As a funeral director, I do a lot of prearrangements, meaning, I basically set up funerals for people who are still alive. I’ve gone to people’s houses and different nursing homes to make these arrangements, because sometimes people can’t get to me. It’s normal. So I didn’t think anything of it when I got a call to make a prearrangement at a hospital last week. I didn’t think anything of it as I parked my car and got into the elevator. I didn’t even think anything of it as I step out onto the floor reserved for cancer patients. But I did think something of it as I knocked on a door that had a beautiful young lady laying in the bed, with tired eyes and not a hair on her head. It caught me off guard.
As I introduced myself and sat down, this young lady explained to me how she found out she had cancer about three months ago, and when she did find it, the cancer was already way too advanced to do much about it. So she decided to do what was practical and call me; the funeral director. I began the arrangement with the basics, getting her information for the death certificate. Birthday, address, parents names, you know, all that good stuff. And after I gathered this information, I asked her how many copies of the death certificate she would need. She looked at me and started to cry. And I didn’t know what to do or say. I was not prepared for this.
I do prearrangements for people who are healthy and want to get their affairs in order.
I do prearrangements with children who have a parent in Hospice.
But before this, I never did a prearrangement for a person who was so close to death themselves.
Normally, I can make a little joke to lighten the situation. I can bring people out of the darkness, even if it’s just for a second. But with this arrangement, I felt helpless. I couldn’t tell her it was going to be okay. I couldn’t promise her that she’d get through it. All I could do was listen to her wishes for her funeral and promise her I’d take good care of her and her family when the time comes.
This past week I’ve been thinking a lot about her. I’ve been wondering if I would have been able to handle that burden with as much grace if I were in her shoes. I’m okay with dying. I’m okay with my own mortality. But I always thought I’d greet death after I’ve lived a long life. And it upsets me when it doesn’t always happen like that. And I’ll keep my promise and take good care of her, when the time does come. After all, the time will come fast.
I’ve been thinking of this little quote that an older lady told me one day after she lost her husband. She said, God doesn’t just want the old, He wants a little of everyone. And it’s my job to be there, always keeping my promise, to take care of both those living and deceased. To keep my promise to do the best I can.