What is a funeral director to do?
By Stephen Gemelli
The Marathon bombing suspects are trash. There is no other way I can describe them. They hurt, maimed and killed many innocent people for reasons I just can’t figure out. For a week, our state ~ and most of the country ~ was focused on the attack right here in our very own Boston. If you were living under a rock and didn’t follow the news, I’ll tell you that one of them died ~ on a night he might have expected a blaze of glory. A night filled with flashing police lights, flying bullets and two maniacs declaring war on a country that had actually welcomed them with open arms.
His body was taken to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Boston, and the questions started to arise. Where will they take him for a funeral home? Where will they take him for burial? Who would even touch his body? All questions that are understandable. Ultimately, a funeral director would have to be involved. I’m sure many directors didn’t want the publicity, and in my opinion, the release of the remains should have been done quietly without fanfare or a police escort, but we all know it didn’t happen that way. Ultimately, Worcester became the focus of what was happening with the remains of this terrorist, and throngs of people and news outlets gathered on Main Street to see where and when the body would be moved. People camped for days in front of Peter Stefan’s funeral home.
Peter Stefan is a good man. He has a big heart; he reaches out to those in need. He works with people and serves a neighborhood that many people might try to avoid. He’s been honored many times for his philanthropy; he’s a talented musician; and he’s loaded with knowledge. Mr. Stefan is a funeral director.
A funeral director often deals with situations that are not comfortable. We often deal with feuding families, tragedies like murder or suicide, and often people with ideals different from ours. Peter Stefan took on something that was huge. He did his job and facilitated in the disposition of someone’s body, a body that no one wanted buried next to the family plot, a body with which we all wanted to be done. Peter dealt with things; he took control and directed. Peter performed his duties as a funeral director. In some way, he closed a horrible chapter when he closed the hearse door and sent the body to a cemetery.
No matter what you or I think about the terrorists, the body of the brother that died needed to have some type of disposition. I read in the papers and heard on the news that people thought his body should be left out for the animals or that the body needed to be sent home to Russia. There were so many opinions on what we should do with his body. This is where the funeral director comes in. We are the ones that field questions from family and make arrangements to move bodies. We, as directors, are the ones who coordinate with clergy and cemetery. We are the ones that have to perform in a profession, and we took an oath: No matter who calls upon us, we will serve them and do what needs to be done (very much like the Hippocratic Oath of a doctor). We are here to serve the people and families that call upon us. No, it’s not always an easy thing to do, but someone ~ someone who’s a funeral director ~ will do it.
I love my profession. I wonder how I would have performed given the same challenge. I just don’t know. I pray we never have to experience anything like this ever again.