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 here, 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 along366738

Box-of-Paper-Facial-Tissues-with-Pile-of-Used-Tissues-190 (1)

Any person who works in customer service has the same challenge of balancing a healthy work and home life. When you deal with other people’s emotions it will eventually get to you, even the best of us. My mother is a social worker and she and I have very similar experiences of broken people with heart wrenching stories and we have talked through how best to deal with it. Mostly I deal with this sorrow by realizing that this is not my grief, the death didn’t happen to me, I never knew this person, so I cannot feel their loss. … Wrong!  While sitting in a room full of people that are in the full swing of grief and they are all handling it differently, it becomes my grief. Not the loss of course but the empathy attached to it. One person is angry, another quiet and stoic, while two more are actively sobbing through the motions and then the caretaker pushing back the emotions tries to make some kind of progress in planning the funeral. It is a precarious and constant balancing act because I must pay attention to every person and direct the explosion that may happen at any minute, from getting the deeply grieving person to stay calm and make a decision to stopping someone angry from storming out throwing up their hands in frustration. How I acknowledge their way of grieving changes from one person to the next. From using a soft demeanor to adding humor to the conversation to being pointed and getting down to business, sometimes even taking a hard stance with a person who aggressively (and inappropriately) runs the show for everyone else by making all the choices without considering that these decisions will be experienced by everyone else and their voices should also be heard.

I get a rush from balancing and moving and delegating tasks for all of those involved. I thrive on the details, yet, even I can only take so much of it. The funeral industry is demanding. Often, when I get home I will receive a call from a family member in a panic because she forgot to include someone in an obituary (way past the deadline), or mom found the pants her husband was supposed to be buried in tomorrow and asks, “Is it too late?” even though he is already dressed in something else. It has been a while since I have been “on call” at night on a regular basis but I do remember the dinners I had to walk out of or family events I had to leave early from to go receive a body from a home or a hospital or care facility. We, as an industry put home on hold to make sure the grieving families are taken care of and the deceased bodies are cared for. It takes a strong person indeed who stands beside a mortician as a spouse or partner. There are directors who have never been to their child’s baseball games, missed important events like weddings, anniversaries and yes, even funerals to care for someone else’s dearly departed. Our hearts bleed for you and we jump to take care of you, sometimes at the expense of our own families.

So, leave the work at work and the home at home, that is the rule and that works most of the time. Unfortunately, we forget and life travels in its own way to push or pull your heart and mind in directions you are actively trying to avoid. This can be said for other professions too but we are all human and our sense of sensibility gets distorted after a while and exhaustion kicks in. So, where do you draw the line?

The answer is different for everybody, funeral directors need vacations and time off. I remember when I decided to not be on call at night anymore, I felt a bit liberated that I didn’t have to have my phone in my hand at all times but I would wake up after a full night’s sleep in a panic thinking that I had missed a call. I also felt a little shameful that I was letting someone down. After 13 years of this constant on call, on the ball, 2:00 a.m. wake ups to drive to whatever home in the backwoods of Georgia, or the nursing home in the middle of the city was a little hard to let go of. Taking care of yourself in this industry is hard and it can feel like there is no room to slow down. So for those of you out there who are wearing yourself thin, in this or any other job and need to take a break, draw the line and take a freaking break!

mountain_road_182772
Mountain road with slow painted in the center

c00016_f016-014ab-9780323078450There comes a time in every young embalmer’s life when they get to reconstruct part of a person in real life, not just on plastic skulls in college. To explain, in what is called “Restorative Art” class you are to reconstruct an entire face out of clay on a plastic skull. Start with the nose and move out from there. You are not judged on how good your clay face looks aesthetically but how accurate the dimensions are. There are staunch rules regarding the placement of facial features, for example, your face is made up of three equal parts; the top of your forehead to the line of your eyebrows is the same distance as the top of your eyebrows to the bottom of your nose and then subsequently, the bottom of your nose to the bottom of your chin is the same distance as the other two measurements. There are tons of these rules of proportions and we must know them all. In reconstruction if you know the proportions of one part of the face you can reasonably determine the proportions of the structure you are trying to recreate.

