“They’ll be happy”
Says my grandfather as he looks at the handsome face of a 13 year old boy lying motionless on our stretcher.
The last time the family saw him was a couple days before Easter.
Now, a day removed from Easter, they will view the body of their son one final time before he’s taken to the crematory.
Mothers dread walking into their son’s room and finding their boy making out with a girl. They don’t look forward to walking into their son’s room and finding them with cigarette in hand.
But few mothers have experienced this: walking into your son’s room to find him lying on the floor with his face distorted and discolored from livor mortis. It was a heart problem that the doctors said was under the control of proper medication.
The mother came through our door with a laugh, trailed by her husband (the father), their son and a couple friends.
They couldn’t have done this alone. “Thank God for the blessings of friends and family” I think to myself.
Those laughs are now tears as they cut some of the locks of his hair and place them neatly in our small keepsake bags. My dad walks past me and says, “Hardest thing I have to see today.” That after he embalmed a 47 year old cancer patient in the morning and then held the hand of the cancer patient’s wife while she made arrangements.
10 minutes pass.
Tears communicate instead of their words.
My dad walks past me again, this time exhaling a massive sigh.
“He looks so good”, one of them says.
We’ve done what we can to remove the livor, leaving his facial skin looking like that of a china doll. And once they begin walking away from the stretcher, the laughter begins again.
I go back and forth with myself in my head:
“It’s got to be unhealthy for them to be laughing.”
“Maybe, but how would you feel when the last time you saw your son’s face it was discolored?”
“But this is so unnatural! The whole thing … the death itself, the way they found him and now … laughter?!?”
“Imagine all the darkness they’ve seen … and now this little glimmer of light … small as it may be … they can see their son one last time the way they remember him. Something as simple as his cleared up skin may be the brightest thought they’ve had for days. Let them laugh now … there will be plenty of crying to do later. They’ve confronted their fears just now. They remember the love they shared. Let them have this moment.”
And with that I consoled myself; reassuring myself that when a child dies, sometimes, somehow … it can be natural for parents to leave the funeral home happy.
As with all my post, circumstances have been changed and rearranged so as to protect the privacy of this family.