Afterwards, I stood on the funeral home porch with one of the home's employees, Chris. We chatted about this and that, mostly the fact that in his business, which he enjoyed after 18 or so years, he often had a hard time discussing his 'work' in social settings.
Stock-brokering, teaching, nursing, long-haul trucking, parenting, and fixing alternators might enter the conversation as easily as a rivulet flows off a mountain in into the greater stream. But a funeral home employee???!!! Socially, that was too edgy, too scary, too icky, too eeeeeuuuuuw, too in-your face.
I said to him that I imagined he might enjoy holding the hands of those who, after all, were likely to beat a path to his door -- easing, consoling, comforting and not making such a big deal out of it. No one may want to talk to the likes of Chris, but death passes in and out of focus in everyone's life like a cat in the mist. Hints, whispers, secrets ... and tell me about the hard time you had changing the brake pads or the obstreperous third-grader or the latest philosophical conundrum that has come calling.
It was all easy conversation on the funeral home porch. One of the other employees commented softly that "people hate having to come to a place like this and yet they like it when they do." It struck me as a good comment -- facing facts when the facts really weren't all that bad.
And it also struck me how much like spiritual endeavor the environment was...people tip-toeing around facts that were as plain as the nose on your face and yet, when they stopped tip-toeing and simply met the facts that could not be gussied up ... hell, it wasn't that bad and, in fact, it was a relief.
No more nonsense -- you're enlightened, that's all. Manipulators might try to scare people into religious or philosophical agreements, but what the hell -- there are snake-oil salesmen in any line of work.
Funny how so many -- and I am certainly not exempt -- may make a great noise unto the lord about being concerned with birth and death and god and enlightenment and whatever all else ... and all the time they are keeping at bay what they may take with great seriousness. Oh well, out of the lies (sometimes artfully passing as the truth) comes the truth ... maybe. Either the truth comes out or there is another spire on Main Street.
PS. The memorial service went fine ... or anyway no one kicked me in the ass for saying something egregiously stupid. Before the talk, one of the funeral-home people handed me a translation of The Heart Sutra and suggested I might read it during my talk since the deceased, Fran, had loved it a lot. The Heart Sutra is wonderful stuff, but it is a bit long and, perhaps, a bit confusing without much purpose. Anyway, I declined to read it, but left it on the make-shift altar and called attention to it as something people might like to read for themselves.
Anyway, things went OK.