Working in a Funeral Parlor while home from college.....
My older sister determined fairly early, that she wanted to be a mortition. This was in a world where no women funeral directors existed except your family owned business and the women were usally the bookkeepers or the secretary. Rarely did you see a woman doing the usual embalming procedures in the prep room. But my sister had chosen this for her career. It was in the mid 1980's and she had to work it - kinda sell herself to these mom and pop family run funeral parlors in the good ole conservative state of Virginia. Where our founding father's all started and were laid to rest. It was Williamsburg where she found a family that decided to take a leap of faith and hire her. She was five foot three inches tall and a blonde. I'm sure her good looks helped tremendously in landing the job. It didn't hurt that the funeral family's middle aged son was the manager of the establishment AND was also divorced. In time we, her two sisters and our parents, went to visit and take the grand tour of the funeral home. We saw it all that day even looked in the creepy prep room. There was the casket room and the chapel, all of it just a regular place with a little side of creepy in it. By the time Summer rolled around, I was looking forward to the break from school and a job. I started off as a hostess for a very large seafood restaurant but wasn't getting enough hours. So my older sister recommended I work there, at the funeral home where she worked. At first I was like, "no way" but then, I couldn't resist the money so I took the job. My job would be the easy stuff like running flowers to the church, or picking up death certificates at the health department for family members to have to claim their loved ones life insurance policy. So the more I did, the more relaxed I bacame with the idea that my summer job was working at a funeral parlor in Williamsburg, VA.
After being there for about six weeks, I was given the task of leaving the Williamsburg area church to travel West, to a cemetery outside of Richmond. This trip wouldn't be flowers or a certificate stating the reason of death, but an actual person, ina casket, in a black hurse. Back then, you didn't have cell phones or GPS - no Garmin for directions. You studied a map, got in the vehicle (the hurse for me in this case) and drove. After enough time had past and I should have been there by now, I pulled onto an exit that literally seemed to be in the middle of no where. It was a country store with two gas pumps and several older gentlemen sitting around in a circle, where they seemed to be chatting, until I pulled up. This must have stunned them because the look on their faces was disbelief that either a hurse was in their parking lot or that I was a girl. This reaction was very normal and we had sort of gotten used to it, my sister and I. When I mosied on in the front door, a little bell rang, as if I needed an anouncement that I was there. When I ask how far it was to Henrico, VA - the answer jolted me back to reality......it 45 minutes......that way! Back the way I had been coming from, somehow, someway, I had missed my exit, and I had a body, in a casket with a gathering of friends and family, waitng to get started. I screamed an absurdity and jumped back in the hurse. I started crying and praying that I would get there and on time - even though I was at least fifteen minutes late. Fifteen plus forty-five equaled......disaster! I remember speeding, and praying that I would run into a state trooper so they could escort me to the cemetery but no such luck. I was speeding so fast that the vinyl top of the hurse, ripped and it was flapping as I sped down the highway. As I entered the cemetery, two wheels screeched and the top was banging on the metal of the hurse.....it was a pitiful site. As I drove up to the crowd, I jumped out and said I, I, I, I......hit traffice. By this time I was an hour late. The husband of the deceased came right over and put both hands on my shoulders and said........"it's alright dear......it's just like my wife to be late to her own funeral"......I clasp my face into my hands and sobbed. I ran to hide behind a big oak tree and slid down it with my back and just cried. Every person at the grave site, after the service was done, came to me to give me directions to get back to the interstate. I would never live this one down. I think about that day often.......perhaps getting lost was all apart of the late Mrs. plan all along.