I remember my first restoration like it was yesterday. We got a man who had shot himself in the head, resulting in a mangled ear. It was beyond repair and it was the ear on the “the viewing side” (industry jargon for the right side of the face, which is the side that faces the side of the casket that family and friends view) My boss at the time was distressed, we had a lot of other work to do and this reconstruction would take a lot of time. I was of course ecstatic, not that the man had shot himself of course but that I now had the opportunity to build an ear from scratch and put my training to the test. I pled my case about needing the experience and that I would have to do these things for real at some point. Finally I was given the go ahead to fix the ear on my own. So, like any artist I got my supplies spread out next to me and organized, pulled up a chair next to my patient and turned on some tunes (probably classic rock, you can’t go wrong with Pink Floyd) for inspiration. Using clay, a chemical cauterizing agent, ligature, and cosmetics, I tried and failed and tried another way more than once. I do not remember how long it took me. I know I was careful and precise and referenced the other ear until I had created an ear that was suitable for viewing. I was then given the honor of walking the family in to see the man for the first time since he had died. They were nervous to walk in and see him, knowing he had exstensive damage from the gunshot. I will never forget the relief on the family members’ faces when they saw their loved one with two perfectly formed and placed ears. These moments are precious, to know that the work I do is paramount to the experience of a family having their final moments with someone they love.

* While you are here, look at the new page of my blog from the main menu called “Recommendations.” I am proud of this new addition, these are all books that are in my personal library. I have read them all (some more than once!) and love each one. You can purchase any of these by clicking on the picture and please keep coming back as I add more to the list!

second opinionCan I get a second opinion?

 

Before I tell this story, I want you all to know that the majority of people I meet put way too much stock in Hollywood’s versions of dead bodies and what they do, or do not do, in the days before they are buried. I have had people tell me about bodies that sit straight up and they saw it with their own eyes! Or watched a woman in a casket breathe, or blink, or a finger twitched, or whatever their eyes told them happened. It’s true that our minds decide what we see, that they are not dead, there was a mistake and they are still breathing just really slowly, “Just like that show I saw.” I have been brought back into a room where the family frantically asks me to call a doctor because grandma opened their eyes for split second, or their finger twitched, “I swear it!” I am not making light of these situations because it’s traumatic and sad. The truth is unless you watch the dead all day, our minds are trained to see a person sleeping. Sleeping people twitch and breath and move, dead people do not, so combine that with the yearning for them to still be alive and not have to deal with the loss in the coming days and years can assuredly create false impressions of movement. It’s heart wrenching and I have to calmly explain to the family what is happening and assure them that their deepest wish is not going to come true.

 

One incredibly hard moment for me was a young woman who lost her mother unexpectedly. They had not been close and there was a ton of unresolved anger and sadness that turned to guilt when she died. The mother was unmarried and her surviving daughter, an only child. There was no other family to support her. The daughter was maybe late 20’s at the time when she came in to see her mother’s body. She brought four of her friends for support. I walked them into the room and after making sure things were okay, I stepped out to give them time alone. Less than a minute later one of the friends burst open the door almost yelling “Call 911, she is still alive!” With a deep breath, I walked her back in and while standing next to the dead mother explained to the girls what they were, and were not, seeing. I remember the daughters tear-filled and hopeful eyes as she explained that maybe the doctors got it wrong asking “Can you please just call?” She had seen movies where the dead were only in a coma that made them appear dead and then later came back to life. So, after some real hard truths and calming them all down, I will never forget how those big blue eyes turned slightly gray and her body slumped in resignation. I asked the other girls to come into the hallway with me and leave her to have a final conversation with her mom and resolve some of the guilt that she will undoubtedly struggle with for the rest of her life.

Before I tell this story, I want to give my thanks to all of you who are supporting this project. I have been working on this for years. I have written stories that have been sitting in a folder on my desktop and hand-written stories in notepads, even stories and poetry written on a word processor from so many years ago. I have truly dreamed of making this project come true for years, not having the confidence that I was a good enough writer. Family, friends, coworkers and all of those in between have quieted the doubts I have had of myself and now I feel that I can finally share what is in my head.

