My boss Craig is so VERY Dutch: a term which has become synonymous in my mind with extreme thriftiness.

Exhibit A:

This town has an endearing tradition of handing out funeral cards to all of the businesses in town whenever someone has passed away. Almost every day, the little bell above our front office door jingles and the visitor sings out "Funeral Card" in a cheerful way. Sometimes, Craig and I will poke our heads out of our offices to greet the card deliverer and sometimes we just holler "Thank you!" from our desks. Eventually, one or the other of us will wander up to the front desk to read out loud the newest card deposited there. Since Jeremy and I have only lived near this town for two years, most of the time Craig has to fill me in on who the person is and who their various family members are. Although, recently, I have been happy to be able to identify some last names myself and connect them to other last names that I recognize. (Morbid, I know.) As clients arrive, they invariably stop to read the card and to comment on the deceased person or the family members of the deceased person.

"Oh, I see Eva finally died. She's been in the hospice house for several years now. I wonder what her son is going to do with his time? You know he spent most of it by her bedside. We're going to need to stop by and check on him in the next couple days. He's a gardener, isn't he? I think if we brought him a few cuttings from our garden, it might help him fill in some time while he gets used to life without Eva around now."

I love listening to the stories townsfolk can tell about each other at this time, and I especially love listening to the care in their voices for their neighbors and friends.

Most funeral cards show a picture of the recently deceased along with basic stats like age, surviving family members' names, sometimes a tidbit of information about their life, date and time of memorial service and burial, where you can send money/flowers/memorial donations.

The first few times when Craig handed me miscellaneous notes about a client scribbled on the back of a funeral card I was taken aback. How should I react? Shouldn't that card be reverenced somehow? Now that I am used to opening files and finding funeral cards with scribblings on the back, it doesn't affect me so abruptly. I have to smile, amused at the infernal thriftiness of these Dutch, but it also seems respectful in it's own way to re-use these cards as scrap paper. I suppose I have to explain that thought process.

First, the very fact that the cards are handed out brings you face to face on a daily basis with the meshing of life and death. Death becomes not so remote, instead it is treated as an on-going part of life. You grieve. You comfort your neighbors. You face the details. You get through the rough spots together. You move on slowly and naturally.

Second, they are DUTCH, and the very best way to celebrate their life is to recycle their funeral card so that they are still productive and useful even after they have passed on. Maybe that is way over thinking (which is what I'm best at), but it makes sense to me.

It is right, it is respectful, and you have to admit -- it is funny!
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1 Response
  1. That is too funny! Glad you're back and glad you found me!

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