Part of being an undertaker involves getting to meet lots and lots of people and becoming somewhat involved in the dynamics of their family.
This week, my career experienced four “firsts”.
I will be vague to maintain confidentiality, but hope to convey how unusual they were.
1. We moved to Columbia, SC on Sunday, September 8, 1996….the day after Hurricane Fran blew through town. We arrived at the Days Inn, on Garners Ferry Rd, right behind Greenlawn Memorial Park at around 11:30pm. On Monday morning I went outside and happen to strike up a conversation with a very colorful man. I always remembered his nickname and have often told the story of my first encounter with a “real Southerner”. Earlier this week, a man with the same nickname registered as a member of SCCBS. I had to call and ask…and yes, it was him. He didn’t remember me, but I did not expect him to as I was just another Yankee coming to town, and still here sixteen years later.
2. During the past week, I had been asked to visit a family whose mother was close to death at home, to plan her funeral. I ended up making several trips and one afternoon, while I was there, she died. I was able to take the responsibility of calling the hospice nurse and allow them to spend time with her. The daughters told me that there was something calming about my being there and they appreciate not having to think about what to do as I handled it for them. The hospice nurse gently teased me as it was the first time I had called her as opposed to her always calling me when someone had died.
3. Just before we went on vacation a few weeks ago, I handled the cremation services for a man from the Columbia area (70 miles away). For a few different reasons, I had offered to personally bring the urn to his wife and she accepted my offer. Last night, my wife and I bumped into some friends at a surprise birthday party for a common friend. We got to talking and I knew that my friend’s dad and the man who died, both worked for the FBI and I asked him if he knew this man. Not only did he know him, but his father and this man had worked together and had even gone into business together, owning a retail store in Columbia during the 1970’s. Small world, eh? So, when I visited this morning, I also brought a hug from a friend from long ago.
4. Next week, we will acknowledge the second anniversary of our “Tattered Flag” program, whereby we collect used, American Flags and place one with every veteran that we cremate. Do this pays honor to both the veteran and the flag. In those two years, we have received over two thousand flags! This week, I received a package, addressed to me from 75 miles away, near Columbia. In the package were a few, worn flags, a note thanking me for this service and a check for $50, made out to the funeral home, with the notation to “help offset cost of providing service”. I hand wrote a note to the individual, thanking them, but that I couldn’t accept the check. I went on that it did not cost us anything to provide the services and that we provided it because we love our Country and we love our Veterans.
As is usually the case, I try to find a song to go with the story. I decided on this one (not really sure why) and further dedicate it to the staff of the subterranean offices of the Licking County Chamber of Commerce.