A Very Unusual Last Goodbye

By Cindy Koller, West Newton, PA 

e-mail: ckoller@andrew.emu.edu

Note: Cindy Koller proofreads and copyedits most of the articles in the Patrika.  When you still find  typos here and there, it is because we did not send those articles  for her critical look on account of time constraints. — Editor

Just recently my husband’s cousin Ernie died. Ernie was 96 years old and died while doing one of the things he loved most—working in his garden. A long life lived well to the very end. Ernie leaves behind Rose, his wife of 59 years; five children; eight grandchildren and a great-grandchild, as well as many nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Plans for Ernie’s funeral and burial were well-thought out and pro-ceeding well until the unimaginable happened: the day after Ernie died, Rose fell and broke her hip. This required immediate hospitalization and surgery. Rose was already distraught at Ernie’s unexpected passing.

But now, being unable to attend the viewings, funeral services and burial were causing Rose and her family a great deal of emotional pain.

Well, if Mohammed couldn’t come to the mountain, the mountain would have to come to Mohammed. And come it did.

Through an incredible act of care, compassion and cooperation, the funeral home and the hospital devised a plan. After the viewings and church service were over, instead of proceeding directly to the cemetery, the hearse journeyed to the professional building attached to the hospital where Rose was a patient. A room there was arranged as a make-shift funeral parlor. Ernie’s casket was brought in and re-opened and his body was gently prepared for an ‘encore’ viewing by his wife.

When all was ready, Rose arrived in a wheelchair to have her final visit with Ernie and take her leave of him. Family, pall-bearers and close friends were invited to attend this special viewing.

After Rose gently scolded Ernie (“You know I was supposed to go first!” she said to him) and expressed her parting thoughts, all the rela-tives got in line to greet Rose and take one last leave of Ernie. She talked and visited with each person.

With this unusual arrangement, Rose got that all important closure that would have been denied her had the funeral home and hospital stuck to rigid formalities and policies.

This generous act of humanity and cooperation afforded a grief-stricken widow and her children an opportunity for closure and peace. It was our privilege to have been able to participate. And it is a testament to both the hospital and the funeral home that they bent a few rules to provide comfort and solace to this family in their time of grief.   ♦

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