Surviving the Funeral Home

Going to the funeral home to see if my husband’s body was prepared for our family visitation was one of the hardest moments of my life. Since I was overcome with anxiety and dread, my husband’s best friend, Holt, insisted on driving. It was raining which only added to the dreariness of the day.

I was bringing my husband’s glasses with me so that hopefully he would look more like himself as he always wore them. In my opinion, no one looks like himself or herself dead. I’ve always disliked open casket viewings since my parents insisted on requiring me to go with them to pay my last respects to bring about “closure.” My mother would stand beside the casket and whisper to me about, “how good they looked.” To me they always looked gray, hard, stiff, dead and without any resemblance to their natural selves when living. I could never quite understand why she thought anyone looked good dead!

We were greeted at the door by one of the men who worked there. After introducing him to Holt, he asked if I had brought the glasses that we had discussed earlier. The stoic way he asked that sent me into a crying fit. I reached down into the pocket of my raincoat and pulled out tissues and began to sob my heart out. Suddenly, I realized that I was actually weeping into cloth rather than tissues. I drew back my hands and peered into them saying, “Oh my God this is my underwear.” Holt is looking at me like I’m from another planet. The funeral home director without batting an eye says, “I’ll go check on the preparations and escort you both back in a few minutes.”

Holt inquires as to why I had brought the underwear. Then he says, “I don’t want to even know.” I’m trying to figure out what he is insinuating when he starts laughing uncontrollably. What are you laughing about? Realizing that he was thinking I was planning to place them in the casket, I start giggling. While we are practically crying with laughter, the funeral director returns. He announces in his very calm and serene way, “The body is ready if you’d like to go back now.” Our countenance immediately drops as we follow him down the hall.

Holt and I both looked at each other as soon as we are alone again and said at the same time, “David would think what just happened was hilarious!”  But, how could we possibly be staring down at his lifeless body and laugh? With my stomach in knots and my heart breaking, we wept and we laughed. We both realized our best friend was gone. Holt had known him since the fifth grade and I had known them both since college. Nothing could bring David back to life or have him look like himself even with the glasses that we had brought. But we had our memories that no one could erase.

We stayed a while longer peering down at David recalling the good times and the bad and how often humor was what got us through those life events. As we departed and made our way to the car, Holt starts chuckling again. “How can you be laughing again?” I ask. Holt responds, “Do you realize how it looked to the funeral director with you showing up with your husband’s best friend with underwear in your pocket? “ I thought about it a moment and then realized that it could have looked rather crazy and brazen. Holt then says, “Those funeral home guys are probably in there laughing about how you showed up with underwear in your pocket with another guy, right now!” No way, they wouldn’t think that.

Holt then wants to know why on earth, I had underwear in my pocket. I explained, “Well, it’s kind of weird. I attended a retreat the week before and didn’t carry a bathrobe. I needed one, as I had to share the bathroom with other women attending the retreat. For this reason I decided to use my raincoat as a robe. It actually worked very well all week, aside from the fact that I had accidentally left a pair of underwear in the pocket.” As we pulled up at home we were still laughing which I now realize helped me survive the whole funeral home experience! Being given a reason for laughter in the midst of tragedy gives us the means to survive just about anything!

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