Today I read a story that I had to share so I asked Mark Dean if I could feature him as a guest blogger and he agreed.
38" Wide Casket
by Mark Dean
A few months ago Facebook friend and local radio personality Kevin McCarthy, posted a link written by his wife. It was about an obese man and an incident she had with him. It is insightful reading at Bariatric Girl.com. I was reminded of a similar experience that occurred with me several months earlier.
In my twenty-four years as a funeral director, I have seen drastic changes in the weight and size of the individuals that my wife and I care for at our family-owned funeral home. The interior width of an average casket is twenty-seven inches. In 1987, we may have used an over-sized casket once or twice a year but now casket manufacturers are creating entire lines specifically for the morbidly obese.
Earlier in the year we were honored to care for a family in their time of loss. One young man in his early 30's asked if his mother could come to the funeral home before normal visitation hours to pay respect. He stated that his mother had a medical condition and that she became very anxious when she was around large groups. He further explained that she was obese and self-conscious about her appearance. Dressing and transportation would be difficult for her. I quickly agreed hoping to eliminate any further grief for this family.
Looking back, I regret that my thoughts of this lady were negative. Without meeting her I expected someone unkempt, unhappy and negative. I had made a note to myself to keep my eyes open for her. Surely she would be expecting some type of special treatment.
When I finally met her my initial opinions couldn't have been more wrong. I heard a pleasant "good morning" coming from a bright smiling face! She was so grateful for getting special considerations. The red gown was clean, her hair neatly styled and her make-up flawless. Matching slippers and purse completed the outfit. After a short time she was ready to go back home but was anxious to talk with me before leaving. I found her entertaining, witty and funny. She was protective and crazy about her family. After she struggled back to her van with the aid of an over-sized walker, I wondered if she had friends or interest outside of her family. She was such a pleasure and joy to be around.
Six months later the same son walked back into the funeral home. He asked I if remembered him. After some reflection with the help of my wife, I did. Sadly, his mother had passed away. Could we help him? She had been diagnosed with cancer. Because there were no CAT scan machines large enough for further diagnostics her treatment was limited and death was quick.
There are many obstacles that a funeral director deals with when handling the remains of a morbidly obese person. The first is transporting to the funeral home. You are always afraid that your equipment will fail. Most mortuary cots have a 550 pound weight limit. Your embalming table is only twenty-nine inches wide. The physical demand for moving the individual is overwhelming. Thanks to some good friends in the business, we were finally able to begin our process.
Next there is the issue of a casket. Over-sized caskets can triple the cost. Then there is the issue of an over-sized vault. Because the vault is over-sized, the family is usually required to purchase two graves instead of one. There are only so many doorways in a building that can accommodate an over-sized casket.
Twelve pallbearers carried her to her final resting place. I found myself both grateful and sad. Grateful, because for twenty minutes, this lady poured sunshine into my world. Sad, because her obesity robbed most others from my same experience.
Original post can be found here.