Maybe, Just Maybe…..

Yesterday, I was once again, reminded of the joy than can occur when we allow ourselves to be open to possibilities.

On Thursday evening, we hosted a visitation for a man who died after a long illness…a few months short of his 80th birthday.

I recognized his wife from church, his children were grown and most of his grandchildren were young adults….all but one.

Here is the doorway where life meets death. You can tell a lot about a community by what happens on this porch.

Here is the doorway where life meets death. You can tell a lot about a community by what happens on this porch.

His youngest granddaughter, who is one tenth of his age, was having a difficult time. Her older family members were trying to make the visitation “easy” for her, but nothing seemed to be working.

She sobbed with an anguish that I immediately recognized, taking me back to a Wednesday afternoon …over thirty eight years ago.

It was the afternoon of my grandfather’s first viewing and it was the day that made me decide I was going to be an undertaker. You can read about it here: How It All Began.

I have learned the secret to children at a funeral….let them be children. I mentioned to her mom that we had a playroom around the corner and we lead a sniffling, crying little girl to that room and guess what happened?….she smiled…and began playing.

Many of the relatives opted to stay there with her and over time, everyone took turns coming to our children’s playroom to see her, while still talking about her grandfather.

As they were getting ready to leave to go home, I asked her if the play room was a good idea….she smiled and gave me a “high five”.

On Friday morning, we met at my church for the Catholic, Requiem Mass. As is my job, I was there ahead of time and as the two limousines pulled into the circular drive of the church, guess whose big eyes I saw looking at me as I stood, shivering in the fierce wind?

Then we discovered a problem, well…an opportunity. One of the six pallbearers was not able to make it, so we decided that one of our staff would fill in.

But, wait…..

I quickly shared an idea with her dad, who was skeptical at best, but trusted me….well, I really didn’t give him much of a choice or time….

I called my new, best friend over and asked her if she would want to be my “special assistant”?

Her smile was the answer. I lead her and the other pallbearers to the back of the hearse and gave them instructions…at an eight year old level.

I had her take one of the middle positions, which can easily be handled by those not able to bear a lot of weight. I wish I could have taken my phone out to take a picture of this little girl, looking very serious, (but not sad/crying) walking behind her uncle and in front of her dad….helping carry her grandfather’s casket into church…..just as he may have helped carry her when she came there to be baptized..a beautiful analogy for all the pallbearers.

Once we got inside, we had to wait a minute of so for the opening chant to be completed. I explained to them how we were going to place the pall over the casket and that she was going to be in charge because we needed a ladies touch to get it just right.….big smile.

As Fr. Wilson began the opening prayers, we made eye contact and I gave her a subtle “thumbs-up”….. another big smile.

When the Mass was completed, we did everything in reverse and then, I had to leave because we had another funeral starting soon. Allen, our other director was going to take her grandfathers funeral to the cemetery. I had to go back to the funeral home.

I found my “special assistant” and got down on my knees to tell her that I had to leave and that I wanted to thank her for helping me and that I was very happy to be her friend. I kissed her forehead, got up, rubbed her head and smiled as she climbed back into the limousine.

As I walked the two blocks back to the funeral home, a few tears found their way to the sidewalk as I remembered the pain of my grandfathers death, but the joy of knowing that I may have made a difference in how this girl will view death/funerals for the rest of her life.

Maybe yesterday will help her not to be as afraid of funerals as she was when she first got there.

Maybe the adults came to understand how resilient young people can be?

Maybe I was able to plant a seed like Teddy Levandoski planted in me in August of 1974?

Maybe, just maybe, she might grow up and want to become an undertaker?

And all I did was my job.

About Ray V.

Living in Aiken, South Carolina, USA, I like to share what I am looking at, thinking about or listening to. I refer to this as the view out my window. Thanks for stopping by.
This entry was posted in Just Maybe, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Maybe, Just Maybe…..

  1. Phyllis Loftis says:

    Well, the tears have already started this morning. What an awesome experience….for you and for that little girl. Thanks for sharing. And thank you, Jesus, for letting Ray be there for her.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    🙂

    Like

  2. Mike says:

    Beautiful, Ray! There’s a few tears that found their way to my pillow, also.
    What is it about grandfathers, Ray? I lost mine 35 years ago, yet I remember him vividly, from being my biggest fan at little league to being the most generous & well-liked man in his small community of Highlands, NJ.
    You are a “natural,” Ray. Oh sure, raising three daughters didn’t hurt, but you simply allowed your heart, and the Holy Spirit, to guide you precisely to what that young lady needed.
    Kudos, my friend.

    Like

    • Thank you, Mike.
      Merry Christmas to you and the family….you and I really do need to schedule a time to meet, have a few beers and get caught up. Let’s see who remembers to call first, after the New Year…..

      Like

      • Michael Campi says:

        You’re on! I even thought briefly about crashing your party of one on Edisto (one of our favorites, as well) when on one of your pilgrimages. Instead, I traveled there vicariously through your posts while you were there.
        2013 it is…

        Like

  3. Ray, you made a special memory for that little girl ~ in turn allowing your special memory to surface and to help you as well. How beautiful ~ I have tears in my eyes, but good ones ~ grateful ones that there are people who care like you do!

    Like

    • Thank you. This was probably one of my favorite posts in the almost three years I have been doing this. I have enjoyed following your journey also. The “inter tunnel” is a place where people who never met can be friends and confidants…a beautiful thing, if used responsibly.

      Like

  4. My eyes are leaking. What an awesome experience this child had. I love that you have a playroom! funerals can be very overwhelming for children. I have never forgotten my parents making me look at my grandfather’s dead body. I have never been to another funeral where I actually viewed the deceased. It had a big effect on me and to this day I cannot view bring myself to view the body. I wish I had a funeral home like yours. Maybe it would not have been so traumatic for a five year old. Keep up and the great work and I will be watching from the blogosphere. I really love your blog! God Bless!

    Like

    • Thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately, I hear those kind of stories all too often. Back when we were kids, they didn’t have the understanding of children and grief that we have today. I often speak of “healthy psychology dictates meeting life’s problems head-on”…and one of the most important parts of that is seeing the body. That being said, no one should ever be “forced” to do so.

      I am enjoying your blog also as I have a “thing” for veterans and war history….

      Merry Christmas….RJV

      Like

  5. Richard says:

    Ray, tis was a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  6. Linda Gill says:

    My goodness, Ray! This is just why I have always appreciated you–and why your “special assistant” will never forget you or ever view funerals in a negative way! She got to participate on a child’s-eye level and got to be a little girl all at the same time!! What a gift you gave to both her and her family–and what rich and special memories they will all have of this experience!
    Blessings, Linda

    Like

  7. Thanks, Linda….I’m the one that received the biggest gift…and the best part is that I doubt that any of those involved have the slightest idea of the impact those three hours, (total time of contact), have had on my life.

    I received your other e-mails and will work on your request…Safe Travels and Merry Christmas….RJV

    Like

  8. Ray's Mom says:

    You do have a special calling and talent to match the challenges.

    Like

  9. Thank you for your kind words. The “other” Ray’s mom, (mine) might agree with you…

    Like

  10. Ray, Great article! I am so glad my dad, Ted Levandoski touched you the way he did when your grandfather died which influenced you to become an undertaker. You are a wonderful, compassionate funeral director who took great care of that little girl. And you never know – maybe she will become a funeral director too! All the best, Michael Levandoski Owner and Senior Director, Levandoski Funeral Home, Bloomfield N.J.

    Like

  11. Cheri says:

    What a beautiful story, Ray. I’m sure Jesus is smiling down on you.

    Like

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