"Jesus consoles the holy women."
I had a few moments alone in a church after a memorial funeral Mass had ended.
Everyone had dispersed since we weren't going to the cemetery.
I didn't realize which Station of the Cross
was in the background until I looked at the photo more closely that day.
When I started working in the funeral home this year, I set aside my 10 year practice as a therapist and life coach to step into a completely new career.
I learn something new every single day in a profession that often demands near-perfection.
I love what I do, and I beam with pride and joy whenever I am asked about my work.
More than once in these past four months, though, I've asked myself this:
"What am I doing here?"
I know the big picture of why I am working in funeral service, but of course I've had some moments of settling into this enormous transition, and feeling unsettled.
These aren’t feelings of overall doubt; they‘re almost always situational.
They will roll in like waves when I'm feeling a little lost, overwhelmed, or just plain tired.
There was one day about three weeks into my apprenticeship when I felt a particularly heavy sense of doubt and displacement.
We were very busy in August, with more funerals than the 31 days on the calendar.
On top of that, almost half of our directing staff got sick at the same time, so we were down to a skeleton (sorry -- had to do it ... ) crew for almost two weeks.
I was just too tired to know how tired I was.
That morning, I was with my husband on a funeral service at a Catholic church.
As usual, I was taking in all of the different things we were doing: the timing, the rituals, and knowing the cues of when the director makes certain moves (some of which are visual or verbal, and some are purely intuitive).
Obsessively on my mind that day ...
"Wait ... does the head or the foot of the casket face the altar?"
A: The foot of the casket faces the altar during a Catholic funeral; so, everyone in the congregation, including the decedent, faces forward during Mass (so to speak).
"And what did he say again about which way we will turn when we're processing out of church?"
A: We rotate the casket before we start moving up the aisle so that it is feet-first as we exit church.
On top of that, I was supposed to do those mentally rehearsed things with my husband that morning; but, as I was making my way towards him to enter church, our well-meaning hearse driver arrived on the scene when I was just steps away.
It wasn't a big deal, as that's what our drivers are used to doing. I was also a new face to them as far as assisting at funeral services, but I still felt passive and kind of in the way.
All of those non-stop work days and all of the change caught up with me, and I sank into the thought of:
"What am I doing here?"
Once we got inside, I sat in what I call "a funeral director's pew" (the last one or two rows in the back), and Mass began for the woman we were burying, and whose family we'd served before.
My husband and I love this family, and they had planned a beautiful celebration for a well-lived life.
This woman -- a mother, wife, sister, aunt, and friend -- was a warm and glowing presence that lit up every space and life she touched.
The readings that are chosen from the Bible for funerals are fairly predictable, but that day was different, and I sat at attention when there came a reading I hadn’t heard before from The Book of Wisdom.
I'm more of a spiritual than religious person, and Catholics aren't known to be as familiar with the Bible as other faiths, but I know about The Book of Wisdom.
I know it because The Book of Wisdom uses personification, and in this book of the Old Testament, wisdom is personified as a woman.
The family chose these words because the woman they loved embodied them; it was a beautiful tribute.
I heard those words for her, and I also heard them for myself that day.
Those verses were the answer to the present and a calling to my future.
"And being but one, she can do all things: and remaining in herself the same, she renews all things.."
I am here because I am myself, and I understand I am also a part of something bigger than myself.
I found a copy of the reading and I keep it bookmarked on my phone.
Whenever doubt or overwhelm creeps in, I read the whole thing.