 Two-man cot:

I was given the task of picking up a man at the medical examiner’s office and transporting him to one of our other locations. We were really busy and I only had access to one of our older cots. As I backed the hearse into the garage to load the cot, my coworker was waiting for me.  He opened the back door and loaded the cot for me so I could get on the road quickly. I got to the medical examiner’s office, got out of the car and rang the bell and waited. Soon a worker came out and just being friendly he got the cot out for me and we walked inside. After transferring the man onto my cot, he walked out with me and courteously loaded the cot into my hearse. Once I got to the funeral home, I backed in near the embalming room door and proceeded to pull the cot out. The way I was used to a cot working is, you hold a lever to release the wheels as you pull the cot out of the vehicle and let go of the lever before the other end is completely out of the vehicle to lock them once again, as the second set of wheels unfold, they would automatically lock and then you can roll on. I did just that, pulled the lever while I pulled the cot, locked the wheels and continued pulling until the cot came out on the second set of wheels. Before I knew it, bam! the other half of the cot was on the ground. Shocked, I waited, looked around, thought about it. What just happened? So, I did what anyone would do, I went to the side of the cot on the ground and pulled it up but the wheels stayed folded. I tried again with all my might and the wheels stayed folded. Then I decided to try and get the cot back into the hearse, I pulled the cot up and unsuccessfully tried to get the cot onto the lip of the bumper. To give you a visual, this was in Georgia, in the summer, in the middle of the day. I was wearing a thick Fraternity polo shirt, long khaki pants and a hat (bad hair, casual day). So, already hot and sweaty, I called the funeral home to avoid walking inside and risk families seeing me casual, sweaty and disheveled. I was greeted by the answering service. No one was there. No one could help me.

At this point I am still trying to prove my worth and that I could handle situations just like this, so, I thought this through and decided I would put the entire cot on the ground and drag the whole thing into the embalming room. Just imagine this small girl, red faced and sweaty, dragging a cot on the concrete one inch at a time, literally, one inch at a time. As I got to the threshold of the door and wrenched the first set of wheels over the doorway and onto the tile of the embalming room I felt like I was being watched so I looked up. Hunched, drenched and straining and to my horror, there were my coworkers, two in a hearse and two in a van, just coming back from a funeral service. They had stopped to watch the girl dragging the cot into the embalming room…. laughing hysterically of course. These men were laughing so hard that getting out of their vehicles to assess and figure out what I was doing was entertainment in itself. It was like watching a bunch of drunkards trying to get their footing and falling all over each other. After some discussion through their tears, the men told me that the cot I was using had two levers on the foot end (the end you push with) and another lever on the head end (the end that goes in the vehicle first) and was called a two-man cot. The reasoning here is if you are by yourself you use the two levers at the foot end at the same time and if there are two of you, the other end had its own lever, and I just wrenched this poor man out of the hearse without pulling the second lever! And I didn’t even notice that the second set of wheels never unfolded. So, lesson learned, always know your equipment before using it. With the help of my coworkers, we got the cot up on all four wheels and the man was rolled normally into the embalming room. Hopefully this man wasn’t too mad at me, however, I did apologize to him profusely for my lack of knowledge on the workings of a two-man cot.

Death is a certainty. It comes in so many forms, ages and types. Young unexpected deaths are hard and young expected deaths can be even harder. When a child and their family knows they are so sick that they are going to die before they get to drive, go to prom, have a first kiss, get married, life becomes something else. Everyone involved suffers. The parents know that they are going to lose their child and know they will never watch that child experience life to adulthood. Siblings suffer, they are going to lose their brother/sister and have to watch it happen and their life is put on hold or disrupted because of this thing hanging in the background everywhere they go. There is not a lot to look forward to so it becomes about making the best of what you are given and not imagine what could have been.

