When I was a kid, there were two things my dad made very clear. First, he wanted all seven kids to go to Harvard (he and my mom even prepared for this plan by moving to the town next door so we could all live at home and commute to campus by bus). Second, he wanted us all to become lawyers or doctors. Because then we'd have free medical and legal counsel in house.
However, my dad's (rather ambitious for other people) plans did not come to fruition. None of us earned a degree from Harvard (though a couple did graduate the Ivy League -- present company excluded) and only one of us became a doctor (though regretfully, my doctorate allowed only for prescription of psychological theory, not drugs).
Kidding aside, I understand my dad's desire to have talent in house. It's handy to have someone on the inside, particularly for professions -- such as law and medicine -- that typically are expensive, or are framed within so convoluted a system that it's hard to discern what's good care or not-so-good care. It's great to have a contractor or plumber or, in my case, therapist in house. And though my Ph.D. didn’t offer in-house favors, now I help the occasional loved one with design or technical or business consultation. I've got concrete skillz now, people.
All of this said, I do think there is at least one in house profession that ought to remain out of house. My in-laws are both ordained ministers, and while my mother-in-law has moved on to another profession, my father-in-law is still actively working as a minister. It is the core of who he is and by default he usually is asked to say grace around the table at family gatherings. I believe he also officiated his brother's wedding. And he presided over his mother-in-law's funeral last year with remarkable poise. (In my mind, that was an act of super human compartmentalization.)
And though he's always graceful and kind spirited in his work -- and I imagine there's probably a tendency to default in his profession to keep giving to others -- when immediate family members are involved, my inclination is that he ought to outsource. When we got married, people invariably asked whether we would have Jon's parents marry us, which I thought was sort of crazy. Why would we ask them to work that day? Shouldn’t we just let them be parents?
Tomorrow is the funeral of my father-in-law's mother. She was old and had been unwell for a long time, but those facts never take the sting out of death. And the very first detail we received -- before location or date even -- was that my father-in-law was going to preside over the service.
Which I thought was a terrible idea.
When my father was dying, I had some regrets that I didn't get that medical degree; that I couldn't be more useful, more informed in pushing back on his treatment, more questioning of the fact that he was on about 15 medications where it was impossible to understand potential interactions. But now I realize that I'm glad that my in house skills were completely irrelevant at the time. It allowed me to focus on our relationship and on closure, not on an in house job.
It thus was with a huge sigh of relief that I found out yesterday that my father-in-law was outsourcing this job. I don’t know who was responsible for pulling him off that cliff, but I am grateful. Because funerals are a time to grieve loss. To celebrate life. To let the tears flow. To experience the full range of emotions -- sadness, anger, relief, guilt -- that are typical when you officially lose the opportunity to find closure on complicated relationships and residual baggage with another human being.
And now he can do all of that through the lens of a son. Not as someone of employable duty.