Two days later, we went to the hospital mortuary to retrieve our mother’s corpse. The white body wrapping was unwrapped at the face, for us to identify the person. The look of my mother’s pale and frozen face had a certain stillness – a different stillness I had not experienced before.
I remember the quietness of my mother sleeping in her bed at home and also the oblivion when she was in a coma at the hospital bed. But this new stiffness brings up age old questions: Is that all there is? When will it be my turn? How cold is it like to be dead frozen? How hot is it, to be burning in a gas furnace? What come next? Do the dead know and care?
No one can really be sure about many matters of life and death. But the dead do matter. My mother’s death does matter to us in ways that we are only beginning to understand. As we stood around the mortuary watching the undertakers clean and dress the stiff body, she was with us. She is not dead. Her body may already be decaying inside, but she has been transformed to become the strongest memory, in my inner life. Is this what some may call clinging to the dead?
My mother has become a new mental reality – memories making up of all the hauntingly happy, sad, quiet and turbulent times of our family life. Besides, there was also all her personal remnants which we will bring home to lay in wake. The last funeral rights at our home will also be a way for all of our family members and friends to come to meet and get to know the new perception of my mother’s being and not being.