My daughter Riley drew the above picture and wrote the picture's explanation below it. Last year when she was in grade 1 she had to write a story about her family, this was what she wrote and drew about her Daddy. At the age of six she knew what Daddy did, even though I had desperately tried to shield her from it. My husband is funeral director, it is such an important job, much more important than people realize (stay tuned for tomorrow's blog and I will elaborate why it is so important). I know first hand that he is excellent at what he does.
For years the kids thought that their Daddy was a UPS man. Part of Christopher's job is to pick up bodies from hospitals, nursing homes, accident scenes, where ever they may be. He works for a small family owned business and so he is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That means he gets called out at the most inopportune moments. When he would receive the phone call from his boss, I would always tell the kids that "Daddy has to pick up a package for Jon". When he was running out the door I would ask "do you have to wrap the package?" This is code for "Do you have to embalm?" this means that he will be hours, and that way I can make accommodations. One time one of kids commented on how many packages Jon sends out, I stifled my laugh (secretly congratulating myself on a job well done).
I have carefully laboured to sanitize my husband's job in my children's eyes. Yes, I know that death is just as much a part of living as birth. I know that we as a culture fear death and that we should try to remove some of the fear, I know this. I also know that my children have a lifetime to learn all of this. They are small and innocent, why burden them with this at such a young age? They knew that Daddy "hosted" "goodbye parties" for people who had someone that they love die. I felt that explanation was close enough to the truth. Christopher does help people to say good bye to people they love. They were satisfied, I was happy in my protection of them.
My carefully crafted fantasy was shattered with the above picture. I asked Riley "So is someone taking a nap in your picture?", I tried to take the anxiety out of my voice as I asked. "No Mommy, they are dead. That's Daddy, and he's talking to the family and trying to make them feel better." She said it in the same tone as "silly mommy." It turns out that my careful wording was more for my benefit, than theirs. I don't know how she found out what Daddy really does, but she did, and she was not traumatized by it, I was. I guess they listen more than I give them credit for.