Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What The Undertaker Said

I bolted upright with the sound of the alarm. The first thing I noticed was intense jaw and head pain. My wife sleepily looked up at me.

You were grinding your teeth again last night.

Thirty minutes later I was in the car half way to the hospital. I rubbed my jaw with one hand as I steered with the other. Damn TMJ. It had come back recently as my stress levels increased. One of the physicians left our practice, and my partner and I had to pick up the slack.

I was on call every other day. Every other weekend. The nursing homes were packed and the phone kept ringing. Not to mention that I had taken on other administrative responsibilities and a few speaking engagements.

And of course my son and daughter were getting older. Each day filled with a new activity for me to supervise. Violin practice, homework, dance class. For the first time I felt truly overloaded.


I'm not afraid of death.

The gentleman sat on my exam table with a jovial smile. He was strangely at ease in the doctor's office. I suspect this was due to his fifty years as a funeral director. When you spend so much time among the recently deceased, the specter of illness is less a demon and more an old friend.

He liked to take the last appointment before lunch. Countless times he watched as I raced out of the office to go to the nursing home. He would show up early to give me a little extra time. He was all to aware of my tight schedule.

As I finished my exam, I typed the last few sentences into the emr. I would have just enough time to avoid construction and breeze into my noon lecture. After that, I would visit nursing home patients and then rush home to make dinner, feed the kids, and take my son to violin.

I vaguely listened as he started to tell a story. At the funeral home he had an employee who was always bugging him for a promotion. The employee did a good job but was exceedingly slow. So slow, in fact, that he usually had to stay late into the night to finish his daily responsibilities.

That guy just needs to speed up!

I listened to his exclamation as I tried to nonchalantly look at the clock on the wall behind him. If I left immediately, I could make it in time.

He noticed my glance. Unexpectedly he placed his hand on my shoulder and looked me dead in the eyes.

And you, you kid have to slow down!

I paused. It's not everyday that the undertaker offers unsolicited advice.

But even now, as I quickly put the final flourishes on this blog post before facing the onslaught of patients in my waiting room, I wonder.

Will I listen?

1 comment:

tracy said...

i love advice from a Funeral Director....who better knows.

As always, a big thank you, Dr. Jordan!