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Meet Gloria

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

I arrived at the nursing home; completed the appropriate documents at the nurse’s station. “Have a seat in the foyer and I’ll let the family know you are here.” “Thanks.”

I took a seat facing the huge Christmas tree, beautifully decorated and perfectly center in the window. I was reminded that it was indeed 2:00am on Christmas morning. On this night, I was a funeral director, contemplating death during Christmas. I realized that as I stood in church, just hours earlier, singing Silent Night by candlelight, the family I was about to meet for the very first time, was standing around the bed of their dying mother. Christmas Eve silently gave way to Christmas morning in vastly different manners.

I stood to remove my long black wool coat and smooth my skirt and sweater; about the same time, I saw a man and woman come out of a room and walk toward me.

Ron and Carol (not their real names) were a bit nervous. It was understandable, they didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. Through our conversation, however, a trust began to form. We slowly returned to their mother’s room.

The room was dimly lit and a small lighted Christmas tree graced the table in front of the window; another poignant reminder that death ignores holidays. I immediately noticed the doll. Carol explained that the doll was given to Gloria to help ease her agitation. It was her constant companion. I was careful that the doll remained in her hands as I slid Gloria to my cot and tucked the blanket around her tiny body. I began to remove the doll, “she goes with her”, Carol whispered. A hush filled the air as we all anticipated what was to come next. “I will take good care of your mother,” I assured them. “We know you will, we can tell”, Ron replied. “Thanks for coming. We’re sorry we’ve messed up your Christmas. I have to ask though; do you always dress so nicely in the middle of the night? You even wore a necklace.”

As I drove Gloria and I back to the funeral home, I pondered the conversation I had with Ron and Carol. I reflected on the love they showed their mother, the soft glow of the Christmas trees and the question he needed to ask.

Why did I dress up in the middle of the night to perform the duties of my job as a funeral director? The answer was quite clear to me.

Death deserved my respect. Love deserved to be honored. Grief was to be revered. Death brought Ron, Carol, Gloria and myself together that night. Strangers bonding over the death of a loved one. I was invited into their lives, not by choice but by necessity. We were in the moments between the finality of death and “what happens next”. With my calm I eased their apprehension. With their reluctance they realized the finality of death and in the quiet moments that followed we paused. For, it was in the silence of death that we reflected upon all that was and is life. Grief entered their lives, as the small Christmas tree reflected in the window. Their love, their grief and their experience deserved my best and this is why I dressed up in the middle of the night.

I was gifted the doll after the funeral was complete. This hand crocheted doll reminded me of the call in the wee hours of Christmas morning, I was asked to come and I respectfully dressed for the occasion. This doll reminded me of compassion and the need for tenderness to ease agitation. Gloria became my companion day in and day out as I lived the daily life of a funeral director. She now sits in my home. When I look at her, I am reminded of that Christmas morning when death, grief, family bonds and trust deserved the wearing of a necklace. “The work of grief is hallowed ground, it is deserving or our pause, our recognition, our hands pressed together at our hearts.” ~ Dr. Joanne Cacciatore

Her name is Gloria.


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