August 07, 2010

When I Die, Give me a Tummy Tuck

And so we had the viewing.

And so Pop looked perfectly AWFUL.

Seriously, though, why do we expect them to NOT... look awful, that is. They are dead, afterall, yet we expect them to look 'good'.

It was open only for the family for the first hour, to be closed directly after. My husband walked up, looked in, and said, "Close it. He looks terrible."

Someone else walked up and said, "Who is this? What did they do? This doesn't even look like him."

My husband reiterated, "Close it."

I said, "No, you can't. This is the FAMILY viewing and everyone gets the CHOICE to see. You can close it when everyone says they're finished."

Too much time has been spent discussing WHY Pop looked so bad. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't blue or ghoulish. He was just... seriously... someone else's Dad and grandfather.

Its like too much fluid had been drained from his hands and they looked like vampire claws.

His face? Good grief. We have been over it and over it and the best we can decide is... they tried to fix his features and should have left them alone.

I get the lips. His face had hung open at such an odd angle for so long, when they closed it and sewed it shut it gave a pinched look. The skin stretched across his teeth so you could see the outline of his jaw.

However, that wasn't bad enough, and something my husband and I contend was probably unavoidable. What WAS avoidable was the nose job they gave him. His nose was broken THREE times in his lifetime, the last time five years ago when he hit face first when hit by a car that was backing out but never bothered to check behind.

And allow me to inform you as well, my husband's dear friend is an ENT, and when Pop went to see said friend about the nose to make sure it was all 'liveable' I guess, our friend said he could fix his nose and Pop said No.

He said No.

I know, you're thinking, "Big deal... he said no..." except you didn't see his nose. It was broken to the side and FLAT. His nose was pushed to one side and flat and he said to one of the finest surgeons in the area, someone who would have COMPLETELY taken care of him as if he were his own father, "No".

We all shook our heads and laughed. I mean, his glasses didn't even fit right anymore. You'd have thought he'd get it fixed for functionality alone... but NO.

And to add to it, the last couple months Pop was prone to more and more anxiety attacks and so we were trying to teach him breathing to get through the tough spots. We'd hold him, speak to him quietly and gently, and invariably, my brother in law would say, "Dad... now close your mouth and breathe innnnnnn through your nose..."

This went on for weeks and weeks and weeks until a couple days before he died, I said when it was just he and I, "Pop, can you EVEN breathe through your nose?"

He looked at me dryly and deadpanned, "NO."

I laughed as he'd been humoring everyone for all those weeks. "Breathe in through your nose" was the equivalent of 'Hold your breath..."

Anyway, where was I going with this? The mortician guys fixed his nose. Someone obviously was bothered by the horrific lack of symmetry in his face, the jaw hanging open at a cock eyed angle and the nose flat to one side... so they closed his jaw straight and straightened his nose!!!

And in giving him the nose job, they flattened it a bit so his nostrils flared. He looked... dead, drawn and PISSED.

And this was going to be my niece's introduction to the dead? It actually worked out perfectly.

Livey made the choice of going forward to the casket. Everyone spoke to her about it and so we realized that to not let her was going to be worse in the long run. And as you might expect, 'twas I that had 'concrete question duty'.

Livey: It doesn't look like him, Aunt Bou.

Me, aghast at how 'pissed' he looked: You're right. You know what this shows you, Livey? This shows you that the man you loved is NOT here. He's not. This was just his mortal shell. The man you hugged and who used to hug you is not here.

Livey: He's not here. This doesn't look like him at all.

Me: Nope. Life made him the man you loved. This isn't him.

She went on to ask if she could touch him, to which I said, 'of course', and she commented on how cold he was, to which I said the warmth was the part no longer with us. The love and warmth go hand in hand.

She brushed his jacket accidentally and said, "Is there paper under there?"

I opened his sleeve so she could look in and I said, "Nope. Just his jacket. His skin is hard like clay now, so when things brush up against it, it doesn't sound like our skin."

She played with his jacket arm for awhile, continued to comment on how it didn't look like him and then... the entire reason I knew she needed her questions answered, occurred. If she had not asked, if I had not answered, she'd have created answers herself, ghoulish and incorrect answers that would haunt her for a long time.

The casket has that little cloth at the waist so you can't see beyond the waist. You can't look down into the depths of the casket to his feet.

Livey *big big pause*: Aunt Bou *in a whisper* Did they... cut him in half?

She thought he was some rendition of the magician's "Watch me as I saw my assistant in half!".

Me: No, no, no, that cloth is there just to block seeing his ENTIRE body. It's cool. It's all there.

Livey: Why do they want to cover it? *big whisper again* Is he... naked? Is he wearing... pants?

Me: YES! Your aunts brought ALL his clothes. He has underwear, socks, shoes, pants and a belt. It's all there.

Livey: Whew.

And that was that. We shut it just a bit thereafter.

I think if we had to do it again, we'd have supplied them with a picture with directions to not fix his nose.

Good grief. Can you imagine? All your physical imperfections can be fixed at death. Can't afford plastic surgery when alive? No worries, if you're lucky, you'll get it in death.


Finally got his nose fixed and now there was no way in hell air was going to move through it. Sheesh.

BTW, you can just imagine how much I laughed at Peggy and Carl in the comments of THIS post. Holy crap. Carl's family is going to have to INSIST on one of those waist cloths on the casket...

Posted by Boudicca at August 7, 2010 10:28 PM

Wow - all I have to do is die and they'll do all that cosmetic work for me... um... OMG! Okay that makes me laugh. As for naked in the box... no way. Good grief!

I'm glad you were there to answer the questions - Livey is a very lucky child!

Posted by: Teresa at August 8, 2010 10:54 PM

When my grandfather died in 2001, the funeral home put his dentures in. He got false teeth sometime in the late 40's- took them out on the drive home, and never wore them again. I understand, somewhat, what you are talking about.

Posted by: Sean at August 9, 2010 12:35 AM

I had an acquaintance whose grandfather always had a full, white, bushy mustache. Clean-shaven elsewhere on his face, but with this huge mustache.

He was in a nursing home a few days right before he died, and he had grown some stubbly facial hair. The funeral home asked if the family wanted him shaved, and they said 'yes', thinking they'd clean up the stubble. And there he was at his viewing without any facial hair at all...his trade-mark bushy mustache was GONE!!

So...I've learned that taking a picture to the funeral home for the preparation is a very, very good idea.

Posted by: Mrs. Who at August 9, 2010 11:16 AM

"Did they... cut him in half?"


Posted by: Jerry in Indiana at August 9, 2010 10:59 PM

Well I ended up in the emergency room yesterday (severe gastric bleeding) and got to talk to my sister over the phone. Of course I requested the open casket no clothes funeral and she agreed to cremate me. The real question is whether or not I believe her.

When I recounted this to my mom I got her to laugh which is always a good thing to hear from a woman with a child in the ER.

Posted by: Carl Brannen at August 12, 2010 10:29 PM