I was not planning on delving into this so fast but the perfect opening came yesterday.
I went to an art opening of a lady I knew from many years ago. She and her husband had been next door neighbors of my in-laws over twenty years ago here in Cambridge. They moved away, he died at the age of 50 and Liz chose to move back to Cambridge about a year ago.
When I walked into the gallery, Liz was glad to see me and introduced me to a friend of hers saying, “Elizabeth is the funeral director in town. “ The friend’s reply was, “Oh, well, it’s a job that someone has to do.” Yes it is and it’s a job I love doing very much. I know it is more than a job, it is my calling, the sacred calling of caring for the dead and those that they left behind. I have had the privilege of doing this for over twenty years.
In those twenty years I have seen society’s attitudes towards the dead change drastically. When someone died it was important to a family to take the time from their everyday lives to honor their loved one with ritual; to have the body of their loved one cared for and with them for the time it took to say goodbye; to gather together with family and community sharing the grief of loss and being comforted by the love and support given. I have witnessed many times, the comfort that this gives. I have personally experienced it when my parents died.
I will not tell you that you need fancy, expensive caskets to honor your loved one but I am here to tell you that as a society we need more that to quickly dispose of a body and then have a celebration at a convenient time. I do what I am asked to do, but I hope that I can continue to do what I was called to do.
Jon Katz calls me “the undertaker” and maybe that is how I will start seeing myself as she who is “undertaking” many things. I look forward to sharing some stories from my years in funeral service and sharing whatever the future brings.