you’re never fully dressed…

When Dad died, I was surprised by the overwhelming number of minor decisions that had to be made – even though he had made his wishes known regarding the ‘big stuff’ (no life support, no heroic measures, no plastic flowers on his grave*…)

In the days before the funeral, family members dealt with different pieces of the puzzle – one of my jobs was to bring clothing to the funeral home.  Amidst a million other errands, i flew into the house, quickly went over the items Mom had prepared, then ran out to get the clothing to the funeral home by the requested delivery time.

Walking into the office at the funeral home, i was greeted by a receptionist – exhibiting the demeanor of a woman who had seen much and reacted to little.

And then it hit me.  I didn’t say “hello”, or “I’m bringing clothing for…” or anything else… The only word I could utter?


The unruffled receptionist politely said “I beg your pardon?”

I whispered, in complete shock: “Pants!  I don’t have his pants…”

She remained calm, and said “We fully dress here…” **

Choking back a fit of the giggles, I held up a finger and managed to tell her “I’ll be right back”.

I raced back to the house, where Mom and my sister (and fellow refugee) T, were dealing with other issues.  Breathless, i ran inside, and stood before them in the dining room.  I asked the same question: “Pants?”

T turns immediately to Mom and blurts out “SEE!!!!  I told you he needs pants!  Nobody’s sending my ass out of this world without my fucking pants!”

And then came the stress giggles…


* Mom is a packrat.  One particularly annoying ‘collection’ is of cheap, dusty, faded and completely horrible plastic flowers.  My Dad hated these things – and one of the deathbed promises i made was to assure him that there would be no plastic flowers on his grave.  It’s a constant battle, but i’m tenacious…

** During preparations for my Grandmother’s funeral, i was surprised to learn that it was a local (Appalachian) custom to only dress the corpse from the waist up – since the casket would only be half-open during visitation.  Grandma was buried in her bloomers, pantyhose and the top half of a pantsuit.  I find many burial rituals bizarre and barbaric, but this one seemed particularly goofy.  I’ve often wondered if it somehow originated from depression-era frugality.  I have yet to find much documentation on this practice. 

10 thoughts on “you’re never fully dressed…

  1. manuel – thank you! your story captured it so very well – that ‘sound’ (i can still hear it when i close my eyes if i try), the strange way we accept and understand these odd customs around death/burial…and how we do derive comfort from communal grieving. And of course, the laughs! i’m sure i’ll get around to a few more stories from this particular event! Thanks again…that is a beautiful piece!

  2. First I’ve ever heard of that Appalachian custom. That’s a strange one, but then many Appalachian customs are. Back in Columbus, my dad called mountain folk “hillbillies”. Actually, he used that term for just about anyone from southern Ohio, Kentucky or West Virginia.

    That business with your mom and plastic flowers, — I know all too well the kind of crap that certain people tend to accumulate in the belief that plastic is an acceptable substitute for anything and everything. Just thinking about it makes my brain freeze and the bottom of my stomach drop out.

    Me. I plan on leaving as a pile of ashes.

  3. manuel that was a beautiful piece of writing.

    when stephen died his sister in law suggested putting him in a suit. I took a black t-shirt, a pair of jeans and a pair of blundstones to the funeral parlour. that was as dressed up as he would get while he was alive so that’s the way he would have wanted to go out.

  4. kn – more fun? have a ‘spring’ added so you pop up to say ‘hi’ when they open the lid!

    toby – i’ll be dry roasted as well… may offer ‘souvenirs’ to those who give a shit. a small bit of the ashes, in a commemorative box that says “daisyfae’s ash hole”… if someone can get a laugh outta me after i’m out, then that’s ok fine by me!

    nm – and without a doubt, you got it right! sending a hug…

  5. I read your post earlier and had absolutely nothing to say.

    I still have nothing to say about your half dressed deceased family members. I really tried to comment with all seriousness but I kept laughing at your shitty comment on my blog. Ahhh I swear Daisy my tummy hurts so bad.

  6. uw – then we’re about even! your rants have made me laugh so hard i need a new cushion for my computer chair… sad part about the stuff i’m writing? it’s all true…. wait til i start making things up!

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