Losing Your Beloved

Many people say that marriage is the hardest part of life.  It is not.  Surviving the death of your beloved requires more work, deeper suffering, and greater endurance than marital bliss ever asked from anyone. 
Surviving your beloved is excruciating and arduous.  Experts in the study of grief have expressed theory upon theory to aid survivors through this journey.  The fact remains however, that theory is not fact.  In searching for a yellow brick road to recovery, you must realize, as did Dorothy and her cohorts, that you already possess the strength and ability to survive.  Identify your strengths and cultivate them.  Utilize your abilities and realize that you are the only one capable of surmounting your grief.  From this point forward, it is your job to continue onward without the companionship of your beloved.  You must redefine your role in a myriad of life’s situations as your own provider, your own protector, and your own strategist.  If your loss is recent, it will take some time before you are able to embark on your proactive road to recovery.
Centuries ago, society required survivors to wear black for one year after the death of their loved ones.  From this tradition, we wonder, does it take only one year to recover from the loss of a lifetime of love?  Grief is the price we pay for the gift of love.  I wish I could tell you that one year of grief is all that you will suffer.  I cannot.  If you loved your spouse with the depth of your soul, grief may forever be your unwelcome companion. 
My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 
Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/ and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my website  www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies”  for additional encouragement and information.

The "Ex" Factor

As a funeral director, I often experience unique situations with survivors, and this past week was no exception.  The family I served was one of humble means.  The decedent had experienced interaction with the judicial system on multiple occasions.  Drugs had played a part in his life.  There was an indication of slowness of mind, and he was potentially murdered.  He was a parent with dependent children, and he had an “Ex” wife.  Other issues existed as well, but the details are too gruesome to mention, and out of respect to this family, they are better left unwritten.  

My motivation for this article is the existence of his “Ex” wife and the discrepancy between her perception of herself, and her legal standing within his estate.  My experience and knowledge are based on Texas law and may differ from other states. 

Due to the decedent’s lifestyle, he did not have an estate, yet his “Ex” wife was very interested in any dependency funds available for her upon his death, and desired to be recognized and respected as his wife.  

As I left the cemetery and reflected back upon the week’s experience, I thought to myself, how very odd that this woman did not understand her severance from this man, as stipulated through the courts in their divorce decree.  Interestingly, this woman is not unique in her misconception of her legal standing within the “Ex” husband’s estate.  I meet women almost weekly who are under one or more misconceptions regarding their legal status within the estate of a particular male decedent. 

It seems as though the popular phrase of the 1960’s “It’s only a piece of paper,” has diluted the legal importance of the marital contract within the minds of many couples.  This mere piece of paper is a legal and binding contract, issued through the state which establishes, combines and protects one’s  legal next of kinship within an estate.  If a couple is married, each party is legally recognized as the other’s next of kin.  As such, each has power, rights and responsibilities within the combined marital estate.  Their legal document (marriage certificate) places them in this important position.  Individuals who choose to reside together without this legal contract, are not in the next of kinship position, and, therefore, have no legal standing within the estate. 

In such a case, a woman who has never been the decedent’s legal wife, or who has given up her place as his legal wife, forgoes her rights and considerations as kinship, along with anything else she may consider as combined property and estate.  She may therefore find herself evicted from her residence without legal rights to any insurance funds or estate properties.  A man however faces far graver consequences.  In addition to the previously stated losses,  a man who has not married the mother of his children, and has failed to secure his name on their birth certificates, may find that on the dreadful day of losing his pseudo wife, he stands without parental rights.  Not only might he lose what he thought was community property, without expensive testing and court battles, he will most likely see the guardianship of his children fall to their maternal grandparents.

The “Ex” wife this weekend wanted the decedent’s social security benefits and payouts for her children, as well as for herself.  Although her dependent children are possibly eligible for social security funds, she most likely is not.  When the marital contract was severed, her privileges and rights were severed too.  One hopes she listed her “Ex” husband as the father of her children on their birth certificates; otherwise, they as their mother may be without support. 

