The {Invisible} Frontliner

Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
Psalm 91:9-11

 

 

The fulfilling smell of a home cooked dinner filled the country kitchen with wonderful aromas. Dinner was ready and warming on the oven. Just before six p.m., I picked up the phone to call my husband at work and check in. While we set his place at the head of the table, with his occupation as a mortician, I am never confident his chair will be filled.

 

A quick, hurried conversation with my husband let me know the details:  he would not be joining us for supper this evening.

“I’m on a Covid-call,” he said. “Eat without me.”

Calling in the eight noisy children into the kitchen, I cradled my 4 week old baby boy even tighter. Forcing a smile, my words informed the hungry group that we could eat without waiting for daddy – he’d be late tonight. The children scurried to find their place around the table and life went on. Heads of messy-wind-tousled hair were bowed, scrubbed clean hands held together, forming a circle around the supper table. I prayed a simple prayer over the evening meal, yet, in my heart … the prayer was a seemingly more in depth.

 

“Keep him safe, Lord.”

My husband and I had conversations over the past month, suggesting neither of us were too concerned about the possible threat of this new virus, but now, as it stared my husband in the face, would we feel so bold? While we are not fearful people, we are trying to be aware of what is going on in this pandemic.

Back in our crowded kitchen, the bowl of steamed rice was passed from plate to plate, the home grown chicken shared among the young family members… non stop chatting filled my ears  — often mid-eating which was quickly scolded by mother – and the evening flowed along.

 

While I readied the children for night time cleanup and night time routines, my prayers were still with my husband, most likely weary from a long day at work.

Thoughts of mild and most likely unreasonable fear entered my mind as I wondered … would it be safe for him to the hold his newborn when he arrives home? Could he possible unknowingly catch the virus and bring it home to his unsuspecting family?

 

 

The children and I have not been venturing out at all – staying home and living our own personal and busy life – but my husband is required to go to all sorts of locations that are considered ‘high risk’ — nursing homes, hospitals, public locations — in regards to this new health threat.

Would his thoughts on the virus change after this call?

Later that evening, my husband finally returned to his home. I could hear his most likely sore feet, released from his work shoes at last, slowly plod up the front stairs to our bedroom hallway. For this particular call, it had been a long night for this father of 9 and weary man.

This ‘pandemic’ – as they are calling it – has most people in fear, or at least, has placed us all in a state of awareness.  Plainly speaking, my husband and I have chosen to not react in fear or worry.

His work as an undertaker, while most do not often think of these details, does not keep him at his funeral home, dressed smartly in a freshly pressed suit with a clean tie and shiny black shoes. In fact, when we met nearly 19 years ago, I had no idea *what* exactly a funeral director was required to do – especially a funeral director in a privately- and family owned – funeral home. This topic would be  considered sensitive, therefore we will not discuss such details in this entry.

[That is a whole other chapter in itself.]

However, in these particular cases of a new feared virus, someone is still needed in the final chapter of the sufferer’s life. My husband –along with his brother — are the ones who enters the home and — literally — pick up the deceased loved one — Corona virus call or not. In the case of a virus call, extra precautions — which I will not go into detail here– are required for him to stay safe.  He will also transport the deceased into the bigger city — Toronto — where the body will remain at the Coroner’s office until it is released for a funeral.

I remember, nearly ten years ago, all too well when H1N1 threats crept into our social lives. Later, the fear of SARS came to our little Ontario town. While everyone panicked and talked about vaccines and how to stay safe from this new pandemic, my husband calmly put on his suit jacket, slipped on his shoes and drove to work where he would be dealing with possible deaths from this virus. Although it seemed that rest of society became anxious — just as they are now — Abby never appeared frightened, worry never creased his brow. It was simply his job and he was going to do it without fear or apprehension. Nearly twenty years ago, his father was in a similar – but even more taxing role — as he was called to assist with Ground Zero cleanup.

During this pandemic, many are still faithfully working the ‘frontline’.  However, while many essential front line workers — police, paramedics, nurses, firefighters, even janitors– are being treated with free pizzas and paid days off work to quarantine after a possible contact with this new-to-us virus, the local funeral director continues on without notice by the general pubic. Have you ever thought about who picks up and cares for the deceased of these feared viruses? Who washes the spirit-less bodies of the departed one and prepares the details – clothing, hair, burials– of the ill-fated person? Who spends quiet hours with the grieving and distraught families, caring for them in ways the public cannot?

It is men like my husband. My husband’s role  is not a first responder — it is the last responder.

 

In our lives, this faithful partner and father of nine must work his regular funeral home hours, work his after shift hours if someone passes away in the night and keep a steady pace as he picks up death’s latest call — Covid19 or not — Through all of this, he still manages to buy chicken feed on his way home, grab some ice cream  for our multiple April birthday celebrations, come home to stack firewood for our kitchen stove and drive his happy children around on the beat-up gator.

 

Despite being in contact with publicaly feared diseases and traumatic viruses,  this steady man still opens his Bible in the evening, with his family of 11 crowded around him, and reads a chapter from Scripture every evening. Tired from work, he falls into his energetic and unrelenting toddler’s bed at night — who can resist after a half hour of “Daddeee – sweep with me?” and a pair of big brown eyes peering out of  the little son’s bedroom, waiting for his daddy to gather him in his arms and comfort his little soul.

Indeed, there is no paid quarantine days or newspaper recognition– and certainly no free pizza — for this local mortician — the Invisible Frontliner.

