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.