I would love to be able to include a photograph of the house where my husband spent his growing up years. It was a typical house of seven gables – a mansion of sorts – within a decaying neighborhood. During his childhood, this home had become a funeral business, run by his father and uncle for many years. During the “glory” years, it was very successful and provided a good income for the two men and their families. The upstairs living quarters became home for my husband’s parents, himself and his sister until both of the men passed away.
As you can probably imagine, there were stories to tell about that place, and my husband, the story teller lets his imagination run wild at times. There were the jokes about “Folks dying to get in there,”Making grave mistakes,” and “Business is dying.”
Of course, his entire childhood was spent in trying to be quiet, respectful and not get in the way. This exuberant, fun loving child often felt as though he was in a prison of sorts, but he made the most of it by finding adventure even in a place of solace and death. Hide and seek for one – hiding in the organ room (not a place for human organs, but a musical instrument.) He also got an early view of death and sadness. He also learned about human compassion in times like this.
There are a million stories I could share about the funny things that happened there, but one of my favorites has to do with a biology lab Paul had in the basement of the building. Being an artist and wanting to know how living things worked, he had a collection of snakes, frogs and other specimens to raise and study.
One morning, after feeding the snakes, he forgot to close the window well in which they were living, and unknowingly left for school. That morning there was a funeral and in those days, there was a smoking room downstairs which allowed family and visitors to smoke. In our world today, they would be shut down for sure.
The snakes escaped and made their way into the smoking room, where some mourning women were having a cigarette. It was a chaotic moment and of course the end of Paul’s biology lab. He then became interested in chemistry, which resulted in numerous explosions, causing a swift end to that interest. No more, the mad scientist.
He never went into the family business – not because he couldn’t handle it, but because God called him to share his talents in other ways. His family supported his decision. I think they realized you can’t make someone into something they don’t want to be. In my opinion, they made the right decision, because I certainly would not have made a good funeral director’s wife.