Milk Money

Reads: 214  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 1

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

The unusual things you experience in the funeral business. This story is true, and is
story nineteen from Undertakings of an Undertaker. The odd things people do, especially
as they get older....alone, living in the country, in an aged house. Putting money away for
a rainy day .......lots of people do it for lots of reasons. This is one such story .

 

 

Milk Money

This day wasn't unlike any other day during my residency. The day had started with the usual delivery of flowers from a previous day’s service. The cars were checked for fuel, the operating room given a quick overview for cleanliness and supplies in place.  That is one thing that is always foremost in the mind of a good undertaker: you always had to be ready for the next call as you did not know when the phone would ring or what circumstances the phone call would reflect.  And so, you were always ready, kind of like the firemen at the fire station, ready for the alarm to go off, and then you were off to the call, wherever it would take you, in a moment’s notice.

And so it was on a typical day that the call came in from a local coroner who requested our presence at a home near Lake Ontario where a woman had died, unattended at her home.  An unattended death in New York State always summoned a coroner or medical examiner.  They would determine if and when an autopsy would be necessary, or, after talking to the person’s doctor, if the body would be released directly to the undertaker who was called. 

So it was on such a lovely sunny day that we put our removal stretcher into our grey station wagon to head to the scene, about thirty minutes north of the funeral home.  Our wagon was always pristine, shined to the max, immaculate inside and out, window glass sparkling and bug free.  In the days when station wagons were used for removals, the rear windows had to be black or darkened to some degree so the public could not see in.  You couldn’t have people gazing in to see a stretcher, let alone a stretcher with a deceased contained therein!  The funeral business has always been, and still is, concerned with the sensitivities of those who watch what you do and how you perform both when you are out on a call and in the funeral home itself.

So the owner and I, dressed in short sleeved white shirts and narrow neckties, headed north to the scene, really not knowing what we would discover upon arriving. My boss, a skinny little guy at sixty, showed signs of the thirty plus years he had already invested in the business.  As he lit up his usual cigarette, I lowered my window for some air.  He smoked too much, especially when he got a death call. It calmed him, he said.

In a short time, we had arrived at the house. It was a dilapidated old farm house, the mailbox half off its rustic fence post it was attached to, the name on the box not even identifiable.  As we drove to the front door, we saw the sheriff’s car and another vehicle, the coroner I presumed.  Both men stood on the front porch, it too showing signs of extreme age and wear. In its time, I am sure the house was magnificent, a huge old three story farm house, and in its shadow, two or three smaller out buildings.  Yes, in its time, this must have been a wondrous place with its long tall windows and weathered oak door with its iron knocker, now frozen in place from lack of use.

My boss and I both recognized the coroner and the sheriff’s deputy, and we exchanged pleasantries as we entered the home with our stretcher in hand.

"She's been living alone for years," said the coroner, "Husband’s been dead over forty years according to the daughter.  She's been kind of a hermit since he died." 

The inside of the house was like a museum, furniture all appearing to be those pieces you see in an antique shop, including mantle clocks, not running but stilled by time and covered in dust. Most of the windows were draped, allowing little daylight into what must have been a very private life, a life now quietly ended in this cavernous house that felt so lonely. 

We made our removal and took the deceased to the funeral home where she was embalmed, dressed, and made ready for burial. The daughter had made very simple arrangements, as she felt her mom had little money for anything elaborate. And so on a quiet day we returned the woman to a small cemetery not far from her home and buried her in with only three people in attendance. 

About a week after the service and burial, we received a call from the coroner who had handled the case.  My boss was sitting at his desk in the back room near where we did our work.  He had a metal study light on an adjustable gooseneck that he could move around to illuminate his work.  Again, the smoke hovered near the lamp head as he took the coroners call.  After what seemed like only a minute or two of conversation, he put the black phone back in its cradle, shook his head and started laughing.

 

"What?"  I said, wanting to know what I had just missed out on.

"Do you remember Marian from last week? The lady we pretty much buried as a pauper?  Well, upon investigating the out buildings around the house, the coroner and the sheriff discovered an old milk can.  Upon opening the can, they found over one hundred thousand dollars in cash in bills of all denominations, covered in mold and dirt. I guess she wasn’t a ward of the county after all."

We couldn’t believe it.  Evidently the lady had just continued to put more and more cash into the milk can, choosing to live a life of just barely getting by.  Her funeral had been a very meager one, but the final chapter was yet to be written.  Upon hearing of the discovery of her mother’s money, her daughter was moved to the extent that she purchased a very large and expensive grave marker to place upon the grave. 

I revisited that grave site a few years later, and yes, there it was:  a marker that was a true testimony to a fine lady.  You can never judge what a person has on first discovery. Sometimes, you have to wait and see just how much milk money is saved for a rainy day.


Submitted: May 12, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Stanley Swan. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

Comments

Criss Sole

Wow, she certainly lived a secret life.
Glad in the end she got an expensive grave marker.
Great story.

Wed, May 13th, 2020 3:31pm

Facebook Comments

More Memoir Short Stories

Other Content by Stanley Swan

Short Story / Non-Fiction

Short Story / Non-Fiction