Saturday, January 5, 2008

Lessons From the Dead

Many people would be surprised to know that my husband and I used to live in a funeral home. I know, it sounds pretty creepy, but really it wasn't.

We were low on income (SU-prise, SU-prise, SU-prise!) as my husband was a full time student and I was a part time teacher -- and full time mother of an infant. God provided us with a spacious rent-free apartment. In exchange for living there we had to answer the phones and be responsible for the maintenance of the building and the property.

No. We didn't have to handle the dead bodies. Except the one time one of the younger funeral directors called and asked for a favor. She had prepared a lady for a viewing, but had forgotten to remove the curlers from her hair.

"Could you just run down to the viewing room and remove Mrs. Smith's curlers? Then just kind of fluff her hair out."

"Sure," I replied and then hung up the phone. "ROBBBB! LaRae needs you to run down to the viewing room and remove the curlers from Mrs. Smith's hair!"

Simple enough.

Anyway, the bodies were prepared at a different location so they were only at our funeral home for the actual visitation. Generally, anyway. There was the time that the body was brought in because the family requested to see the man even though they didn't want him prepped for viewing.

Unaware of our deceased visitor, I left our apartment and went down to the viewing room to practice the piano. As I walked into the room, I saw him lying there, dead (obviously), on a hospital gurney, a sheet covering his body. I paused at the doorway.

Did I really want to go in there with ....him?

Upon consideration, I decided to go ahead and practice. I mean, I lived in a funeral home and I have the power of the Holy Spirit living in me! Dead bodies really shouldn't phase me! So, in I went.

I played several scales to warm up. Then I got out my copy of the Complete Prelude and Fugues (Urtext Edition, Teil I for those interested) by J.S. Bach and began to play the 4th Fugue. It suddenly occurred to me that that particular Fugue has a somewhat creepy theme. However, I gloried in my courage, only occasionally stealing glances over my shoulder at my roommate. It was one of those glances where he really caught my attention.

His sheet moved.

Yikes!!! I jumped up from the bench and leaped out the door. As I did, I felt the cool air from the air conditioner vent, directly next to the body, against my face.

That's one thing that I learned from living in a funeral home: there's always an explanation.

Another thing that I learned is that a funeral can be sad, really sad, or peaceful. The sad ones were just what you would expect: an older person who has lived a full life and their time to leave had come. There was a list of people who would miss them, but they had come to grips with the fact that the person was leaving.

The really sad ones were terrible. Like the man who, after an argument with his sister (who told him he should go kill himself), climbed into his mother's bed and shot himself through the head. There was also the mother of three who fell into her hot tub and drowned. Those ones were difficult even for the funeral directors.

Then there were the ones where the people had not only lived a full life, but had served Jesus regardless of circumstance. The conversations were different.

"She never lost her purpose." "She was still leading a Bible study even last week." "He was thankful that the Lord took her home... He knew it was her time."

Wow. Completely different. There was mourning, certainly, for those left behind, but the prevailing atmosphere was peace, even a tinge of joy, and anticipation for when she would be seen again.

Another thing that I learned is that when a crisis hits, your family becomes more of what they are. So, if your family is kind and helpful, then that carries on through the crisis. If your family harbors bitterness and anger, then that emerges during the crisis. If your family values beauty, then that emerges during the crisis.

So, overall, living in a funeral home was a great thing, it provided a great home, some good stories and I learned alot.

I also learned that if you're Irish your body turns green when your dead, but then again, that might have just been the lighting.

1 comment:

meg said...

Hey there,

I write for the Detroit Metro Times, and I was thinking of doing a feature on Christian (Amish) romance novels. As I haven't read any yet - and you definitely seem to have - I was wondering if I could pick your brain before I order a truckload of Christian (un)erotica?

Thanks so much,

Meghana Keshavan