Sometimes, my heart gets in the way of my job as a funeral professional. And that’s okay. I’ve heard people say, “You shouldn’t get attached to the families you serve because you’ll burn out.” Maybe so, but I’d rather burn out than not be real. I have to be true to who I am.

So, as I sat around the table with the parents of a young man whose life was taken by drugs, I got attached.  I knew part of what they were facing.  I knew that mother’s breaking heart, knowing that she had said everything she could, and it wasn’t enough. I knew that feeling of defeat from the father who wanted to “fix” his son and take away the pain his wife was feeling. But he couldn’t. Then, or ever.

I took her hands and we cried.  We prayed together and then she shared a picture of her son, lying in a hospital bed, hooked to so many machines it was hard to see him through the wires and tubes. She offered to send it to me, if I thought it would help my son to see where his path was taking him.  But she never did, because we both knew that nothing would change until he wanted it to.

On the day that we buried his ashes, his father spoke from a broken heart about his son. And then his mother stood, walked to the table that held his remains and placing her hands on the lid of the urn, she said, “This is not a box of ashes, it is a box of hopes and dreams.”

My tears came again, knowing that for them those hopes, and dreams would forever be unfulfilled.  And I prayed for God to bring someone into my son’s life to do what we could not, to convince him that his hopes and dreams were more important than his momentary desires.