The coffin delivery man


(Here’s a riddle: What is it, that 1) if you see it, you don’t want to buy it; 2) if you buy it, you don’t want to use it; 3) if you’re using it, you’re not aware of it?)



(Keep reading for the answer.)



During jury selection this past summer, I was thrown together with five other people: a wiseguy cable installer who kept moaning about how bored he was; an older man (what am I saying? I mean “a man around my own age”) with his nose buried in a 1982 “Quick & Easy Crosswords” magazine; a raven-haired beauty wearing a teensy bit too much makeup; a nineteen-year-old girl, very nervous about missing work (it turned out that she was the Keno-machine operator at a local restaurant); and a short plump cheerful gray-haired man.



I was sort of fascinated with this last guy; he talked about growing up in Brooklyn, and he knew the whole state of Rhode Island, which is pretty unusual here (most people only know their own communities).  He was smart, and cheerful, and calm, and unaffected.



And he finally revealed that he worked delivering coffins from the warehouse to regional funeral homes.



I have always been fascinated by the business of death. Partner and I watched “Six Feet Under” straight through on DVD. And funeral directors are always so courtly and polite and considerate! Partner and I were at a funeral home a year or so ago, planning a “pre-need” funeral for a family member, and I was really charmed by the Italian-American funeral director who worked with us; the room was full of memorabilia of his immigrant father, and he had a big piece of Simon Pearce crystal on the table of which he was very proud, and I looked him up later online to discover that he is a very long-established community benefactor.



I think living with a constant reminder of mortality must be very bracing. To paraphrase Lady Jane Gray: it teaches you to live and learns you to die.  Monks used to sleep in their own (future) coffins, and drink from cups made from human skulls, just to remind themselves that life is, um, short, and probably you should get about your business, whatever it is, before it’s too late.



I hope Coffin Delivery Man is doing well.



Someday I’ll need his services.



(By the way: did you guess the riddle yet?)



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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