Funeral directing is one of those “all-weather” jobs. Rain, shine, sleet, snow, sweltering humidity….the show must go on.
It’s kind of like the US Postal Service, but with hearses instead of those cute little white mail trucks.
Rainy days can be especially challenging. Cemeteries become seas of black umbrellas as mourners gather for gravesides. Shoes sink into soggy ground and chilly water starts seeping into the socks meant to keep toes warm. Open graves fill with water that must be pumped out before the casket is lowered into the ground. The thought crosses our minds that maybe we should’ve stayed home and sat this one out.
We mortician types are known to keep spare umbrellas in unique places so we can grab them at a moment’s notice. I even have one or two small ones in the pockets of my raincoat. I’ve also stashed some trashbags in pockets to cover sound equipment during outdoor services… Just one of those tricks of the trade you pick up along the way.
There have been days when I thought my nose was going to freeze and fall off before the preacher said, “Amen.” There have been other days when sweat doesn’t just drip–it pours down every inch of my skin. It’s one thing to have to empty your shoes of rainwater. It’s quite another thing to empty them of sweat, but I have done it.
Whatever the weather, we funeral directors are often seen wearing dark suits. There are raincoats and overcoats and umbrellas galore in nooks of our closets, and you might even catch us with those little hand warmer packets in our pockets on a cold day.
We go on out whether the forecast is good or bad and only hope we are prepared for what we meet. And if it starts raining during a funeral, we’ll brave the monsoon to get an umbrella for you from our hoard. Maybe the term, “wet rat,” should be added to our job description?
All joking aside, I’ve experienced some of the most poignant moments at funerals taking place in challenging weather conditions. One that comes to mind was at an old country church late on a Friday during the summer. The weatherman had not predicted rain, but an afternoon thundershower popped up nonetheless. As the church service came to a close, my coworker and I listened in from the brick lined porch outside the sanctuary. The congregation sang “Amazing Grace,” and the words of the old hymn rang out against the heavy rain falling around us. I huddled close to the wall of the building and watched the raindrops come down like a cleansing flood. We gathered umbrellas for folks to use as they exited the building and ran to their cars. Mud splashed and children squealed. Little old ladies set their jaws to grin and bear it. The words of the song, however, lingered in the air for the one we were there to lay to rest–“Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home!”