How to dress a dead man

I have always loved to write. For as long as I can remember I have written my thoughts in the form of stories and poetry. In High School my classmates would pay me money to write poems for their crush or get advice on how to word a letter to someone. There are some random stories and poems of mine published in obscure publications throughout the years. I have even written short eBooks for companies and small entrepreneurs as a ghostwriter and spent several years earning extra cash writing website content for many different companies. I even owned and published a local magazine for a year. However, the standing theme with me has always been “When I write my book” or “When my book gets published”, never before moving any further than saying those words, aside from keeping the files of stories and thoughts on my hard drive. This step in sharing with the world these moments of my life and how I feel about them has given me even more energy to turn the words into reality. As with any skill, I am certain my writing will continue to get better. I find that I stray from the nuances of great sentence structure and flawless punctuation, so in time and with a few classes these things will assuredly come more naturally. With that being said I thought it would be fun to share the very first story I wrote when I decided to write a memoir. It is an addition to my post “First Day”. It was actually the first thing I did on my first day before the funeral service. I have written several stories of that day, eventually you will get to read them all.

 

How to dress a dead man

 

I walked into the embalming room to dress a Chinese man. The funeral is later today and he has 7 layers of clothing to put on. Never before seeing a deceased person so close without them already being prepared, my nerves well up and my stomach flops and then determination kicks in. I want to do this!  My coworker and I walk up to this man’s body and discuss the procedure for getting him dressed for the long rest. 7 layers of clothing and we don’t know which goes on first, or second or last. So my coworker leaves the room to look over the paperwork again. I take this precious opportunity to dig as far as I can in understanding that this will be my working life from now on. Sitting with dead bodies, waiting to be prepared, preparing them. He looked like he was sleeping and the closer I got the more real he became. I got closer and closer to his face, I looked at his lips, I studied his eyelashes, eyebrows, the pores in his skin. In those few moments I know I just saw him sleeping. His chest raising up and down ever so slightly, his eye twitched just a hair as his dreams made him restless. My coworker returned and we proceeded to figure out the order of the layers so this man could be placed in his casket. Never will I forget this first experience of stretching my understanding and learning to train my brain that this person, is not breathing at all.

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About Chelsea Tolman