The Essence of Gratefulness
It’s probably appropriate that this article will appear in Funeral Director Daily on a Friday. It’s on weekends, at least it was for me, that many funeral directors feel overworked and neglected. It’s probably because most funeral homes are short-staffed on weekends and those on duty miss many family activities that take place on weekends because they are working.
I felt like that at times. . . I worked a schedule most of my life where I was on duty every other weekend until the last few years of working where it was every third weekend. The first thing Angie and I would do when our boys’ activity schedules came out for weekend baseball, band, hockey, or basketball was look at the schedule and make a plan for the season. Sometimes it entailed looking ahead and checking with other funeral home workers about switching weekends if possible. Other weekends it was about finding a family to include our sons’ in their plans because I knew I would be at work.
However, while it is difficult to see in the moment, I’ve came to view those years of work with a certain gratefulness when I look back on them. I sometimes think that hardship, if you can call a work schedule hardship, allows us an easier view into gratefulness.
New York Yankee star Lou Gehrig gave a farewell speech from baseball when he was diagnosed with ALS disease, now referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, on July 4, 1939. That speech, when he proclaimed that he was “. . the luckiest man on the face of the earth” has been called by some “the essence of gratefulness”. You see, Gehrig faced a difficult future — one that included certain death in a short period of time. However, he was able to reflect and look back on all of the wonderful things of his earthly life.
I recently drove 28 hours over three days from our Minnesota home to our winter condo rental in south Florida. That’s a lot of driving time. . . and a lot of time for reflection. I drove through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and finally the length of Florida. I couldn’t help but see our wonderful country at its best in cities, suburbs, and rural areas. As I drove through the differing areas I thought of who were the funeral directors on call in that area. . . . because while I didn’t know them, as a funeral director who cared for his community, I knew they were out there. . . . .at least one funeral director on call for every square inch of geography that I traveled.
I’m guessing that some of those funeral directors were at work at the moment. . . and they maybe would have rather been home with family or watching their favorite football team compete in a televised game. But they were out caring for their community.
As mentioned earlier, funeral service can be a time consuming and odd hour profession that we sometimes can get weary and tired working in. There were many Saturdays that I was working at funeral services where I missed watching my favorite college football team play and that disappointed me.
Maybe a little like Lou Gehrig, however, I feel that essence of gratefulness in retrospect in knowing that I was making a difference to a family in need. . . .a family that had lost a loved one and didn’t quite know what to do next. Yes, I missed a lot of “stuff” over the years, but I don’t think that “stuff” can hold a candle to the experiences I had helping families and for that I’m now truly grateful.
Here’s a big “thank-you” to all of those working in our profession to care for those that need it. And, many times missing other “stuff” because of it. My guess, is that someday you will look back with gratefulness because you were able to be there for those families at that time.
More news from the world of Death Care:
- Savvy Senior: A check-list of what to do when a loved on dies. Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
- The origins of cemeteries as public parks. ArchDaily
- Did we get Egyptian mummies wrong? Preserving the bodies may not have been the point, experts say. Business Insider
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