Thursday, February 17, 2011


The funeral director, Chris, met us at the door and brought us back to his office.  It is funny how solemn they have to act which is understandable but I can be quite irreverent at times and just have to laugh.  Steve and I would get to either laughing or crying throughout this meeting.  I am not sure that Chris knew how to take us.  Every once in awhile he would be laughing in spite of himself.

He asked me numerous questions about my church, calling hours, funeral service, burial, cremation, open/closed casket, obituary details and on and on. Since Rick was so young and because our families were so big, Chris felt we were likely to have hundreds of people at the services. The largest room in the funeral home couldn't handle the masses of people. He suggested that we hold the calling hours at my church 1-3 and 4-6, leave the body in the chapel at the church over night and then have the funeral the next day.  Everything sounded fine to me, surreal but fine.
Next, we went into the showroom to select a casket; this really felt like being in a used car lot. I know it was supposed to be dignified but really, the hilarity of the situation just cracked me up.  Imagine a southern drawl,  “Over he-a, we have the exquisite titanium-covered elite model.  This is a true gem, will last an eternity...and ova he-a, we have the sleek, solid mahogany hand-crafted presidential model with gold trim.  Your loved-one will be comfortable for many years to come.  I got hysterical; it too was funny. Steve started laughing too.  If you can't have a sense of humor at these times, all is lost.

One wall was devoted to cement liners; these would keep the water out of the casket for years.  Steve looked at me and said, “I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to matter where he’s going.”  We were laughing again; I told Chris I would pass on that.

So, here I was in the casket parking lot trying to decide which box to put my beloved, deceased husband in for eternity.  Chris was nice enough to show us the rest of the models and then leave us for a few minutes. Steve and I would vacillate between laughing and crying every few minutes.
Finally, I chose the one that Rick would have liked for its craftsmanship; it was a Jewish casket, made of redwood.  It was simple and beautiful. We went back into the office and continued with paperwork and plans for the big celebration.

We left the funeral home with the arrangements made and set off  to the cemetery.  We drove to the top of the hill and met an ancient-looking woman who was the care-taker, a tiny woman with gray hair pulled back in a pony.   She had a book of the plots with her.  Steve introduced us and she gave us her spiel on different locations.  She turned and looked at me and said, “One plot or two?”  I burst out laughing.  Stephen looked at her and told her we needed a minute.  She sounded so much like she was offering sugar at a tea:  I couldn’t hold it together.  “One lump or two?”

I got a hold of myself and looked at Steve and said, “Okay, what do I do?  I don’t know if I need two."   What in the world prepares anybody to have these conversations?  Steve said, “Well, if you remarry and decide you want to be buried somewhere else, they could always throw me in there.” " Alright, that sounds good enough to me."  I walked back to the woman and said, “I’ll take two and I want them here under this dogwood tree.”  “Perfect,” she said and toddled back to her truck to get the papers to sign.

I was spent.  We drove back to my house.  There were more people and more food; I just sat on the couch in a comatose state and watched everyone go by, like I was watching from outside of my body. I was longing for my mother.  Why is that no matter how old I get, when the chips are down, I still want my mother?  I guess just the thought of my mom conjures feelings of safety, warmth and comfort.

It was a day well spent. I knew in my heart that this was going to be a celebration of Rick’s life, not the dirge of death.  I wanted people to remember all the wonderful things that made Rick the special man he was.  If I could have had a party, I would have.  I would have preferred music, food and dancing.  I guess that’s the Irish in me.  Yes, I was sad, but I wanted to celebrate Rick.  I believed he was in heaven and that was something to rejoice in, regardless of how much my heart ached.


  1. Your story is so sad - but your writing is SO compelling, I'm looking forward to each episode.

    I hope you're getting as much out of writing it down as I'm getting from reading it.

    Have a wonderful day!!

  2. Red,
    I'm glad you're looking forward to reading. My story is sad but it is just life. Each person has pain in life. We will hit many bumps in the road along the way.

    It has been cathartic to write. These stories have been rolling around in my head for twelve years. It was time they were out.

    Thanks for sharing your reactions.
    All the best,

  3. I remember going shopping with my mom for a casket for my grandma. It was a lot like shopping for a car. All the different models. And to top it off you feel so protective of your loved one. You don't want the bugs and elements all over them. But you also know that they wouldn't want the ultra model.

    You were lucky to have Steve with you. And if it's any consolation, I would be laughing, too. As my grandma use to say, it's as easy to laugh as it is to cry (plus it's a lot better for your complexion).

  4. I agree about the used car lot. For most of the arrangements process, the folks seem diplomatic and sympathetic. Then you go to the "showroom." Oy.

  5. Dear Jane,
    I printed out the pages and read until after midnight. I am now starting on 'Arrangements'and will read the rest tonight. I am very, very, very serious that this needs to be a book. So hop to sweet girl and get this published.
    Grammy T.