One of the many things I learned while working at The Last Stop Funeral Parlor was that one must be a ‘jack of all trades’. I consider myself to be a ‘jack of all trades, but a master of none’. My name is Clarissa Putnam and I have done a little bit of everything in my life. WAIT! Let me clarify this for those of you with dirty minds. Employment wise, I have done a little bit of everything. Legal things, that is. Anyway, in addition to being a bookkeeper, clerk, custodian, gopher, nurse, comforter, and confidant, I was a florist at The Last Stop Funeral Parlor. Why so many hats? Well, the owner, a strong older woman, felt a bond with me. “You really have that drive Clarissa” she would say. “You learn all there is to know about running this business and you will make a great name for yourself by serving these families.” I almost believed her. “As sure as we are born, we must surely die. This matters at The Last Stop.” She was a great old woman. I admired her. She showed respect for the deceased and care for the families. She expected solemnity and reverence from all who entered The Last Stop . . . staff and families alike. Unfortunately, this was not always the outcome. Death can cause people to do some CRAZY things.
“Clarissa, we have as appointment coming in around 2:00 for preview. The wake is tonight so I need you to make certain her order is made as soon as she makes her selection.”
“Why last minute Ms. C.? You tell me that rush jobs are not acceptable at The Last Stop.”
“Clarissa, look at the clock and tell ME if I have time to answer that question?”
I turn to see 1:45 on the clock. I hurry down to the shop, take out my supplies, and wait for the client to appear.
“Just come this way. Clarissa will get whatever you need.”
A lady, I’d say in her mid fifties, appears at the door with Ms. C. She is a rather nice looking woman. Fair skin with short curly hair, beautiful dark eyes. . . I HATE HER! She looks like a fashion model from Essence magazine. Descending cautiously down the steep stairwell, she extends her hand as she reaches the floor.
“Marilyn Crenshaw. I understand that you will make the casket spray for my husband as I dictate?”
“Yes mam. We at The Last Stop Funeral Parlor make sure that the last stop is memorable for all connected. What do you have in mind?”
“I have exactly what I want in mind so we don’t have to waste time. Since we are in the Autumn months, I want his spray to depict the season. I want an artificial casket spray covered in fern leaves. Over the fern leaves I want maple and oak type leaves ranging in color from dark brown to light orange. Also, place some brown eyed susans throughout.”
Fingers cramping from writing such a long, detailed order. I cover my pain with a forced smile. Mrs. Crenshaw continues.
” Make sure that you cover the entire spray with the maple and oak.”
“What do you want me to write on the ribbon Mrs. Crenshaw?”
“Forgiven but not forgotten.”
Did I hear this woman correctly? Mrs. C. speaks up.
“You can’t do that. That wouldn’t be right. The man is dead and anything he did to you during your marriage should be buried with him. Don’t air your dirty laundry here, and now. This isn’t the time or the place to do such a thing. Let it go!”
To be continued.