When a death occurs we say it often: “I’m sorry for your loss.” Because what else do you say? I am the first to admit the phrase became overused and empty for me a long time ago, but the message behind it still rings true…..
On any given day, I meet total strangers during one of the worst times in their lives. They are people in various stages of grief, and I often have to take a step back and remind myself of that fact. It sometimes means having to repeat a question numerous times to an elderly widow because maybe she was distracted by the bouquet of flowers sent from her college roommate or maybe she simply didn’t understand what I was asking. Maybe the phone is ringing off the hook at a house and my walking in the door with 10 folding chairs is not a priority at the time. I quietly place them by the front door and wait patiently to ask if the family needs anything else right then. I shake hands saying, “I’m sorry for your loss,” on my way out. Maybe I get back in the van and eat my lunch while going back to the funeral home and jam out to the radio, because for me, this is an ordinary day. For the people I serve, however, it is anything but. See, while a death may be one of the most painful things your family can face, to us funeral personnel, it’s a daily occurrence. It’s what we do. It’s why we don’t let our cell phones get out of sight, and why our closets are filled with dark, muted colors. It’s not always easy, but it is not supposed to be.
When a death occurs, it is likely that the family is next to clueless as to what to do. As soon as the phone call is made to the funeral home, however, a process begins. We make checklists. We label clothing. We label people. We order flowers and caskets and vaults and mark graves to be dug. We make a list and check it twice in hopes of minimizing mistakes (unfortunately, we are only human and mistakes still happen…).
In this service based industry, each situation, each family, each deceased individual is different. Each has a story, yet each comes with a unique set of challenges. I would be remiss to say that each funeral is the same ol’ same ol’….because it’s not. We have a basic procedure to follow, but the details in between are as varied as the day is long. We really are sorry for your loss, but our way of saying it is by taking the necessary care to do the behind the scenes work to help you share about and honor your loved one.
So yes, I’ll come back to open the funeral home for the hairdresser at 7 PM, and yes, I’ll clean up the water spill from when you knocked over the vase of flowers, and yes, I’ll even go with you when you come to town, 20 years after your father was buried, and help you locate his grave in the cemetery. It’s the ‘funeral director way’ of saying, “I’m sorry for your loss,” even when the words fail.