arms before taking him over to the coffin. On sight of the box holding his ashes, his friends and family began to weep. 

The eulogy connected me even closer to the young man, learning he was a creative, a misfit, a writer, a poet, a stargazer. He had no time for social norms, for politics, conformity. His personality was described to have been ‘haunted’ by his inner demons, but my intuition told me they weren’t demons at all. He knew he didn’t belong in this crazy world- he wasn’t the crazy one at all.

Driving back down the mountain I felt changed. I was moved, challenged, unsteady in conversation with my colleague. I couldn’t think clearly, I felt foggy. A speck of glitter twinkled on my knee.

When people find out I work in the funeral industry, a common question I get asked is: “But isn’t it depressing working around death all day?”

How on earth could it be depressing when you’re standing on a mountaintop with glitter on your suit and your head held high knowing you’re helping someone in their time of need?

I was meant to conduct that service today. It was no coincidence that a glitter loving, dancing funeral director landed on that mountain.

Brad chose me.

RIP beautiful soul!

If You’re Trying to Lose Weight…

DIET TIP!!!

Become a funeral director! You may get to eat once a day when you’re on call- maybe not at all!

You run on coffee but work these off racing a zillion miles an hour & exposed to human fluids that you’d expect only to see in movies! 

You lift weight you had no idea you could manage until confronted with it and heaving coffins become part of everyday.

Salads look more appealing when you’ve seen a body in a sad state (bless their soul) & you stay away from anything that gives you gas. (I’ll leave that one there but fellow funeral directors know what I mean).

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Funeral Flowers, I hate you (erm…I mean I love you)

F3E2CB95-34E1-47E8-A763-780C31528E78So, I have a love/hate relationship with funeral flowers. Some days they are my friend as I spritz the casket spray with water to freshen the petals before placing them on the coffin. They smell amazing- the white lily my favourite, while other funeral directors sneeze and splutter at the strong scent. Once at the church or chapel it’s an honour to place the flower arrangements on the altar artistically so the guests can see all the wonderful work florists spent their time creating. 

These dear colourful blooms have also had me wishing I could jump into the burial plot myself. 

In the early days while in training, my conductor explained that prior to the service we would be doing a drive by.  A drive by??? We weren’t gangsters! Were there guns hidden in the under carriage of the hearse? ‘What exactly is, erm…a drive by?’ I whispered to him, and he looked at me as if I had just asked if he would care to drive off a cliff together.

‘You don’t know what a drive by is?’

‘Well, I am a fan of hip hop, I know some great music artists who have been wounded in drive bys.’ The expression on his face had me wanting to melt into my polished shoes. Turned out a “drive by” entails driving to the decedent’s home on route to the funeral. The hearse stops outside the home and the conductor takes a moment to put a rose in the letterbox, bows respectfully then returns to the hearse. I shed a tear the first time I witnessed this. We see so many bodies get rolled into our facility on stretchers and while we care and respect every single one of them, we don’t have much of a back story of their life besides what disease or accident snatched them from life.

“Drive Bys” became special to me. You had the opportunity to see their home, the gardens they once watered, the patios they swept. When I became a conductor I felt blessed to stand at the front of the deceased’s home to place the rose in their letterbox which I’m sure was usually filled with utility bills- envelopes they needn’t worry about anymore.

So now Drive Bys are important to me, but that very first day I learnt about them I felt excruciatingly embarrassed. 

Then there was the time I had to carry a flower arrangement twice the size of myself down the (very long) aisle of a church before the family arrived. It was an Italian service- fellow funeral directors know just how extravagant these services are! 

So.Many.Flowers. 

Hardly able to see over the flowers in my hands quivering with the weight, I tripped and face planted into the arrangement. Pollen on my face and swamped beneath flowers, I envisioned my headstone: “Death by flowers at funeral. Please do not gift flowers as they were her enemy.”

Theeeeen that day. THAT DAY. The family had requested they would like to take the casket spray home with them. At the burial there is a crucial moment prior to lowering the coffin into the earth when the funeral director skilfully removes the casket spray and places them to the side on the flower grate. I forgot to do this because, well… it’s me. And as I pushed that lever, the coffin descending into the ground, my face burned with shock as I watched in terror-the flowers were lowering, lowering, lowering, six feet under. Thankfully the family were okay with my error, and still gave us a great review and even sent a thank you card. Phew! I later discovered the cemetery staff could have retrieved them. 

