As I was waiting in the foyer of the funeral home, I was feeling the usual stress and tension that one feels when they are meeting the family of a younger person who has died. What can I or anyone possibly say or do that will make them feel any better? The cars pull in, the family gets out, the wife, the two daughters and their spouses and the son.
They look tired and sad. It’s usually at this time that any anxiousness goes away. I want to help them. I go out to greet them, offer my condolences and invite them in. They are friendly but cautious and I ask what happened. The wife begins to tell the story and slowly each person begins to contribute. I listen, hardly needing to speak at all. The story of what happened starts transitioning into who this person was, and how important he was in their lives. This is a substantial loss. The stories continue about life before the illness, and the good times, and I, as it often happens, am thinking, I wish I knew this guy.
It was now time to talk about the funeral. How were we going to pay tribute to this husband, father, son, brother? We talk about the importance of taking these first few steps without him, as difficult as it is, in a positive, memorable way. I like to embolden families to do things that are unique to them. In this case, his motorcycle was a big part of what defined him. So we planned the visiting hours and funeral, the photos, the music, the mementos and memorabilia, and when I asked if we could bring his “ride” and park it at the entrance, there was a moment of silence followed by an enthusiastic yes.
The visitation turned out to be a truly symbolic representation of his life. The following day, as it was time to leave the funeral home and process to church, I couldn’t help but feel good as I watched his wife follow the hearse on her scooter for one last ride with her best friend.
John Caffrey, Funeral Director