little miss funeral

an average girl working at your not so average job

What Little Miss Funeral Wears (when she has NOTHING to wear).

I have been a very busy person for the entire month of May.

It all started out with a family vacation that somehow managed to sneak up on me in the beginning of the month. This was something my parents had planned for us months ago, and in the back of my head, it had always seemed so far off. But one day, I blinked, and I had to have a bag packed full of bathing suits and beachy dresses. Somethings that I just don’t have in my wardrobe.

When we came back, I found myself on the road going to Ohio for their Funeral Director Convention. I spent two awesome days there where I spoke on the topic of Compassion Fatigue. By the time my husband and I got home, we found ourselves busy again with his company, The Geekiverse, and Buffalo’s Nickel City Comic Con. If any of you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen me dressed as Snow White for this event.

Needless to say, by the time all of these things were over, my husband and I found ourselves drowning in laundry. Literally. If you were to open my closet right this second, you would find about three black tops, one short skirt and a handful of dresses that I haven’t worn in years, but that I like enough to keep.

And so begins our journey for this “What Little Miss Funeral Wears”.

Yesterday was busy at the funeral home. Even though it’s a holiday weekend, we have visitations going every day and services following. So behold my anxiety as I opened my closet yesterday to find that I have still not completed my buckets and buckets of laundry and had NOTHING to wear. (I’m not being dramatic guys, truly, nothing!)

Being in a rush and upset at myself for not thinking ahead, I grabbed this dress that I bought last year for a wedding. My mama had been encouraging me to get outside of my color comfort zone and in purchasing this navy blue dress I had hoped that we had come to some sort of compromise.

My only dilemma, it seemed to ‘wedding’ for me. (Maybe not, but I associated this dress with a wedding which meant it didn’t seem funeral appropriate to me.) So I grabbed a belt that I had not touched in over a year and cinched the waist. I then threw this old cover up over it, looked in the mirror and didn’t fully hate what I saw.

And in case you’re all just loving my hair this is nineteen year old Lauren’s signature. AKA, “I’m running late so if I throw a whole lot of mouse in my hair maybe I can fool people into thinking I tried.”

I wanted to include two photos today, because I can’t stop laughing at the first one! My face in it is so funny! I had just finished yelling at my husband for taking selfies of himself and thought you all might get a kick out of my death stare. It’s not too mean here because my husband is the cutest around so even when I’m mad at him I can’t stay that way for long!

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Dress – BCBG

Belt – Loft (similar style here)

Jacket – Forever 21 (similar style here)

Shoes – Chinese Laundry (similar style here)

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

Why I’m always thinking about my death.

Any time I pass by a cemetery I think if I’d like that to be my eternal resting place.

Any time I hear of a tragedy I think of what would have happened if I had been there.

Any time I hear of someone passing away from an illness I think of how I’d react if I would have been in their shoes.

A lot of people may see this as me being a pessimist. Why would I spend my days thinking about all of this negative stuff? Why don’t I just focus on the happy things in life?

Because life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies.

Working in a funeral home, I am surrounded by more death on a daily basis than most people will have to face throughout their entire lives. When you’re surrounded by something constantly, it’s difficult to not think about it. But I see the death in my life as a blessing.

By understanding that everyone I love will one day die, I am able to cherish every moment I have with them as if it were my last. I don’t have the luxury of saying, “I’ll reach out to them tomorrow” because tomorrow may never come. By thinking about their deaths, I am able to truly appreciate and love them with everything I have in this moment.

By constantly thinking about my own death, I am able to live my life in the here and now. I think to myself, “If this is my last day, how would I want it to go?” This thought doesn’t mean that I live recklessly by completing bucket list items, such as skydiving or participating with the Running of the Bulls, but instead, making me think about my actions.

If I die tomorrow, I want to be kind to every person I meet today. If I die tomorrow, I want people to say that they enjoyed my company. I want to tell people I appreciate them and that they matter to me.

And sure, some days, maybe I will have opportunities to live a little more recklessly. Sometimes, I think that people don’t understand that it’s not necessarily the experiences you have in life that matters, but who you surround yourself with. If I never make it to Italy, in the end, it won’t matter, because every single morning  get to wake up next to someone who loves me. That alone is enough to make my life rich.

But above all, when I die, I do not want my last moments to be of anger or hatred. I want to close my eyes and feel love inside of me as I slip into my next life. That way, I can be surrounded by the greatest love there is and tell Him that during my time on Earth, I tried to show others the love, forgiveness and compassion that He has shown to me.

You see, I am always thinking about my death, so I can savor every moment of my life.

What Little Miss Funeral Wears; it’s been a while.

