Some Days, My Job Sucks

Today was a tough day. I cried at work and it has been a while since that has happened. Not that crying is unusual at my workplace, it’s just that I’m usually not the one doing it.

Before I tell you about today, I need to provide a brief, back story:

This past December, we were called to handle the cremation for a man whose next of kin was his sister.  As we navigated through the process, I saw where she lived and mentioned that my family had once lived in an adjacent neighborhood.  As we continued to chat, we connected the dots  and soon came to realize that our families had been next door neighbors for a short time before we moved  from Columbia to Aiken and they moved to a new home.

Happier times, almost twenty years ago.

Happier times, almost twenty years ago.

That period of time is a bit of a blurr for me and I felt bad that while I remembered them, my wife and daughters  had a clearer recollection.  She even shared a photo from a rare, SC snowstorm; our young children, playing in the yard , gleefully wet and cold.

I  helped care for her brother and got caught up on some neighborhood news.

End of chapter One.

Friday morning, my cell phone rang and since I save almost every number, I saw who it was.  Thinking it was something simple like, “Ray, we need a few more death certificates, can you get them for me,” I was shocked when I heard the tone of her voice.  I could tell something bad had happened, but was not ready for what I was about to hear. She proceeeded to tell me that she came home from work the day before  and found their twenty-three year old son dead.  She told me that I was the only one she could trust to take care of her son.

What does one say when there are no words?  You listen.

What can you do when nothing you do can change what has happened?

That might be a column for another day, but not today.

Plans were made for his parents, siblings and best friend to see him in a casual, private setting, prior to the cremation. His father had been away on business for over a week and now needed to confront his new reality. . . one of his sons was dead.

This is part of my reality, but  when you are removed from those involved, there is a bit of emotional insulation.  Sometimes though, the insulation is ripped away and you stand there, emotionally naked.

I was waiting in the parking lot when they arrived and as they made their way to me, the father started sobbing and grabbed me in a bear hug.

What does one say when there are no words?  You hug back.

As we made our way inside, everyone started crumbling.  I took a few minutes to talk about what they would  see and then took them in the room.   The anquish was overwhelming.

Parents aren’t supposed to “bury” their children  It is not the way things are supposed to be. There are very few things that scare me. Even during my years as an EMT/Firefighter I was rarely scared. Sometimes, after the fact, I questioned the sanity of what I had done, but I was rarely scared.

I fear hearing the doorbell ring and seeing my buddy, the coroner, at my door. That scares me.

I reminded myself of the reason I wanted to become a funeral director. It all began here when Teddy was able to calmly lead our family when my grandfather died and everything was falling apart.  Over the years, I defined my job description as “mitigating chaos”.

Hugs, tears and calm, deliberate direction.

I did my best to be supportive and directive, but I cried with them and when they left, I sobbed for them.  Sometimes my job sucks.

I got to go home to my family.  I did a head count and everyone was accounted for.  All healthy, safe and sound.

They had to go home, where he was found. A mental picture that his mother will take to her grave.

Tomorrow, I’ll get up and go back to work  and do my job, but they will still have a dead son.   Words cannot describe what that must be like. A parent’s worst nightmare.

There are two ways to be born and a million ways to die.

My advice to you (and to me): Life is short, dead is for a very long time. Be present and loving to those in your life.    Tomorrow is not guaranteed and the less regrets the better.



About Ray V.

Living between Aiken & Nashville, TN, 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 My Job, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Some Days, My Job Sucks

  1. Dan says:

    A caring, thoughtful treatment, from a thoughtful caring person. Prayers and thoughts to you, and for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. Don’t know how you do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lisanne3015 says:

    I sometimes hesitate to talk to people about the devastation of a parent surviving the loss of a child. I consider the people I’ve met who have lost children my friends and I honor their child by being outspoken. Prayers for you as you carry their burden with them, helping them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. P & J says:

    Sending love and prayers for the family and for you. I don’t think there could be anything worse in this life than losing a child. And now I go to bed crying. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Little Voice says:

    Sometimes crying is all we can do. Sometimes listening is all we can do. Sometimes just being there is all we can do. Apparently you did all three. Bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this. Sometimes the hugging and crying is all we can do. So we do it. And we do it again and again. Your words are so honest, I can’t do anything right now but feel them. So , thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Beautiful share, Ray. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. dremaley says:

    All I can say is WOW. Powerful words.


  9. Jeff Harbeson says:

    Reblogged this on The Funeral Commander~Jeff Harbeson and commented:
    Please read this heartfelt and emotion account of a funeral director’s heart. #thefuneralcommander

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Linda Gill says:

    Ray, your heart for those who hurt has always been tender, and this is one reason I have enjoyed working with you and being your friend over the years. I appreciate this more than you know and hurt with you over the hurt you feel for this family and for the family of this young man who died much too soon. I really do understand the hurt you feel and have cried many times as I have heard the stories of loss in my grief counseling office and in support groups. When we stop feeling, it’s time to stop working with death, grief, and loss because we will no longer be effective. I totally agree with your advice as well. Time on this planetThinking of you with special understanding today. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Linda Gill says:

    I somehow finished the comment without finishing it completely…I agree with your advice: Time on this planet is short. We need to treasure the relationships in our lives, loving our families and friends fiercely, and leaving this life with as few regrets as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Fred says:

    Thanks very much for this. We had a similar circumstance over the weekend taking care of the grand matriarch of a wonderful family that’s very close to ours. Different circumstances considering that she was much older and had suffered from Alzheimer’s for 6 years but no less difficult. Taking care of the lost loved ones of people you know very well is among the most rewarding of things we do in the business but it’s also the very hardest.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.