little miss funeral

an average girl working at your not so average job

My father’s socks.

I was sitting on the couch. My dad was next to me, playing on his laptop, with his  feet up on the coffee table. I happened to look down at his feet and noticed his socks. There’s nothing special about the socks that he wears. He’s been wearing the same brand for as long as I can remember. I don’t even know if they’re a ‘brand’ per say. They are the kind of socks that you buy in bulk at a store like Walmart. But for a moment, I focused on them, and then I was catapulted into the future. I saw myself, bringing his clothes to a funeral director so they could dress him in his casket. I saw myself giving his undershirt and socks to them. I saw the funeral director place them to the side, totally unaware of how important they were. My father’s socks. A piece of clothing that is so intimate to him. I was so angry at them. And when I went to yell at them, I saw my face in theirs.

You see, I’ve been doing this job for so long now that sometimes I go through the motions. I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I forget how sacred this work actually is. How I am so fortunate to be able to be invited into someone’s personal space. I hold their socks, underwear, and stockings in my hand. These clothing pieces that often only the closest people in their lives get to see. I forget, and my father’s socks reminded me.

When you work in death care for an extended period of time, you have to learn ways to cope with what you do. You will either burn out from the weight of death or become so hardened that you forget about what has actually happened. Someone has died, and because of that someone else’s world is now forever changed. Hopefully, you will find a third option, which includes compassion and love for the people in your care, with just enough distance for your own mental health. Hopefully you’ll be able to look at a pair of socks and see your own loved ones. And with them present in your mind and heart, dress someone else’s loved one and give them back to their families.

Overly emotional.

Today I’m emotional for no apparent reason. I say for no apparent reason because today was a great day. I was off from work. I spent the entire day with my daughter. We even managed to go to lunch at the cutest restaurant with my dad. Today was a great day.

But tonight, I am emotional. My husband is gone, at a work event that’s running late into the night. And now, my daughter silently sleeps next to me in our bed as I watch reruns of Cheers on Netflix. I look over at her, perfectly sleeping and I begin to cry. Probably because just a few minutes before I read an article on childhood cancer. I think I’m actually crying for the children and babies who are not healthy, and for how unfair life is. I cry and plead to God to always keep my baby girl healthy, and to please create a miracle to cure all of the dying children in our world. And then I think to myself, how is it 2019 and we do not have a cure for cancer? And then I think what the hell was I thinking having a child of my own? In what universe did I ever think that it would be a good idea to allow my heart to walk around and beat OUTSIDE of my body? What was I thinking, to give this world my heart for its taking? I look at her sleeping, and I cry thinking of all of the babies I’ve buried. I cry for the parents. I cry because I wonder if I’d think the way I do if I didn’t work in a funeral home. I cry, and then I look at my baby girl, and she smiles in her sleep. And she is perfect. And when she smiles, I see God. I really and truly see Him. And I think, if I love this little baby so much that it hurts this much, then how much does God love me? And I thank God, that He has given us the opportunity for eternal life – the opportunity to be surrounded by love forever.

 

But this world still sucks. And babies still die. And things still don’t make sense. I pray that my baby is always healthy, because if she is then she has everything. And I pray that your babies are always healthy, too. I think I’m writing this as my prayer. Because I’m overly emotional tonight, and I need God to hear me.

My obituary.

A few months ago I attended the NFDA Women’s Conference. It was an awesome experience, and to help with the costs of the event I applied for a scholarship. I didn’t receive the scholarship (but I got to meet the amazing women who did) and since enough time has passed, I decided to share part of the requirements here on my blog. Shockingly, for a funeral conference, I had to write my own obituary. In the event that I do die sooner rather than later, I hope that Josiah could find inspiration from what I’ve written below.

LEROY, Lauren K. (nee Polanski) – Passed away suddenly at the age of 29.

Lauren was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. The only daughter of Mark and Denise Polanski, Lauren was always the loud little girl growing up. She was so little, in fact, that her nickname was Little Lauren when she was younger. If you asked her mother, she would attest that her small frame came from her diet of only eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. As Lauren would grow, so would her palate, but her love for macaroni would never change.

Growing up, Lauren wanted to be many things, a veterinarian, a teacher, and an actress. But it wasn’t until her grandfather passed away when she was twelve that she decided once and for all that she wanted to be a funeral director. In fact, at the end of his funeral, Lauren would inform her parents of her plan. From that point forward Lauren was focused and had a goal.

