I often hear people say, “you must get used to working with sad people all the time” or “you must have to shut off your sensitivity to do what you do”. These are the furthest from truth. My work in funeral service never gets easy. I never get used to or numb to what is going on around me or with the families I serve. Being an empath does not help. I am not able to ‘shut it off’ or ‘think about something else’. I feel everything. I connect with every hurting family I work with; sometimes the pain is great for me.
I received a call a few months back from a gentleman who attended a funeral I had officiated. He told me he had been at that funeral and liked what I did for that family. I learned his name was Max and that he had a lung condition and was waiting for a double lung transplant. He wanted to meet with me to plan his funeral should a donor not be found in time. I met with Max and his family at a restaurant one day and before his family arrived, he mentioned to me that his family was not necessarily in favour of the meeting as they were hopeful this wouldn’t be needed; however, they knew it was important to Max. We went through the steps in planning his funeral; there were laughs, there were tears, there was great discussion about what should or should not happen that day, where it should be, what music should be played. All with the understanding this was tentative and may not have to be used. All things that I typically lead a family through after their loved one has passed. This was different. Their loved one was sitting with us and helping us plan his day. At the conclusion of our meeting, I could tell Max was relieved he had saved his family some anticipated pain and struggle by putting all of this on the table (and on paper) and making some of those difficult decisions. His family would never have to wonder “what Dad may have wanted” for his funeral. I felt relief from his family as well considering this was probably one of the most difficult ‘family meetings’ they had ever endured.
I followed his Facebook page and his journey and felt a strong connection to him and his family. He was eventually admitted to hospital because life was becoming too challenging for him. Hope was still high for his transplant and everyone who knew and loved him was rooting for him big time – myself included.
Sadly, a donor was not to be, and he died peacefully a few weeks later. When I heard the news, it hit me in a way that would be like losing a friend. I felt like my friend died. I had desperately wanted Max to get up from that hospital and walk out of there breathing deeply. I had desperately wanted for his ‘funeral plan’ to be shelved for another ten or so years. I wanted so badly for his family to have their Husband, Dad and Grandpa sitting with them this Christmas enjoying the occasion like the rest of the world would be.
As I prepare for his funeral today, I feel much emotion; sadness, frustration for his situation and much love and compassion for his beautiful family whom I shall be joining soon to celebrate the life of their special guy. As Max was known to say, “Let It Happen, Captain”…and that is what we are about to do today.