The friend of a friend passed away a few days ago.
Young. Mother. Wife. Cancer.
I read her obituary. It made me ponder…
Years ago, I worked as an administrative assistant in a funeral home. My office was upstairs, so I was often quite removed from the goings on of the main office and the daily rituals of running a funeral home.
One day, my bosses had to step out for an hour or so, and as they were in the middle of prepping a room for visitation, they requested my help in finalising the viewing before the family arrived. I was handed a manila envelope stuffed full with photographs, and asked to assemble?”a few” on the two bulletin boards provided, which were arranged?at each end of the casket.
The person?in the casket was 52. Male. Heart attack. I dumped out the contents of the envelope, and was greeted with hundreds of photos of this man – the life he had lived captured within the frames of some camera or another, held by people who had loved him. I spent the better part of an hour sorting, placing, fitting every single photograph into two spaces meant to hold a lot less. It was important to me to fit every last one, I couldn’t bring myself to only display a few, they had to all be included.
When I had only a few photos left to place, a woman came in, a few minutes early, (his ex-wife, whom he’d divorced years before, but had remained dear friends with.) I apologised, feeling intrusive, and told her I was nearly finished and I’d be out of her way in just a minute. She told me to take my time, she just wanted a moment with him before everyone else arrived.
As I positioned?the last three photos, and lifted the boards to set them on their stands, the woman placed her hand on her ex-husband’s arm, and said gently, quietly, “I hate to lose you.”
I left the room, returned to my office, and wept.
Some moments are not ours. They belong to strangers, but now and then we are drawn in… witness to certain intimacies… forever marked by them.
Obituaries are like that, too – a glimpse into intimate moments, like peeking through a window – they’re sacred. An invitation into the lives of people we may or may not know, through a handful of paragraphs.
In the obituary of the young mother, I was moved by one line in particular:
This woman, whenever she was asked about her day, (whether it had been a great day, or a not so great day,) always responded with
“Best day of my life!”