The In Between

It has been said that the funeral profession is one that exists in between this world and the next.

It is true that in my little corner of the world of being a funeral director, life and death seem to overlap. Every once in a while, the reality of my position between the two hits me.

I’m sitting in church halfway between being settled and being ready to get up and leave if my phone rings. I glance down at a text message that reads, “All the jewelry will stay on.” I’ll be leaving soon for a funeral. All the jewelry will stay on. A beloved grandmother will be buried with her cherished wedding band and a small, glittery pin in her hair. The last time her family will see her is when I close the casket at the front of the sanctuary before we leave for the cemetery. All the jewelry will stay on.

    The two worlds, life and death, collide every day. Some people experience more loss than others and some losses are more painful than others, but loss is still experienced every single day by someone, somewhere.

Life and death brush up against one another as I help transfer a corpse from the removal cot to the embalming table. My hand firmly grips the shoulder of a lifeless body, pulling it towards me in the most delicate yet intentional way I can manage. Death spills over at times, from the body onto the table, into my nostrils, soiling linens and making me wish I could hold my breath a little longer.

They co-exist, these two worlds, in whatever twisted way that is possible, as I hold the details of a funeral service: date, time, place, music in my mind amidst the grocery list and the nagging reminder to get the oil changed in the car.

Dirt covers the grave at the end of a day. Like death, it’s not fresh. Like death, it has been around for a long while; it is the same dirt that has been sitting in that spot since the last disruption. Like death, it settles now, with a certain finality.

I come home. Take a shower. Scrub my hands a little extra. I water my little herb garden and marvel at the life in the little green plants. I stir the compost in the bin, noting the color and consistency of the dirt. Life and death collide every single day, and you’ll often find me between them, probably sweating in the August heat, but nonetheless content to be in between.

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