I think about this heart-breaker of a line from The Book Thief every time someone dies. But it isn’t the Dead who make me think it.
The Living give me whiplash.
Death opens the kind of doors that have been boarded shut and plastered over. Estranged family need to take up space in the same room. Ex spouses threaten legal action. Siblings caw over who has to foot the bill.
Adult children stop returning our calls after we take their parent into our care. Read that again.
Not only are we funeral professionals, we are mediators, detectives, sociologists, anti-friction gel. People wonder how we deal with death every day, but the Dead provide the zen tonic we need to reset and recenter.
Just as I begin to wonder if anyone likes anyone, I read an obituary that praises a father’s foxtrot. I hear a eulogy about a husband and wife who never spent a single day apart. I watch two little girls peep into a casket saying, “Bye, GiGi!” as their mother’s face crumples. I hear the kind of wail that smashes your heart but makes you believe in a forever kind of love.
There are two sides to devastation then. One is avoidable.