There are too many cases to count how funeral flowers can stress a funeral director. From placing the wrong arrangement on a casket, to the florist not delivering them at all. From forgetting to check the flower-room at chapels for flowers that may have been sent by family members unable to attend, to having them slide off the casket while driving the hearse around corners because someone forgot to put flower matting beneath the display to prevent them moving.

Aaah. Funeral flowers.

These adventures aside, have you ever wondered why there are so many darn flowers at a funeral?

Historically flowers were placed around the casket to ward off the smells that emanated from the decaying process of the body. Clearly we now have better techniques to deal with a stinky corpse than using flower petals, but a lovely way to mask decomposition all the same.

There was once even the role of the Flower Lady. The flower lady was similar to the pall bearer role but instead of carrying the casket, the ladies carried the flowers from the funeral service to the flower vehicle then set them up graveside.

Today this role is called… ALL OF US! The  FDA – Funeral Director’s Assistant does this – hence why I had a face smothered with pollen.

Whether the fragrance makes you sneeze or the heaviness of some arrangements boosts the chiropractic industry, funeral flowers are sentimental for many reasons. It can be difficult for mourners to put feelings into words, and flowers show sympathy and express love. 

I do believe flowers should sent to the grieving AFTER the service also, once all is buried and done with. Grief outlasts sympathy so take the time to send a bunch once in a while to someone who lost a partner, friend, child- anyone! Flowers brighten anyone’s day – unless you’re falling into them or accidentally putting the incorrect arrangement on a coffin.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Earth laughs in flowers.” This quote sure does describe my humorous experiences with funeral flowers but when it comes to grieving, I like to say “The Soul is Smiling in Flowers.”

And here’s to the whole darn team being The Flower Lady!

🌸🌸🌸

Zebra Print & Champagne

On my recent travels I discovered the cutest funeral home. Okay okay, so a holiday is meant to be abundant with coconut trees and sand between the toes, not headstones and funeral chapels. Don’t get me wrong- I love a cocktail (or five) by swimming pools but this road trip was all about funeral homes and learning different ways other companies do their thing.

So while driving through the countryside I came across a company with the greatest uniform. No somber black suit, these ladies had zebra print material threaded in their Akubra hats and pink blouses beneath their jackets! What a wonderful way to celebrate life- with colour, patterns and warm smiles? I did also wonder, would the uniform be overwhelming to a family who have tragically lost a child? Had a partner killed in an awful accident?

Oh the Death Industry. A crazy world of controversy! 

It had me thinking though – how great it would be to develop a funeral home serving those who leave this world between 80-100 years of age. Of course it’s devastating to lose someone whether they’re 12 years old or 100, but when someone has conquered life and made it to age 99- now THAT’S cause for celebration! It’s awful to lose anyone!!! But how great it would be to honour lives who have outlasted generations- wiser than most of us, taking stories to their graves we can’t even imagine!

Someone close to me, 85 years of age, has never been in hospital. And over a few strong whiskeys she tells stories of the days she partied with rock stars and watched the construction of the Sydney Opera House so many many years ago. When it’s her time to leave this world, free of disease and a heart full of gratitude, her farewell will indeed be a celebration of LIFE. 💞

I daydream of a funeral home where the staff wear zebra print vests, bright shoes & serve champagne by the coffin as family celebrate a life well lived. 

💞🥂✨💋💯

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Cloud Bling

Writer Florence Scovel Shinn once said “Prayer is telephoning to God and intuition is God telephoning you.” I’m not a religious person but I’m really into spiritual shit, and last night I received the most wonderful phone call.

‘Beautiful night,’ I grinned at the truck driver jumping down from his giant machine beside me at the fuel station. ‘I have NEVER seen lightning like this!’ I pointed up at the clouds glowing with the forces of nature. No thunder or rain, the sky was showing off with a silent light display. If you were inside at home you’d have no idea of the spectacle taking place above you without the usual stormy companions.

‘It sure is a special sight,’ he agreed, gazing upwards. ‘We do see it a lot though, late at night in the distance. The open road makes it easier to see. Kind of a shame really, what people miss out on when in bed.’  I felt the smile creep across my cheeks. That’s what I always say. Well, to myself anyway. Nature is at its best at night. Moonlight, stars, the cooler breeze, and if you’re out and about expect adventures.

Oops!

Fuel began leaking from the pump and down my hand. I was so mesmerised I almost forgot I was filling up. It didn’t matter. I was in the middle of the most beautiful road trip and the funny thing is, I was meant to be asleep in bed.

