Mourning Coffee, by Tracy Renee Lee

Sunday was my birthday. I woke up early, showered, and as I gathered my church clothes, I realized I needed something out of the laundry. It just so happens that my personal laundry machines are right next to my work laundry machines which are located in my embalming room. I walked the distance from one end of my building, where my apartment is located, to the other end of my building, where my embalming room is located. I reached into my pocket for the embalming room key and unlocked the door. 

As I entered the room, I noticed that overnight, our first call man had had a busy shift picking up decedents. As I rounded the storage shelves, I noticed that one of the decedents was a very dear friend of mine. Her name is Vannie. Immediately, my day of anticipated birthday celebration changed to one of reverence for my friend Vannie, and sorrow for her family.

Today is Columbus Day. Although I had planned to be out of town for my birthday and holiday weekend, I now sit in my office awaiting my dear friend’s adult children. Today, we will plan her services. Even though I have other funeral directors working at the funeral home who are more than capable of handling my friend’s arrangement conference, I would not be anywhere else today.

The obligation of funeral directors is to always be available when they are needed. Today, however, I am more than a funeral director. Today, I am a friend mourning her friend. 

Two years ago, I lost another dear friend, Arthalia. It just so happens that Vannie and Arthalia were sisters. Vannie, like her sister Arthalia, loved hats. At Arthalia’s services, we had a beautiful display of amazing hats and lovely accessories. I hope Vannie will have something equally spectacular. 

Vannie and her sister, Arthalia, were best friends. They were friendly, funny, accepting, and loving women. When they would visit me, I would sing “Sisters, Sisters, there were never such devoted sisters,” to them because they lived those words through devotion and love for each other. They were kind to each other, considerate, and loving, not only to themselves but to others as well. They were adorable and sweet.

My world has changed now that they are both gone. When Arthalia passed, I missed her cheerful voice and her funny stories. Now that Vannie is also gone, I will miss her sweet visits and kind words of encouragement. 

Without them, my days will be a little quieter. However, my heart will be forever filled with fond memories of my two amazing friends who were sisters and who both loved hats and fancy clothes, and who would visit me at my funeral home, just to cheer me up, because that was who they were. 

God speed Vannie and Arthalia. I know that you are happy to be together, reunited for eternity at the Savior’s throne, and sharing joy with others who are there with you. Thanks for all of the good memories and special moments that you gifted me, and thanks for accepting me as your friend.

The obligation of a friend is to be there during times of trial, celebration, and loss. Today, Vannie’s children are suffering her loss; and Vannie, my dear friend, would expect nothing less of me than to be here for her children. I would expect nothing less either.

My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am a Certified Grief Counselor (GC-C), Funeral Director (FDIC), published author, syndicated columnist, Podcaster, and founder of the “Mikey Joe Children’s Memorial” and Heaven Sent, Corp. I write books, weekly bereavement articles, Podcasts, and Grief BRIEFs related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award.

It is my life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.

For additional encouragement, please visit my podcast “Deadline” at or at and follow me on Instagram at “Deadline_TracyLee”.