I am standing at the computer in the sound booth. My eyes follow a young woman as she hurries through the chapel to the open doorway in search of a restroom. I know there are other guests in the building and I do not want to cut the music off too abruptly as a matter of principle. My fingers slide the volume controls down evenly until silence settles.
There are beads of sweat still clinging to my forehead after rushing back from the cemetery. The service I just left was a difficult one. After the closing song, the family slowly made their way out the side door in time for us to turn over the chapel for the next service to begin.
We sweep each pew for crinkled tissues and rogue candy wrappers as the air conditioner continues to hum in the background. The familiar rhythm helps me to refocus on the tasks at hand.
I imagine the family who vacated the building a few minutes ago are on their way to a grand reception at their home. My colleague is in transit to deliver the flower arrangements from the service to them. I will need to follow up tomorrow, but right now, I will select two songs for the service due to start in the next hour. I click to delete the music playlist used at the previous service and I switch the projected slideshow to display a new name and a new set of photos. With that one simple movement, a whole lifetime seems to wash away before my eyes.
My perception is vastly different from what these families are experiencing. My immediate concerns center around finding a few minutes to return phone calls and squeeze in lunch, but their minds struggle to concentrate on anything at all in the fog of fresh grief. The songs on the list I just deleted may echo in their minds for years to come. In time, they may find them comforting. When they hear a particular version on the radio in the coming days, however, they may catch their fingers reaching to turn the volume down or change the station. The slideshow I so quickly changed out may be a main feature this holiday season when the family comes back to town. It could also, however, rest forgotten until a moment comes along when the memories beckon to be shared.
These families will continue to reflect on these first few days of their loss as they move in their grief. It is likely they will not remember much of what I have said to them these past few days. They will remember, however, the first grade teacher who came to pay her respects to their brother. They may not remember what colors the flowers were, but they will be grateful for everyone who took the time to help share their grief.
My day will end with my black shoes sitting on the kitchen floor and a dark suit hanging in the closet. I will settle into an evening routine and do it all again tomorrow. They will not. Their tomorrow will look very different than their today. They will continue into days of living in the midst of a wake of death, in whichever direction it takes them. I close my eyes and hope for peace to cover tonight and carry us through to each tomorrow.