Sunday, July 12, 2009

More Than A Guest Book

Being required to plan a funeral right after someone dies is cruel and unusual punishment. Yes, I know, arranging a final resting place for the deceased loved one is necessary...but putting together a thoughtful celebration of the person you love is incredibly difficult when you are still trying to register the fact that they are actually dead.

Phil died on a Wednesday night at 6:18PM. Hours before he died I didn't know the first thing about planning a funeral...and then suddenly there were decisions to be made immediately upon hearing that the man I loved wasn't coming home, ever. What funeral home would I like them to call? How was I supposed to know?

I have signed many "funeral guest books," but the practice didn't seem odd to me until I needed to decide whether or not we would have one at Phil's service, if the book would be at both services or just one, and what kind of book would I like? I distinctly remember trying to focus on what kind of book I would like. My husband is dead. What kind of book would I like? My husband is dead. Who cares?!

I am blessed with a spectacular family. When I think of what angels on earth must be like, this group of people is what I imagine. So, I never had to choose. My sister picked a book, my mother planned the services, my dad ran errands all day long, my other six siblings did every job that I was not capable of even thinking about, much less accomplishing. With the exception of one. The guest book. Yep, I sat at my kitchen table while chaos flooded my house and made this blue guest book into a photo album of our lives together. I couldn't explain to anyone why I needed to do this, but I knew that I did. The pages are smeared with tears, spelling errors abound, and you will encounter all kinds of crazy grammar...but every page is filled with both sorrow and love. Next to the photos are personal messages written by our friends and family about the man that touched so many hearts. And the book I could imagine no use for has become one of my most treasured possessions. So anytime you see a photo page that looks like the one above, you'll know I am sharing a piece of both the life, and the death, of Phillip Hernandez. Love you honey.


  1. Thank you, Michele.
    Very much.

  2. I remember planning Brian's funeral. I was walking through the casket room. Thankfully the funeral director was a friend of mine from our church. Brian was not dead yet. He was in hospice, at home, dying. But I had terrible memories of doing this same thing within hours of my mom dropping dead of a heart attack, so instead I asked my friend to help me get it over with. It may sound odd, but it had been a very rough week of me coming to realize his cancer journey was nearing the end. So back to the casket room, I remember her asking me which vault lid I wanted. Really? This is on my list of decisions I have to make? I mean, my husband will be dead, 35 years old and dead, and I will be a widow with 11 and 8 year old daughters and a 4 year old son. Who the heck cares what color the top of the vault is? Then I realized that the bronze lid matched the handles on the casket I had chosen. Perfect, I thought! It will match! I know I am rambling, but your post tonight really hit home about the things we have to do. I feel like this was a time in my life that I was as crazy as I ever have been! I became almost obsessed with making his funeral just right, and I know some of it was from the feeling of not being able to stop the cancer. While it was difficult to plan ahead, when it came time for Brian's death, I am so so so thankful that all the details were already in order because I got to just sit and do nothing and was able to avoid some of this feeling of dealing with funeral arrangements. I was also blessed to know the funeral director so well, so some things I just asked...what should I do, and I could trust her and just be done with it.
    I have a guest book that I have never looked at.