When people find out what I do for a living (Funeral Director/Embalmer and Deputy Coroner) they usually respond with some variation of the following: “I don’t know how you do it”. “How do you get used to it?” Or “I don’t think I could do your job.” I have never known quite how to respond to those statements. Saying “Oh, I think you could”, doesn’t seem quite right. Neither does “You’re probably right about that.”
I’ve decided that I’m going to start asking what part of my job, specifically, they think they would not be able to handle. If they mean they don’t know how I get used to the smells, my answer would truthfully be “I don’t”… It’s a tough part of the job. My tongue-in-cheek answer would be “Mouth breathing and repeated formaldehyde exposure have helped.” (I think I’ve partially embalmed my olfactory over the years of inhalation of embalming chemical fumes). If they mean they don’t know how I can be a comforting presence when people are grieving, I have an answer for that too. It is because God has comforted me.
In 2 Corinthians Chapter 1, Paul writes:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (verses 3&4)
When I was 7 years old my infant brother, Zachary, died a few short hours after birth. He was born with a hernia of his diaphragm. I never got to see him alive. I never got to hold him. We had a place ready for him at our house, but we never got to bring him home from the hospital. Despite what people said, I knew he certainly didn’t get to go to “a better place”. The first and only time I ever saw him was in a tiny casket in the back of the Oregon Church of God. Pastors Hollis Partlowe, and a new young minister at the church by the name of Michael Hoffman, co-officiated my brother’s funeral. Pastor David Cheatwood of the Blessed Hope Bible Church also counseled and comforted our family in the years that followed.
God, through the ministry of these three Pastors, my Sunday school teachers and several other faithful brothers and sisters in our church like Alan and Darlene Shaw, Dave and Bertha Hixon and Rita Gillette comforted me. Through that experience, I learned the fullness of the gospel. I learned that the gospel was not merely that there was a perfect man who lived 2000 years ago who was falsely accused and died on a cross. The gospel is that, that man, CHRIST JESUS, only needed to borrow a tomb for a few days. The gospel is, that I will have an opportunity to see my brother Zachary alive someday and walk with him on streets made of gold!
In mortuary school I learned a lot about caskets. I learned a lot about how they are made and the proper terminology for each of their different parts. We had to be able to identify and differentiate between the “ogee” and the “overlay”. We had to be able to explain why a person may want or not want a casket with a gasket. (Every time I say that, it reminds me of the Dr. Seuss book “Wocket in my Pocket.”). It would all be very depressing If I didn’t know that in the end, a casket is just a time capsule to be opened at the ribbon cutting of the new Jerusalem. I picture graves bursting open right before the wedding supper of the lamb. When I get a person dressed and placed in their casket, I’m really helping one of the wedding guests get their socks on for the party!
In this same Chapter Paul also writes “we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand.” Sometimes we just need to think about that. If our message is something that cannot be understood, it just might not be Biblical.
God created perfect people in a perfect garden on a perfect earth. Sin caused those people to be cast out of the Garden and they lost access to the tree of life. Therefore we all die. We all need to consider casket gaskets.
The entire Bible lays out plainly God’s plan to restore the perfection of his original creation and our access to Him and his tree of life. The good news is just as Jesus arose from the grave, no casket on the market will be able to hold us when the last trumpet sounds. We shall rise.
That is how I am able to do what I do. Next time you have to make funeral arrangements ask your funeral director about their long term lease programs on caskets. We won’t be needing them forever!
- When you think of the word “comfort” what comes to mind?
- What brings you comfort in times of stress?
- What are some jobs you would not want or could not do?
- We know we won’t be needing our caskets forever. If we could lease one until Resurrection day, how long do you think we would need it?
- Are you living like you are expecting the imminent return of Christ? What would you do differently today if you knew the date of his return?