 

 

May 2, 2020 - 12:09 am

Kim You write so beautifully, thank you for reminding me of a group of people to pray for as they’re working so hard, all the time, not just now.

April 29, 2020 - 9:22 am

Debby in Kansas, USA You did a beautiful job, Gigi. Our news did a story about *after the hospital* and the hard job at funeral homes. They showed a funeral director on the phone with a family, trying to comfort them…”As soon as Grandma is released to us, I assure you we’ll be there to receive her. I will phone you as soon as I know and will update you regularly. I promise you that we will take good care of her. Take care of yourselves and I’ll be in touch…” or something along those lines. He explained that “Grandma” hadn’t been released yet and the family was frantic because it had been a couple of days.

This was from a large city and the funeral director said that in addition to waiting for the deceased to be released, they were dealing with storage issues and increased work. He had been sleeping at the mortuary.

I felt for him as I looked back to when my mom died and the kind gentleman that helped us. They’re clearly psychologists, too!!

April 28, 2020 - 6:39 pm

Maike Thanks so much for this story! I saw one of those funeral cars 2 weeks ago and I thought about whether the dead person might have died from the corona virus, but didn’t think about the driver once. Everyone is just talking about the hospital staff. Sometimes people think of the mailman, waste men, and shop staff. Never does anyone talk and appreciate the work of morticians though. I will know include them in my thanks and even in the future think of them more. Hope your husband is as best protected as can be and that your family stays healthy! <3

April 28, 2020 - 1:08 am

Denise Great story. My husband was a police officer on the front lines in Toronto for 30 years. Did many escorts for funerals over the years. So true your husband is the last responder. Stay safe

April 27, 2020 - 1:42 pm

Audrey Ryckman Thank you for this!
Touched my heart❤️

April 27, 2020 - 1:05 pm

Brenda I do pray for Abby alot already and I love him so much for being such a wonderful husband, father and son-in-law. This brought me to tears as sometimes we do forget about all those behind the scenes. I will keep praying for Abby and all the funeral home personnel. You were right to say that they are “the last responder”. Thank the Lord for men like Abby, Terry and Bert! God bless them. Thanks for sharing, Gillian. xoxo

April 26, 2020 - 6:20 pm

Tiffany Great tribute to the last responders, my role is very similar to Abby’s as I work at Bethell Hospice as a nurse, very difficult time right now for all. Stay safe and healthy.

April 26, 2020 - 4:42 am

Linda This was a beautiful tribute to the selfless work that your husband does Gigi. I read this out to my husband and we prayed for him and other people who also do this work around the world. I must admit I hadn’t really thought about him having to attend Covid 19 cases :(. We watched an Asian movie many years ago about a man who was a mortician. It was a beautiful movie and gave me a whole different perspective on the work that it involves, especially behind the scene. Blessings to you Gigi and also congratulations on the arrival of your new precious wee babe. ~ Linda

April 25, 2020 - 10:58 pm

Monica What a nice tribute to your husband. I will be praying for Abby and our other morticians that the Lord will continue to strengthen them during this time. And protect their families! What a beautiful post!

April 25, 2020 - 9:03 pm

Julie Please know you and your husband will be in our prayers! It brings to my mind the verse 2 Timothy 1:7. Stay strong, you are setting such a wonderful example for your family and also for all of us other homeschooling mommas that grow weary of the outside chaos. Much love and prayer from Tennessee.

April 25, 2020 - 2:08 pm

Kristal God Bless your husband and father in-law. We have a small funeral home and crematory in our town and I often see it busy. A morticians work is not for the weak of heart. I pray your husband has continued strength during this difficult time. I pray for safety for your family and that you all continue to have good health! I’m so grateful for those who put their heart and soul into the most thankless jobs.

April 25, 2020 - 6:39 am

Gigi Ruthie, thank you. What a sweet comment. My father in law and my husband have used their roles to lead people to the Lord. In fact, that’s one of the reasons my father in law purchased their funeral home over 25 years ago – because he knew people needed God in those final last days of life. It is a ministry in many ways, even if it is still an occupation. Yes, a Christian funeral director is a blessing (and I say that as an outsider and with no bias).
Diane, thank you. I’m humbled.
Katie and Kim, thank you …

April 25, 2020 - 12:41 am

Ruthie Dear Gigi, This post brought tears to my eyes. To find a Christian mortician is rare in this day and age. His job is one that few would want but that is so very important to all of us. We look for comfort and closure and dignity for our loved ones when God calls them home, and I’m sure your husband has pointed many toward the Saviour. He deals with so much during his days, and you provide a loving home so very full of life!! What an absolute blessing you and your family must be to him and what a loving tribute you’ve given him! God matched you both up perfectly. Thankyou for sharing your life with us. This is a very safe and peaceful place to come…my favorite by far!
Warmly, Ruthie

April 24, 2020 - 9:02 pm

Gramma cardinal Wonderful post! Love you All!

April 24, 2020 - 4:08 pm

Diane Wow! Just wow! This is the best blog post I have ever read from you, and there have been many! How beautiful. Prayers for your husband and family. ~Diane

April 24, 2020 - 1:52 pm

Katie This is such a heartfelt love tribute! May God in His glory keep you all safe and bless the work of all responders! Will keep you in our prayers.

April 24, 2020 - 10:12 am

kim Wow, definitely food for thought! Thanks for sharing that.

April 24, 2020 - 10:11 am

kim Wow, Definitely food for thought! Thank you for sharing!