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. Anne says:

    Your blog kept me spellbound. I guess because I lost both my parents at age 4 and 5 and I know what that feels like. I am so thankful that even though I was so young, no one kept me in the dark about the events. In fact, my mother was in the front room for two days for people to drop in and pay their respects. It helped me immensely have a proper respect for ceremony at a very young age.
    It naturally followed that I would choose to be personally involved in making sure my husband’s services were all they should be, earlier this year. I instinctively knew what had to be done and did it. I did not shut out my daughter in the arrangements, but had her at my side for every meeting and all the plans. In hindsight, perhaps the grandkids could have been there, too, but we did not think of that. We did, however make sure that songs that they wanted would be included in the music track for the viewing.
    We also chose to have Bella, Lou’s Bernese Mountain dog at the viewing. This dog has been grieving along with me and has lost weight since Lou’s death, but she was better for being part of things than I think she would have been otherwise.
    She has an uncanny sense when I need to be “held” and encourages me to move from my chair to the couch, where she jumps right up beside me and loves my neck. The cat immediately comes up and joins us.
    I am so sorry you lost your daddy before so many of the events of life that you needed him. I know what that feels like. I am glad you are here. Our private pain helps us be better for our families than we would otherwise. It changes things from a job to a calling.

    • Erin Fodor says:


      Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry you have had to deal with such loss in your lifetime. I have a lot of respect for your mother to be able to receive family and friends condolences, and not keep you in the dark. My mother shut down, she held it together the best she could for my younger brother and I. But even tell this day she struggles. I thank you for allowing your daughter to be apart of the arrangements. I strongly believe if there is an interest in participating: by anyone in the family, then this is there way of beginning to grieve the loss. I absolutely love you had Bella there, she too needed to be able to grieve.
      Plus I’m sure her kind face and unconditional love was great to have for
      you and your family. I know without our family dog, I would have had a few more dark days.

  2. Jeff Turner says:

    What a heart wrenching account from the heart and mind of a twelve year old girl. I am so glad you followed that innate sense that you needed to see your father. I have seen the damage avoidance and actions in the name of “protecting” someone can do. There are many instances where we have had to work hard to help navigate families to view or allow viewing and I know the benefit. The mystery is almost always worse than the reality. It is one of the most profound encounters we have the responsibility to direct and recommend to those who are in our care. Educating and encouraging families to do what they need to do and not just what they tell us they want, is what makes this a profession rather than an industry.

    Thank you for being willing to be vulnerable today in the telling of this life changing event. It is very special to us that you are “home” with us where you belong. I know your story will help many as they navigate similar waters. You will find opportunities in your career to educate and recommend viewing and ceremony because you know people need these events and because you know they work.

    Jeff Turner

    • Erin Fodor says:

      Thank you Jeff. I know now and understand that my mother thought she was trying to protect my brother and I. But I just don’t know where I would be today, if the events of the funeral had happen differently. Everything happens for a reason I strongly believe that. Apparently God had bigger and better plans for my father and uncle.
      I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I hope I can key in on that certain family member who is unable to be heard or voice their opinion, and explain to the opposing family members the importance of viewing and ceremony.

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