In this case it was a young girl. She had been sick her whole life and she knew she would die young. Like most girls she dreamed of doing what girls her age do, in particular she had always wanted to get married and not just to be married but to wear the beautiful gown and get her hair and nails done, to be the beautiful bride. She understood all the other things she would miss; boyfriends, first kiss, children but it was being a bride she dreamed of most. In the weeks before her death she decided she wanted to be buried in a wedding dress and have her hair and nails done. She was going to be buried as a bride. She picked out her dress and chose her hair style, a manicurist came and did her nails in the hospital. When I was given the dress of barely pale pink with tiny bits of glitter throughout and pouf that would envelope her tiny legs, it about broke my heart. As I met with the family we went over closure and how even though they knew this day was upon them, it wasn’t enough to prepare them for the loss. We looked at pictures of her, she had round cheeks, her lips had a hint of pink as she smiled big in every frame, and eyes big and bright waved at us from the photos.

We had her hair done just as she wanted then topped off her curly bouffant with a ring of white flowers, just like an angel. As we placed this child in the casket the folds of fabric puffed and glittered in fun little ways.  The dress filled the casket, she was very much the fairy tale bride. During her viewing, we opened both ends of the casket so everyone could see this beauty while showing off the dress she would never be married in and the tiny pale pink ballerina slippers just peeking out of the bottom of her dress. She was so beautiful and the moment precious and I watched her mother’s heart break as she buried her child bride.

 

People often ask me if I can feel the dead, like their spirits, or talk to them in some intelligent way. Mostly the answer is no. I have had experiences where I felt, maybe, the dead are near. It’s more of a feeling of energy in the room than anything else. I do talk to the dead sometimes, using their names and stroking their hair or give a small pat on the shoulder for reassurance or, well, I don’t know why, but it feels so very human and natural to give comfort their bodies. In this case I was headed to a New Year’s Eve party. It had been a very busy week, hours of little sleep and constant embalming, cleaning, cosmetics, funerals and on and on. The firm I worked for had little staff, we all worked until the work was done, 9-5 did not exist there. My feet hurt, my back hurt, I was so tired of wearing the same suit for hours at a time. As much as I love my job, there are times that I want to live too. A funeral directors job is not just creating a funeral, it is creating an experience. We take pains to know the dead and the families and create some homage to the person who has passed that incorporates all of those involved. It is physical, emotional and rewarding, yet we have to take time for us, or we have nothing to give to you.

I got the call as I was on my way to the party, I was disappointed and wanted to have a night of celebrating around a campfire with close friends telling stories of how this year things would be different, we would work harder, lose weight, eat better and find the secret to making millions. So after a few moments of feeling sorry for myself, I put on my adult hat and went on the call. The woman was at a care center and had died young from cancer. Since it was at a care facility, that meant I would handle it all on my own (house calls required two people). She was tiny from her treatments and being so sick. She had lost most of her hair, little tufts peeking out here and there from her small, fragile head, it was sad and humbling. I got back to the mortuary and gently placed her on my table. As I prepared the equipment and fluid for embalming I spoke to her. “I am so sorry you have suffered, I can’t imagine what you have gone through and I am sorry your family lost you” then I asked her silently to “Please let things go smoothly, let me make you beautiful for your family and I really just want this one night with my friends.” The “energy” in the room was so peaceful, it felt quiet and comforting. I had music on and the fluorescent lights were reflecting off the whiteness of the room. The windows in the room looked out into our parking lot and it was dark which made the window black, I had no distractions. I then felt a tugging, a gentle probe at me that I stopped to listen to. I know the dead don’t really speak but I felt it very clearly “Its ok, this won’t take long, then you can go and enjoy your night.” I never questioned that it wasn’t her telling me things would go quickly and I would still be able to have my night. It was one of the quickest embalmings I have ever, even to this day, performed. No, I did not cut corners or rush, I took just the same care and time as with anyone else, the end of the process came quickly and she was washed and the room cleaned in record time, like the world’s clock had just stopped for a little while. I am humbled every time I remember her. Even in the next days when I met with her family and got her dressed in beautiful red and cosmetized and casketed, the feeling I got around her was peaceful and gentle and understanding. I love her, I love the feeling she gave me and I love that somewhere in the depths of exhaustion, I did get my night.

