August 04, 2010

I'll Take Concrete Questions for $500.

It's the little decisions at times that are the most difficult, things like, 'What do we do with Dad's glasses?" My husband standing there, twirling them in his hands, wondering... what do we do?

My vote is to put them on him and just leave it alone. No decision if they're on him... of course they can be donated as well. That could be the case.

There was some odd sense of urgency today from the Funeral Home that they HAD to have his clothes by 3:00 this afternoon.

My sisters in law were running out to get them to them in time. I shook my head and said, "Really. What's going to happen if you don't get them there by 3:00? Is he going to... die? Please. Spontaneously combust? Hardly. Look, if they get all pissy, I'll dress him. It can't be worse than some of the other stuff I did at the end..." They thought that was hysterical and didn't seem so stressed as they left after that.

Perspective. Please.

Children's perspectives are even more different. Where we may contemplate the deep discussions of death, is there a soul, is there not? Is there a heaven or a hell? What exactly happens? And on and on one may ask one's self.

The bluntness of children is wonderful. My niece, as crazy as she can be, one of the things I love about her most his out in your face and blunt she can be, no sugar coating... it is what it is.

Livey: Aunt Bou, where is he?

Me *thinking crap, what does she mean?*: Where is Pop?

Livey: YES. Where IS he?

Me: Umm... well... *thinking, I'm not the one to ask the questions about souls, death, where heaven is actually LOCATED*

Livey *acting as if she were GRABBING someone with both hands at the bicep*: HIM. Where is HE. His body. Where is it?

Me *relieved at the concrete question*: OH! Well, he's at a funeral home. There are people whose business is death. Like some people become lawyers or plumbers or doctors, some people work with the dead and preparing them.

Livey: Is it a building?

Me *suddenly aware my sister in law is watching and listening closely*: Yup. We'll see the building Thursday night. They take him from the hospital, clean him up, brush his hair, get him in clothes we picked out and get him in the casket. That's their job.

Livey: So then does his skin come off?

Me: *blink*

Livey: Dad says his skin will just... fall off. (she made motions of his skin falling off in hunks)

Me *realizing darn well that no way my brother in law said it like that*: Well... that is called rotting, decaying or decomposing. No, not yet. They're going to put this medicine type stuff in his body to keep from doing that. People struggle with thinking that someone they loved is rotting.

Livey: So is Granny all bones yet?

Me: I think it takes longer than 10 years. I need to look... I'll research it and get back with you.

I got in the car and one of my sisters in law said "Yeah, I'm curious now..."

Meanwhile, it'll be interesting to see Livey's take tomorrow. It is a closed casket viewing except for family, and I'm sure she's going to have a ton of questions. I think it could be pretty interesting...

Posted by Boudicca at August 4, 2010 11:49 PM

My youngest is worried because he doesn't believe a 'soul' can see since it doesn't have eye balls. Sigh...

Posted by: vwbug at August 5, 2010 05:31 AM

That's funny... that's kind of deep, VW. That doesn't surprise me from him.

Posted by: Bou at August 5, 2010 07:08 AM

We had a similar situation. I told my sister to have Dad's clothes ready, and that I needed to have them up to the mortuary by 6pm. At 5:30 my sister informed me that the slacks were still damp. I said, "Does that really matter when you're dead?" She said, "Oh, maybe not." Perspective.

Posted by: Jerry in Indiana at August 5, 2010 07:26 AM

There is a different vibe that a living body gives off. Even children can feel the difference.

Don't be too surprised when Livey notes that "Gosh, Pops soul is not here." Or something of that sort. The difference is kind of startling when you are young.

Otherwise it sounds like the same-old, same-old of dealing with another bureaucracy. {{{{{Hugs}}}}}

Posted by: The Thomas at August 5, 2010 08:49 AM

When SWMBO's dad passed away 24 years ago, I was given the responsibility of checking out the body, to see that it was properly dressed... and that it was the right person in that box (Strange things have been known to happen... and the last thing anyone wants is to have a funeral for the wrong decedent.) SWMBO couldn't face that task... nor could either of her brothers.

And thus it was that I was the last person to see SWMBO's dad. (Our tradition does not sanction open caskets.) And last thing I did was to slip a photograph of his granddaughters into his pocket...

Posted by: Elisson at August 5, 2010 08:57 AM

I can't stand open caskets. The dead person has pasty makeup and a suit on, when you never saw him look like that alive, and it just strikes me as creepy.

