Since I wrote about my sister Kris yesterday, I will tell you a story she told me that had a big impact on her, but I should warn you, it’s not a funny one.
After the Vietnam War ended, a lot of Vietnamese refugees started to come to the US and it seems like most of them decided to live in Upper Darby, which is where we lived in case you forgot. At first it was just a couple of families; now Upper Darby has a fairly large Vietnamese community. As they lived there and started to rebuild their lives, it was only a matter of time before they needed a funeral director.
One of the first Vietnamese families to move there had a death in their family and called a couple of funeral homes (I told you there were quite a few in the area). Not one of the funeral homes they called would help them (which is sad) until they called my dad. Although he had never handled a Vietnamese funeral before and had no idea what their customs were, he felt really sorry for them and wanted to help them. Well, this turned out to be a good business move for my dad because as the Vietnamese community got bigger; guess who got all their business? We did, just because my dad was a nice guy 🙂 By the way, I have a really funny story about a Vietnamese funeral, but I’ll tell you that later.
When Kris was in her late teens and working with my dad, we got a call for a funeral. At this time, we had already handled some of the Vietnamese families’ funerals, and this was another one. But this one was particularly sad because three teenagers were involved. The brother, who was 18, was driving and was with his 16 year old sisters, who were twins. They were driving on the Schuylkill Expressway, and I don’t know if they were drinking or if he just lost control of the car, but they ended up driving into the Schuylkill River and all three of them died. It was really, really tragic.
After an autopsy was performed, they were brought to our house for the funeral preparation. Mr. Fatz, my dad’s right hand man, and who was a regular fixture in our basement, was embalming the sisters. Kris went down the basement to look for my dad, who wasn’t there, and was shocked as she walked down the stairs to see the two young girls lying on the tables looking so exposed. One girl’s ribcage was open and sticking out of her body because Mr. Fatz was putting her organs, which were removed during the autopsy, back into her body. It’s always so much worse when young people die because there just seems to be something wrong about it. Everyone can accept old people dying because that’s the way it’s supposed to happen, but when someone young dies, it’s just a harder and more painful realization of how short life is.
Kris was just a few years older than the girls at the time, and she said that sight is seared into her memory. It’s the kind of moment when you realize your own mortality, and although we got a healthy dose of that in my house, there are always the instances that have a bigger effect on you. I think that is one reason why people don’t like dead bodies, because it forces them to realize their own mortality, and let’s face it, no one really wants to do that.
I told you this story the day before Thanksgiving because I won’t be posting again until Monday and I also wanted you to remind you to be thankful you’re alive. In fact, while you’re shoveling all kinds of food in your mouths tomorrow, don’t celebrate the slaughter of the American Indians. Instead, celebrate the fact that you’re alive and lucky to be shoveling all kinds of food into your giant pie hole!