I planned this all along

The funeral is over. As I step back into the funeral home and start the clean-up, I find moistened tissues discarded under the seats, on the floor or sitting on the pews. Tiny collections of tears that are a person’s memories of someone who has died. In this cleaning-up stage there is an air of preserved humbleness, the homage of the deceased is over, the casket is buried, the attendees have all gone home. Flower petals and leaves starting their slow decay scatter the carpet after being moved from one room to another. I find crumpled funeral programs stuck under hymn books or discarded on a table, no longer needed but clearly cherished and loved in the gripped hands of someone who was heart-broken. Cracker crumbs smashed in a pile on the floor where a toddler was being entertained, not understanding all this mayhem of crying adults and “Why is grandpa lying in that box?”

This is not just a mess, some trash of a wild party I am having to clean up, it’s the end of a lifetime and I planned this all along. I planned to have this gathering of people who are to bare their souls in a room with other people, cry it out, hash it out, bury a somebody and then leave, the jumble is what’s left. In this room of so many funerals, the clutter is always telling. Cultures, beliefs, hobbies of the deceased, it’s all left here in these rooms, temporarily marking what happened, small indications how many people came and what they did while they were here. In these rooms, I pick up hymn books, candle wax, incense, glitter, grasses, candy wrappers, did I mention the glitter! Korean, Chinese, Bahia, Gypsy, Mormon, Polynesian and more, every culture leaves a tell. Favorite poems and candy and foods of the deceased are left in tufts here and there scattered about my funeral home. It’s a mess and it is beautiful that it happened and now it’s over. The family has gone home to find another way to do the day to day and will remember the care that was taken of their lovely departed and those who came to comfort or share their grief. Friends have gone back to their work and kids and will remember the day that they sat in this place and spoke of or listened to great stories of this person and sang songs in their honor. I planned this all along, this mess and crumpled bits of a well-planned tribute. The silence here is gripping, the whirl of emotion gone, picking up bits left behind, I planned this all along

4 thoughts on “I planned this all along

  1. Your so right. I was an RN f
    or years and had to clean up…after. The feeling was like one you cannot explain. You tend to read into the trash picked up more. We learn to accept all this in a positive manor. Sometimes the lesson wears out,

    1. You are right, it does wear out. It isn’t easy keeping the reality of why the messes are there when your tired and worn to the bone. Thank you for your comment.

  2. Well said. I always find the most humbling part of my career is when everyone is gone and I am alone cleaning. This is the time I take just for me. Collecting my thoughts, often times shedding my private tears, but most importantly centering my emotions and thoughts before another family calls and I am needed again.

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About Chelsea Tolman