We all have dates that changed our lives. This is mine.

We all have dates that changed our lives. This is mine.

August 2, 2000 – We all have dates that changed our lives. This is mine.

My mother, brother, and I were pulling in the driveway from the grocery store, when my grandmother, Aunt, and Uncle came walking up.

Every one of them had a look of pain in their face, and my grandmother’s eyes were red and swollen. I remember my grandmother asking to speak with my mom in private.  So my brother and I stayed and put the groceries away. I vividly remember looking at my brother, who was only 7 at the time, and saying this is not good, someone has died. I then proceeded to mention names grandpa, great grandma, and our other grandparents. Never once did it cross my mind my father and uncle would be the victims. After what seemed like forever, but in actuality maybe 10-15 minutes, my mother and grandmother stepped back into the garage and as delicately as they could told my brother and I there had been an accident with dad and they weren’t sure how bad it was, but that we needed to leave now and head to Barstow. My heart sank, and I immediately felt tears stream down my face. I was not expecting to hear “dad” come out of their mouths. My brother and I silently did as we were told and got in our van with my family.  For two hours everyone sat silent. My head was racing with thoughts, “Are we going to the hospital? What kind of shape is dad in?” and so many others.


It was dark when we arrived. We were in the middle of the desert, when my aunt met us at the door. She didn’t even wait a minute before she blurted out, “they didn’t make it, they didn’t make it.” 

My jaw hit the floor; I was in a complete state of shock. No movement or sound came from the van. When I couldn’t take it anymore I got out and went and lay in the dirt staring at the stars.  At 12 years old I remember looking into the sky in the middle of the desert asking God why? Why did you have to do this?

My mother was incapable of making the arrangements so my father’s mother stepped in. She went to O’Connor Mortuary.  Being only 12 years old, my mother chose to keep me out of the arrangements.  She had no idea how much that exclusion would impact the path of my life.

I sat quietly letting the process take place until I found out that we would not be attending the viewing of my father and uncle.  My mother said that she could not bring herself to view, and presumed the same for me without ever asking what I wanted.  I knew I needed to see them both in order to process that they would not be coming home.  But trying to get my mother to understand my point of view was very hard.

A counselor my mom was seeing helped my mother to change her mind. Although she was still insistent upon not viewing herself, saying that, “the image of my father would forever be engrained in my head.”

But I knew that for myself, viewing was the only way I could start grieving properly.

I saw both my father and uncle, and still maintain that was the best decision for myself. I knew I needed to see the proof, and that hearing they were gone, was not enough. I in no way shape or form regret my decision, and when I close my eyes, I do not see an image of them lying there.

I am able to remember all the great times we had together, and that is what gets me through the difficult days.

I believe fate and a true passion to help grieving families, has circled me back to O’Connor Mortuary. I have said this all along, and still maintain, O’Connor feels like home. I now work here as a Service Assistant, helping families through their viewings & ceremonies. Getting to help people in what I know to be the worst days of their lives is how I honor my dad & uncle. This is where I’m supposed to be. I feel truly blessed to be working here, getting to do what I love everyday.

What has your experience with Viewing been?

Would you choose to view your loved one like me or make the choice not to?

Why or why not?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Lori says:

    Like you, the day my father died is permanently ingrained in my mind. I do not remember the whole day, but there are vivid snapshots.
    Unlike you, I was never given a choice to view him. There was no viewing, period. Due to his manner of death I do not think my family even considered it an option.
    It is through working at O’Connor and seeing the miracles that the Care Center can work for families who think their loved one is not viewable that I have seen these families begin their grief journey in a much healthier way.
    I am so glad you have joined the O’Connor team. Who better to walk alongside families during their most difficult journey than someone who has experienced it first hand.
    I am very excited to see what your future holds, although I do not need a crystal ball to tell me your future is very bright!

    • Erin Fodor says:

      I am so sorry to hear that Lori. I wish you and your family had been able to view your father. I can
      imagine the difficulty in not being given a choice.

      The O’Connor care team does amazing work here. I recently saw the actual
      crash site photos, and the reconstruction that had to take place on my father was unreal, but the care center pulled it off. And, to them I will be eternally grateful.

      Thank you for your guidance and friendship; you are an amazing person Lori!

  2. Erin,
    Beautiful blog. There’s so much power in your story & the full-circle effect is simply amazing. I love the heart that is in you for other people. You do your dad & uncle right by honoring them this way and by turning a potentially life-wrecking tragedy into something that has strengthened you to help others.
    Thank you for writing & sharing this, I think this message will give a lot of people something to think about.


  3. Jenn says:


    Your story has always amazed me, when I first met you and you told it to me I just thought you were so brave and it reminded me of why we do what we do. It is to help the families when they need us the most and to help find a bit of healing in a tragic situation. I am so glad you had the strength to view your Uncle and Father and glad that you feel that was the best decision for yourself. I think I too would want to have that last moment with a loved one if they were able to be viewed. Thank you for sharing it publicly, I think it will help others who may question whether to view or not. xoxo

    • Erin Fodor says:

      Thank you Jenn!

      Without you and the team in the care center, viewing wouldn’t be possible. Your work is profound and makes a huge impact on the family’s experience. Thank you for being so remarkable, and know from the family’s point of view; you are truly a godsend for making their loved ones look so good!

  4. Kendra Starr says:

    I could not stop crying. Being in this business myself we see and hear the stories of loved ones. This is truly a story a will tell those who need it. Thank you for sharing.

    • Erin Fodor says:


      Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I appreciate the comments and please feel free to share my story. I really do feel strongly, that viewing is beneficial. No matter the age, sometimes you need the proof to really start the grieving process.

  5. Chuck Ricciardi says:

    Thank you for sharing your very personal story with us. It still amazes me that at twelve you had such conviction of how “you” needed to begin this journey. We as adults tend to either forget that our children are grieving just as hard as adults or that we must protect them and shield them from the pain. As you know there is no shielding from the pain, it penetrates everything about us and around us. Your mom was not acting out of malice but if I dare say ignorance. We witness this almost daily here, families struggling with this decision. As the experts we have seen the power, meaning and healing of viewing and seeing your deceased loved one. Of any of the rituals that help heal and send us on a healthy journey of grieving, viewing has got to be number one. In 22 years and thousands of families helped I cannot recall one person ever regretting taking that step, not one. Now it is not easy and it has it’s very difficult moments but anything worth it’s salt in this world is rarely easy. When Matthew died we did not hesitate to see him again, I had to, period, just like you. I’m so glad you have joined our team, you are going to be an incredible help to so many. God Bless.


    • Erin Fodor says:

      Thank you Chuck.
      I would say my mom was acting out of a sort of ignorance. We differ a lot in personalities. And, I just knew my needs were different then hers. I’m so glad you had the chance to view Michael. For myself, if given the chance, I would always choose to view.

      Thank you for all your guidance.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *