Funeral Industry: The Sun Dries, Without Prejudice, The Garments of The Rich and Poor
Each time a family enters a funeral home they are looking for help. Every individual walking through the ?Valley of the Shadow of Death? should be welcomed equally. Unlike the medical profession with its famous Hippocratic Oath, the funeral profession relies upon a series of unwritten standards that have survived the ages. The understanding is that ? as a result of our apprenticeships ? we are all automatically aware of our obligations to humanity. I hope this is true because ours is a heavy mandate.
As civilized human beings we all know, deep in our hearts, that the distinction between rich and poor is simply wrong. Why then are we inclined to treat a first call from a Social Service Agency differently than the call from the upscale nursing home down the street? It is human nature to want to put our best foot forward but why do we neglect polishing our shoes for some services? The journey is the same for Prince or Pauper and we need to constantly remind ourselves of that fact. We must remember that most poor people work hard at their one, two, or three jobs ? but even if they are on the welfare roll, they are still grieving people who mourn just as their rich counterparts do.
In the same way that Mother Earth provides for all life she spawns, we must remember to provide for all who come to us in their time of need. Bibliographically we are reminded that the poor actually are the rich and will be the inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven ? that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God ? So why the distinction in the world we live in?
I am not naive. The answer is obvious ? the bottom line ? ?Cash in Bank? ? drives the world, and by necessity of survival we are conditioned to worship at the same altar. That does not mean that we should continue with our discrimination. It only means that we should be sure that our best service is afforded to everyone, equally. We may have to discount a few flowers or memorial cards but until we learn how to share the world, we will always be fighting over it.
I close with a personal story. Many years ago I was called upon to provide service for a sad hermit living on the periphery of a small northern community. He was discovered dead because of the odour. He had no friends or family to look in on him. As I lay what remained of his body in the plain flat-top grey casket that welfare paid for, I was tempted to cart him off to the cemetery without ceremony and bury him quickly in the pauper?s grave provided by the local community. Who would know? Who would care?
After dismissing that option, I called a minister and arranged a full service in the chapel. A local organization agreed to honour this little man with a contingent of veterans. I conducted a full service knowing that NO ONE would attended and was so moved by the experience that I snapped a Polaroid. How surprised I was to be contacted by a high ranking official from a well known European country almost a year later. It seems our little hermit was in actuality a Baron. Heartbroken, he had left his homeland in the 1930?s and his family had been searching for him ever since. What a thrill it was for me to send them the picture I had snapped in my chapel. The closure it gave resulted in the donation of a Civic Centre for the small community.
I will never forget the experience, nor should you. Serve every family you deal with equally. Pretend that funeral professionals have a universal equivalent of the famous Hippocratic Oath. The sun dries, without prejudice, the garments of the rich and poor.
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