I Needed To See Her In That Pink Casket: Viewing Our Loved Ones

 

When my grandmother died she looked grotesque. She suffered a sudden heart attack and was given CPR for quite a while before they stopped. When I walked in, a huge tube was in her mouth with flecks of blood, cords connected to her arms, her eyes were slightly open and she just looked the most un-grandma I could ever imagine. It felt traumatic, it was hard to look at and yet I needed to keep looking. I needed to know something about what her last moments had been like and I needed to just sit and be there with her for a while.

Empty hospital bedThe whole time I kept thinking to myself, “this is not the last way you’ll see her, it can’t be. We’ll have a viewing – the girls will take care of her.

Grandma, I promise, you’ll look beautiful the next time I see you.”

I thought about the young women, friends of mine, who work in the Care Center here at O’Connor – I’ve seen the transformations they bring about and heard families gush over the beautiful peace they see and feel when viewing their loved one. I began to think about how Grandma would look after they bathed her, massaged her tensed muscles, curled her hair just the way she liked it and put on the “Fuschia Shock” shade of lipstick that she loved so much.

“She will look so much better,” I thought, “Oh, I can’t wait for that, I need that. She needs that.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 3.57.04 PMI felt so much peace knowing that she wouldn’t be left or buried looking the way that she did.

I’m 6 years now into the funeral profession and can I tell you that it was very strange to be on the other side of these events. We were the family coming in for the visitation, not those “other” people, the ones that death happens to. Death hits each of us with a low, solid punch and I was so relieved to not be immune. People assume you’re “comfortable” with death when you work at a mortuary, and the truth is, you get used to hearing the stories, well, some of the stories, but death is never “comfortable” no matter how much exposure you have.

Making our way to the visitation I felt anxious and excited – a strange blend of what I knew I needed and what was going to be hard to face. I walked in to the the lobby at O’Connor and saw my coworkers – they’re pained faces smiling and simultaneously acknowledging the pain of my visit. It was strange to be here  but not working, wearing my blue jeans and sandals. I was hugged and told to “go see her” and knew they would be waiting outside while I walked through the doors to see grandma.

This is what I saw:

IMG_2863-1024x543So beautiful! Her favorite colors had always been mauves and lavenders and the room just seemed to burst with these gorgeous colors.

IMG_28671-300x298My mom was so overwhelmed she said, “I just want to take a picture and show it to her, she would love this so much!” – folks, it doesn’t get better than that. It was incredible. When you can create a service so perfectly fitting that you wish they were there to see it, you can be confident that you have perfectly honored their life.

The next few hours were spent adding things in the casket, photos, a broach on her sweater, and this darling pin I found in her house.

She had always loved Koala bears and I always thought of her when I saw them. When I placed the tiny pin in the corner of her casket I could hear her laugh. I felt like we were laughing together at this silly but precious detail – she would have loved it, laughed and cried (she was always doing that) and squeezed my hand saying, “Oh, honey, it’s just beautiful.”

 

Molly Keating

About Molly Keating

Hi, I’m Molly and I write for the blog here at O’Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who’s deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try.
Work at O’Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.
I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.

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  • Anne

    And it was…. Just beautiful.
    Every tiny detail. It’s what we do and I somehow think she saw and knew.

  • Becky Finch Lomaka

    Your Grandmother did look beautiful and I know she was tickled pick at every touch and detail you and your family thought of to make her ceremony, and the time leading up to it, just perfect. It’s strange, isn’t it, how being with your deceased loved one can be so very peaceful and just what you need. So many, who have not experienced the unfathomable pain of losing someone they dearly love, think it will be unbearable; but actually, it’s just the opposite. It is exactly what we need to help us endure the pain. Thanks for sharing!

    Becky

  • Lori

    Molly,
    It was beautiful! I have seen the Viewing Room set up for services countless times. I can’t remember it looking quite that lovely. The lavender theme was just gorgeous.
    Our Care Center is outstanding at transformations. So blessed by the gift they give families to see their loved ones looking better than they ever imagined. I never had the opportunity to meet your Grandma, however, I will think of the two of you each time I see a Koala bear from now on. I am so comforted by this post and your previous one about the time you spent in the hospital after she died. It brings me peace knowing I will be in the very best hands when it comes time to honor my Grandma – one day – with her 101st birthday not far off, not sure when that may be! Thank you for sharing your family’s story with us.
    Love,
    Lori

  • Sharon Watkins

    This was a beautiful tribute to your your Grandmother, your family and the incredible staff at O’Connor Mortuary. I love and miss you all♡

  • Mark

    Molly,
    Thank you for your insightful words about viewing your grandmother. Thank you also for the kind words you said about our care center staff. I speak from personal experience when I say they are the best. When my parents died and both were prepared by our care center staff they looked better in their caskets dead than they had for the last 3 years when they were alive. When I saw how good my Mom and Dad looked, it was amazing, and very helpful. Mark

  • Fitz

    Molly,
    What a great tribute about your grandmother and also how you’ve really shown the importance of having a viewing. It can be cathartic and the first important steps to the healing journey those in grief will experience. Thank you for sharing. Fitz

  • Shasta Cola

    Molly, I just want to say what an honor it was preparing your grandmother. I am glad she got the care and attention she deserved, and she did look beautiful! I loved her lipstick 🙂 I am sure she was so sweet like you and your family.