I’ve been on the road for some time now and planned to get a nights sleep before continuing the drive. But I was restless. I brewed some tea, stared at my open suitcase on the floor, peered over at the bed. I moaned thinking how boring bed was going to be. And something told me to grab my toothbrush, zip up the suitcase and skip it altogether. I felt a sudden surge of joy zap through me like the lightning illuminating the sky. In no time, the car was packed and I was singing out aloud to James Blundell for good measure, as I drove through the country. Huge trucks were the only vehicles sharing the road with me and some honked their horns to say hello. (Or to tell me to get to bed like everyone else, I’m not sure.)

The trees stood out in silhouette, hauntingly beautiful with the backdrop of lightning as if the Universe was releasing fireworks in the clouds just for me. I felt a sneaky little tear. Not many people know this about me but I have actually travelled the open road extensively in the past. I witnessed some incredible sights on my travels but nothing quite like this. For hours and hours the lightning played with the clouds, sometimes rolling from one cloud to another like a synchronised routine, other times lashing out and splitting the sky with bony fingers of blinding light. I felt so incredibly blessed to witness the magic. As well as the unforgettable light show I was captivated by the enormous trucks on their overnight journeys, with number plates different to ours. No plates identifying which State they come from, instead they read “Federal-Interstate.” I thought how great that would be, to belong to the entire country. Some trucks had what looked like a nightclub attached to them with flashing lights and even their giant wheels were decked out with twinkling bulbs. I pulled over at a rest stop and text my friend who works in the truck industry.

Hey there- sorry for the late night text. Just been driving the country, sharing the open road with giant trucks with what looks like a disco attached to them and thought of you! Just wanted to say hi and hope you’re doing well.

Almost instantly my phone beeped with a reply.

Hi. Yes, it’s a term known as ‘Night Bling’.

 I laughed. A bit like myself!  I replied, referring to my addiction to sparkly heels after dark.

You know what they do compared to the trucks without it?  My friend wrote.

 The same thing I asked.

 Exactly. If not, less. They spend tens of thousands extra on that stuff but it doesn’t do anything  was his reply as another truck spruced up with ‘Night Bling’ blasted past me.

 A bit like people  I found myself typing.

 Night Bling, I like that, I thought to myself as I veered back out onto the highway. Even the clouds had bling tonight. I suddenly realised I was not alone late at night when I couldn’t sleep. Whenever my insomnia would strike from now on I would think of the dedicated drivers out on the road delivering goods to help the world go round. I usually thought about fellow funeral directors out on transfers caring for the dead (taking the deceased from place of death into the care of the funeral home 24 hours a day) but now I would also think of the hard working truckers so we can be fed and provide products to make our life easier. While most people slept, they worked- but I began to think they may have the best darn job in the world. (Besides a funeral director, of course.) They get to drive all night under lightning skies, listening to late night radio where the most interesting characters call in to take part in quiz shows. (Where I learned, I might add- the only fruit specifically mentioned in the story of Adam and Eve is Fig, referring to the fig leaf used for modesty.)

I was so grateful for my intuition in this moment. The “Phone call” from something bigger than I.

You see, there’s this thing I do. I can’t make an important decision on rational judgement alone. I don’t write a pros and cons list, ask my friends for advice or research products before buying. I rely on intuition. That’s right, I can safely say someone makes the decisions for me, and while I carry out the actions physically with my own arms and legs it certainly isn’t me who governs them. Sometimes I come across crazy to those closest to me, but while I frighten the bejesus out of people with my ideas, these experiences enrich my life and make me the happiest little human on this planet.

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Intuition is everything xoxo

When I got back in that car and witnessed the magic in the sky –  the Cloud Bling – I blew a kiss to the heavens for making me… Me. Crazy little messy me, who never misses the phone call.

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Image Stormvisuals

A Quick Departure

The Nursing Home Transfer tells a great  story of the deceased – their entire lives have been compressed into one room. They could have chosen anything from their homes, so the possessions inside the small room show what was most precious to them during their time here on Earth. I always find myself scanning the walls of family photographs while snapping on my gloves, distracted by all the cherished items – mementos from a garden once was, ornaments, war medals, books and stuffed toys showing wear and tear, perhaps from their childhood passed through generations.

It was a steamy Good Friday and sweating in my suit, I was replacing Easter eggs with body bags. Public holiday penalties on my mind and a fat paycheck, I pulled into the car park of the nursing home where I met my transfer partner who was already waiting. On-Call for the Easter weekend, we were on our sixth death call in twenty-four hours. I’m sure I saw an Easter Egg wrapper poking from his vest pocket.

‘A Holy day for a departure!’ He grinned, fixing his tie.

