Wednesday, April 24, 2013

All Kidding Aside

Yesterday I poked fun at the funeral mores of our society in which an afghan can be made from the dearly departed's final formal portrait to provide a floating head that benevolently watches the memorial tributes. ("It's so lifelike! As if she were right here, but ginormous! And fringed!") Is this a great society or what?

Kidding aside, though, may I take a moment to say how very, very much I appreciated the help of the funeral guys? I'm not sure what to call them, actually. Morticians sounds so Old West-y and funeral directors sounds like mid-level management at WalMart, so I'm going with funeral guys.

I have a mental picture of the people who bury people for a living that is straight out of Dickens, all oily hair, five-o'clock shadows, and unctuous handshakes. (You will need to imagine this because holy smoke, when you Google "image undertaker," you do not get the results you will be expecting.) This is in spite of my experience with funeral professionals, which includes a couple as a more-or-less principal player and many, many more than that as the pianist on "It Is Well With My Soul."

The mortuary we chose for my mother-in-law's services assigned Brad to take care of our family, and I felt a little sorry for him as Husband and I prepared for our first meeting. I mean, at the best of times we're no shrinking violets, and thanks to all those stints at the piano I had some Definite Opinions about this process.

"First of all," I announced as Brad introduced himself, "no poems."

"I'm sorry?" he said.

"No poems. None of this 'Do not stand at my grave and weep' baloney," I said firmly.

And he laughed. He laughed!

"You don't like my poems? But I am not there! I do not sleep!"

At that point I knew we were going to get along just fine.

Over the course of the following week, Brad guided us through the legal (how many death certificates would we need?), the financial (death ain't cheap, but costs were slightly more flexible than we had realized), the uncomfortable (see: commingling of ashes), and the mundane (we wanted hymns and our church doesn't use hymnals).

He also put up with the personal foibles of a daughter-in-law who has many thereof, including an aversion to state postal abbreviations that is closely akin to Joan Crawford's aversion to wire coat hangers. ("I totally understand. Do you want to check the obituary one last time to make sure I got them all?")

We also were astounded at the niceties possible today--each of the flower arrangements had a thank you note pre-assigned with a PICTURE OF THE ARRANGEMENT INSERTED. Do you know how nice this is? To think back and smile about the beauty of the arrangement and the thoughtfulness of the provider, making a social obligation into a moment of comfort?

Anyway, I won't go on and on. Just know that the funeral guys at my mother-in-law's funeral were spectacular.

Thanks, Brad. We'll say no more about the afghan.

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