The wake for Susan's husband was scheduled for the standard two viewings with food to be served at her house in between. She opted to keep the casket closed because she didn't want anyone to see how dead he looked, herself included. Even still, she was looking forward to it. She wanted to see everyone, she wanted to let the emotion out.

After two days of cold rain it was now bright and sunny, mercifully this lifted her mood. She was still trying to get to the Department of Labor for the mandatory meeting that she missed on Monday. If she took care of it that morning then afterward she'd be in range to pick up her youngest niece from the local airport.

She got to the Department of Labor and was told that no one would be able to see her for another forty five minutes. Without hesitation she pulled out the dead husband card and instantly all faces looked at Susan in pained concern. She was asked very softly to take a seat in the adjoining room.

The adjoining room was filled with people. She walked in, felt overwhelmed and left. Before she got thru the door a voice called her name and she turned to see someone she knew. Susan sat in the seat next to him and when he asked how she was Susan blurted out 'I'm burying my husband today.' 
'What?' he said with an dis-believing laugh.
'I know.' she said as a way to comment on the absurdity of her statement.
A civil servant came to fetch Susan before she could say anything other than goodbye to her seat mate. The civil servant was very nice and said that they would not keep her there any longer, they only wanted her to be aware of the resources available at the employment center. Susan thanked her with appreciation and sincerity then left for the airport.

It was good to be helpful. Everyone had been helping Susan do everything for weeks. Her little sister was out in front, followed by her parents who had been keeping the household running without any instruction, and the husband's daughters, Susan's next door neighbors, Cousins Lisa & Greg, and every friend & relative who was aware of the situation.

Everyone helped Susan.

It was wonderful to see her niece, neither had sad faces despite the misery of the situation, just happy greetings and excited chatter. Susan dropped her off then headed home to get ready.

She chose a pretty kelly green dress recently purchased with the husband at a local consignment shop. It was a bit revealing so she topped it with a blue sweater which tied at the waist. Last, she added his wedding ring suspended from a gold chain around her neck.

The flask filled with tequila was already being safeguarded by the husband's second daughter.
Susan was ready.

She walked into the funeral home, saw her husband's casket and said to herself I can do this.  Set up next to the casket was a large smiling picture of the husband taken by her little sister. It was a nice picture.

She looked around the room, taking it all in, getting her brain ready.

She walked up to the casket to assess the arrangement. Susan was really pleased, it was exactly what she hoped it would be. Included was a surprise of dried lotus pods incorporated into the winter greenery.

Sidebar: Susan understands how insane it is to be happy with things like caskets and funeral flowers but she couldn't help it, that's how she felt.

It was time for the private viewing of which Susan wanted no part. She hot-footed it downstairs to play with the twins until the coast was clear, then returned and began to greet incoming friends and family.

The husband's music was playing and Susan was surprised to find herself animated and chatty. She figured it was just an initial burst of energy which would give way to wailing and sobbing but that didn't happen. She was happy to see everyone who showed up, getting the chance to spend a few minutes in conversation with most of them. When the viewing hours were over she still stayed behind talking.

Meanwhile, Susan's house had been transformed into a busy mess hall. Trays of hot food were sent over from two local restaurants and people sitting in borrowed chairs were all over every square inch of space eating and talking.

Two hours later the evening viewing filled up fast and hard. People from every area of her husband's life flooded in, people she hadn't seen in twenty years and others she didn't know at all. Throughout the evening someone would approach Susan and say 'You don't know me...' and give their name to which she would counter with a story or two the husband had told her about them.

Susan couldn't move against the sea of people coming at her, she embraced everyone including a seemingly endless line of high school wrestlers. Often while hugging one person she'd be reaching over to greet the person in line behind them. This went on till it was time for her to address the packed house from the podium set up at the front of the room.

She began by telling a small story about how the husband told her he loved her the moment he saw her. She originally thought this was probably a pretty standard line, but over the years whenever he repeated it she was always surprised at his consistency and would think maybe he did actually fall in love with me the moment he saw me.

Susan invited anyone not afraid of public speaking to come up and share a story. Cousin Lisa was first followed by her husband, Susan's youngest niece, three longtime friends and ending with the sixteen year old daughter of a family friend. When Susan couldn't coax another brave soul from the crowd she concluded by saying that it was her pleasure & privilege to have been the husband's partner for more than 25 years.

She stayed and talked beyond the viewing hours. She also got through the day without having to hit the flask.

After everyone but immediate family were gone she walked around with Jade, the aspiring funeral director to collect the guest book and all the cards from the flowers. Jade was really lovely and Susan asked about her interest in mortuary science, her schooling and how late can people stay before they get kicked out.

Afterward Susan stood alone at her husband's casket. This was it, in a few moments they would part. She reached out and pressed her hand against the wood leaving an imprint of her fingers and palm to accompany him.

She left and took the big green shamrock with her.


At 4:40 am Susan lost her husband and her children lost their father.

The girls all stayed in the room with him for a long while crying, talking and even laughing because Susan's little sister can't not be funny.

Susan didn't touch her husband, and once she left the room she didn't return while he was in there.

That was that.

Brian the Funeral Director arrived and met with Susan in the communal kitchen. He had her sign some paperwork, then made an appointment for her to come to the funeral home at 10am.

The girls gathered up their belongings, said goodbye to the staff and left.

It was a cold, rainy morning as Susan drove home to tell her son that his father was gone.

She stripped her bed bare, set aside her quilt for the dry cleaner and threw out the sheets so there was no possibility of preserving his dead skin cells in some morbid memorial. She went through her refrigerator and got rid of everything she had been using to make his smoothies as well as all the leftover food that people had sent to feed the family. More food was coming already and she needed the space. Susan spent time talking with her parents until it was time to leave.