A girl emailed me the other day and told me that she had recently been hired at a funeral home. She asked me to post some of my day-to-day outfits, and guys, I’m glad that she did. I’ve always loved clothes and I really enjoyed sharing what I wore in the past on Little Miss Funeral.

I follow so many different fashion bloggers and get inspired daily by what they wear. My closet is a little more Wednesday Addams themed, but I still get happy when I throw an outfit together. Although my color scheme is, well, dark, maybe some of you reading this will get some ideas, too.

Today I had two visitations at the funeral home. This outfit is legit my go to. I’ve had this skirt forever and wear it almost every day. I love that it’s like a skater skirt because I can move around in it and still be very comfortable. I have a black lace shirt on to make this outfit just a little less boring. And since it was warmer out today, I had on my gray cardigan (instead of black) so I didn’t look too morbid. Not kidding, if you were to ever visit me at the funeral home there is a 90% chance I’d be wearing this exact outfit.

Although my mama hates wedges, they are my go to funeral shoes. Since I’m so short, I always wear a heel. Wedges are perfect because my heels don’t sink into the grass at the cemetery. Been there, done that. (It’s no fun.)

If I wear tights they are ALWAYS opaque. I want my tights as black as my soul.

(lol, jk.)

But seriously, I’m very lucky because I do not have a strict dress code at the funeral home. This outfit is comfortable and easy for me to put together so I’m out the door fast.  Two things that I love. I could have jazzed up this outfit a little more by adding a necklace, but I was in a hurry and didn’t think about it. So here you have it, me in all my funeral fashion glory:

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Skirt – Loft (similar style here)

Shirt – Loft (similar style here)

Cardigan – Loft (similar style here)

Tights – Rite Aid (buy cheap ones, you will rip them)

Shoes – Chinese Laundry (similar style here)

Seriously, Loft. Can you sponsor me already?

My husband Josiah LeRoy took this photo of me in St. Stanislaus Cemetery, Cheektowaga, NY.

How actions can speak louder than words.

This past week I had a very difficult funeral.

A young person passed away under traumatic circumstances. During the visitation, I found myself making up excuses to steal their mother away so she could come and sit in the office with me for a few moments. She needed a break.

Each time she would tell me that all of the callers were saying the same thing over and over again to her. She was drowning in her grief as it was, and the amount of people who came to pay their respects was overwhelming her.

I told her that each person would tell her things from a good place in their heart, but during times of grief words fall short.

When someone dies, no matter the circumstances, we don’t know what to say. We tell the grieving that we are sorry for their loss. That their loved one is in a better place. Or that their loved one is not suffering anymore.

These are sayings that have become so familiar with those of us who visit funeral homes that at times we may not really know what we are saying.

And nothing that you say can make a death better. No words can bring someone back to life. So what do you say? Maybe, instead, it should be what you can do.

You would be amazed at the healing work a hug can do. Or the next time you have to go to a funeral, you could share your favorite story of the deceased with their family. Or maybe in the weeks following the funeral, you’ll stop by with a warm meal, or you could offer to take them out to dinner so they can get out of the house.

Words cannot fix a death, but actions can help us feel less alone.

Words can be empty promises, but actions are proof that people care.

Sometimes, you don’t need to say anything at all. Sometimes, you just need to be there.

I know that this person’s mother appreciated all of her family and friends coming to pay their respects. But I have a feeling that in the days and weeks to come, she’ll remember those who were there for her in other ways a lot more than some of the “I’m sorry for your loss” statements that she received during the funeral.

Carrying them with me.

I still get really sad.

It’s been three months since Eddie died and there are moments when I’m at the funeral home half expecting him to still walk through the front door.

It’s been over two years since my dog Bandit died and sometimes when I walk into my parent’s home I’m still surprised when he’s not sitting on the top steps of the living room.

And even though my grandfather died over fifteen years ago I can still feel tears behind my eyes when I’m in St. Andrew’s Church working a funeral home and the organist starts to play “On Eagle’s Wings”.

But there are a lot of smiles in between the sadness, too.

When I think of Eddie I think of how he protected me and how he allowed me to see the soft and caring side of him. I smile when I remember how I could never travel in his car with him without exiting with so much ash from his cigarettes. Something that I would roll my eyes at when it happened but something that I now miss so much now, dammit.

I find myself smiling on cold days remembering how Bandit used to burrow under the covers of my blanket and keep me warm. And how I would refuse to get up because I knew he was comfortable and how I never wanted to disturb him. I laugh when I watch old videos and hear how he used to snore and make ‘old man’ noises when he slept. Sounds that used to carry me off to sleep.