An uncle died recently, and I pass his cemetery twice a week. Feels weird to think of "him" up on that hill as I drive past. But my mom, his sister, ignores the body, believing that's just dust, the 'real" uncle's soul is in heaven.

Anyway, now at least you have a whole new set of questions other than the ones about sex!

Posted by: George P at August 5, 2010 10:37 AM

Oddly enough I've only been to one closed casket visitation. As my family is catholic it seems to be "the thing" to have an open casket. I'll be interested to hear what she makes of it all.

Posted by: Teresa at August 5, 2010 12:12 PM

My Dad doesn't have his false teeth, but he does have this little black date book he kept with him all the time with the info for several years about his cattle, and a clean handkerchief, and his lapel pins he always wore to Church.

Posted by: Tina at August 5, 2010 12:27 PM

My grandfather (94 at passing) had his beloved harmonica tucked in his hands...

Posted by: patti at August 5, 2010 01:18 PM

I kissed my grandfather on his forehead as he lay in the casket, and held my little brother's hand briefly when he lay in's about whatever the family wants and can handle.

I like seeing a display of pictures of the person when I go to a visitation...sparks happier conversations about the when and where...

And I LOVE your matter-of-fact explanations with your niece. Kids don't need a pie-in-the-sky flowers and rainbows explanation about life. The key is to understand what they're REALLY asking about...

Posted by: Mrs. Who at August 5, 2010 06:57 PM

So by now you have done the research and can tell Livey ... it can take decades (multiple) for an embalmed person's body to decay ... assuming the casket is sealed and not under water.

Lincoln was last seen 1901, 36 years after he was assassinated, embalmed, and sealed in a lead lined casket. At that time Lincoln was missing his eyebrows, but as far as they could tell, otherwise intact. (They only cut open the top part of the casket.)

Some people claim that Lincoln was "embalmed" multiple times during the 12 day trip between Washington DC and Springfield IL. All of the "official" descriptions say that he was embalmed in Washington and that they added chalk to his features several times during the train trip to help mask the discoloration caused by the bruising from the fatal gun shot.

Posted by: The Thomas at August 5, 2010 10:38 PM

Call me chicken, but I was hardly able to go and view my dad in the casket. I did go in there very briefly just to be with the family, but I was determined that my last memory of him was not going to be lying in a casket all dressed up. Afterwards my stepmother polled us as to if we'd prefer the casket open or closed during the service. I told her I would respect whatever she wished, but if it were up to me I'd prefer it closed. Apparently I wasn't the only one that felt that way, because the casket ended up closed during the service.

Posted by: diamond dave at August 6, 2010 09:56 AM

I think we were all in a state of shock when my dad died, because he was young (49). Mom decided he had to be buried in a suit and she somehow acquired one. Dad NEVER wore what he called "monkey" suits, and he didn't own one. Mom made those arrangements with my oldest brother there for support. I don't know what she was thinking, but it probably made some sort of sense to her at the time. Anyhow, he was wearing this horrid powder blue suit that I'm sure he would never have been caught dead in - except he was. Added to that the makeup and the hair combed wrong ... and it was somebody else in the casket. The whole thing was surreal. He looked kind of like an Elvis impersonator. At least he was wearing his favorite ostrich skin boots, though you couldn't tell. I do wonder if the boots were the "inspiration" for the rest of the ensemble. I've never quite had the temerity to ask my mother.

Fortunately the majority of our family view life on earth as a transitional phase and have faith in the eternity of the soul. I say it's a good thing because I don't think any of us were pleased by the mortician's makeover. I sincerely hope St. Peter had a pair of jeans, a washcloth, and a comb handy.

Posted by: PeggyU at August 7, 2010 05:41 PM

My sister doesn't like cremation for her relatives. If I go first, I'm going to demand either cremation, or an open casket, no clothes. (Or is that a misdemeanor?)

Posted by: Carl Brannen at August 7, 2010 06:54 PM

Carl - I don't know why that should be such a bad idea. After all, it's how you come into the world. :) And what are they going to do - arrest you?

Bou's brother has some fairly creative ideas too, as I recall. ;)

Posted by: PeggyU at August 8, 2010 03:45 PM

I'm kind of envisioning an open casket where only your head and upper chest are open to the air. The effect would be that everyone would be trying to steal a peek.

Posted by: Carl Brannen at August 8, 2010 07:30 PM

Peggy and Carl- You have NO IDEA how close to home you hit with these comments. I just posted on the 'not naked dead man'. Good grief.

Posted by: Bou at August 8, 2010 09:36 PM