Lauren graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster in 2008 and enrolled into the Mortuary Science program at the New England Institute at Mount Ida College in Newton, MA. It was in mortuary school, that Lauren would meet the professors and professionals that would shape her life. In school, the support and knowledge that she gained from those who took her under their wings would follow her for the rest of her life. She especially always held Al close in her heart. Al was a funeral director in Massachusetts, who showed Lauren that funeral directors are just normal people helping other people, and that they can have fun while doing a professional job. Lauren also always spoke fondly of Sarah, Al’s sidekick and fellow funeral director who answered her questions (no matter how silly) and taught her the importance of coffee in a funeral directors diet.

Lauren came back home after graduation and became licensed in New York State. Then, in 2012 she created a persona that she would use for the rest of her life. Keeping her ‘little’ nickname in mind, Little Miss Funeral was born. Little Miss Funeral would start off as a blog, and grow into a YouTube account that she would use to share her thoughts and ideas on the funeral industry while also answering questions and educating the public. Lauren would always be grateful for that platform as it introduced her to many wonderful people in the funeral industry.

Lauren married the love her life and high school sweetheart Josiah LeRoy on June 14, 2014. Josiah, who Lauren lovingly called “Bee” was always her support system and biggest fan. They traveled many places together, their favorite being Hawaii. Lauren and Josiah were a true testament that young love can last, as they started dating when they were only fifteen years old.

Lauren’s life was finally completed on August 24, 2018 when her and Josiah welcomed their little flower, Daisy Alice, into the world. Daisy was truly the one child that they prayed for and she filled Lauren’s life with more joy than anything else. Lauren’s one wish is that her baby always knows how much her mama loves her, and that she can accomplish anything that she sets her mind to.  Daisy, is beautiful, kind and strong, and is the best legacy that Lauren could ever hope to leave behind.

Lauren leaves behind her beloved husband Josiah, her darling daughter Daisy, and her loyal pup, Lindy Ruff, named after the famous hockey player.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that you go enjoy an ice cream cone in Lauren’s memory.

Painting her nails.

I had to paint her nails.

It was a simple act that I’ve done thousands of times. On myself. On girlfriends. Heck, on hundreds of dead bodies. It’s a little bit more difficult on those who are embalmed, though. Their hands are firm because of the chemicals and they don’t bend like my friend’s would if we were having fun at a slumber party. This time, though; this time it was very different.

This time, instead of going into my makeup kit and pulling out the basic soft pink – you see, it’s the perfect shade for every little old lady, adds just a hint of color while still looking ‘natural’ – I had the bright pink polish waiting there. Given to the funeral home from the family. It was a loud color. A color that I would have never used unless specifically asked because it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But this time it made sense. Because this time it was for a little girl.

The minute we got the call I made myself scarce. A little girl? What happened? Was she sick? Was it an accident? Where’s her mom? I started to ask the other director a million questions. Children funerals are never easy, but this was the first time I’d be burying one while I was a mom myself. You never know how you’ll react in certain situations, and I very quickly found out that I couldn’t do it.

My coworkers were very understanding. Being a new mom comes with a lot of changes, physically, mentally, hormonally. Maybe I’ll be using the hormones as an excuse for the rest of my life, but how else can I explain myself? Certain deaths have always affected me, but I have always been able to contain myself and be professional to walk others through their loss. After all, a crying funeral director isn’t going to be able to help anyone. I need to comfort, not be comforted.

But I needed to paint her nails. If I couldn’t do anything else for her, damn it, I was going to paint her nails.

I walked into the funeral chapel during the early hours of the morning. I walked up to her casket and looked inside. My eyes saw an angel. Perfect eyelashes, soft lips, and cheeks that you just wanted to kiss a million times. She was absolutely perfect. So I opened up her hot pink nail polish, and began to paint the littlest nails ever. As I placed her hands back down I realized that I had been crying. And I realized, once again, that sometimes this job really sucks.

I want to always be able to be there for people when I’m called upon. But in this new season of my life, I’m still learning how to balance my personal life with my work life. How do I merge Mama Lauren with Funeral Director Lauren? Will I ever be able to do it?

And will I ever be able to stop feeling guilty for putting myself first? Because yes, sometimes putting myself first means letting others down. But you cannot pour from an empty pitcher. And I keep reminding myself that I need to be able to water my own flower. Because this life is short and unfair, and as a funeral director I’ve been given this gift of understanding. So little angel, I hope your pink nails sparkle from Heaven. And I pray that God wraps his arms around your mama, because I know that she’d give anything to wrap her arms around you.