And when I think of my grandfather, I smile remembering how he always wore that blue sweater, no matter what the weather was like outside. No matter how ratty it ended up getting, he loved it and wouldn’t listen to anyone who told him to take it off. My heart is warm thinking of my grandfather, because I know, truly, what it is like to be the joy in someone else’s life. He was one of the first people who taught me what it means to love and to give to others.

When I think of these people in my life that I’ve loved I think of what a privilege it has been that I got to spend any time with them at all. I think of all the ways that they’ve shaped me into who I am today.

I still get really sad. Time does not heal all wounds, but instead we become warriors who carry the love we’ve shared inside us. It’s okay to never get over a death. But we need to also remember the happy times, because it’s not okay to never move forward.

When dying is beautiful.

When I think of dying I become afraid.

Not of death itself,

but of the act of dying.

I don’t want it to hurt.

I don’t want it to last long.

I want to slip from this life into the next.

And when I think of dying in that way,

as in being born again,

I’m not afraid.

I think of how I’ll feel when I’m with my grandpa again.

And if I think that the ocean is beautiful now,

think of how spectacular it will be in paradise.

When people I love die, I hurt.

I don’t understand it.

But I’m not meant to understand everything.

I’m meant to do my best.

I’m meant to trust in God.

What we have here is only temporary.

But one day when I close my eyes,

I will open them to a permanent love.

A love that fully embraces me.

And when I think of dying in this way

I think death is very beautiful.

Another year older another blog post.

When I drink, I tell people how I really feel about them.

And apparently, I love everyone.

This past week I celebrated my twenty-seventh birthday. My husband organized a little get-together  at a bar with some of our friends. And after two and a half margaritas, I was feeling great. My night basically consisted of me going up to everyone, hugging them, and telling them how amazing I think they all are.

The next day, I saw a few of the same people and started my “sorry for what I said when I was drunk” speech only to be told by them that there is no need for an apology. Some actually said that the next time they’re having a bad day they want to give me a few drinks so I can tell them how great and beautiful they all are.

All kidding aside, I do try my best everyday to channel my ‘drunk Lauren’ and tell the people in my life how much I really do appreciate them. I can’t stress enough how unbelievably blessed I am to have such supportive family and friends in my life. Every year I get a little older which means life gets a little shorter and I never know when my time might run out.

I grew up in a Catholic household and right now we’re in the middle of Lent. I was taught from a young age to ‘give up’ something while never fully understanding the reasoning behind it. This year I struggled back and forth with what to give up and decided against it. I don’t think the purpose is to deprive ourselves of something that we love, but to instead invite more God into our lives. So instead, I’ve been trying to do good deeds for people. These deeds have consisted of small acts and a few larger ones, but through it all I hope to share love with others.

Sometimes I think of how I’d like to be remembered when I die. I am far from a perfect person, which is one of the reasons I need Jesus even more. And even though there are many times that I fall short, I hope to be remembered for showing love to others. Whether it’s during a funeral, family gathering, or a night out with friends. There is so much negativity in this world. Tell someone you love how you really feel. Give them that hug. You never know when time will be up.

A little bit of my mother’s story & a very difficult day.

My mother had a baby that died.

She gave birth to her the day before her own birthday, but for whatever reason, the baby didn’t make it. It was her first child, a little girl.

She told me about it when I was younger and I used to delight in the fact that I had an older sister in Heaven. It was something that I couldn’t comprehend and it’s a loss that I pray I never understand. The baby was buried on top of my mother’s grandparents. Her casket made by an uncle. My father carried her on his lap as the car drove to the cemetery for the burial.

My sister is someone who I don’t think of very often, I’m sad to say. It’s hard to remember someone you’ve never met. Instead, I get little bits and pieces of her from the memories my mother chooses to share with me. And although she’s never said it, I’m positive it’s a loss she still feels very deeply to this day.

Today I had to take the hand print of a little baby who had died in his mother’s womb. This little boy, who was only a few weeks along, and yet I was able to count each and every finger on his little hand. I was able to look upon his little button nose and view his little eyelids gentle closed as if he were merely sleeping.

Today I witnessed death in a way that I wish no one ever has to experience.

And today, I remembered my older sister for the first time in a long time.

I feel such sadness in my heart as I type these words. Sadness for the parents who just a few days ago had so much hope for the future. Sadness for myself, for having to deal with death in instances like this. And sadness for the simple reason that I do not understand why things like this happen.

Not everything in life makes sense.

Some things just suck.

For Eddie.

I was in the back room of the funeral home on the ground crying when Keith came in.

He stood there looking at me for a moment before asking me what had happened. But I know that he knew. Just how I somehow knew from the message that was left for me.

“Hi Lauren, it’s Steve, hey can you give me a call when you get this message?”

