Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Little boys

He was five years old. Died of aspiration (the entry of secretions or foreign material into the trachea and lungs ) after vomiting in the night. He was a mouth breather, maybe his nasal passages weren't fully formed, i don't know. Been in and out of foster care all of his life. Mom hadn't seen him the past couple years, busy working and drugging. I tried to dislike her, I really did. The social worker found her almost a week after he died after going from place to place and asking if she worked there. His was the stripper funeral. The boy was the victim. The mom was the stripper. His brain never fully formed due to the drugs while in utero. Schewan and I were so angry with her. What kind of person could this woman be. Obviously a monster. The anger was short lived. Mom's been on her own since she was 12, eeking out a living however she could. Her mother is a mental patient herself due to her own overdose. It's overwhelmingly sad and the anger (sort of) dissipated. Still anger for the boy, but not so much directed towards the mom. The social worker fought like you wouldn't believe for funding for the boy's service and burial. We've yet to see the money, but we did get a fax that the state is paying. It's weird. I feel like I'm rambling. I had to measure him for the casket. Schewan was out, so Skip helped me. He was the same size as my 3 year old grandson. Thick curly hair and eyelashes to die for. I wanted to hug him. Instead I measured him, then left his face uncovered, and we pushed his shelf back into the fridge. Babies don't belong on refrigerator shelves.
She wore a long black dress to the funeral. She came early, right when we opened. Going back and forth about whether she wanted to view him. Schewan made her. Well, she didn't make her, just explained how beneficial it would be, if she even just saw his hand, something so that her eyes could tell her heart that he was gone. She brought in a carload of teddy bears. We put them all around the casket. It was only us in the building, Schewan, me, Mom, and social worker. I wanted to leave the building myself. She went into the chapel and Schewan went with her to the front. Schewan held her for awhile until Mom had the courage to stand by herself. Then Schewan came out and the wailing began. Deep gutteral grief. Keening is the word that keeps coming into my mind. I can hear it still as if it were happening as I type. I can't erase the sound. It's inside me and it keeps replaying and i can't make it stop. It's not my grief, I keep reminding myself. Let go of it. The service went well. Odd and sometimes inappropriate, but well. Everyone left except the social worker, who was helping us pick up all the bears, everyone brought one. Schewan couldn't make the toy work. It was a musical thing and Mom wanted us to put it in the casket, so that when he was buried, the music would still be playing. We couldn't make it work, so i found a screw driver, removed the battery cover and put in new batteries. I turned it on and music finally played. I was trying so hard to put the cover back on, but my hands were shaking and I started sobbing. The social worker had stepped into my office, but then didn't know what to say, so she apologized and stepped back out. The mother's keening mixed with the music box "twinkle, twinkle little star" in my head and I couldn't make it stop. Apparently, I wasn't the only one struggling, cuz Schewan was teary as well. I put the toy in his casket and we pushed him out to the coach (hearse). The social worker thanked me. I told her to fight for the live ones as hard as she's fought for this one. She promised she would. Schewan drove him to the cemetery. The music played as the dirt dropped down.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

things that make you (ok maybe just me) go hmmm...

1. Why autopsy someone who died after being hit by a log truck?
2. Can some people really see dead people?
3. Why is it so dang cold in here today when the heat is cranked up and the sun is shining?
4. Why do people assume we should cremate/bury/etc their family member for free? It's your brother! Pay the dang bill!
5. Do dogs really need headstones?
6. Even though it's not my grief, how come I'm still so sad?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

stripper funeral

One small coffin.
Many semi-clad, inappropriately dressed women.
Strung out.
Tight butts.
Awesome guitar playing.
Spike heels with red soles.
Rap music.
Surprising empathy.
Cigarette smoke.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Native American funeral

