Ed has been with my family’s funeral home since my great-uncle started the business. He’s almost eighty years old, and I’ve seen him everyday for the last three years. He looks after me. I love him in a way that I can’t tell him, because you see, Ed is a rough and tough kind of man. He’s a big guy, who retired from the docks. He can be difficult to handle. But he is also caring and sweet. He’s my “other” grandpa.
Six days ago, his wife of 59 years died.
It was sudden. She was not sick. She collapsed in their home. Ed called me that morning to tell me everything and in that moment I found myself stuck somewhere between funeral director and family.
Because before anything else, my guys at the funeral home are my family. My very weird, dysfunctional work family, but family nonetheless. And doing a funeral for your family is the absolute worst.
A funny thing about Ed is, as long as he’s worked in the funeral home he’s never done any sort of prearrangements. No paperwork. No cemetery plot. No anything. He made his mind up pretty quickly, though. A direct cremation, with a service after. Okay, Ed. No problem, whatever you want. Five days ago he walked into the funeral home like he always does, but this time sat down with me to sign the cremation paperwork for his wife. He looked up at me and asked if it was too late to embalm her and have a visitation. “No problem”, I told him, “whatever you want.”
The visitation was three days ago. Watching Ed walk in, you’d think it was another day of him coming to work. Seeing him in his suit is such a normal image for me that I almost forgot that his wife was laying in a casket. He had a lot of people there to support him. Which did not surprise me since he makes a lasting impression on everyone that he meets. Things got quieter, towards the end of the night. People started to head home, leaving him, his two children and only grandchild to spend some time together in private. With everything happening so quickly, I think they really needed that.
As they were walking out for the night, Ed’s only granddaughter came up to me to tell me that he’s always talking about me. “How funny”, I told her, “because he’s always talking about you, too.”
Ed was still sitting by himself in a chair. It made me smile for a moment, because it was such a familiar sight. And then I thought of how overnight, his world had changed. That’s when I walked over to him, gave him a hug and told him I loved him.
“I know, sweetheart” he responded, “I love you too.”