Some are fair weather friends, who are there when you’re buying the beer. There to watch the game on your new plasma, but always “busy” when you’re moving that big piece of furniture or “stuck in traffic” when you need someone to pick you up from work when you happen to lock the keys in your car.
Fair weather friends, take notice of the Professional Mourner. Oh, Sultan of the Sulk. Helper of the Hurting, you’re there when the sky turns grey. You’re the wiping horse of the long day. You may not be around to celebrate a birthday or a wedding, but you’re the first one in line at a viewing, even beating the immediate family to the funeral home door. You’re the first one to shed a tear and the last one to leave the post-funeral luncheon.
You own stock in the Vatican’s Mass cards, and used all your vacation days to attend weekday funerals. The new BMW that the florist drives is single-handedly financed by the funeral flowers you purchase on a weekly basis. You may not even know the name of the deceased whose funeral you are attending, but you’re on a first name basis with all the morticians in the area. You collect memorial cards and prayer cards like they’re money and habitually ask the funeral director if that third story apartment in the funeral home is up for rent.
You, my friend, out dress the funeral directors with your gold cuff-links and silk color coordinated tie and handkerchief combo. Your greatest pleasure is when someone mistakes you for an undertaker. Sometimes, you don’t correct them. You just let them assume that you ARE an undertaker. You’ve attended more funerals than many funeral directors, so why not?
You own the shirt, “Free hugs” and are brave enough to wear it to Wal-Mart. Your tactile nature makes you a boarder-line molester in normal life, but a real life hero at a funeral, hugging everyone you see with a smile and an empathetic “I know”. The viewing line stops when you reach the family as you give each member in the receiving line a full measure of the comfort platitudes you memorized from grief.com.
Some buy one newspaper for the comic strips, but you buy at least three a day for the obituaries. You cut them out and laminate them, filing them like your tax records, and mailing the extras to your mother in Michigan. If there were a doctorate degree in obituaries you would have graduated summa cum laude. Master of the mourning. Comrade of comfort. You would rather be a pall bearer than get a promotion. Pal of the pall. Chum of the casket. You are the professional mourner. A true gloomy weather friend.
In Nederland, Colorado, there is an annual “Frozen Dead Guy Days“, which, among other things, includes a casket race (pictured below).
This type of macabre sport got me thinking, “What if there was a funeral industry Olympics?” So, I asked this question to my facebook community:
And you guys responded with nearly 200 glorious answers, many of which were very much industry specific (i.e., if you don’t work in the funeral business, you may not fully grasp the event. And, some of the events might seem disgusting to you, but are very real to us).
I absolutely love getting together with fellow funeral directors. Because we’re sort of a unique industry, it’s almost like we’re a part of some club. And when we’re together, we can share a part of ourselves that we hide from everyone else, even our closest family.
So, the idea of an Olympics would be AWESOME. And even though I have no plans to organize this event, if anyone else wants to, here are some event suggestions:
And here are some of my favorite event suggestions:
I’ve had some practice in this event:
And this guy would be the director of the Olympics ’cause he’s taking it all very seriously
And this is REALLY hard:
Absolutely disgusting. Seriously, though, I’d be good at it.
(Preface: If at anytime you are are utterly confused by this blog post, please skip to the bottom and read the postscript.)
I know who you are. You can’t hide it.
You simply don’t allow my charming smile to affect you. My attempt at small talk is given the cold shoulder. And you won’t even look into my eyes.
You’ve already been taken. You’ve already given your heart to another.
I understand how it is.
Maybe he buried your mother. Maybe he buried a close friend.
And he has your heart. You talk about him like he’s the best thing on God’s green earth … his tender touch; his compassionate eyes, the professionalism he exhibits in that suit have won your hurting heart over. You’ll never bury with another.
It doesn’t matter that my funeral home is larger.
It doesn’t matter that I’m younger.
It doesn’t matter that my services are cheaper.
It doesn’t matter that I’m on call all night long.
You will never cheat on him … after all he’s done for you. You’ve pledged your faithfulness to him.
Even if I speak tenderly: “Please sign the register book. And here’s a memorial folder.” But you just look down. Averting your eyes.
I know my voice is tempting you to connect with me, as you raise your eyes and whisper, “Thank you”
Suddenly, guilt envelopes your heart, as pictures of “the one” funeral director who was the last one to let you down start flashing through your mind. “Did I just connect with him when I said, ‘Thank you’? Did I commit an act of unfaithfulness? Did I cheat?”
Oh, I know what I’ve done. I sniffed you out as soon as you entered through the funeral home door. You were afraid to like me. You were sold out on YOUR funeral director and had all but forgotten any other funeral directors even existed. You came to this viewing to see your friend who had just lost her father and you didn’t expect to see me. But, when you saw me you started to wonder … your world started to open up.
I know you have a history with him. I know he treated you well. I could tell by the way you averted your eyes from me and spoke to me so coldly. You’re probably from a neighboring town, close enough that you COULD, POSSIBLY leave the funeral director in your home town and come on over to me.
And I know, that this meeting won’t be enough to entrust your heart to me. But, I can bet the next time you see me, you’ll reciprocate my smile. And the meeting after that, you might return my small talk.
And, our meeting after that might be slightly more personal. You might entrust me with your hardships and pain, and let my tender touch and compassionate eyes ease your pain.
I know what I’m doing. I’m going to be your next funeral director.
(Postscript: It’s funny how you can tell who’s committed to another funeral director. Like I mentioned, they’ll often give you a cold shoulder. The relationship between a funeral director and their families is like few business relationships because of its personal nature. There’s a real commitment that takes place, and when a family “cheats” (takes their business to another funeral home), it often does feel like they’re personally rejecting YOU! And, I know of a number of funeral directors who play the temptress, and try and lure our families over to their funeral home through different marketing ploys. It’s kinda silly and kinda immature … and, it’s kinda funny.)