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.