Happy BirthDay Dadso.

There are hundreds of wonderful thoughts and stories I cherish about my father but I was reminded of this episode recently and happened to jot it down so I am sharing it because today was my father’s birthday. I don’t know how he would have felt about our actions as he was such a kind and respectful man but I do believe he never thought of death as a solemn event as most people encourage. My father had lived an incredibly rich and rewarding life and when his time had come he simply told his caretaker we had hired to assist him at home that he was going to bed early. When she asked why my father said, “it’s a secret”. Went to bed and passed away. A simple, dignified end to a wonderful run.

But I am not saying it is ever easy when a parent or friend passes away and I had lost my mother, my mentor and then my father in a fairly short time span and was getting pretty fed up with losing loved ones.

One of the duties after someone dies is determining what to do with the body. In our family, cremation is our chosen option so unfortunately I had to deal with the same mortuary for both my mother Grace and my friend Dede and both times they somehow screwed up the procedure. It is a three-step process that one would think they would have down pat, retrieve the body, cremate the remains and have the ashes available for the family to pick up. But somehow both times there was some delay with the process and the remains were not available when promised. Now if you have made arrangements with family members for a ceremonial send off and some had to make travel arrangements this can really foul things up.

Anyway when my father Gerald died we once again had to deal with the mortuary to arrange his cremation. My sister Kathy, my brother Peter and I all went together. Now our family is known to have a fairly morbid sense of humor and as a group it tends to escalate. When we arrived we were met by Bob the smarmy mortuary sales guy, with his feigned sincerity and disingenuous empathy for our loss. He escorted us into a dark paneled room and excused himself to retrieve some paperwork. My siblings and I immediately started ridiculing his performance and decided to see how well he could maintain the charade. When Bob returned and gave us his pitch and then asked us if we had any questions. At that point we proceeded to each ask Bob a question but would call him by a different name.

“So Brad, how long did you say this process would take?”

“Um Ben, does this price include everything?”

“Yeah Bill, what are the regulations regarding disposal of the ashes?”

Bob never faltered, even with his nametag with gold lettering against his blue blazer background he never flinched as we continued to call him by different names. He continued his furrowed brow, head dipping technique and answered every question until we ran out of “B” names.

Here is a picture of my father, Gerald Francis Burris, when he worked as a busboy at the Ahwahnee Hotel in the 30′s. Just one of his many adventures.

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