Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Wisdom of the Funeral Director's Wife

   My husband is a funeral director... there I said it.  When I tell people my husband's profession they usually get an uncomfortable look on their faces and blurt out either "I guess his profession is recession proof", which they follow with an uncomfortable giggle.  The other comment, "Well it takes a special person to do that job." This last comment they usually try to look really somber and thoughtful as they say it.  I have said it a million times, "Death makes people uncomfortable," there I said it again.
    The funny thing about death, is that no one can escape it.  We think that if we don't talk about it, or run away from it, it will just go away.  Don't get me wrong I don't think that death should be a cheerful thing, and I have often thought with envy of the deeply religious people who look on death a visit home.  Death is not something that I embrace, nor is it something that frightens me for myself... anymore.  It used to.  I lost my 9 year old son in a car accident, I was half an hour away from bleeding to death myself, I no longer fear death.
    Christopher and I have been dating since the last month of my first year of university.  We met at York University, where we lived in the same dorm.  We have been together for, gulp, 21 years.  Christopher had finished his Sociology BA and was unsure what he wanted to do with his life.  One day he announced, "I'm thinking that I might like to be a funeral director."  For me he might as well have said "I'm thinking that I might like to be a circus performer." Circus performer might have been easier for me to swallow.  "GROSSSSSSS" were the words from my mouth.  We got engaged, we got married and I helped to put him through the Funeral Service Education Program.  At no point was I ever comfortable with his decision.  At no point did I ever stop thinking that it was a super gross profession.  At no point that is, until I saw for my unfortunate self the importance and utter magnitude of what my husband does for a living.  I would like to make clear at this point that I am still completely unaware what made Christopher decide to become a funeral director.  I still am slightly uncomfortable with his job, but I truly do have a whole new perspective on the importance of his job.
    Here is the funeral wisdom that I would like to share.  I feel like this is my PSA (Public Service Announcement) for Funeral Homes.  How long did you spend planning your wedding?  Did you your boyfriend ask you one day, and did you have your wedding two days later?  Why?  Because this was the most important day of your life!  You wanted everything to be perfect.  Did you bemoan the absorbent amount of money you spent?  Yes, but you spent it because you knew that is what it cost to do it right.  Funerals should be the same, but they are not.  No I do not think you should plan a funeral in a year, but you could take a few days.  This is the good bye to someone you love.  This is what you tell the rest of the world who your loved one was.  Am I telling you all of this because I have a vested interest in funeral homes, no.  I know from experience.
   I had to bury my 9 year old son.  This is something no mother should ever have to do.  I had my husband the funeral director to help guide me through.  We took a week to plan Gabe's funeral.  I will be honest, planning his funeral helped to keep the madness at bay.  I could feel a building hysteria that wanted to overtake me, planning this "for Gabe" kept reality in my grasp.  In his life I wanted everything perfect.  In his death this is, and was just as important, if not more.  We put together a beautiful slide show, brought in the things that were important to him, and decorated the funeral home with them.  We put together home movies and set them to music.  At his funeral we told the tale of Gabe for everyone.  We played his favourite music at the visitations.  We played our favourite music for him at his funeral.  We threw ourselves into planning the big good-bye.  My husband was an amazing help.  I will be honest I think that it helped for him to become the "funeral director", it helped him to bury the "grieving father", and keep his grasp in reality.  I have to say it was a beautiful funeral.   It was important to me to show everyone how much we loved Gabe, and I think we did.  As I mentioned Christopher works for a small family owned funeral home, and because of this they went above and beyond the call.  Jon carried their own personal television set downstairs so that it could be set up in the funeral home so that people could watch the dvd of Gabe at Medieval Times.
     It is because of personal experience that I now know how important funeral planning is.  I feel heart sorry for people who feel like they have to rush.  I can only imagine how I would feel now if I hadn't taken the time and done Gabe's funeral the way that I thought it should be.  I would have felt so much regret.  I had no control over the fact that my child was taken from me, but I had complete control in the way I planned his good-bye.
    We need to rethink this fear we have of death.  No, we should not embrace death.  Death is inevitable.  You cannot out run it.  At some point in your life you will loose someone that you dearly love.  Of that you have no choice.  You do have a choice in how you handle death.  Grieve!   Allow yourself to feel the loss.  If someone that you know loses someone, don't run away or avoid them because you feel uncomfortable, man up!  You feel uncomfortable, I would have given anything in the world to feel uncomfortable rather than the choking loss and grief that I felt.  Don't tell them something stupid like "I know how you feel", or "He's in a better place".  You have no idea what you are talking about, even if you have been in the exact same situation.  Better to say "I am so sorry", and then next week take them a meal.  If it is you planning that funereal, take your time, do it right.  Funeral directors are there to guide you.  They do this every single day, they really do know what they are doing, that's why you pay them the big bucks.  Let them help you.


  1. Well said,It must have been very hard for you to write this.As usual I am proud of you.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss.
    My heart aches for you.
    My oldest son's name is Gabriel, when I read your boy's name the tears flowed.
    Thank you for writing this, it is something most people who have never lost a loved one don't think about.