Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dinner conversation

Last night at dinner, my girlfriend asked if I've given more thought to becoming a funeral director. I told her (vaguely) about my week, the busy-ness of it, the insanity, and how i'm really not sure if this is for me at all. She wondered if the next step now is for me to go on a first call. It is. I should. I think. I told her I experienced two crappy things this week, and I think I can just about deal with anything now. She asked me how I processed those things, I was honest in saying I had not. They were pushed aside as I needed to stay focused on the task at hand. At some point I realized that her husband had quit being a part of the "mens' conversation" and was listening to us. The look on his face was pure horror and disgust and fear. And I wasn't even saying anything, really, well I didn't think i was. Soon Steve became quiet and was listening and then I realized that the other gentleman was too. My friend and I had just been chatting between ourselves but suddenly I had an audience. It was awkward. My friend said it was incredibly sad, her husband said it was troubling. I did not think I'd painted either of those pictures. Am I already unaware of the intensity of emotion? Are these things becoming everyday work to me? I did decided in the future I'll say "Skip was bathing someone in the prep room", rather than "Skip was working on someone." There's so much more than bathing, but maybe it won't freak others out so much. Steve and I had two choices last night for dinner. First was eating with this couple who we adore after attending church (no we're not some weird religion, we just like going on saturdays so we can have sunday free). This choice is our normal routine, usually the four of us go out, sometimes others join us. Our second choice and the one I did not choose was to go to the home of the guy who owns the crematory for dinner and drinks. This choice had great appeal to Steve, especially after I told him that "Crematory Guy" has a stripper pole in his living room. Apparently his brother's gf is a stripper and she and her friends practice there. Steve was ready to go! ;) Also I think he really wanted to go to work Monday and say guess where I had dinner Saturday night? Choosing dinner with our friends was an easy choice for me, but the inability to speak about my job made me wonder if I'm becoming more likely to fit in with Crematory Guy than with my own friends. I find myself critiqueing (sp?) movies and stories and all things dealing with death. Hey, that's not what really happens. What's wrong with those people, didn't they do any homework? We saw "Little Miss Sunshine" Friday night and it was the funniest movie I've seen in a long time. I loved it. Two thumbs up. Except for one part. Are we in the deathcare industry the only ones who know it wouldn't work that way? Or do other people realize it? Why do I even care, it's just a movie. Will I never be able to talk about my job again? I thought I was being so generic, but it silenced the table. It troubled and grieved them. Why are we as a culture so isolated from death? We push it aside and dress it up and buy a fancy casket and pretend that death is clean. Well it's not. Not always. We say autopsy like it's a tonsilectomy. It's not a trip to the dentist. It's horrible and I'm freaking out right now and i want to scream and rip my hair out. I talked to a woman Friday. Several times as she kept screaming and swearing and hanging up on me and calling back. She was beyond sanity. The anger coursed through her, images of the night before playing out in front of her time and again and she took it out on me. She didn't want to come in because she made all the arrangemenst last year, but they never remember when you tell them you have to come in at the time of death anyway. more papers to sign, which can't be done ahead of time. It could have waited till Monday and I tried to tell her that. It didn't have to be friday. She was exhausted and it could wait. "YOU'RE NOT THE ONE WITH THE DEAD MOTHER!" The dial tone sounded so odd in my ear. It was loud and hateful. The shrill ringing minutes later startled me, her call came in on the second line, as I still held the receiver in my hand, dial tone turned to beeping with ringing in the background. I answer. "YOU DON'T KNOW HOW SHE SUFFERED. I FUCKING WATCHED HER DROWN IN HER OWN SHIT! AND NOW I HAVE TO SIGN ANOTHER FUCKING PAPER???" I tell her we can wait, i speak calmly, i know she is insane with grief. There is no consoling her, she wants to make sense of a cancer that stole her mother. There is no sense at this time, only pain. "I'LL BE THERE" and again that stupid dial tone. I try to call back but she doesn't answer. She comes in about fourty-five minutes later. A small woman, maybe 45, jeans and sweatshirt, rumpled but expensive. Hair sticking out everywhere, but I can tell that she's normally well put together. Every inch exuding tension. She stands in front of my desk ignoring both chairs "GIVE ME THE PAPERS." Schewan is not yet back and I've been instructed by my manager to do nothing until she gets there. I tell her she has to sign in front of a FD and she goes off the deep end. There was nothing I could do. Normally I would have let her sign but I knew I had to wait for Schewan as she would know how to help. I couldn't help, I only made her angrier. Storms out to her car. I call Schewan, where are you, I need help, I don't know what to do. She's close, almost back to the funeral home. I go out to the car, I'm trembling now. I'm not scared of her, I'm scared for her. I'm shocked to see her husband in the driver's seat, why isn't he holding her? She rolls down the window and I tell her Schewan is almost back, i tell her again how sorry i am. She begins to cry. I am so relieved. She apologizes, profusely, repeatedly, "it's not like me, i never swear, i'm so sorry." I tell her I understand. I go back in and call Schewan and tell her I finally got to tears and the woman is going to be more calm now. I'm not calm. I'm crying. I'm shaking. I'm wondering who I am to be intruding on such a private anguish. What kind of vulture am i? What would make me want to be a part of such grief in the lives of strangers? Is my life not hard enough that now I want to complicate it with the issues of others? What the heck is wrong with me? Why am I here in this house of death? Am I sick? Do I want to be tortured? Will I make it through this day without puking my guts out? Why do I think this extra stress is a good thing in my life? Am I making a difference here at all? Is this my calling? Or am I simply a weirdo and I don't belong here at all? It's two days later and every nerve in my body is standing at attention right this second. I'm anxious and nervous and upset and disgusted and unsure. I almost cry and then swallow it away. My fingers are flying over the keyboard but still too slow to keep up with the emotions running through my head, my heart. My life. I'm alive. This is how it feels? I woke up this morning. I woke up. Tears well and then recede. Vomit creeps into my mouth. I shudder and force it back down. I don't know what in the world i am doing in this job. All of it over the last week is rushing through. It's more than i know what to do with. A baby. He was seven months old. His skin was so perfect. I couldn't look at his face. I wouldn't. My eyes couldn't leave his chest. Skip didn't talk, just shook his head, like why'd you come in here. He met my eyes like before when I was curling that girl's hair. He met my eyes and held them, I could see that he was telling me to hold it together. He was telling me I have a job to do and I needed to focus on it and not on the little body on his table. He was telling me that it's not fair and there is pain in this world but there was a bigger picture and we don't always see it. Out loud he said, the scissors are in that drawer. I took them out and went back to the viewing room and cut off a long brown lock for a mother whose grown daughter was in that casket. She was going to braid it and keep it for her granddaughter who's only ten. It's not a damned tonselictomy, it's just not!!! I don't understand what I'm doing in that building. I don't understand why I go back everyday. Who did i think I was, telling my friend I could deal with most things now? I can't deal with any of it. I don't want to deal with any of it. I want it all to leave my head.

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