"Oh Chris, I am so sorry about Rita." That is always the opening line. The speakers are sincere but I know their jobs require that they be sincere to another family every day. Rita lived in a care home for veterans; there is a permanent parking space for hearses in the back.
So then we chat, and they usually touch me gently on the arm. And then, softly, they say, "Have you called anyone yet? We need to have the body out of here within two hours." Or, "Have you decided when you will be clearing out Rita's things from her room? We need to have it clean by noon tomorrow."
I realize that every bed is needed. I realize that Rita's death means some family is getting a welcome call telling them that a bed has opened up for the person they need housed. I realize so many things…. like that I cannot say "death" or "dead" or "cremated" or any other word like them out loud yet. They catch in my throat and strangle me.
Grief is like an earthquake; there are tremors and then there are tremors. Some are severe and there are many just like a real seismic event. But this was a big one. It swallowed a cherished part of my world. Now I have to execute her will and get it probated as my final act of service.