DID YOU HEAR THE ONE ABOUT THE UNDERTAKER…
With Stevyn Colgan's kind permission
Oh the hilarity of growing up in a funeral home. The hours were long, the work was deadly brutal at times, but the sound of laughter often cut through the steel grey cloud of gloom we lived above.
My father had a knack of drawing in the oddest characters to work for him and over the years I watched them come and go. They were mostly male back then, except for the hairdresser and the shroud maker. It took a certain kind of person, an all-rounder, to heave-ho, dig graves, and otherwise dress up in their finest to open the door to the weeping public.
The buzz from preparing for a funeral is quite addictive, and when eventually it all fell quiet, that is, when the funeral home was not busy, the various rooms filled with card-playing, coffee-drinking, and joke telling, a myriad of scenes of grown men at play. I provided musical entertainment. Those piano and organ lessons really began to pay off; before I could reach the pedals of my father’s Hammond organ, I was already driving everyone to madness with my accomplished rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. My father strode to and fro leaving a permanent imprint on the tatty carpet as he performed his rituals and tasks. As he breezed by, he never failed to command me with a hand movement to lower the volume.
I wasn’t always as conspicuous. You’d be surprised how quickly a group of men can forget the presence of a little girl lurking around the corner in another room. Once, a youthful employee accidentally dropped a bottle of embalming fluid, it fell to pieces when it hit the linoleum floor and, well, you can just imagine the mess - and the stink – good lord, the fumes could set nostril hairs alight! Out comes the mop and the next thing you know he’s turned the mop upright and begun waltzing around with it on the embalming room floor, skirting the scary furniture, pretending it’s his girlfriend. The men somehow found this hilarious. I could only cringe in my corner at the thought of my father discovering the irreverence.
Something has awakened the memory of the embalming fluid spewed all over the room, the bright puddle on the floor. I’ve written before about the overwhelming odor of the flowers that always permeated the funeral home. I’m able to conjure that fragrance in my memory in a second, and particularly as it melded with the pungent odor of the embalming fluid. In fact, I can’t really enjoy the fragrance of flowers without thinking of the image of the colourful bottles lined neatly on a shelf. Case in point. My friends Emma and Andy of The Frolick fame, discovered a cologne while on a recent trip to New York, which now, kind thanks to them, is mine.
Funeral Home Cologne – Carnation heavy, sweet, with a faint kick of formaldehyde.
There’s no formaldehyde in the cologne, but it’s there. For me, it’s there.
For some reason, people think I enjoy undertaker jokes and I’ve had to endure them all my life. They’re all bad, they’re all silly and I share with you the worst, but not the most distasteful, of the lot.
How do undertakers speak?
Do undertakers enjoy their job?
Of corpse they do.
What did the undertaker say to his girlfriend?
I em balmy about you.
Did you hear the one about the undertaker who signed all of his letters 'Eventually yours'?