I know that my title is not an attention grabber and that’s ok. I want to personally recognize this group of people that have made my life easier. This particular group, until you need them and chances are you will need them one day, are there for people at their saddest and most vulnerable moment. The first encounter I had with a funeral director was when I was 19. My oldest brother died in an accident and the family was gathered at the funeral home trying to make arrangements. My parents couldn’t put aside their hurt and anger long enough to bury my brother so they turned and said “ask Missy what she wants”. I was stunned, I wasn’t a parent. I wasn’t even an adult , really. This poor funeral director pulled me aside and walked me through the decisions with such kindness and understanding I couldn’t have made it through that day , or the funeral to come. I don’t remember his face at all just his ability to understand my humiliation, my pain, and my lack of knowledge. He saved that day from being one that could have left me hardened and pissed off.
I have had too many encounters with other funeral homes and the employees that have helped me and I have had people with the same kindness and concern at each one. We may not like talking about what a service these individuals provide , or maybe we tell ourselves that we wouldn’t want to have one as a friend, but I tell you it would make your life better if you did. In recognition of those who provide this service, I say THANK YOU!
I know it may seem odd since my business is cemetery decorations but I like the idea of green burial. It’s more than just the ashes to ashes, dust to dust, in a word-simple. I think it’s important to have one final decision in life and that is how your death or life will be celebrated. Now this is not a simple choice if you have a child that has proceeded you in death, a husband, a sibling, a partner. I had to make choices for my family members without knowing exactly what they wanted. I tried to make decisions that were appropriate, respectful, and loving but those were choices I made for them, and it was a long time before I forgave myself for something I had no control over. My parents, and siblings have been gone for over 25 years and the pain doesn’t flood me as it once did. The deaths just came suddenly but not surprisingly. I lost my mother, younger brother, and father all within 9 months. I had already buried my stepfather and my oldest brother, and my middle brother would follow in just a few years. I was afraid, afraid to talk to them about death even though most of them were inevitable, but it was so much simpler to just put it away in the back of my mind. What I wasn’t prepared for is I would be the only decision maker, the only one left to make those choices.
I started making my crosses over 20 years ago. I lost most of my childhood family and I needed to process my grief. These crosses came to me one night while I was lying in bed. It wasn’t until ten years later that my daughters would convince me that others would also like my crosses. And the rest as they say is history, no it’s my life.
My youngest brother was born on Thanksgiving Day in 1962. My mother would make him a pumpkin pie every year for his birthday. She said it was his favorite but I think it was her way of paying him back for the Thanksgiving she missed in 1962. My brother would celebrate his first birthday with pumpkin pie of course but it was not a happy celebration as that was the day that President Kennedy was shot and died of his injuries.
My brother would die on New Years Eve of 1999, yet another holiday that would not be celebrated for years following his death. I always like to make something special for his grave celebrating his life, his birthday. His favorite color was orange and so it is very easy to decorate his grave for Fall. This year I decided to break from this tradition and decorate his grave with a bright green and yellow wreath I made. The wreath is thick enough and just heavy enough to be held by his vase alone. Very cheerful, he was a very cheerful kid.
The weather has been warmer and my walks have been longer. I live in a neighborhood that has parks, sidewalks, and friendly neighbors. I ran into a neighbor that I heard had lost his wife in 2020 , but I had not had the chance to tell him personally how sorry I was. His booming voice called me over and I told him how sorry I was to hear of his wife’s passing. He and his wife would walk in good weather even after hip and knee replacements. His voice started to break as he talked about her. My heart broke as I listened. He explained that the “virus took her”. I finished my walk and began to think about everything he had said. This couple was not young but they took good care of each other. They got their flu shots, pneumonia shots, and went to the doctor annually. I thought even beyond his loss and about the total loss of life to COVID. To date 500,000.00 people have died of COVID in the United States. If you consider for one moment that each life lost affects 10 other people spiritually, emotionally, and financially then that total comes to 5 Million. Five million + souls walking around in 2020 trying to understand what happened. Be kind people, it was a very hard year.
If you have lost of loved one whether it be years ago or as recent as this past year then you know how difficult the holidays are. You might even have some well meaning person to remind you of how hard holidays are without a loved one , as if you didn’t understand.
