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After simply just trying to process what happened in Newtown, CT (which cannot be processed–you only can try), after reading the names of the victims, after praying for an end to senseless violence, after living under the big bubble of sorrow that extends across the nation, I thought of two things.

One, I keep seeing the Christmas presents for the children who had died. And I wonder, are the presents still under the trees? Will they stay there through Christmas? Or did the parents take them away, put them in another room, forever to remain unwrapped? A grim memento mori?

I also thought: Where do you get 20 little caskets? Surely the funeral home doesn’t have 20 children’s caskets on hand. Who placed the call for more? To where? To other nearby funeral homes? To the manufacturing plant? Were more caskets nearby and delivered quickly? Do they have to wait days for more to arrive?

In my book, I write about the Zimmerman family of Waseca. The stunning 24-foot-long gravestone in Calvary Cemetery demands your attention. Seven Zimmermans, the mom and six children, killed in a car-train accident in 1959. I’m not sure the Waseca funeral director had enough caskets that day. I know he didn’t have enough room in the funeral home to wake all the bodies. That was done at the Zimmerman home.

Zimmerman gravestone, Calvary Cemetery, Waseca, Minnesota

Zimmerman gravestone, Calvary Cemetery, Waseca, Minnesota

I wasn’t the only one wondering about the Newtown funeral director. On Twitter I follow Caitlin Doughty (@TheGoodDeath), a mortician in Los Angeles. She tweeted the link to this story, which starts with the Daniel Honan, the undertaker in Newtown. He’s doing all the funerals. He’s had to hire around 25 people. He calls it “the week from hell,” which seems like an understatement.

I thought the article could have focused on more on Honan. Really only the first couple of paragraphs are about him. Maybe the general public would find an entire story on a funeral director distasteful, I don’t know. But I want to know more.

 

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