Today started out as many do for a funeral director working with broken families, sadly and tragically. Add to this scenario, the loss of a child, and you potentially have a volatile situation on your hands. When I decided to become a funeral director, I did not realize there might come a day I would fear for my life in my own residence, but today was that day. Who knew funeral directing could carry fatal risk? The point is that when life has been lost, emotions are severely heightened; hearts are filled with despair, and anger is uncontrollably prevalent.
It has been my experience, that feuding families strike out at each other and anyone else, who happens to be in their path. Old wounds are ripped asunder with new wounds, and at the time of loss it seems that the downward spiral of despair has the strength of a vortex. Today was not the first time I have been nervous about my safety. It was; however, the first day I feared mortal injury. A grieving giant stood before me, suffering inconsolable agony and mad as a bull over wording in his grandson’s obituary. He was truly frightening.
Misunderstandings and tense situations usually surface due to a lack of communication and information between estranged families. Add a death to this mix, and the possibilities are potentially explosive. When families are in the midst of losing a loved one, communicating with each other, or with the funeral home, is not the most important task of the day. Final farewells and precious moments are the critical objective, because, in an instant, they will no longer be possible. In a moment, they will slip away and despair will reside in their stead. Final farewells and precious moments are and should always be; the first and foremost focus of the surviving family, and every funeral director and person outside of the family should understand that.
This man, yesterday, suffered his longest and most dreaded nightmare. No measure of preparation could make that moment anything less that horrific. He had the core of his soul ripped from his aching arms, and there was not a thing he could do to stop it from happening. His heart will never be the same again, nor will his world. He will yearn forever the gentle touch of his grandson’s hand, the sweet fragrance of his hair and the precious kiss so gently placed on his angelic cheek. Eventually he will recover to some extent, but life will never be what it was.
Once he is calm and potentially years from now, he will realize that he has been blessed more than others, who have suffered the loss of a child. He does not understand it now, but his blessing was his advanced knowledge that his grandson would pass away from a rare and dreadful disease. Although it is unfair that a child should suffer such a disease and that a family must witness the ravages and loss of their child, he had forewarning that his grandson would prematurely slip from his loving grasp. And that is more than many parents are allotted. His advanced knowledge offered him time to show and express his devotion to his grandson, time to make memories fishing out at the pond and time to make moments count.
I would never want to change places with this grandfather. I am expecting a grandchild myself within the next few months, and I pray incessantly that he will arrive without incident, illness or disease. I cannot imagine the pain and anguish this heartbroken man, who lost his beloved grandson last night, along with all of their future experiences together, is suffering.
My prayers go out to this family. I hope that the pain they suffer will become happy memories of this beloved child, as soon as possible. Their support group is vast, but they have a rough and very sad road ahead of them. Every fiber in their bodies and deep down in their souls ache over this loss, and my soul aches for them.
Tonight friends and family will gather to offer condolences and words of comfort, and preachers will offer words of inspiration. No matter what is said or what is offered, the hearts of this family are so full of sorrow that there is no room for anything else; inspiration and comfort are not possible. There is nothing anyone can say or do, to make this family feel better about what has happened. There is no erasing this tragedy and the pain that comes with it. This family will trudge through despair, and hopefully after great suffering and misery, they will come to a place where they can function and live within this unfair and tragic experience.
I know that everyone coming tonight is searching today for words of comfort to share with this poor family. I am searching myself for some way to help them through this dreadful experience. My best advice would be to allow them to mourn and recover on their own schedule. Offer to be there and support them throughout the coming months which may turn into years, as they work their way from death, back to living. Never become impatient with their sorrow, never abandon them and always provide a path of gentle re-acclamation back to friendship and social acquaintance.
This sorrowful grandpa, so tall in stature and powerful in voice, has been crushed by the fate of death within his family. As we experience the services honoring his beloved grandson over the next few days, I hope that I will be able to protect him from unintended offenses from others and even myself. Nevertheless, if he is overcome with anger and frustration, who wouldn’t understand and give him a little latitude. I would rather be intimidated and frightened any day, than walk a mile in his heavy-laden and mournful shoes.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer. I write books, weekly articles and brief tips on understanding and coping with grief. It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.