Luckily, I didn't have to dress it. I anticipated that the entire time I was journeying to Oklahoma. Mormon's dress their dead in ceremonial clothing and I was petrified that as the only purportedly endowed child, I would have to help. Luckily, I got away with something less extensive, but still somewhat traumatic in its own way. I got to pull the veil down over her face and remove the white cloth covering her ceremonial apron.
But still, it was somewhat traumatic. In general, I consider myself a pretty laid back person. Shit happens and while it bothers me, I try not to be dramatic about it. But this whole death thing is hard for me to accept with the same resignation. Every part of me rebels at the thought that eventually, my body will simply stop. I will not be able to just keep breathing and force death away. I will only be able to fight for so long before my body takes over and gives up consciousness.
Then, I will cease to be human. I will be nothing but a stiff, mottled corpse.
My mother's hands were heavy when I tried to pull the cloth out from under them. They were without any inertia. They dragged grotesquely with the cloth as I pulled at it. My grandmother and the funeral director told me to just keep pulling, and I did, but not without some consternation at the way her yellowing hands held onto the cloth without actually doing so.
I had never felt rigor mortis before. When I brushed my finger on her cheek, it was like brushing a resin or rubber figurine. I told it, "I love you," even though she was no longer "she". It's amazing the things we do to keep up appearances and appease other people. But I was so afraid that if I didn't touch her in some way, I would offend my grandmother and father, who seemed to have no qualms about kissing her goodbye. I was relieved when the apron was uncovered, the veil drawn and the casket closed.
Unfortunately, a couple of nights later, I dreamed she came to life in the funeral home. I remember being simultaneously glad to see her and terrified at the thought that my mother was alive in spite of the fact that her internal organs were in a plastic sack inside her abdominal cavity. I wish now that I hadn't touched her at all, that I had let her friend help my grandmother with her veil and apron. I confess that for now, I am repelled by lifelessness.