 

image of a woman dancing in a blue dressIn my early years as a funeral director apprentice I was wowed so many times with beautiful rituals and customs. I will never forget the first African funeral I assisted on. I had never met the family before the funeral and was only to be involved in playing the music at the right times and making sure the “behind the scenes” details went perfectly. As the family and guests started arriving it was amazing to see the beautiful robes with bright colors, heavy fabrics wrapped and adorned with so much care. Almost every person was wearing a head dress of some sort, oranges and yellows in stained glass type patterns. Every person walked with purpose and confidence and grace. I was so enamored with the live people that I do not remember the one in the casket. I was given my marching orders, the written out details of the program firmly in my hand and the timing of when to be at the back of the chapel to professionally greet and seat the guests before the family was ushered in. Every person came in with a smile and peace that was warming and friendly. As the funeral started I took my place in the sound booth with glass front so I could see what was happening. I already had all my music queued up and ready to go. I watched the service and hit my buttons as the program instructed. The second song started and from the back of the chapel came twirling colors of blue and orange and yellow. This was a total surprise to me, these whirling colors were actually inspirational dancers. Three women gracefully moved up the isles to the front of the chapel moving to the melody, in perfect unison, waving these fabrics with fluid movements of arms and legs. I sat in wonderment in my little room. There was a guitar player in the music room with me and I heard her chuckle just a bit, when I looked at her she explained the dance to me and how it honored the deceased and their family. After that day I always got excited when I knew we would have dancers and would volunteer to be a part of the funeral so I could watch them. When the funeral was over, my position was to instruct the pall bearers to carry the casket to the waiting hearse. I stood in my normal posture for this job and waited for them all to line up. One man in bright yellows, gold and browns looked at me and said, “Why are you so sad?, this is a happy day, you get to honor someone who has died.” What a great lesson! And I have taken that with me throughout my career. It is a happy day that I get to honor those who have died. I won’t be the one dancing but will always enjoy watching the ones who do.

In my beginning years as a funeral director apprentice, I faced many challenges with being a small female. I had to prove that I could handle every job that was required for the task at hand. This included moving the deceased, big and small, from all types of places. One of the first times I went on a house call (when we are receiving a deceased from their house), the person was fairly large and in a mobile home. This meant tight hallways, small doorways and almost always stairs. He was located in the very back bedroom of the home. The hallway was a straight shot but the medical cot was not able to make the turn into the bedroom itself. This meant the man had to be carried into the hallway and the director in charge had never worked with me before. He went into the house and assessed the situation, he came back out and told me that we had to call in for back up. Before I let him do that I asked to go inside and see for myself if I could handle the task at hand, he agreed. The man was bigger, the hallway narrow and uncompromising, yet, I felt that I had to do this. We have a device called a flexible cot, a flexible material with sturdy handles to carry a body through the turns and twists of narrow places. I was young and new and ambitious and convinced the funeral director that I could handle this task. We took the gurney as far as we could down the hallway, then we took the flexible cot into the room where this man was. Carefully we rolled the man from one side to the other to maneuver him onto the flexible cot and arrange him so that we could also hold the handles firmly as we walked. Once we had transferred his body onto the flexible cot, it was a full on lift straight from the floor and walk into the hallway. This required some turning of his legs and trying to sidle him through the narrow doorway and allow the director and me to squeeze through as well. This was only the first hurdle. Next, we had to get the gurney out of the hallway and over the railing of the porch and then down a flight of about 6-7 stairs. There is no easy way to do this. It is a literal lift and strain as high as you can reach while moving in compromising positions kind of task. Every thirty seconds the director asked how I was doing. I am sure he expected me to give up at any minute and not be able to complete this with out getting help. To his surprise and mine a little too, we got the cot into the hearse and said goodbye to the family. The second we started driving away, he looked at me and said, “You are strong.” I said thank you, “No, you are really strong.” He repeated, “From now on you have the nickname of Brick House, just like the song.” And there it was, my nick name, Brick House! I laugh every time I hear that song now. Remembering the night that I got it.

If you are unfamiliar with the song, I have included a youtube video. I am sure I am not the person the commodores were thinking when they wrote the song but it works for me.