The second of the husband's daughters and Susan's little sister met her at the funeral home. Susan and this particular funeral home have a long history, her friend who talks to dead people used to work there, and Susan has a video of them from 25 years ago goofing around in each room.

Brian the Funeral Director and Brian the other Funeral Director met with Susan & her entourage. Yes, two Brians. They were easy to talk to and the little group discussed things other than Susan's dead husband. When it came time to move to the casket room Susan got a little claustrophobic, but she re-focused and kept going.

Susan didn't like any of the caskets, she thought them too shiny and very ornate. She was getting panicky at the thought of spending five thousand dollars on something she hated.  A wave of relief settled over her when she saw the Meridian modelShe took notice of every detail; the deep cherry color, non shiny satin finish, the simple profile. It looked to her like a piece of furniture.  It would be worthy to hold her husband.

Back upstairs, there were a few more particulars to be hammered out, such as the flowers and if Susan wanted any religious personnel to speak. The Brians made the process easy for Susan to get through without crying very much.

Susan had to choose something to sit atop the closed casket. Two large binders filled with floral arrangements were brought to the table & she was disheartened to find an abundance of roses and other flowers which were absolutely not what she wanted. She did see a big five hundred dollar shamrock made of green carnations that made her laugh, so she chose that one with a banner of AWESOME DAD.

When Susan's entourage asked about something with winter greenery for the casket, Brian #1 suggested that they could go to the florist and create an arrangement they liked.

That's what they would do then.

As for having a religiously affiliated speaker, even though Susan's husband was a former altar boy Susan did not want anyone who didn't know him speaking at his service. It was suggested that a podium could be set up for those who wanted to share a story.

That's exactly what Susan wanted. There would be an open microphone.

The remembrance cards were next. The girls chose a lighthouse photo and a sunset photo. Susan didn't want any prayers, even the Irish ones, she wanted each card to have a selection of things the husband commonly said, such as 'Analyze, Adapt, Overcome' and 'Obama is a Communist'.

Lastly, Susan's husband was a fan of the expeditious disposition, so Susan arranged for him to be cremated. She chose a biodegradable container as his temporary repository, and by biodegradable she means cardboard. At a date and location to be determined later, Susan will surround herself with those who loved him and cast her wonderful husband to the wind.

Ten thousand dollars later, Susan and her funereal entourage thanked the Brians and left for the florist.

The day had gotten colder and rainy-er. The florist expressed his condolences and set to work gathering sprigs and cuttings based on the girls' stipulation that it be wintery, but not Christmasy. Susan didn't choose anything herself, she mostly said yes or no to everyone's floral suggestions and when they were done the florist handed them each a white rose. Susan didn't want hers so she gave it to her daughter when she got home.

Later that evening Susan had a full house with her little sister, both grown daughters, a set of twins and their father. The girls were all putting together collages of pictures for the wake, the father of the twins was creating a playlist of  the husband's favorite music and Susan occupied herself by cleaning out the husband's dresser drawers in the room that was now soley hers.

Any time she went in to the dining room and saw the photos she started to cry, so she kept her distance.

That night she slept in the living room on the couch. Her daughter stayed with her and slept on the opposite couch.


Susan had two things to do in the morning before she went to visit the husband; take her son to the doctor and attend a mandatory meeting at the Department of Labor. She showered, ate breakfast, chatted with her parents in a kind of mentally absent way and left the house with her kid.

The mother of the twins texted Susan 'All is well. Dad slept all night, sleeping now, just had morphine and ativan. Woke up a little to say bye to Bill and Kirsten'
Wild Bill & Harriet were headed home to North Carolina, Susan's niece was catching a ride with them.

The verdict from the doctor was strep throat. The son was to be quarantined at home for 24 hours then may wear a mask the following day to visit his father. Susan picked up his antibiotics then dropped him at home before blowing off the DOL and heading over to see the husband.

The husband was sleeping when she got there. Susan asked the nurse if the amount of morphine could be reduced so that he didn't sleep the day away. The nurse explained that his dosage was already minimal & some people have a lower tolerance for morphine. She said that his body was starting to exhibit some of the normal physical signs that it was winding down and preparing to stop. She didn't know when it would happen, but it was close. She also mentioned that in her experience parents try not to die in front of their children, it would be OK to take breaks and leave him alone in the room.

Friends and family continued to come and go all day.

Cousin Lisa arrived to spend her birthday by her favorite cousin's side. Susan was afraid that the husband would muscle in on her turf and die on cousin Lisa's birthday. She expressed this fear as best she could through choked emotion. When cousin Lisa smiled and said that she loved Susan's husband & would be proud to share her day with him Susan could not contain her tears.

The mother of the twins told Susan about an exchange she had with her father the previous day. 'There's a guy over there by the door, we better hope he doesn't come in here' he told her. She didn't see anyone near the door or even passing by in the hallway and didn't think much of it until she read in the hospice pamphlet that those close to death often report seeing people no one else sees.

Susan began to line up air mattresses so that the family could stay with the husband through the night. Her next door neighbor had one, and her friend Connie would return later on with another. She phoned her son to let him know that the time was near. He asked if he could come in to say goodbye. Of course he could, the father of the twins would pick him up shortly.

Susan, the husband's three daughters and Susan's little sister all camped out in his room. Susan was unable to sleep & sat next to her husband with her arm draped across his chest feeling the rhythm of his breathing.

At midnight she texted with her free hand December 1st will still belong to you, Cousin Lisa.