This Little Light of Mine
By Erin Darst Hein
I grew up behind the scenes of the funeral industry just as my Dad did before me and as my own children are doing now. It seems that as soon as someone knows what our business is, the first thing they want to ask is, "Is it scary?". To be truthful, sometimes it is scary, but probably not in the way you’d imagine. There is nothing uncomfortable about the place itself. In fact, my kids and their cousins careen around the gardens of Darst Funeral Home, laughing and playing. We have our family gatherings here (We even had Thanksgiving in the gardens this year) and I take my children there to bring picnic lunch to their Grampa Johnny almost every day. My dad dreamed up this garden to be a peaceful, comforting place and the fact that funerals are held here does not make it any less so. After-all, what is a funeral if not a celebrate of life and love?
But I said it was scary, and it is, because every day we are faced with the reality of how precious and fleeting life is. We support people through so much heart-breaking loss, so many people’s mamas, and husbands, and even children and tiny babies gone too soon. I learned very very young that I could be overwhelmed and live in fear or I could think of it as a gift and I could live in gratitude. It’s even harder now that I have kids and I know that I can’t put them in a magic bubble that would protect them from everything, but I have learned cherish every moment, to be present Right Now, to say “I love you” every day, and to put family first. I feel so blessed to be a part of an industry that reminds me how precious life is.
Right before Christmas, when I was slipping into that holiday trap of just being busy being busy, we got one of those reminders. A wonderful support group called The Compassionate Friends held a beautiful service at our funeral home. They invited families who had lost a child to gather with them in the garden that night to light a candle in memory of their son or daughter. During the service, we sat together in the gazebo that was lit by a warm twinkling Christmas tree and the tiny lights of all of the candles. While the music played, each person was looking down in reflection at the flame of the candle representing their child. At that moment, I happened to look up across the garden towards the building. Through the window I saw my own two children where they were playing with their Gramma in the office, laughing and spinning. I was filled with the most profound sense of gratitude. I’m grateful for my family and for this place we are building together, I’m so grateful to hold my children in my arms instead of just my heart tonight, and most of all, I am so grateful for now.
May your new year be filled with Now.
As you can imagine, growing up behind the scenes of the cemetery and funeral industry made for a very colorful childhood. In the coming months, my family and I are excited to let you in on what it was (and is) like in our world by sharing memories and experiences in these articles. We would love to address your specific questions, so if you are curious about something in particular, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erin Hein is the daughter of John Darst of Darst Funeral Home. She lives in Kingwood with her husband, Evan and their two children, Jack (3) and Caroline (19 months). At Darst Funeral Home, we are always here in your time of need. You can reach us 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 281-312-5656.
You can read the other installments of this story here:
Part 1: Earliest Memories
Part 2: Holidays on a cemetery
Part 3: This Little Light of Mine
Part 4: Genealogy
Part 5: The Man Behind The Magic
Part 6: No Cancer But a Dose of Perpective
Part 7: A Year Full of Yes
Part 8: Last Moments and First Steps
Part 9: Facing Fathers Day Without Your Father
Part 10: When Children Grieve
Part 11: From Velvet to Violets: Shedding New Light on Saying Goodbye
Part 12: If it Won't Open, It's Not Your Door
Part 13: Love, After All
Part 14: New Beginnings
Part 15: Not Goodbye, Just Goodnight
Part 16: Holding Space for Dying
Part 17: Grieving and Pets: A Family Affair
This article was originally published in January 2015 by Dockline Magazine Kingwood. See the full issue here