Published July 18, 2007 by
One Saturday when I was working at my funeral home, an old lady called me up and said she wanted to make her own funeral arrangements. I picked her up at her home and drove her to the funeral home, which isn’t standard procedure, but if a person has no means of transportation, it is something I will gladly do if I have the time and the staff.
For someone who said she was ninety-one, she was a little fire cracker. She was boisterous and energetic, and she seemed like the type that would definitely live to be one hundred.
She told me something quite different, however. She said that she would be dying soon. Then again, she also said all her relatives hated her and wished she was dead. I listened sympathetically, thinking I was most likely overhearing the ramblings of a paranoid old lady.
She paid for her funeral. When I drove her home afterward, I met her son, and he was as nice as could be. Nobody hated that lady, from what I could tell.
She called me up a few days later with a question about her funeral arrangements. I did the best I could to guide her in the right direction to get her problem solved.
And then I said, "Is there anything else I can help you with?"
Her response was so bizarre that I’ll never forget it.
She said, "There's nothing you can do for me now, but I'll be dead in a couple weeks and then you can embalm me."
I wrote her off as a crazy lady. But two weeks later she died.
Her son came in to sign all the papers for her funeral. He said he didn't have a clue what his mother should wear, so I got to go back to her house and pick out her outfit. I've never done that before. I always dress people in outfits their families have chosen, but I never got to pick one myself. Being ninety-one, that lady had a lot of vintage outfits and some really cool clothes, and it was nice being in charge of deciding what she should wear.
This was one of the few times when I felt like the person I was taking care of was a friend, and that I at least had a hint of what she was like when she was alive.
When that lady told me she was going to die, which she did more than once, I always brushed her off with remarks like, "You seem very healthy to me", or "Don't be silly - you're going to make it to one hundred!" It seems like accepting the possibility of death is rude. But I wonder if I should have talked about it with her rather than pushing it aside.
I imagine if you know you're going to die, it's hard to find someone who will talk to you about it. It’s strange that even I am uncomfortable acknowledging death.