I just broke a massive sweat doing a bodyweight workout in my room. I’m old enough to get injured in my sleep now, so I had to cancel my gym membership (temporarily) and swap it for physical therapy, resistance bands and wonderful, wonderful Prednisone.

If you’re arranging a funeral, and you have a request that you preface with “This may seem silly…” or “You might think this is stupid, but…” be assured your funeral director has probably heard your request several times before, and doesn’t think it’s stupid at all. I’ve had people ask to talk to their loved one on a cell phone a few times, and I’ll bring the phone to the body and let the family talk. I’ve painted toenails – including a base coat and top coat – for a body that wasn’t being viewed. I’ve left the body on a stretcher in the family’s home and returned an hour later, after they decided they weren’t ready for me to take him after all. I dress bodies that are being cremated without viewing.

Maybe I don’t have a problem with this because I’ve always been a very sentimental person, and also because I’ve had this belief (which I later found out is a part of Islam as well) that on some level, the dead are aware of what we do. For fifteen years, I have practiced with this belief; assuming that the dead can hear us and that they know what we are saying and doing. I tell all interns who work with me, rule number one is keep your conversation and comments respectful. Assume they can hear us. We don’t know that they can’t.

Never assume something doesn’t matter. What if I hadn’t painted that lady’s toenails? Speaking from a legal standpoint, if a family pays for something, we have to do it. If they pay to have a body dressed, we have to do it even if they don’t view the body, because what if there is a disinterment one day and they open the casket and see the body is only wrapped in plastic when they paid $200 to have her dressed?

Also, families who decide on no viewing frequently change their minds at the last moment. That’s why, on a non-viewing case, we don’t just dump the body in the casket. We will at least position them nicely, clean off their faces, close the eyes and mouth. So at the end of the service when the wife says “Wait…can I…” she won’t be confronted with an unpleasant sight. Of course, if she is not in the business, she won’t realize that any actual work has been done on the body, but she will see what looks like “just sleeping.”

Many people bury or cremate their loved ones with cards, photos and letters. I haven’t read these letters, because to me it would feel like opening someone else’s mail. But I believe that, on some level, the dead are understanding of what is in those letters.

I believe the dead know everything. When you die, that is when every question is answered, from why we are here to why certain things happened to why and how the universe was created. They know. And they know all that you kept from them and all that you wanted to say, but didn’t. They know how much you loved them. They know how sorry you were. They know what you concealed from them, and they don’t judge you, they just know. If you regret that they died before you could tell them something, I believe they know. You can rest.