It's close to 11 now, and the funeral director has called (again) asking for the clothing, wondering what we have planned for her to wear. This part should be easy, my mother always talked about what she wanted to be buried in. I've known since I was 7 exactly what she wanted.
“When I die, you better put me in the best red dancing dress you can find. AND heels! I have to have heels on. I'll need to have my Charlie on and don't forget red panties"My mother knew what my dad liked, and she wanted to go out still catching his eye and ready to dance the night away.
So why is this so hard? Hell, it's February; finding a red dress should be easy.
It's 1, and if I don't go now I never will. I gather my belongings, kiss my baby girl goodbye and head to the department store. As I'm browsing the racks of dresses a happy little sales girl says "Can I help you find something? Are you looking for a dress for a valentine date? Have you seen these?" Shit! Now I know why I didn't want to do this; people, people asking questions, staring at you waiting for answers, filling the already awkward silence with even more questions. I guess I have to acknowledge her but, what do I say? Clearing my throat I say, "I'm just looking, but thank you. I'll let you know if I need anything."
Back to the racks I come across a dress. It's satin, has tiny roses on the top, an empire waist, and spaghetti straps. It also has a matching cardigan and since I've been directed by the funeral home her outfit must have sleeves this is perfect. I make my way to the under wear department where I find red lace panties that perfectly match the dress. Onto shoes; without many options I settle for a pair of strappy red heels.
I make my way to the register and here is the sales girl I have been trying so hard to avoid. "Did you find everything you need?" (GREAT more questions) "Yes" I say. "What's the special occasion, Valentine's day?" She's staring, waiting. God, why am I not a better liar? "My mother passed away. I'm buying her funeral clothes." Silence...
Driving to the funeral home I feel a bit of relief. I have one more thing done, one less thing to worry about. In the parking lot I find myself clutching the dress as if it's the last piece of my mother I will ever hold. How do I do this? How do I hand off of the outfit my mother will be buried in? Why, at 19 years old am I even here? This isn't fair.
As I hand over the clothing the director says "This is want you want her to wear?" "Yes," I say. "It is going to be open casket, and a traditional Catholic Mass right?" she says while looking at the stuff I've brought.” Oh here, we won't need these shoes, or these panties; Honey we don't really dress them from head to toe" she continues. "But," I mange to squeak out, "It's what she wanted. It's what she always wanted. She wants to meet my Dad again how she met him before; in a red dancing dress. I have to make sure she gets this."
I have to make sure she gets this. I need this. I need to believe in this, as long as she gets this, she will be reunited with my dad how she wanted. I will have done this one thing to prove I love her and she will know. She will know that she is important and she is loved, by me.
I picked this one insignificant detail to focus on because it was easier than thinking about the only person I felt had ever loved me was gone. The only person capable of loving me so wholly and unconditionally was gone.
Now what? I'm only 19.
I'm only 19 and now, I'm my own mother.