It’s a Matter of Life

by Kenneth McKenzie

I was asked by Neena from the Signal to create a column that may help those of you that have lost or are losing someone to their next life. I am a licensed mortician. I deal with death and the dying process every day of my life. I am not a great writer. I’m not a psychologist. My thoughts and experience are just that— my thoughts and my experiences. I hope they can help.
I have always known that I have the people skills to succeed in my life. I was never gifted with book smarts nor the understanding of mathematics or the art of spelling. Even as a child I could read the energy in a room full of adults. I knew when it was the right time to ask my parents for something or when to keep my mouth shut and wait for a more opportune time.
My father bought me a new Smith Corona typewriter for my graduation from 8th grade. It was not electric, and it gave me a vast variety of fonts and colors to type with: either all caps or no caps, and black or red print. The spools of ribbon would stain my hands when I would try to change the dried-out spools. As careful as I was, I always seemed to smear the ink all over the clean, white paper. There was no correction method available; if you made a mistake, you started over. Perhaps my father knew of my lack of spelling and purposely chose a simple typewriter to force me to slow down and think. I hated that!
The Smith Corona was the last gift my father ever gave me. Six weeks after my graduation, my father committed suicide. His death came without warning. My life that seemed so normal would never be the same again. A few weeks after his death, my mother found some letters that I had typed to my father. My mother became very concerned when she found them and called a psychologist. You see, these letters were ones that I had typed to him after he died. Those letters were very private to me— they were between my dad and myself. The psychologist told my mother that I was dealing with my father’s death in a very healthy way— that I was getting out what I felt, and I felt like my father could hear my typed words rather than me thinking the same words.
If you find a way that works for you to communicate with a person that has passed, I suggest you use it, as long as you are not hurting yourself or others and you grow as a person. Do not worry about what people might think. This process is between you and your lost one.
After my mother’s death in January, one of those letters was found:

Dear Dad,
Today I went to the creek and caught two fish. Mom said I could get a pig to raise for 4-H, but I have to board up that hole from the goats. We are having TV dinners tonight. Mom cries a lot. I wish I knew why you were so sad.I would have taken you fishing with me today.


Kenneth McKenzie is a licensed mortician and owner of McKenzie Mortuary Services in Long Beach