Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Grim Reaper

Not for nothing, but I've been a little overwhelmed with funerals at work lately.

But even if I have personally planned five funerals in the past week, it gives me no excuse to count my chickens before they've hatched.

You see, Friday morning we received the news that my all-time favorite retired hippie priest who resides in our rectory for half of the year (yes, I said hippie priest 'cause there's no other pithy way to describe a 68-year-old priest with a pony tail who spends the other half of the year in his home in Belize . . . ) well, anyway, we received word that he had collapsed in a Chicago train station waiting to board a train back home. And the words I heard were: He's in a coma and on a respirator, but they won't leave him that way for long.

Enter The Grim Reaper.

Knowing that - upon a previous hospitalization - the same priest had sent me to his room to retrieve legal documents from his personal strongbox, I marched into his room, unlocked that box, and rifled through his paperwork looking for an advance directive, power of attorney, or living will (all of which I found, by the way. . . )

And then I saw it.

The envelope labeled Burial Instructions.

Should I?

Well, I'm ashamed to say that The Grim Reaper opened that envelope and read its contents. (Although, in The Reaper's defense I need to make one point perfectly clear. . . nowhere on that envelope did it say Open in the Event of my Death. . . or Upon my Demise, Read this. . . . no, it simply read . . . Burial Instructions. . . )

But I ask you. . . at that particular moment in history did The Reaper need to know the hippie priest's wishes for the disposal of his human remains?

I'm not sure she did.

And how - from her comfy position in a little Catholic church in New Jersey - did The Reaper plan to convey the information about said remains to those attending to him in Chicago?

I don't know.

Was she going to phone the hospital morgue and say Whoa! Be careful! It says right here that he doesn't want his body carted about?

I think not.

The Grim Reaper should have just let God do his job.

But it turns out the The Reaper doesn't always think before she acts. . . and - speaking of carts - perhaps she even puts the cart before the horse sometimes . . . especially since the second call we received from Chicago (two hours after the first) was to tell us that he was being brought out of his medically-induced coma, had opened his eyes, and they were beginning to wean him off of the respirator because they didn't want to leave him on the respirator for long!


So Joe? Hurry up and get better so you can come home, 'cause you're gonna love this story when I tell you. . . and, as per your request, I've got the best place picked out for your wake. We're gonna have a great time!

Oh. . . and Father Densin? You really didn't need to hastily remove your own advance directives from that shelf in your office . . . you know. . . the one that donates your body to science??? Let's just hope I've learned how to exercise a little restraint by the time that document is called for. . .