Write Again … Facing ‘grave’ situations

Published 9:54 pm Monday, September 17, 2012

Let me say, right from the very beginning, that I truly believe that those in the funeral industry take their services very seriously, and strive to do the very best they can. Most especially on the day a funeral takes place.
That said, and I mean it with all my heart, there are some lighter moments on occasion during such sacred and serious events.
For over four years I was a part-time “associate” with a local funeral services emporium. Days of withering heat and numbing cold are dreaded, for sure. But that’s another story, perhaps. Or not.
Two experiences I recall did have a lighter side.
It was a cool, drizzly day. The service was at our local Catholic Church. My duties included driving the funeral coach. (That’s a more sophisticated name for a hearse.)
Because of the somewhat inclement weather I made sure the windows to my chariot were up; always — always — leave a window cracked to allow entry if, heaven forbid, the key goes missing.
Well, now. I expect you’re with me. That’s right. During the service I checked just to be sure I had the key. Not in my pants pockets. Not in my suit coat.
Lord. Stay calm. Check again. Same results. No key. Panic creeping over me.
I know I didn’t lock the vehicle doors. I think. Then I remembered. They were automatic door locks. Help me, Lord.
What can we do? One possibility was to keep the coffin on the rolling gurney. Since the church was located just off Market Street north, maybe enough of us could push it to Oakdale. Only the hills at the cemetery would really be daunting.
The problem with this plan would be, assuredly, that we’d have not one, but two to roll. Because, unquestionably, the boss man would have died right there.
One feeble hope remained. Check my overcoat pockets. The coat was near the entrance to the church.
Blessed assurance. I don’t know about Santa Claus, but yes, Virginia, there is a God. And there was a key.
Then there was the service at the Presbyterian Church. No coffin, so no funeral coach (money saved).
The deceased had been cremated. The family is always given the right to select someone to carry the “cremains” into and out of the church. They asked that one of the funeral staff do it. I was designated. I looked upon it as a solemn and special task.
When the recessional exited the church I carried the box over to the car I had driven to the church. This was my first time in this exact circumstance. I looked over to our head man — the one who probably wouldn’t have been there if that key hadn’t been found — and tried to ask through eye contact what should I do.
He looked at me in that undertaker’s countenance, and simply nodded his head up and down.
So. I opened the rear door, put Mr. ——– on the seat. Then, I thought, he doesn’t need to topple over.
The seat belt. That’s it. I secured Mr. ——–, and soon we were off to Oakdale. All’s well that ends well.
Just a couple of lighter moments in a serious “undertaking.”
May we all, someday, rest in peace.