The key to understanding your position in an estate as spousal next of kin is to understand that there must be a legal and binding contract, a.k.a. a marriage certificate, in effect.  If you are an “Ex” spouse, you have been legally removed and displaced as the decedents next of kin.  Not only will you have lost all legal claims to the decedent’s estate; most probably, you will not be mentioned in the obituary, nor asked to sit with the family at the services.  Moreover, if you have forgone the marriage contract altogether, you are not, nor will you ever be, the spousal next of kin. 

My name is Tracy Renee Lee.  I am a funeral director, author and freelance writer.  I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and mid-week grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief.  It is my life's work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on. 

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/ and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my website  www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies”  for additional encouragement and information.

This Friend

I have this friend.  She is a unique sort of woman.  She is the mother of young children and a computer expert.  Actually, I think she might be a computer geek.  My association with her began through a women’s club membership.  It expanded as we attended meetings together, traveled across the great state of Texas for rallies, and generally participated in community improvement activities.  I could always tell, there was something underlying about her, but I did not want to get into it.  My life was busy enough without meddling into hers.  I really just needed her to keep her problems to herself, and she did.  
One Saturday afternoon, she called me.  Her voice was the same as usual, brightly toned, but void of emotion.  She opened our conversation with her usual directness, informing me that her call was in connection to my professional expertise.  I offered my standard reply, “Sure, what can I help you with?”  I thought she was going to ask me about something she had read on the internet concerning some crazy funeral tradition; but she did not.  She shocked me, right there through the phone.  Her next statement hit me from left field and I stood there dumb struck.  In an instant, I knew I had been a horrible friend.  Actually, I had not been a friend at all.  I should have listened to the promptings of my heart and reached out to a young woman in a horrible situation, but I did not want to do it.  Deep down in my soul, I knew she had problems, but I didn’t want to acknowledge them.  I did not want to sacrifice my time, nor my efforts, to reach out to someone who was desperately in need of protection and support.  To this day, I am ashamed of myself.  I put my own concerns, my own time, and the management of my funeral practice, before the needs of someone who truly needed just a little bit of help.  I think the slightest effort on my part would have meant the world to her.
As I waited for her question, she bluntly announced that her husband had just shot himself in the brain, and was dead on their apartment floor.  I nearly dropped the phone.  After a moment of shock, I asked her, “Have you called the Police?”  “They are on their way.” she replied.  “Where are your children?”  “In the next room.” She said nonchalantly.  “Have you called anyone else?”  “Pastor is on his way.”  I could hear the sirens in the background.  I told her to let the police and paramedics enter her home.  She did.  They quickly assessed the situation and whisked her husband off to the hospital.  I told her I would meet her there. 
Her husband was pronounced DOA.  As I entered the emergency room foyer, I could see her walking toward me.  She reached out, and latched onto me, as though she were a small child at a horror flick.  She gripped me so tightly, breathing frantically, burying her face at the nape of my neck.  Everything seemed to slow down to a snail’s pace.  I brushed away the hair that had fallen into her face.  I kissed the crown of her head, and patted her on the back.  I coddled her as I would a child, and told her I would help her through this.  She was terrified, and the person there to give her comfort, was the woman that had never offered to help her before tragedy struck.  She held onto me as though I were her mother.  It broke my heart to see her suffer so severely.  I was horrified at myself, and I knew that I had been a self-absorbed workaholic; too busy and stressed to assist a friend.  How’s that for knowing you’ve messed up in life?  She was shaking, yet to those who did not know her, she seemed calm.  To me, she was a little girl acting all grown up and brave; but I knew she was terrified.  I could see it in her eyes, I could hear it in her voice, and it cut me to the core.  She asked me about funeral services, the least expensive possible, and I took him away.
A few days later, we held his service at my funeral home.  I was surprised at the number and notable   people who attended.  This man, who had been horrid to his wife and bothersome in most social situations, had extreme political influence.  His unique ability to blog and bend public opinion was very evident by those in attendance. 
Thankfully, my friend has found a new life.  She seems much happier.  She is engaged to be married, has started a computer game business, and has moved to a different state.  We keep in touch, mainly through social media.  I am thankful her life has found new direction. 
In my nightly reflections, my prayers are for the both of us.  That her life will be better, that her newly found euphoria will sustain her, and that she will find a better friend to her than I ever was.  For me, I pray that I will never allow myself to become so absorbed in my work that I value my time and efforts more than I do the needs of one of God’s precious children.  Also, that I will be a better friend from this day forward.
Lesson to self:  People are in your life for a purpose.  Follow the promptings of your heart.  No matter how busy you are, take a moment, and offer a helping hand of support.  Goodness knows; you may need it yourself someday.  Wouldn’t it be a pity if the person there to help you, turned out to be just like you?  Hum, food for thought.
I am thankful for my friend.  She taught me so much about where my life was going.  She helped me prioritize life and people, over work and bills.  She redirected me back to a better me. 
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. 
Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/ and Twitter account  @PushnUpDaisies,  visit my website  www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com or read my book “Pushin’ Up Daisies”  for additional encouragement and information.