STORY TIME: Difficult Viewings

December 14th has come and gone again. But this year, it was a little easier because I had a baby to snuggle.  I picked up my phone and texted Keith first thing that morning. I know he misses him, too.

Some funerals are more difficult than others. Viewing some of our loved ones can mentally and physically push us over the edge. But I’m glad I got to say goodbye. You can watch my YouTube video below, on difficult viewings. In it, I talk about Eddie. I’ll never stop talking about Eddie, because that’s how I keep his memory alive. And hopefully, through this video, I can help some more people, too.

 

Funeral Vlogs

A few months back, I received some comments on my YouTube channel asking for a more detailed look into my day to day life as a funeral director. Since it’s ever changing, I thought that it would be fun to bring you all along for the ride. From this thought my funeral vlogs were born. The only thing is, since I do not own my own funeral home and since I did not have permission from the families I was serving to go into great detail (show embalming, cosmetics on the deceased, etc.) these vlogs ended up being little clips of me sitting in my car and talking to my phone about what I’d just been doing. They were quite the hit, even to my confusion of why someone would find me talking into my cell phone amusing. I’ve compiled all of them below. Once again, keep in mind that this just shows a very limited view into my day to day life. Regardless, I hope you’re all able to gain a little insight into what it’s like being a funeral director.

*Sips Coffee*

 

A little update.

My voice is becoming quiet. Something that I didn’t anticipate happening. I know through the years that I’ve been blogging I’ve gone through times where I’ve said less and times when I’ve written more. But this is different.

Becoming a mother has made me different in ways that I could have never seen coming. These days I’m on maternity leave, snuggling my girl, and dedicating my entire existence to her. I feed her, I change her, I love her. When she cries I answer.

The funeral industry has given me many gifts throughout the years. I’ve learned many lessons spending my days inside the doors of a funeral home. I’ve learned that life is short, death doesn’t discriminate, and that you should do what makes you happy. These days, I’m happy spending every moment with my girl.

When I do return to work, it’s going to be difficult to find balance. I’ve struggled with depression and compassion fatigue in the past due to the hours that I’ve dedicated to my job. Things are going to have to be different. I have something much more important now to dedicate my life to. I still have some time on my maternity leave, but when I do start working again, I’m certain I’ll have a lot to talk about. In the mean time, thanks for checking in. We’re all doing fine.

What Little Miss Funeral Wears (when she’s nine months pregnant.)

Nine months.

As I sit here and type, I am actually 39 weeks and three days pregnant. My pregnancy app on my phone likes to remind me that I am due to have a baby in four days. My doctor likes to remind me that the baby will come when the baby is ready.

I just want them here happy and healthy.

But, by the time this post gets published I will have already given birth. In the meantime, I am still working. I was not joking that I am planning on working until this baby comes out. Hopefully, if labor begins while I’m at the funeral home, I’ll have enough signs and time to get myself over to the hospital. This baby is going to have a mama who is a funeral director. I don’t need to scar them anymore with a birthing story where they were actually born in the funeral home or at a cemetery.

But, for the purpose of my outfit post, I did do my last morbid maternity shoot in the cemetery, like always. August has been one hot month. I think the most difficult part of my pregnancy has been dealing with this heat. That’s why I’ve been trying to wear clothes that can keep me cool. I know you cannot tell, because I am wearing a little sweater, but the dress that I’m wearing is actually sleeveless. This helps so much when I’m at the funeral home doing paperwork because I swear I am always hot! It does not matter if the air conditioner is on and running, I am still sweating! When I’m in front of families, I do cover up a bit more. This is an old Loft sweater that I’ve had in my closet. It doesn’t properly fit me, but I’m just trying to do what I can here. My favorite part of this outfit are my shoes!

So you all know the story. I really do not own flats. Last month, I found a cheap pair of mules online from Target, so I bought those. But I think these mules have an even better story. My mom bought herself these shoes at Lord and Taylor. My mom and I are the same shoe size, so I was at her house one day and tried them on. And oh, my gosh, these were so much more comfortable than my Target pair! So I went the very next day to Lord and Taylor to buy them, only to find out they didn’t have them in store anymore. No problem, right? Because I figured I’d just order them online. Well, online they didn’t have my size! So I begged and begged my mom to give me her pair (and she refused, because they are so amazing!) About two weeks later, she finally agreed to let me borrow them until after the baby was born. But first, she made me go online to make certain they didn’t have my size. I went online only to find out that they must have restocked because there they were! I was so excited I bought them right away. I’m telling you, the trouble I went through to own these mules. (But, seriously, so worth it!) Being able to just slip them on my swollen feet has been a lifesaver. I couldn’t imagine having to bend down to get shoes on at this point.

