I am busy getting myself ready to decamp for the States for a couple of weeks, and inevitably we are faced with the reality of my poor mother’s ever-so-slowly deteriorating condition. It is awful to see her lying in bed, blind, incontinent, unable to speak, and with just enough dementia so that she is pretty confused about what is going on when she briefly emerges from her fog. The rest of the time – which is the majority now – she just sleeps. She has the world’s best care and when she is able to speak – just a tiny little whisper – she reassures us that she is not in any pain. So we just wait, and watch, and try to keep her comfortable.
If “something happens” to her (what a weird euphemism for “death”) Arnold will be left having to deal with the arrangements, at least till my sister and I can get back here. So I got in touch with the funeral home that handled the arrangements for my father a year ago. I said “I’m leaving town, what documents will you need from us in case “something happens” to my mother. The owner of the funeral home reminded me of what I needed to bring (passport, some other items) and I said I’d run them over to her today, so I gathered it all up, stuck it in an envelope with a cover letter, and off I went into town.
I parked and walked a few blocks to the funeraria and when I went in, there was an entire family – maybe eight people – clustered around the various coffins on display – the kids running everywhere and playing. They were picking out a coffin and making arrangements about someone – but they were either very happy this person had finally croaked or they were just – well – evincing the Mexican attitude toward death, which is so different from our own. It’s destino, when it’s your time, it’s your time, and that’s kind of IT. In any event, there was much laughter, much chattering back and forth, much tsk-tsking of the little kids for being too irreverent darting around the stacked coffins. After I walked in and waited for a few seconds, the owner stopped her conversation with the bereaved family, and ran over to greet me when she saw me, throwing her arms around me and welcoming me into the shop. No black suits and white boutonnieres here; the funeral director herself was clad in skin tight white short shorts (it WAS a bit warm out today!) a hoodie, a baseball cap with her long ponytail sticking out the back, and pink sneakers. Her niños were hanging out in there too, running around with the bereaved family’s kids.
I handed her all the documents and she said “This is all fine, this will make the whole process very simple when the time comes. Don’t worry, Señora Jillian, we’ll take care of everything.” Which I know she will; while everything was definitely “a la Mexicana”, they were a model of efficiency when my dad died. He would have howled with laughter at the slightly bashed-up white hearse (with angels painted on the back) that took him off to the crematorium in Guadalajara. And the two older sons – in jeans and t-shirts – that loaded him –with as much solemnity as two teenagers could muster – onto the stretcher and into the back of the hearse. Mexico is a never-ending “take your child to work day” sort of place. But they were indeed prompt and efficient and respectful. It is a family business and those boys will be the directors themselves one day, I’m sure. Unless they go the way of much of the Mexican middle class and become doctors or lawyers. But maybe not. After all, the family owns a completely recession-proof business, which is probably a good thing in these crazy times.