When David Monroe first told his high school classmates that he wanted to study to become a Funeral Director, they all asked him how he could do something that creepy.
“I don’t think it’s creepy at all,” he explained. “I see it as showing someone one last sign of respect in what may have been a very difficult life. I see it as a chance to help people who may feel completely lost after losing someone important. I also see it as a way to exercise my event planning skills. You know how good I am at throwing a party.”
That was true, David Monroe had been known throughout Ridgeview High School for his parties. Give him something as random as a box of gelatin, streamers made of red and white feathers, plus a clarinet and he’d find a way to turn it into a Mardi Gras festival for one hundred of his closest friends. Funerals, of course, are much more subdued affairs. Unless the deceased happens to be in to impromptu Mardi Gras celebrations or some other type of eclectic send off; in which case David would really shine.
Forty years has passed since then. He’s lost track of the number of people he has helped to bury and has forgotten most of the services, but a few still stand out in his memory. For instance, there was this one man who owned a collie at the time of his passing. The two had been inseparable, so on the day of the funeral his family insisted that they be allowed to bring the dog to the service so it could say goodbye as well. David gives every family one last chance to see their loved one before closing the lid on the casket, and in this case that included the dog. Well, Rover didn’t just want to see his master one last time, he wanted to be in that casket with him. Up he jumped and anytime someone tried to remove him he would growl and show his teeth. David had no choice but to let the service proceed with the dog draped across the top, and there it stayed until the time came for the casket to be lowered into the ground.
He’s had to break up his share of fighting relatives as well. The scar above his left eyebrow is the result of the worst of them. But he’s met plenty of nice people as well. His favourite are the ones who come in to preplan their funeral. He loves people with a good set of organizational skills, and who know how to think long term. The time to figure out Dad’s favourite hymns and prayers isn’t when you’re in the throes of grief. It’s when everyone is calm and thinking clearly.
That’s why he was more than happy to make an appointment to meet with Kelly Oxford this morning at eleven. She likely just lost someone herself, he figured. That’s often what precipitates a meeting such as this. Three days of chaos is enough to make anyone see the value in taking care of things before it’s absolutely necessary.
“Hello, you must be Kelly,” he said to the tall blonde as she walked through the front door of Monroe Funeral Home. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“You as well,” she said while shaking his hand. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m not looking forward to this, but it must be done, so let’s get to it.”
Practical and in possession of time management skills are two other things he loves. She seemed a bit young to be preplanning her funeral, however. Most people usually don’t come in before their late fifties or early sixties, and this woman appeared to only be in her early forties.
“May I ask what made you decide to take this step?” David asked.
“I have a cavity,” she said with the gravity of someone recently diagnosed with a serious disease.
“A cavity?” David repeated.
“I’ve never had a cavity before, not even when I was little. I’ve never been lectured about flossing, plaque buildup, receding gums, or anything. Every checkup has been just that – a checkup with a quick cleaning. But then last week it happened. My dentist told me that I have my first ever cavity and that I had to come back to have it filled. I knew then that I was officially old. Once one thing breaks down, then everything starts breaking down, and in no time you’re laid out in a casket. I’d like the cheapest package possible please.”
David felt somewhat compelled to tell Kelly that a simple cavity hardly fell into the same category as a terminal diagnosis, but part of his job was to bring comfort and peace of mind to his clients. If prearranging her service helped Kelly grieve the loss of her youth, then so be it. An hour later, everything was set.
“Hopefully I won’t have to put this to use anytime soon,” she said. “However, I did wake up with a stiff neck this morning. Who knows, maybe I have meningitis or something.”
As David watched Kelly drive away, he couldn’t help but to think about the different ways in which death affects people. Then he remembered he was overdue for his own checkup at the dentist and made an appointment straight away.