I lost many loved ones on special or holidays, New Years Eve-brother, Christmastime- brother, stepfather- my wedding anniversary, 4th of July- mother, my birthday- brother. Although this is an unusual amount of loved ones to lose by the age of 40 , it is also an odd number of celebrations to loose loved ones on. I decided i needed to embrace these holidays which is how my business FloralMemorials came about. My husband was a contractor and often had wooden stakes and the idea came to me to paint and decorate them so I could have something to decorate the graves for any holiday or celebration. This need to celebrate has been an amazing experience for me and one that I am most grateful for.
Those deaths have been 20-30 years ago and I have found that those days in between holidays have brought me the most comfort, understanding, clarity, and peace. Every single day a thought drifts through my mind or I drive by a part of town that sparks my memory but always with a smile and no longer with a tear or lump in my throat. Those days in between are just as important if not more than the few holidays we share. Own those days they can’t be given back to you and they are amazing.
Last week my pup was up in the middle of the night and I could hear him coughing and choking. I went into the next room and and he was breathing rapidly and hard. He laid on the floor on his side. I laid next to him on the floor and the more I listened the more upset I became.
Now this is the first animal I have ever had in my life. We had a few cats wondering around as the kids grew but they were feral cats and belonged to themselves. After the kids were gone I thought about getting a small dog, I thought about it more and more and looked occasionally at the local adoption agencies around my city. I even went so far as to fill out an adoption form that was 12 pages long for a pug but didn’t get the adoption because of a question about how much I was willing to spend to save the dog if need be. Apparently my limited knowledge of vet costs was not acceptable.
I had about decided it wasn’t meant to be when my oldest daughter face timed me to tell me she had found my dog. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him. My daughter lives in another state so I filled out the paperwork and went to pick up my new love 2 weeks later. The rest is our history, the snuggles, learning each other’s likes and dislikes, walks, friends of both species, and love, lots and lots of love.
So as I lay on the floor watching my friend of three years struggling to breath. I thought he wasn’t going to make it until morning and I was overwhelmed with heartbreak and grief. I took him to the vet the next day and he was fine after some medicine and TLC.
I never understood before when people would talk about the loss of a pet, after all they aren’t people. How naive I had been all those years about the love between a pet and it’s person.
Often customers will reach out to me and ask if anyone uses my memorial crosses as roadside memorials. I explain that unless a customer shares with me I don’t know what they intend to do with the crosses they purchase. Some of my customers have used my crosses for roadside memorials.
Roadside memorials have become quite controversial in the last few years and some cities have gone so far as pass laws forbidding the placement of roadside memorials. City and county governments have complained about the cost of disposing forgotten roadside memorials.
Societies and there rituals change with time and dealing with death is no different. Memorials whether they be a decal on a vehicle, a brick with a name, a tree planted in memory of a loved one, and yes, a roadside cross that marks the place where a loved one died. These are all are new rituals in society for dealing with grief and loss.
Cremation has become more affordable and less looked down upon than 50 years ago. I often wonder if these new ritual memorials have come about due to the loss of being able to place flowers at a cemetery as a memorial. The human need to remember and hope that others remember the loss of life.
My family members, as it happened, passed on or near holidays, Christmas time, Fourth of July, my wedding anniversary, New Years Eve, my birthday. It’s not like they planned their deaths to occur on days that would be a constant reminder of their deaths that’s just the way my road in life lead.
I had children that I was raising so I kept my thoughts about this “holiday passing” to myself and refused to let the holidays be anything but happy for my family. It was hard, but not painful to the point I couldn’t function, that would come later.
It’s funny how we can fill our lives and our minds to distract us from our troubles. I told myself that I was a strong person and that I carried on for my kids and their happiness, after all you can’t walk this earth wounded very minute of every day, right?
This is what I learned the hard way…..
Distractions are just that, they keep you busy but you don’t heal. I woke up one morning and my kids were grown and thriving in the world and I looked around for someone I knew and that’s when the grief and pain of losing everyone came down on me like a wave of nausea. It was Christmas time and I fumbled through crying to myself everyday and not understanding why. Grieving, although it might make others uncomfortable, is necessary part of our human function. When we grieve we are aware of our loss and the changes it will make in our lives. When we choose to be the strong soldier our grief will find its way out of our bodies sometime in some form whether we want it to or not.
If you are grieving then carry on and don’t worry so much about others feeling uncomfortable around you, you can always apologize later if you want. Distractions are just that – distractions – not because you are super human or emotionally untouchable it just means you are choosing not to deal with something at that particular moment.
Grief will come, it’s just part of who we are as humans.