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.