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.”