Funeral clothes are a complicated issue. Mostly, you can wear what you wore to work (unless you’re not in an office) and you dress to show respect. Respect for the situation and to let the bereaved know, non verbally, that you made an effort to be there. You present your best self to show that this event was important enough that you didn’t just pull yourself out of a hole to throw in a wave and then move on to a dollar menu evening.
At Z’s funeral (celebration?) a distant cousin that I’ve only met once in my life was there. He rolled into her funeral day (literally rolled, on his scooter) and was wearing a plain gray sweatshirt. I overheard him tell someone else that he’d forgotten his good clothes and had to go to Walmart to get a nice sweatshirt.
That meant a lot to me, the comment. I knew that he’d looked at his clothes he packed and felt what he had wasn’t good enough. What he brought wouldn’t show the respect he wanted to convey for my baby’s last mass. So he did something about it. He scootered himself into the Gaylord Walmart and rectified the situation. What he ended up in, the basic Hanes crew neck, wasn’t the point. The point was he cared.
Picking out the clothes you wear to your husband’s funeral, and then your child’s funeral, is a much different beast. And the two are individually and monumentally terrible.
In Gaylord, I went to The Dress Barn with my family. That in itself is something. If you haven’t been to The Dress Barn lately, they’ve really cleaned up their act. But still, shopping for the clothes I will wear to my child’s funeral at an establishment that includes the word “Barn” is… something. Whatever. I was in Gaylord.
Unless it’s a swanky LBD, I detest the all black look for a funeral. I’m neither Jackie O nor Queen Victoria. So, I stood half naked, no make-up, in horrible fluorescent lighting, in my worst possible condition, preparing for my worst possible day, in a figurative barn, looking for something in a color that isn’t black, and is comfortable enough to carry me through five hundred hugs and hide tear stains and won’t cut into my waist.
The lady moving my choices to the fitting rooms is pleasant. I don’t want to mar her chit-chat with my task. I’m picking out the clothes that I will wear to the mass that will usher out my child. She doesn’t need that weight. We all plaster on smiles. And I walk in and out of the fitting rooms, asking my mom and sister and aunt and cousins what they think. What do they think of my choices? What should I wear to this? This place of formal ritual and objective terror.
As women, we are raised in a tradition of formal dress. We spend our childhood picking out princess dresses. As teenagers, we pick out prom dresses. As young adults we pick out wedding dresses. As mothers, we start picking out the dresses for our daughters. The tradition carries. We are always planning on the prefect dress for the next big rite of passage. The rites of passage. The rituals.
I am not equipped to pick out clothes for my husband’s funeral. And I am not prepared to pick out clothes for my child’s funeral. All of my life I have dreamily picked out clothing for the exciting rites of passage. But not this. Never does this occasion factor into the plans.
My sister buys my clothes for me. She takes part in the ritual.
We dress ourselves for a funeral to show our respect for the departed and to the bereaved. It is never enough.
0 stars. Would not recommend.
We love you Amy, Stan, Susie…and the entire clan, close and far. Your writing is an amazing testament to your love, grace and eloquence… thank you for sharing your sidr and thoughts of all that you are.