(Author’s Note: This is the original format of “Forgiven, But Not Forgotten.” I hope that you enjoy the read. Comments are requested and welcomed.)
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.” Unfortunately, I can be considered a “jack of all trades and a master of none.” Let me introduce myself. 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 a dirty mind. 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. I learned to create various floral arrangements ranging from boutonnieres to casket sprays. For those of you who do not know what a casket spray is, it is the long floral arrangement that lies atop the casket.
Most people freak out when I tell them that I used to work at a funeral parlor but really it can be quite a humorous experience. Before you decide that I am some “sick-o”, hear me out. You will find that where human beings are, there is humor in the midst of sadness. After I share a few of my experiences with you, I promise, you will NEVER look at a funeral parlor the same way. Oh . . . well . .. except when you come for a final appointment as a customer. Anyway, have a seat, drink your tea, and check this out.
A lady, I would say in her middle fifties, came downstairs to the floral shop to select the flowers for her husbands’ funeral. This is usually the last thing that is done when making funeral arrangements. As far as I was concerned this would be a typical selection. Boy, was I wrong. The bereaved lady descended the steep staircase to make her selection. She was a rather nice looking woman. Fair skinned with short curly hair, beautiful, dark eyes, and I hated her. She looked like she stepped out of an Essence magazine. AS she looking over the various arrangements to make her selection, I extended my condolences to her and informed her that I would be more than happy to create a special floral arrangement if she did not see what she wanted. She told me that she had exactly what she wanted in her mind and began to describe to me what she wanted. We were in the middle of the autumn season and she waned an arrangement that would depict the season. She proceeded to tell me that she wanted and artificial casket spray covered in fern leaves. Over the fern leaves she wanted maple and oak type leaves range in color from dark brown to light orange. She also wanted some brown eyed Susan’s throughout. It was definitely going to be a unique and beautiful casket spray. I had never had anyone request a spray for a man like this before. Well, she started toward the staircase to exit. I asked her what saying did she want on the ribbon that drapes across the casket spray. She turned to me giving me a half smile and said, “forgiven but not forgotten.” I thought that I misunderstood what she said so I asked her to repeat what she’d said. She said it again.
“I want his ribbon to state exactly what I said. Forgiven but not forgotten. I have my reasons and I am paying for this funeral. If there is a problem then I will just send out for one to be made by someone who will not question me.”
“No mam. This will not be a problem. I do apologize for questioning you. I only wanted to be certain that I was very clear as to how you want this. I . . . ”
Just as I was about to close the deal, I looked to the top of the staircase to see the owner, Mrs. Jenson. She was like one of those cats that needed a bell around their necks. She would pop up and you would know that she was there. Apparently she had been standing atop the stairs for quite some time.
“You can’t do that. That wouldn’t be right.”
This shocked me. I had never heard her tell ANY customer what they could and could not do regarding floral creations. Why was this any different? I thought to myself. The owner continued.
“The man is dead and anything he did to you during your marriage to him should be buried with him. Don’t air your dirty laundry here and now. This is not the time or the place to do such a thing. The man is DEAD. Let it go!”
Now you know, after hearing her say that, I had to find out ALL the details. The owner turned to me and told me to make a ribbon that simply read “my husband.” Well, that widow gave me such a burning looking I thought that I would fry instantly.
“I am paying for this funeral and it better read exactly what I said. It is too late for me to move him. However, no one has the right to tell me how to arrange MY HUSBANDS funeral. I better see exactly what I requested and am paying for.”
She quickly ascended the staircase and brushed pass Mrs. Jenson. Before we could blink twice, the widow was out of the door.
“Yes, Mrs. Jenson?”
“Make two ribbons. Have one read “My Husband” and the other with what she told you. I have got to fix this.”
You can only image my shock at what I had just witnessed. Hey, I figured it’s her husband and she can do whatever she wanted. Apparently not according to Mrs. Jenson. Well, I didn’t have time to waste so I got right to work. His body was being presented that evening to the public.
Dark and light browns, oranges, beiges, and greens wer the colors that permeated the autumnal themed casket spray. Draped atop the spray was the ribbon which read “Forgiven But Not Forgotten.” According to the directions given me by the owner, I was to place the widow requested ribbon on the spray for the widow’s approval then change it just before the wake which was scheduled for that evening. Man, who would have thought there was so much drama in a funeral home!. Well, the widow came for the “view of approval” and she seemed pleased with all that she saw.
“This is exactly what I want. I will see you at 7.”
You would have thought that I had just won some kind of award for my performance the way I was grinning. Mrs. Jenson quickly brought me back to reality.
“Clarrisa. Change that sign now then open the screen for public viewing.”
“Yes Mam. But won’t she be mad about this? What if she makes a scene during the wake?”
“Let me worry about that. Just do as I say.”
Here I am thinking that everything was fine. BOY WAS I WRONG. The ribbon caper went off without a hitch. The wake was another matter all together.