Once again, I know this post isn’t going up until after baby, but I am just sitting here feeling so overwhelmed. I am so ready to give birth. It’s been such a long and emotional journey for me, and although I don’t think I’m fully ready to be a parent, I am fully ready to love this little human with my whole heart. If working in a funeral home has taught me one thing, it’s that life is short. And if pregnancy has taught me one thing, it’s that it’s okay to toss aside the high heels every once in a while.

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Dress:

Belt:

Sweater: Loft

Shoes:

My husband Josiah LeRoy took these photos of me in United German and French Cemetery in Cheektowaga, NY.

What Little Miss Funeral Wears (when she’s eight months pregnant.)

Let’s get real.

Being a funeral director is hard. Being an eight month pregnant funeral director in July in ninety degree heat is REALLY hard. That is why, my friends, I’ve had to ditch the heels. My back is hurting, my feet are swelling, and I’m just feeling all around uncomfortable. I’m not complaining, though, because I’m coming to the home stretch! And I’m about to be blessed with the greatest gift ever. I’d give up heels forever for this little baby.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I went shopping with my mama. She found this dress at Lord and Taylor and I immediately tried it on because of the stretchy material. She told me it would be good for summer, and she wasn’t wrong. This dress is not maternity, but I was so glad to get it because it has definitely grown with me. One thing I’ve noticed about my non-maternity stretchy dresses are even though they expand with my stomach, they also get shorter and shorter as the months go on. This high-low dress allows me to expand at the waist while not showing off too much junk in the trunk.

I’ve been using what I have, so again, I paired this dress with a belt just to show off the little baby bump….which nowadays isn’t so little.

I bought these mules cheap over at Target. I honestly do not own flats, so when my feet began to swell in the summer heat, I grabbed these. I love that they’re mules because I can slip them on and off without having to struggle with any straps or backs. At this point in my pregnancy, I’m working full time, so my outfits are what they are. I’m just trying to stay as comfortable as I can. Most families that I meet with at the funeral home don’t say anything about my appearance (besides for asking me if I’m carrying twins. Spoiler, I’m not.) so I’m just going to keep going. One stretchy black dress at a time.

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Dress – Lord & Taylor (here)

Belt – Ann Taylor

Shoes – Target (here)

My husband Josiah LeRoy took these photos of me in Ridge Lawn Cemetery in Cheektowaga, NY.

What Little Miss Funeral Wears (when she’s seven months pregnant.)

Morbid maternity photo shoot take two.

Seriously, that’s all I see when I look at these photos. But alas, I am currently (at least at the time I type this) seven months pregnant and still working full-time (and sometimes overtime) at the funeral home. All in all, I still feel pretty good. I’m getting bigger and all that means is clothes are getting more difficult to find and my back is starting to hurt.

I have so far refused to buy any maternity clothes. I have, however, experienced the blessing of others buying/loaning me maternity wear. This dress is from one of those angels.

I have a cousin who had a baby a few years back and she let me borrow this dress. Although clothes are getting more difficult to find, I’m still sticking with my black/gray/white theme as much as I can. When I look at myself in the mirror, I just see myself getting bigger and bigger, so keeping to my favorite color scheme helps me to still feel like myself. Since last month, I’ve retired my favorite stilettos and have switched to these thick high heels instead. My feet/ankles are not swelling (yet) so I’m still pretty comfortable wearing heels during the day. I do, however, take them off when I’m sitting by my desk. I hope I can wear heels for the remainder of my pregnancy, but we’ll see how it goes. One day at a time!

Since I am getting bigger, one thing that I love to do is wear a belt with my dresses. It makes me feel like I’m showing off the baby bump that I can no longer hide instead of feeling like a balloon. Even though I am so excited for this little baby and would gain a million pounds as long as it’s born happy and healthy, I still am very uncomfortable with the changes in my body. Being out in the community and around people, I’ve always been aware that people judge me based on how I look. One huge thing that I’ve noticed is how excited families get when they walk into the funeral home and see me. It’s as if my pregnancy sheds a light, if only for a moment. After all, I’ve always said, people love babies and puppies.

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That last photo has me laughing! Trying to look like a model, actually looking like a whale! If pregnancy has taught me one thing it’s to just roll with it, especially when you’re feeling large and out of control.

Dress – Liz Lange Maternity (similar style here)

Shoes – Nine West (similar style here)

Belt – H&M (similar style here)

My husband Josiah LeRoy took these photos of me in Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Cheektowaga, NY.