He doesn't look like a Native American to me. He looks Italian. Later I find out I'm right. His father-in-law came through here about three weeks ago. His wife is a basket case. Losing her dad and her husband within such a short time. I wonder if she's not a basket case on a good day though. She's not very nice. Plus she doesn't want to pay. I don't get that. He's got $50,000 life insurance policy, plus a 401k and she still doesn't want to pay. The insurance is unassignable, which means I have to wait for her to get paid and then hope she pays us. She owes less than two grand, cheapskate. So cheap that they said they only wanted a viewing. Funny that everyone showed up to "view" at the same time. Maybe fifty, maybe seventy-five people all show up at the same time. It was so weird. I think Schewan and I got a little stoned, just enough to be giggly, which is not how our relationship is at all. They were smoking pot in the chapel, I know they were, but I couldn't catch them. Not that I tried very hard, but it was just all so weird. Ok, let me start right. 55, male, Italian, married to a woman who may at sometime have been related to someone who may have possibly been Native American, cause of death is pending toxicology reports. So the wife wouldn't come in to make arrangements and wouldn't return our calls. The deceased's brother made initial contact with us and said they wanted viewing, no service, followed by cremation. Schewan talked to the wife on the day he died and she agreed, but then she never called back or brought in clothes or anything till the day before the viewing. Of course, that was Schewan's day off, so i had to deal with the woman. Did I say she wasn't nice? Her friend wasn't either. Only one of the three women who came in was nice. Grief is one thing, but manners are just plain required. So they asked me to braid his hair in a warrior braid. What? Part down the middle, two braids like an Indian Chief, take a little hair from both braids at the crown of the head and braid it, then pull it forward to lay over his shoulder atop one of the regular braids. I'm not describing that well. The warrior braid isn't tied off at the bottom because that would somehow inhibit his warrior-ness. Anyway. I braided his hair after Skip did the rest. The next morning Schewan and I were trying to put his shirt on him. She didn't want to cut the back of it, I don't know why, well i do but it's a story in itself and not all that interesting. Maybe it is, but i'm not gonna tell it. So it's a pullover, he's a big (BIG) guy and he's been dead for a week. He's not all that helpful, mostly just lays there being completely UNhelpful and non-flexible. We finally get it on him, amid much shoving, tugging, swearing, and laughter. It's a wannabe Indian shirt. Weird. Schewan puts some rubber nickers on him, cuz they didn't bring him any pants or underwear, just a shirt. He's a table view, so no casket, just nice blankets and a pillow under his head. It's not real common to do it that way, but it saves a family money and we don't care, it still looks nice. Well, unless someone lifts the blanket and sees that he's got no pants on. I'm making this too long and drawn out, yawn. He's on the table, in the chapel, there's a lot of peace pipe passing, and then the drums start. One solid hour of drumming and chanting and sort of like singing. It was very cool. I called Steve and held the phone out, so he could hear. He couldn't, but he did say Schewan and i were kinda giggly. ;) I don't know if there was any true Native American in the bunch, but they sure did respect the culture and it sounded awesome. I saw a commotion in the lobby and looked out of my office door. A young woman was crying, wailing really, over the drumming. Another young woman was trying to get to her to calm her down. Suddenly she yells out, "They all think he was such a good guy, but he wasn't, it's not true!" The other gal says, "Let it go, honey, he's dead now, he can't hurt you any more." A little more wailing, people start staring. A little louder..."he can't hurt you again", just as the drumming stops. The whole place went silent in response to this young lady freaking out about a dad who can no longer do to her whatever he has done to her. I wonder how she fits in the picture, first marriage? I don't think his wife is her mom. Family dynamics, ain't they grand. Crematory guy gets here and he's supposed to help me get the guy out of the chapel, he's supposed to be taking him with him, but he's got a full van, so will have to come back. Of course, we don't tell the family that, they think he's going now. We open the office door to go get him, the young woman comes in, "Can I have a pair of scissors to cut a lock of my dad's hair?" I look at Crematory Guy, he looks at me. What can I do? I give her the scissors. She opens her jacket and puts them in an inside pocket. Crap. I ask her why doesn't she wait and cut his hair in the back hallway with us, if she doesn't want anyone to see her. She says okay and I say I'll give you the sign of when. She goes in the main door of the chapel, we go to the back door. Someone says, don't take him yet, his daughter needs a moment alone with him. We look up and sure enough he means the daughter with the scissors. They send everyone out of the chapel except her. I was terrified and wanted to remind her that she can be charged with mutilation of a corpse. I pull Schewan out of the arrangement room where she's meeting with another family and ask her what to do. She says there's nothing we can do, just let her do what she's gonna. Crematory Guy and I wait five minutes, then we go back in. We're taking him, we don't care what they say. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw that his braids were still there and there weren't any gaping wounds on his chest with scissors sticking out. We begin to push him out, I meet the daughter's eyes, she shakes her head no, she won't meet us in the back hall. We shove him in the back room. I see that someone has given him two packs of Camels and a lighter. I think to myself how he'll never know if I take them. I haven't smoked in 15 years and today, right now, I want a cigarette so badly I'm willing to steal them from a dead guy! I left them. Crematory Guy snuck out the back. Schewan finished with her new family. I (graciously) kicked out the Indian tribe. And then we began the glamorous job of vaccuming. oh boy.