Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Final Furniture – or – A Funny Thing Happened Shopping at the Funeral Home

      Think back to those days of your box of 64 Crayola crayons. You know there were tinted wax sticks in that box that were never and I do mean never used.
     My perpetually intact color was – Periwinkle Blue.
     Not that it was an unattractive color --- it was just, well – odd. It wasn’t as pleasant as Cornflower Blue or as accepted as good ‘ole Navy Blue. There was just something weird about Periwinkle.
     Ignoring that color would come back to haunt me in the oddest place – the basement of a funeral home.
     If you’ve been reading A Daily Dose of Decadence awhile, you know I have a fairly irreverent sense of humor. I guess I always have, because it was put to good use in said funeral home.
    My father died when I was 19. It was the first funeral I actually ‘participated’ in, if you can call it that. I was along with my mother to pick out a casket and help (or observe I guess) with the arrangements.
    The casket ‘showroom’ was in the basement of the facility. At the time, there was no logging on to Best Price Caskets or going to and ordering a cheapie to be delivered the next day---and while I’m there, I might as well download a couple of books to the Kindle --- this was well before the Internet became part of our lives.
    Anyway, so my mom and I are in the basement shopping. There are about a dozen caskets on display.  One which particularly caught my eye – not to buy mind you, but because of its very strange finish. It was crushed velvet (yes, go with that 70s bad wedding tuxedo thought) in Periwinkle Blue and wait there’s more!…the fabric had little same color fleur-de-lises stamped into it.
  “Shh! Stop it!” My mother had grabbed hold of my elbow with the grip of a cop leading a drunk into a police precinct! She was trying to get me to stop giggling.
   “But Mom – it’s so ugly! Why would you even put a dead person in that?”
    Her pinch only became more secure as she led me over to something more ‘acceptable.’
    Now, I don’t care who you are—that was one FUGLY piece of furniture! Uh, and NO we did not choose  that one for my father.
    Fast forward some 21 years later. I was at the same funeral home, only this time I was completely in charge of the arrangements, this time for my mom. I could hear her admonishment in the back of my head, ‘Don’t even think about periwinkle blue crushed velvet!’
    The funeral home had changed a bit. Now upstairs was the showroom, (or ‘family resource center’) but it reminded me of visiting the linen department of JC Penney. Don’t know if it’s still done, but Penney’s used to make up little ‘mini’ beds in the sheet department, about a quarter of a bed would stick out from the display, enough to get the whole feel of your chosen bedroom ensemble – complete with neck pillows.
   The same was done with caskets! Only this time, I had to stop myself from giggling. Talk about choices! JEEZ!
    First, finish: veneer, solid wood, solid oak, solid cherry, solid mahogany, stainless steel, 18 gauge steel, 20 gauge steel, bronze, copper! Each finish (and there were about 5 different veneers to begin with!) had about a quarter of a casket mounted on the wall.
    Complete with interior choices: satin, faux satin, spun velvet. Then color choices, fold and drape choices and of course, pillows and accessories.
   (And no, there was no sign of a periwinkle blue crushed velvet fleur-de-lis emblazoned casket anywhere in the mini-showroom! Thank goodness!)
   My head was spinning!  
    Even though I was ‘in charge,’ I needed help with selecting the proper ‘furniture’ from my husband who was in a different city at the time. I found it immensely silly that I was on my cell phone in the ‘family resource center,’ saying to him,  ‘The veneer looks pretty cheesy – I just can’t put mom in that.’
    His pat of my hand at the funeral and a quiet ‘You did good,’ was enough to know that my casket selecting skills were right on! I’ll be putting that on my resume asap! (It was a lovely high top oak, by the way…)
    Lesson learned – if you wouldn’t put it in your living room while you’re ALIVE, why the hell is it acceptable for a dead person?
    And one other thing - it doesn’t matter what the situation, you gotta handle it with some humor! – even a funeral!

Wendy Burke blogs regularly for A Daily Dose of Decadence and is currently in the editing process on RESPITE, a post-WWII romance to be published soon by Decadent Publishing. She can be found on Facebook – Wendy Burke Author, at her blog site, Whatever Wendy! and lurking around the Internet – usually giving Deanna Wadsworth ( a load of crap because she truly deserves it. When not playing with the people in her head, Wendy has a fine life with a chef husband (YES – no cooking!) and two furry feline kids and a full-time job that keeps her from writing fulltime in ‘beautiful’ Toledo, Ohio.



Maureen said...

What? You got a problem with purple velvet with black lacquer lid and skull and crossbones ornamentation?

Wendy Burke said...

Actually, no, Maureen, it was just the periwinkle blue I couldn't tolerate! :) (To be honest - your choice would have been better than the p'blue w/fleur de lis!)

Redameter said...

I must admit this is a strange almost bizarre blog, talking about caskets and death. But okay, I have always been told not to go for the gold with a casket. The are dead, they won't care, and putting a love one in a pine box is fine, except that pine is expensive too. When my husband died I had him creamated, and I bought this loving praying hands mold to put him in, it's bronze. Very lovely to look at.

I think I want to be creamated, I don't like bugs, and no matter how expensive a casket is, those little buggers can get in.

Love and blessings

P.Kirby said...

The unused colours in my crayon box were oranges (because the color makes my stomach turn) and the metallics (because they really don't look like much on paper.)

I've already made it clear to friends and family that I want to be cremated. And the ashes should be scattered in New Zealand or Kauai. No sitting on a mantle for my crispy-crittered remains, no sirree, Bob.

Great blog post!


Kathleen said...

I loved periwinkel blue crayons and I used them, too! Maybe I was a weird kid.

I enjoyed your post. Funeral talk is always so taboo. I keep my mother's urn in my office. It's royal blue, not periwinkel, and it has white doves flying around it. lol

Deena said...

Wendy,we would have complimented each other as kids because I always used up the periwinkle first. LOL Then I moved on to cornflower. there was something always so comforting and calming about those colors.

JM said...

I love periwinkle blue. *wailing* How could you not?
Seriously, great post. It's wonderful that you could find humor in somber situations.
Toledo beautiful? Really?

Wendy Burke said...

Really - I was going for humorous!