Steve is Eddie’s son. We had been talking on the regular for a while ever since Eddie’s wife had died in April. Calling to touch base to make sure we informed one another about how Ed was doing with her death. Everyone was concerned with how he was coping, and from our phone calls we both knew that he was having an extremely difficult time.

Ed had gone into the hospital two days before this message was left for me. I had spoken with him on the phone the same day and he just sounded off. He was depressed. He wasn’t taking care of himself. And now he needed help. The day after he went into the hospital I was stuck at the funeral home, but Keith had gone to visit him. So when he got there, Keith was able to Facetime with me so I could speak with Eddie. He looked tired, but his mind was totally with it. I told him that I was going to visit him after I met with a family the next day, and he told me he loved me when we said goodbye.

And then I got the voicemail. And I called Steve back. And somehow, I knew what had happened. And I knew that I wouldn’t be visiting Eddie at the hospital that day.

Eddie had died.

My Eddie was gone.

I still can’t wrap my head around it. As a funeral director, I obviously know that no one lives forever. But when it came to Eddie, I kind of always thought he would. And the way that he passed was so fast. Two days in the hospital. The doctors said that he was dehydrated. We knew he was depressed. But I believe that he died because he missed his wife too much. No matter how much his family needed him; no matter how much I needed him, nothing could fill the void that she left when she died. I can understand that. But I’m still angry.

The hardest thing about Eddie’s passing has been that I have no way to describe his death.

Co-workers, although we were, just sounds so cold. Technically, we weren’t related. But this man, this grumpy, protective, kind-hearted, big-bull of a man, was so much to me.

I loved Eddie in a way so unique that I can’t even find the ways to describe it. Throughout his funeral, Ed’s son and daughter-in-law described me as a second grandchild. And I’m very thankful for that, because it makes me feel as if he’s described myself to them in that way. My aunt has been telling people that I’ve lost my buddy. And lost is exactly what I am.

I went with Keith to the hospital to pick Eddie up. We went down to the morgue and I stood there. Keith pulled away the sheet and I asked him how he looked.

“Like Eddie”, he replied, but I didn’t look at him.

I called Keith on the phone later that day to see how the embalming went.

“How is his makeup?” I asked, “How does he look?”

“He looks like Eddie.”

I wasn’t there when they got him ready. I wanted to see him as I always had. Dressed in his suit, ready to work. But when I arrived at the funeral home early the day of the visitation, I couldn’t bring myself to enter the room. I didn’t want it to be real.

But it was real. And there was nothing I could do to change the fact that Eddie had died. So I walked in and saw him lying in his casket. And the thing is, he looked just like Eddie. There he was. I took out my makeup kit and did some little touch ups on him. I combed his hair back. I held his hand. And I cried.

Walking into Church with his casket, I cried.

Taking his body to the crematory, I cried.

It’s funny, how even after the funeral, when everything is complete, you still cry.

Closing the lid of the casket doesn’t stop your grief.

But we all did what we thought was best. Even after all the time he spent working for a funeral home, even after losing his wife, eight months – to the date – he still never set up any sort of prearrangements for himself. But Eddie had a good funeral.

Eddie has affected my life in more ways than he could have ever known. I am a better person for having had the chance to know him. And the pain that I feel from his death is testament to him. For if he wasn’t such an amazing man, my heart wouldn’t hurt so much in his absence.

In the days since his death I’ve cried and been angry and been at peace knowing that he is now with his wife. Grief is a cycle that doesn’t make any sense.

In the days to come, I’m going to continue to be angry, and to cry, and to be at peace. And every day his passing gets to be a little more familiar. One day, I’ll be able to laugh much more than I cry. I’ll be able to share all sorts of stories about Eddie and laugh and smile all the while doing so. Life has to go on. Nothing stops the sun from rising. My life is different now. The funeral home is extremely different now, but we need to keep moving forward.

And in my heart, when I tell him I miss him and love him, if I really listen close, I can almost hear his gruff voice reply, “I know sweetheart, I love you too.”

The funeral that is happening right now.

I’m sitting in the lounge of the funeral home, my back against the wall as I listen in on a memorial service which is currently in progress.

 

It is difficult for me to pick up on every word being said, but I hear some voices breaking into sobs and at other times laughter erupting.

 

This person, who has brought so many people together, reminds me once again why funerals are important. People are gathered together to mourn the fact that someone they love is gone. But throughout their sorrow they are also laughing about the good times that they shared. Remembering the little moments that made monumental memories.

 

These people, who may have nothing in common besides for the fact that the deceased made an impact on their lives, are all gathered to support one another during a very difficult time. They are here, right now, to show support for the family and to remind us all of the most important thing in life.

Love.