There are few things that bring out someone’s true essence more than the death of a family member.

The most rugged, emotionally constipated, tough guy surprises everyone by sitting bedside for days on end, holding his frail mother’s hand. His massive, calloused hands, delicately cradling her tiny, arthritic ones.

A dutiful child shocks everyone by stealing every last cent from their dying parent, then turns their back on the family that loved them unconditionally.

Siblings spend years in court trying to get a few thousand dollars more than the other, because they once took the trash out more when they were a kid.

Sometimes, people who haven’t spoken in years get to reconnect, and old relationships are mended. Other times, a heartless comment is all it takes to end a friendship that had been on the rocks for years.

Parents get their revenge from beyond the grave, as neglectful children find out that they were cut out of the will years before.

The truth about a friend’s moral fiber shines through as they step up to help the family in the final days. Doing all of the right things, when no one has to ask them to.

While others want desperately to help, only to find they are so ill-equipped to be of any use, that they cause more harm than good. But they keep trying.

Regret overwhelms some of the mourners, as they realize they missed their chance to visit one last time. They had been busy, and thought there was more time.

It really does expose the essence of our character. It’s the ultimate meeting of the material with the spiritual. Concerns over money, respect, love, property, greed, and grace, all fall from the sky like ash, blanketing everyone in its oppressive shroud. Leaving people to act out of instinct, gasping for what they think is air, only to drown in their own grief.