The empty chapel

This may be a strange thing to say but I have been a part of some very sad funerals. Not to say that they aren’t all sad in their own way. Of course, my perception of a sad funeral isn’t necessarily how the family views it either. One funeral was for a woman who had died fairly young. She had only one daughter who I would guess to be in her 30’s. I didn’t make the arrangements, but I did meet the daughter and work with her on the details and instructions that her mother left of how she wanted her funeral to be handled. I remember getting this woman dressed in her nightgown, it was a cream color with little blue and pink flowers all over it. She had pink satin slippers with the thick bottom cushion that cradles your feet. I brushed out her long hair, it was blonde with streaks of grey and white, and twisted it up into a bun onto the top of her head. She had no cosmetics aside from a light pink gloss on her lips. She felt calm and peaceful, I believe that she had suffered in life and now she was at rest.

 

On the day of the service we had everything ready, the funeral was to be in the chapel of the mortuary, we had printed the programs and customized the register book. We set up pictures in the chapel and arranged an order of service. There was only one song to be played at the end of the service, there were two speakers, the clergy and the daughter. As it got closer and closer for the funeral to start, we were noticing that there were no guests! I was really worried that something was wrong, so I ran to the back office and checked the obituary to make sure the time and location was right, and yes everything was in order and had been printed correctly. I checked again the list of survivors, she had siblings and nieces and nephews, yet, no one was there.  I thought to myself that there was no way that not one person, aside from the daughter, would be at this woman’s funeral. I was baffled. I spoke with the clergy and asked how well he knew the other family members, he stated he wasn’t surprised that no one was there but would not elaborate further. I asked him about any friends who should be there, he said he didn’t know of any personally. I didn’t ask the daughter anything, I felt that would be upsetting and she was so calm and seemed so pleased that I felt it best to not react to the lack of attendees unless she brought it up first.

 

So, we all played our part in starting the service, my coworker and I wheeled the casket into the mostly empty chapel. Only the clergy on the stand and the daughter alone in the front row. My coworker and I made our exit and gave a brief look to each other and I left while the service took place. The average funeral service lasts about 45 minutes, even a very short service is still good 30 minutes. So, funeral directors normally have a bit of time to do some work during services. I went and started a pot of coffee, then used the restroom and just to check and see where things were in the program, made my way back to the chapel. As I rounded the corner to where the back of the chapel was, I noticed that the back doors were wide open, normally the chapel doors stay closed during a funeral service. Then as I got closer two of my coworkers made their way out of the chapel with the casket and were headed towards the hearse! 10 minutes! I was gone 10 minutes and this entire funeral service was over and the sad procession of three, including the deceased, had finished the funeral and was ready for the cemetery. This was by far the shortest funeral service in my experience of funerals. I was sad because this poor daughter memorialized her mother by herself, no friends, no other family, only the clergy had shown up for her mother. I will never know why no one else was there but I can say that even when her mother was lowered into the ground, this daughter never acted like she wasn’t surrounded by friends and family. Maybe it wasn’t sad for the daughter, maybe it was and she just didn’t show it, maybe the sadness was only my perception and memorializing this woman alone is just what the daughter needed. I will never know for sure but will always remember the experience.church-1398784_1920Picture provided by Pixabay

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