Love Me Tender

”The beauty of Elvis’ voice has filled our chapel this morning, the sweetness of his words has filled our hearts, but those of us who have witnessed the love story of Milton and Mona Gay, realize this morning, that even the unparalleled talent of this great vocalist has failed to express its sacred grandeur.”  Wow, what an opening statement at a funeral service. 

I met my client nearly four years ago as we buried his brother.  My client is a kind and dear man in his seventies.  Throughout the years, I have seen him around town, and he has never failed to pull a faded and tattered picture from his wallet of his beautiful wife and tell me how much he loves her.  Nearly three months ago, my client and his daughter came to my funeral home to make pre-arrangements for his wife. 

Late last week, while directing a service for a different family, I received the dreaded call.  The nurse on the other end of the line notified me that my client’s wife had died.  I was heartbroken for him for I knew in his heart, his life had ended as Mona Gay drew, and then released her last breath.  Unfortunately, I could not go to the nursing home myself, so I sent my dear husband in my stead to respectfully gather Mona Gay’s remains, and bring them back to the funeral home.  All through the night, I worried about my client.  I knew he was devastated over his loss.  Even when one has anticipated the loss of a loved one who has been ill for quite some time, the actual occurrence of death is always dreadful.

Early the following morning, my client came to the funeral home to finalize the details of his beloved’s services.  As he sat beside me, he reached into his wallet and pulled out the old, faded and tattered picture of his wife, that I had seen on many previous occasions.  True as ever, his bright blue eyes radiated deep love as only true love can do.  This day was different though, his eyes were bluer, brighter and more deeply radiating as tears ran down his cheeks, and he spoke of his lost love.  When it was time to leave, Milton could barely stand.  His legs were weak, and his body seemed frail. 

Milton and his daughter came early for their visitation.  He was hesitant and did not want to see her in her casket.  He was so heartbroken and did not think he could bear the anguish of this new life without her.  He told me that he thought he might die too, and that his sorrow was too painful to survive.  He apologized for crying, not realizing that his tears, his fears and his agonizing sadness were a great honor to his wife.

At the funeral, Milton’s strength failed him.  He fell to his knees as he approached his beloved’s casket for the last moment they would share together.  His tears and acclamations of tender love broke my heart, yet renewed my faith that love endures when all else fails.

The beauty of Elvis’s voice filled my chapel that morning, and the sweetness of his words filled my heart, but the love I had witnessed from Milton for his beloved Mona Gay will never be expressed through the earthly talent of a great vocalist.  Their tender love was one of sacred grandeur.

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. 

Please follow my blog at http://pushin-up-daisies.blogspot.com/, follow me on Twitter @PushnUpDaisies and visit my website for additional encouragement and information at www.QueenCityFuneralHome.com.