Archive for March 21st, 2012

Vincent's Starry Night

Vincent's Starry Night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 “Four and fifty years I’ve hung the sky with starts

Now I leap through — What shattering!” 

Dogen, Japanese Zen Master

in Graceful Exits, Sushila Blackman

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English: Photo of Overton Funeral Home, Inc - ...

Image via Wikipedia

In this article by Liz Arch, she describes growing up in a family with a long history in the funeral home business and her life lessons about dying that she learned from that and from becoming a yoga instructor.

I can appreciate her story.  We grew up in a three family house and our landlady and landlord lived upstairs.  They were “grandma and grandpa” to us, even though we weren’t related.  One of the kids lived over a funeral home about 30 minutes from us and we spent time visiting them.

After grandma died and we needed to find a new home, we actually lived in a two-story apartment over another “branch” of the funeral home.

My grandfather had done some part time work as a valet for a funeral home.  I remember dark rainy nights and grandpa parking cars.

I actually just told a story to a friend from work about driving to LaGuardia Airport in NY, as a kid, with my dad… to pick up a body that had been flown in from out of state because the funeral directors were busy.  I had to be in 6-7 grade and there was no mystery, no scary monsters to it… just dad and I driving in a hearse, going down I90 to the airport.

There is a comfort in having been around dying at times when it was “no big deal”.  It really normalized it as part of life, not something to fear or run from . . . though I will always hate gladiolias because to me, they will always smell of formedahyde.

But the point is, I learned to ride a bike in the parking lot of a funeral home.  I volunteered at the Jewish Home for the Elderly when I was in 8th & 9th grade.  I went to funerals.  No one ever asked, “what do we do with the kids… what do we tell the kids…”

I feel blessed to have had this history.  Although losing the people I have loved as been incredibly painful I don’t fear having “those” conversations.  I feel like I can be present when someone else is struggling with them.  That is a true honor, to be present and to bear witness to their journey without fear.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Liz.  I can relate to it in so many ways.


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