Meant To Be

Jennifer Estes
5 min readNov 15, 2023
Photo by Ahmed Adly on Unsplash

Looking back I can see how it was meant to be. I think I was thirteen years old when my hamster died. It was summertime when the days were so long. My brother and I fought terribly on the long summer days. Just the two of us were home while our mom worked all day.

I found Hammie (my pet hamster) dead when I woke up for the day. I called Mom at work to report the death, unsure what to do. She told me, as she always did, that she was at work and there was nothing she could do until she got home. Hanging up with her, I sat on the couch, thinking, a tear in my eye. My poor beloved Hammie.

After a few minutes of thinking, I had decided exactly how to handle it. I placed his rigid, cold body into a tiny jewelry box I’d emptied out just for this event. I placed a metal cross necklace up against him. Then I placed my latest school picture along with a letter declaring my love in the box with him. I went outside and found a spot underneath a bush and I dug. Once I dug a hole large enough I placed the “casket” in the hole, said a little prayer, and buried Hammie.

Fast forward ten years later, I was twenty-three years old. I was a single mom to a five, three, and one-year-old. I had divorced their father recently and was about to go to college and find a career so I could support my babies. I watched a documentary on a cable channel about a group of Mortuary Science students in California. I was fascinated and knew it was what I wanted to do. I spoke with my guidance counselor about it, she informed me that there were no mortuary science schools in Utah. The closest one was in Denver and how could I make that happen with three very small children?

I gave up on the idea and eventually found myself working as a New Business Rep for a life insurance company where I made a career for myself over eleven years before they went out of business. I had advanced and grown so much within the company, it’s where my skill set was. Yet there are no big life insurance home offices in Utah so I found myself struggling to find anything that paid near what I was making. I struggled for a few years with different jobs, trying to find a career that fit.

My children were in their late teens at that time and one of their friends committed suicide. I showed up for the funeral early, so early in fact nobody was there but the mortician…

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Jennifer Estes

I am a widow, a mortician, a mom, and grandma. I write about grief, caregiving, substance use disorder, and the death care industry.