This is one of the saddest stories I can remember. I went on a first call. It was a small home, it was fairly shabby, the stain peeling off the wood on the front porch and siding, the yard was trying to be grass but just couldn’t get its way around the empty pots, lawn furniture and grimy toys left about. I walked in and was greeted by the sister of the deceased and a niece and nephew. I sat with the family around the kitchen table to go over some details. The lighting was poor and the 1960’s countertops were dull and scratched and covered in used dishes. This was not an unfamiliar scene, it isn’t even a negative, it was just the setting I was in. I asked if they had thought about services and what they would want to do as a tribute for the man who had died. Every person in the room was in tears and solemn and quiet. The sister told me that they wanted the best for her brother. A big funeral with a casket and viewing and burial. She told me he was a war hero, he served his country and had been wounded, he had lost both legs and had been bed ridden for several years. He should be honored and cared for as a king. So, I pulled out a folder that detailed our service packages and pointed out the one that best served what they were describing to me. A viewing, a service and a burial. We talked about the local cemeteries and which one they would like to use. Almost immediately I was met with hesitation at the cost. After some discussion, I explained the other options we had available, services can be beautiful in many different ways and budgets. It is never easy to talk about money, especially when a death has occurred and the family is raw and in shock and broken. We decided they should think on the matter and that they would come in the next day after some sleep and could decide on the details then. I asked to see where his body was so I could bring my partner in and transfer him to our cot to take him to the mortuary. We walked down a narrow hallway to the end of the house. Halfway down the hallway the smell hit me, it was awful. I walked into the room the size of a closet and saw this poor man laid out on his bed with no sheets and a myriad of stains that I could not have guessed what they were. He was skin and bones. He had no legs and I could already see and smell that he had bed sores (when a person lies in bed so long in one position the tissues cannot get blood flow and so it starts to decompose). He was wearing a t-shirt and a diaper, neither had been changed in a very long time. His hair was long and scraggly and his facial hair had not been trimmed in months. (As disturbing as this may be, it wasn’t uncommon. I saw this type of, what I call neglect, pretty regularly. Most people in that area could not afford could care and so it was up to the families to handle a job that is 20 times more difficult than you would imagine.)  I explained to the family how we would be taking him from the room to the hearse waiting outside and took my leave to get the cot and my partner. Once we got this man in the hearse and was set to drive off, I was approached by the sister pleading to take good care of him, he was a hero and deserved to be honored. I assured her that I would and left her sobbing in the front yard. My heart broke for so many reasons, his deplorable conditions, her absolute grief.

The next day, the family came in to discuss funeral details. We sat for about an hour going over different options to give him a fitting tribute within their budget. I could not take payments and there wasn’t any insurance, even the government couldn’t pitch in enough money to supplement what little they had for the funeral he deserved. The most economical choice of cremation was even more than what they had to spend. I gave them some resources and told them that we would somehow figure this out. They thanked me and said they would call later that afternoon. They never called that afternoon or the next day. The day after that I made a call to them and discovered that the phone number I had was disconnected. So, I did some searching in the phone book for the names of the family members I knew and came up with nothing. I then decided to wait another day to see if they would show up or call. After about a week of failed attempts to contact them, I drove to the house only to find it empty and silent. So, my next step was to call the medical examiner. In these cases, the medical examiner in the jurisdiction would take possession of the body and make further attempts to find some family who will claim them. Weeks turned to months. I periodically checked with the medical examiner as to what happened to this man and as of the last time I checked he had been in their morgue for four years.

I cannot adequately describe the disappointment I felt in this family. As a funeral director, I am here to generate some type of closure, present some way of creating a tribute to the deceased. This man’s abandonment goes completely against my code. If only this family would have come back, we could have figured it out. I get that funerals are expensive and most people cannot afford what it costs but we have to come to some decision, some way of taking care of the body and give the family a ceremony. I have imagined what the sister of this man might be going through, she can only feel remorse and will never get closure at abandoning her brother. Maybe I am wrong and she found a way to move forward but her pleas ring in my ears even today, please take care of him, he was a hero.