Many people assume that working as a funeral director and celebrant must be depressing and morbid, asking how I cope with the level of upset, sadness and grief which is part of everyday life? How I cope each day with the graphic reminder of life’s fragility, how easily the body is broken, how disease ravages? And especially when the death is “out of time”, perhaps around my own age of 58 or less?
Of course there are times when the sense of sadness can feel quite overwhelming. I find that loud, emotional music and a good cry can be beneficial and often exactly the right piece of music for the person who has died finds its way to me.
But there is nothing more inspiring than the human spirit in adversity – the ways people cope are quite miraculous – and if they are not coping, the chance to accompany them through this awful few weeks is a privilege.
American poet Mary Oliver wrote “There are three things you must be able to do in this life. To love what is mortal. To hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it. And when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”
To play some small part in this painful and tender process is life affirming. When death is understood as a consequence of life, then can we truly live with the exquisite pain of grief and ask ourselves “What shall I do with my one wild and precious life?”