‘Too right!’ My eyes meeting with his as we headed towards the revolving doors. Bright carnations fluttered in the garden bed that lined the footpath.What started out to be regular transfer sadly became one of the most shocking. It wasn’t the condition of the body – I had been to far worse scenes in my time! It took the cake for the most absurd transfer due to family behavior. I literally had to pick my mandible from the floor!

When we entered the room with our stretcher, I found it quite fitting that Joyce was dressed in a silk nightie with a hand made Samoan Church Pall over the top of her. Crucifixes embroided on her robe, she looked like a stunning Church figure. A teary but smiling lady stood by her bedside and greeted us lovingly, even hugging us –  explaining she was a “Hugger”. Dressed in a happy floral blouse, the Hugger said she had just arrived from Melbourne to say goodbye to her mother. As I asked her to sign the required Valuables paperwork, she refused shyly.

‘Oh! My brother, Peter. He is the executor. He will want to sign this.’ She shuddered.

We proceeded, snapping on our gloves and gently covering Joyce with a sheet. Almost waking the dead, a man barged through the door and approached the bed standing in our way of the stretcher.

‘They are the undertakers,’ the Hugger said softly to the man. I noticed how her friendly tone towards us shifted to a fearful tremble when she spoke to him. He crossed his arms across his chest and snorted: ‘Yeah, well, hurry up and do your business!’ I felt my jaw drop and quickly turned away from him. I secured the name tags around the deceased’s frail wrists and together my partner and I slid Joyce from her mattress onto the stretcher using the pat slide. As we went about our work, the man grabbed bits and pieces from around us – magazines, cushions and a few photo frames. He could not even wait until we were out of the room!

‘Hurry up, would you!’ he blasted, pushing past us so he could reach for various items of his late mother’s. The Hugger shot us an apologetic look and hung her head.

‘Do you mind…?’ I started, passing him the Valuables paperwork. ‘Could you please confirm that Mum was wearing these items?’

‘I don’t bloody care what she was wearing!’ he spluttered, spit spraying from his lips like a garden hose.

‘I’m sorry, Sir,’ I was in disbelief at this man’s behaviour! Right there next to the dead body of the woman who gave him life! ‘It is company protocol that we take your signature.’  Grunting, he scribbled along the dotted line. I gave him his copy and he screwed it into a ball and tossed it into the bin.

‘I would like to walk with you,’ the daughter smiled and followed behind as we wheeled her mother out of the room and down the narrow hall towards the elevator.

Now, this is where I wanted to take off a heel and peg it at Peter’s head! As we waited by the elevator for the door to spring open, the air was filled with a loud screeching sound like an unoiled train track. To our shock, Peter was pushing his mother’s chest of drawers down the hall. This man could not even wait for his dead mother to leave the room before he took her furniture!

Once back at the vehicle, I lifted the back door of the van and the daughter finally allowed a tear to stream her blush. I lifted and pushed, the stretcher wheels collapsing into lying position and I slid her mother into the back of the Body Collecting Van. ‘ The funeral arrangements…’ the Hugger stuttered. ‘I am not in charge of this, but I don’t think it is going to happen for some time. My siblings want to organise it and they are …rather challenging personalities.’

‘It’s okay,’ I smiled, resting my hand on her arm. She took my hand in hers and squeezed it in appreciation for the kindness she so evidently lacked in her family. ‘Now is not the time to worry yourself with decisions. We will be taking good care of mum and you can take all the time you need.’

‘Well, the only decisions to be made are for the funeral,’ the woman sighed. ‘Peter has already sold everything. The house sale was finalised last week. Mum was only sick a month when Peter put her home on the market!’

I am sure there is more to the story that led the son to drag his mother’s chest of drawers down the hallways, mere minutes after we had collected her body from the bed she died in. Perhaps Mum was a cranky old soul and Peter did not get along with her. Maybe there was a family feud going on and a lot of tension burned amongst the siblings. I don’t have an opinion on this (they say a dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it, after all)  I do however, have a huge problem with people disrespecting the dead! The soul may have left it’s mortal shell, but they still deserve the same respect as you would give someone who is living!

Whether it’s Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving, be grateful you have your frustrating family around you. Drunk Uncle Joe may be inappropriate again and the differences between your siblings have you downing that extra glass of wine!

Be grateful. Bite your tongue and be thankful they are even there to irritate you. You are lucky they care enough to spend this time by your side to celebrate.

You don’t want them clearing out your room the second you exhale your final breath, do you?

 

Be nice.