The Wail

Benjamin was 41, and his life ended suddenly and tragically. He hadn’t spoken to his parents in years.  The coroner’s office had to track them down in order to notify them that he’d died.

Once we had Benjamin’s remains in our care, I met with the family to arrange for his services. He was going to be cremated, but his mother wanted to see him first.

Her husband didn’t want to, and tried to convince her to change her mind, but she wouldn’t budge.

This was the first time she would see him in 6 years.

I was waiting for her in the lobby when she arrived. As we walked to the visitation room, we chatted about the weather, about her drive in, and she even made a few jokes.

As we approached the door, she took a deep breath and said,


I opened the door for her and she stepped inside. Then it happened.

The wail.

Experience has taught me that there was absolutely nothing I could say to comfort this woman.

So, I closed the door and left her alone.

After about 20 minutes, she emerged from the room, quietly thanked me, and left.

No matter how long you’ve been in the industry, or how many terrible, and gory things you’ve seen, nothing compares to the sound that a mother makes when she sees her child in a casket for the first time.

It’s not limited to race, religion or socioeconomic class –it’s a universal sound.

I’ve heard it more times than I care to admit, and it’s wildly uncomfortable every time.

It’s raw. It’s real. It’s painful. It’s broken.

But above all else, it’s love.

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