Funeral Home – If Walls Could Talk – Fiction Friday

I’m the last stop.

Not so many people are happy to be here. As clients, anyway. I don’t think the newly dead care much one way or the other.

I agree with one of the other houses who brought up the observation that at the time of death a soul leaves the body in a state of confusion. In life, it is human nature to look away from the dead, even a dead animal.

If a released soul does glimpse his or her body he is going to react with some fright and flight. I just have never seen a soul present during the final preparations. I have seen quite a few pass through in idle curiosity. One in particular had come back to a diamond ring that had somehow become separated from her remains before the final viewing.

One of the family was sent to put the ring on the beloved’s finger but the task proved too much. He dropped the ring and got down on his suited knees to look for it. He was frightened and too embarrassed to ask for help or mention the ring to any of the staff.

The ring showed up when one of the kids was running a vacuum over the carpet. He took the ring right away to his father who sat it at the back of a shelf containing make up.

No one knew how long the ring had been there, they were good at their work though and knew it belonged with one of two or maybe three bodies.

Rather than call them all and cause unnecessary, awkward conversation, the family opted to let the ring sit at the back of the shelf and await a curious phone call.

None came.

The ring is still there, covered in the kind of dust that makes your fingers itch.

The woman attached to it comes and goes.

At first she was old, drawn, slow and trembling. Later appearances she had seemed to be regaining some of her youth. Nowadays, she sort of sweeps through, like a draft, she hovers over the ring, then dissipates. Her most recent apparition has a youthful springy body and she looks like she is having the time of her life.

Down in my basement are the urns and coffins. You know how pharmaceutical representatives come to visit doctors. They leave samples and booklets and sell the doctor on prescribing a particular drug. The coffin sellers do the same.

You would not believe some of the crazy stuff they keep down there.

In the show room there is one that has pull out drawers and a nightlight. One has a buzzer that the dearly departed can sound in the event he has been mistakenly buried alive. I am sure it is a comfort to someone.

One home was caught reusing coffins. Selling the grieving rich people deluxe models and then switching them out in the cremation room after the upstairs viewings. But the family who keeps me going is honest.

The ring up on the shelf says so.

Sometimes bodies are transported further than the town or the county. They come in generic wrapping and are changed out when they get here.

The mom of the family does the make-up. She does her own too but it always comes off like the famous wife of the preacher who had a t v show. She doesn’t really see that well, like she is color deprived. She makes up the easy ones for public viewing and the son comes in after her and mutes the colors.

Many daughters bring in mom’s favorite lipstick and old colored photos to go by. That helps some.

There are cosmetic things that get done to all of the departed that might be viewed. There are eye caps and glues. Eyes seem to sink in, so they have these little cages that go under the lids that are glued shut. It would be positively ghastly to see a beloved one with eyes creeping open as the day wears on. Mouths also tend to drop and need tending.

If a person is sent over by a nursing home they are generally pre cleaned. Obvious accidents are not.

We had a crematory put in during the sixties.

Did I mention the family running me is the second generation and the son who found the ring has two kids who call him dad?

Burning a human body is not a pleasant thing. No, the newly dead, as I already mentioned is not around but something about the process bothers the son who found the ring. He will never show how unnerved he is and he will grind the bones and dispose of the medical implants the way regulations insist. But he isn’t so fond when he draws this task on the rotation board.

There are three viewing rooms on the east side of the house and three new ones built on to the south. It seems crazy that the number of guests has doubles since the family began the home. People may be living longer but you can’t convince me of that. Not with six guests at a time. Heaven forbid a natural disaster or an outright mass murder.

When the rooms fill up the tension rises. The family has to be constantly on. Cheerful, yet somber. And when a family of the newly departed needs to stay with the body all the time, one of the family according to the rotation has to be on hand and in the house.

There is a funeral ceremony area where ushers and various denominations of reverends stand by. If the newly dead had a regular church the body is usually sent of premises for the final words. From the end of the funeral or ceremony public or very private the body has to go somewhere. The non cremated have to be buried at an approved site. The family has a fleet of cars to do this job. Sometimes for a really big event they hire out the service of driving to another company.

In the event of a very budget cremation without a service, viewing or expensive casket the cremains are shipped out to the next of kin.

The family does its very best to handle all of the newly departed in a very respectful manner.

Upstairs, where the family lives, an afterhours day to day life, there is turkey on Thanksgiving and a Christmas tree every year. The son and his wife live in town in a little ranch house where the boys call him Dad. He is home most nights but always on call. He leaves to receive middle of the night guests on rare occasions. The accident victims are generally run through the hospital and kept till normal business hours and the people in the old folks homes are kept as well till the day shift comes on. It is a rare but not unheard of even to open in the middle of the night.

The woman is back to look at her ring. She just swept past me looking beautiful and calm.
Funeral Home

By Sally

Sally Franklin Christie Blogger and Author of If I Should Die and Milk Carton People.

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