Tall (and sweating) in my funeral director suit, I stood at the back of the hearse, people gathering for as far as the eye could see in oversized dark sunglasses and looking much better than me in their swanky suits.
The Entrance song began to play and I inhaled deeply.
‘Showtime…’ I told myself, about to conduct the company’s biggest funeral for the day.
‘Pall bearers, ready? Take your positions…’ I announced and six gentlemen stepped forward as I unlocked the coffin, reached in and grasped a handle. With all my strength I pulled the coffin forward on the rollers. I walked in front; an incredible honour, as the pall bearers carried their loved one close behind in her glossy coffin decorated with an impressive spray of lilies and white roses. As we entered the chapel, I snuck a glance at my assistant working on the media controls who winked at me and smiled. I could hear whimpers and sobs from the guests who stood from their seat as we passed. Once at the front of the chapel, I instructed the pall bearers to place the coffin on the rollers of the catafult that gleamed in spotlights with lavender tiling. A waterfall trickled down the windows behind the coffin, impressive greenery stood tall to soften the grim reality of why we were there.
‘Thank you, Gentlemen,’ I nodded and they stepped aside and joined their crying family members in the front row. My assistant met me at the front of the crowd as we positioned the coffin in the centre, bowed and handed the service over to the celebrant…for now.
As the celebrant ran the show, I hurriedly filled out paperwork while offering glasses of water to pale faces. The crowd spilled out into the carpark, cameras flashed and many were thanking me for being there.
An hour later, it was time for me walk down the aisle to lead the pallbearers to the hearse. The final song began to play, one I had never heard before. My paperwork instructed me to wait until two minutes and fourteen seconds into the piece before proceeding down the aisle. I watched my assistant at the media controls for the nod.
When it was time, my heels released and as I began to walk, the lyrics sang…‘Conductor, turn the final page…’ Goosebumps crawled over my body, I was a conductor!
Suddenly, the husband of the deceased stood from his front seat and began to clap, followed by his three daughters, and like a Mexican wave the crowd rose to their feet clapping loudly as the final stretch of the song echoed throughout the chapel.
Change is a major factor in our jobs. Decisions are made by the family last minute – a surprise photo presentation, adding time to the service (which completely mucks up mountains of paperwork if you’re wondering)! I have assisted on a funeral where a famous country singer popped up graveside as a surprise, slinking off amongst the headstones on the final strum of his guitar.
Today was no different. The family had organised a dove release, not mentioned in my paperwork of course. As we stepped out of the chapel, five white doves were released from their cane baskets and took off, swooping and gliding in perfect harmony.
Now… how on Earth are you supposed to compose yourself while there are magical doves performing in sync, a sternum shaking song playing and hundreds of people clapping?
You just do.
You stay strong.
You hold your head up high.
You lock that bloody coffin in the back, you thank your guests and celebrant and you tick and sign your paperwork. Once back at the funeral home, you clock off and walk out to your car and slip into the driver’s seat. You wave to your colleagues as they pull out of the car park and then, you take a moment to sit and let a tear fall.
Nothing…Nothing compares to this.