My family has a terrible practicality to all things regarding death and dying.
As a kid remember one of my parents going “Well – Person A ain’t doing good.” Depending on how it was said or how it was phrased you could guess one of two outcomes. One year when I was 17 or 19 or something I spent a large amount of time at funeral homes. I counted and I think I was over 10 or 11 visits. My parents were in their mid to late 40’s plus we went to church regularly – and it seems that time period a lot of the older folks started passing away. Plus I chalk it up to “livin’ in the south”. We do like our funerals.
When my friend’s Mom passed away 10 years ago he asked me to be a pall bearer. That was my second time helping someone on their final trip. Maybe third. I really can’t remember.
It can turn into a joking point. A few years ago my neighbor had his appendix rupture. He kept getting sicker and sicker and didn’t want to go to a Doctor. He looked so bad at one point I started calling him up and going “Hey – are you dead yet?”. Once he had his appendix removed it turned into a joking point. I’d get sick and “Hey are you dead yet?”. Back and Forth and we did this for years. So much so people would get mad at us for even saying it.
Another family member popped up sick this month. A relatively mundane surgery cropped up a larger problem. A possible larger problem. The discussion went more or less “This diagnosis is a bit “gray””. The only way to make it “not an issue” is more surgery. Which as the discussion continued we ended up on death. What would you do? Cremation? Funeral? Body to Science? It was less of an alarming conversation than I expected. It was exceedingly practical. Dead is dead we said. Might as well not get that upset about it.
Right about the time this happened my neighbor died. In his sleep. I had called him and he didn’t answer. Several called. He wasn’t feeling great but no one had any idea he was that sick. Dead. Memorial Service is Friday. I’m speaking. Which is something I haven’t done. The entire process was pretty brutal. You Die. Police are called. Natural causes is the verdict. At that point it’s up to you and the police step away. We made a call to a funeral home. I called my Mom to inform her. She immediately sounded an alarm of “that funeral home is too expensive – move him”. Move him? Well – you can move him. We did. Overall – we budget shopped for cremation within 24 hours of death. I’m not family – just a friend. It was actually an honor to help.
Back to the family member – more discussion and more “what ifs”. The prognosis for this person isn’t half bad to be honest. Much better than “dead” actually. Except for being old it’s pretty good.
Many years ago my grandmother died. She lived out in the country. Died only miles from where she was born. So the funeral was quite an event. Food. One night of Visitation. Part of the family even stayed to “sit with the dead” overnight. It’s not good manners to just leave a dead family member alone in a funeral home. Anyway – I had a total of four grandparents and she was the first to pass away.
At the funeral home I was sitting with my grandfather, his brother, and my Aunt Bee out front. My Great Aunt Lois was busy taking pics of the casket and the flowers and I didn’t want to be in any pics. My grandfather had a whole set of nieces and nephews I had never met. I guess as I sit here that would have been Dad’s Cousins and my second cousins(?). The kids from my grandfather’s oldest brother were quite large. I chalk it up to genes vs environment. One of the family members from that side of the family came to the funeral home. A broken foot had confined her to a walker for support. Her weight wasn’t helping the break and from all indications the walker was a permanent addition to her life.
“You let me fall” she yelled at her husband. He was as skinny as she was wide. “I didn’t mean for you to” he replied quietly and that just elicited more yelling as she made her way into the funeral home. “You let me fall though the porch…..” she screamed. Walker clutched tightly with a bible perched in a basket on the front.
My grandfather looked up as did his younger brother.
“Shoooooooo. Boy she is faaaaaat” My grandfather muttered.
“She is a big woman” Tommy replied.
“How much do you think she weighs” my grandfather asked. I stood there with my mouth hanging open not quite believing this conversation was occurring.
“I don’t think we could get her on a scale to check.” Tommy replied. At that point my Aunt’s ears perked as she heard the words “fat” and “scale” used within seconds of each other.
“I bet she’s a good 300 lbs – maybe more….you wanna bet she’d…..” and the rolled up newspaper caught him. “You shut up and Tommy you don’t say another word” my aunt said in a tone that wasn’t yelling but wasn’t her normal speaking voice. She glared at me and I just stood there still not quite believing what had happened. I went back into the main room to see if my Great Aunt Lois was finished with her photography.
It takes me 2 weeks to process an event. It’s been 3 weeks since my friend passed. It’s terribly hard believing he is gone – but he is. I regret deleting his last voicemail of “Hey Douchebag – Call me back”. I remember my dad at 45 or 50 going “I’m getting old”. Granted I’m not as old as some – but it does weigh on me these days. I don’t want to talk on Friday – but I will.