While studying to become a funeral director I consigned as a master artist. In fact, painting portraits funded my college degree, my daughter’s college experience, relocating my family from the Western United States to the Southern United States, and collateralized my funeral practice; all in concert. On average, I painted 423 portraits yearly. Painting portraits is a unique and wonderful profession. It gives you the opportunity to profoundly touch a person’s soul, which in turn, touches your own. Funeral service provides a similar experience, however, one is blessed with additional avenues to humbly serve, protect, and nurture those who mourn.
As a professional artist, I often see life in a different light than most. In fact, when my eyes see beauty, my brain will loosen its focus from my worries and responsibilities, and for an instant, my heart is free to envelop impressions of joy and comfort. If, after my initial experience of euphoria, I decide to consider the object as a potential art piece, my brain reasserts itself as ruler, and my eyes will dissect the subject into varying degrees of light. The emanating degrees and variances of light translate into the details of the painting.
Last week, my husband and I decided to take in a movie. In order to avoid the offense of naked bodies and horrid language, we settled on a remake aimed at a juvenile audience. As the movie begins, the camera pans the symmetrical façade of a beautiful white home with meticulous landscaping. A scene or two later, two young men meet in front of this same house, however, there is a time warp and it is now two decades later. Rather than the beautiful white home as seen previously, the house is horribly dilapidated. The façade has lost its symmetry, the crisp white paint has long faded, the beautiful clapboard is covered with dirt and grime, and the lush landscaping is now bare earth with patches of weeds and overgrown shrubbery. The homes elegant beauty and tranquil peace have been lost through years of neglect. A bitter and poorly groomed man comes out to check his mail, and in an unfriendly salutation, encourages the young men to move along.
As the movie progresses, we learn that the man living in the dilapidated home lost his son to an unexplained disappearance 20 years earlier. The dilapidation of his home, neglect to his person, and bitterness toward others are perfect reflections of the loss he has suffered in his soul and the hopeless pain ruling his empty existence. The director has presented a physical interpretation of the internal ravages of grief.
Near the end of the movie, the young men return to the dilapidated house. Through the twists of time and events, the son returned home and grew up under the protection and loving tutelage of his father. In this new reality, the home is once again symmetrical, well maintained, and beautifully manicured. The son, now an adult, drives up with his family for the holidays. His father, now a grandfather, cheerfully greets his son and grandchildren; his health and happiness restored. The director has presented a pictorial interpretation of grief recovery.
Daily, I witness the physical and psychological effects of grief upon my clients. Some invest in recovery; while others endure the dilapidation of their lives as pain and hopelessness engulf them. I wish recovery were easily obtained, however, it is not. Survivors must remodel their lives in a way that beauty, happiness, and tranquility may return to them. Recovery is a choice and like a beautiful home, requires great investment, continual updating, and purposeful maintenance.
As an artist, the pictorial presentation of an abstract psychological ailment was enlightening. The contrast of the crisp white home compared to a dingy dirty home illuminated through variances of light plainly brought the details of the concept into focus. The reinstatement of the home’s former beauty eloquently illustrated the obtainable peace, which can return to survivors, through the purposeful focus on completing grief recovery work.
Tracy Renee Lee,Managing Funeral Director of Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City, Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and Certified Grief Counselor. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, and grief briefs related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery.
It is my life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com.