Mom’s Pink Funeral
A family member was there with me when my mother died, insisting that we call the funeral home RIGHT NOW. I didn’t know what the hurry was, but I complied. But what I really wanted was to spend a little more time with my mom, before her body was whisked away in a body bag.
Since that time, I have come to learn that there is no “rule” or law about how long you can keep a body at home after they die (may vary according to state). I mean, you are going to call them sooner than later, but there is no urgency. There’s no reason I couldn’t have hung out with my mom a little longer. Sigh.
Home viewings are becoming more common, and in that case the body may remain in the home for 2 or 3 days. That’s the extreme, of course, but I just wish I had known that back then. There is no hurry.
So they came to pick up Mom, and I sat there with my dad as he watched his wife of 57 years being carried out in a bag by two men in suits. I’m not sure how much it even registered for him though. He was also dying of cancer. But that’s another story for another day.
I knew exactly what dress she’d be buried in, even though we never discussed it. She wore the beautiful pink silk suit to two of her grandchildren’s weddings, and I know she loved it. That was a no-brainer.
And there was that same family member again (in-law, actually) — the same one who wanted to be rid of the body STAT — telling me that the suit was “no way going to fit”. Um, I think they can alter how things fit for someone laying in a casket (especially when the clothes are too big). I was going to bury my mom in that pink suit —end of discussion. Geez.
So I grabbed the garment bag — after peeking inside to find the suit — some earrings, shoes, etc., and my mom had everything a well-dressed corpse could possibly want.
Mom loved pink. To the florist, I specified “lots of BIG PINK FLOWERS.” And when I walked into the funeral home to view the scene, I was not disappointed. My florist friend complied, and the arrangements flanking the casket were huge, and all pink.
As I walked closer, there was Mom. Well, the makeup was a little funky, and the lipstick was a sickeningly-sweet shade of pink, but I didn’t expect perfect. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with a dead person, I reckon.
And the pink suit was exactly as I remembered it— except, wait — what is that?
THERE WAS A HUGE STAIN ON HER JACKET.
I was horrified. My poor mom was lying there as if she spilled half a cup of coffee on herself. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that big, but I suppose it’s grown larger in my memory over the years. It may have only been about the size of a dime at the time.
Not only did I feel that I had dishonored my mom by having her lie there in a stained outfit, but goodness knows what everyone was going to say, especially the controlling in-law.
Nobody said a thing. I don’t think anyone else noticed. Or cared.
But I was fixated on it. Maybe it made things easier that way — I had something else to think about now — other than no longer having a mom.
The funeral was the next day. I showed up wearing a hot pink mini-dress, resulting in the side-eye from the disapproving in-law. Ironically, I typically wear black clothing almost exclusively, but I know Mom would’ve loved this dress, and specifically this shade of pink.
So take that, sourpuss.
And this is another thing I’ve come to realize — you should wear whatever the fuck you want to your mother’s funeral.
I learned a lot from that experience, and so much more since then. All this stuff affected me so much, that I’m now kind of outspoken about how people should start talking about having their own good death.
There’s an increasingly-growing movement of death positivity, and I’m in it.
We need to talk about death — our own, and that of our loved ones — before we die. Because, well, we’re all going to.
If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve talked with my mom about that pink suit (and would’ve had it dry cleaned in preparation). But we don’t want to talk about death, even when it’s inevitable. And we should.
I recently took a course in becoming a death doula, and I’m working toward certification. I want to help the dying and their loved ones through this difficult time — and give them the support, guidance, and information I didn’t have.
None of us knew what we were doing at the time. Including well-meaning in-law — she was just trying to help. There’s no instruction manual for this stuff. But there is help — and I hope for some it will come from me, or that I can educate others to help themselves and their loved ones.
There’s a beautiful ritual of washing the body that can be done after your loved one passes. You can take your time saying goodbye. There’s no rush at all. You can do what you want. Now I know, and so do you.
Wear that hot pink dress, or leopard print, or whatever the hell would make you and/or your loved one happy.
It’s possible to make this scary and chaotic time downright pleasant and — dare I say — even fun.
Yeah, a good death. We should all hope for one. Start talking about it. Now.
Thanks, Mom. You look smashing in pink, and so do I.