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"That's Not My Mama"

"That's Not My Mama"


Viewings have been a staple in the funeral industry for as long as most of us can remember. Someone dies, the arrangements are made, and the date and time for the service is scheduled. 

If you’ve been with me since the beginning of I Do Death, you know that I don’t particularly like viewings. That being said, most families still insist on having them. When this happens, I do my best to explain what they may see.
We try our best to make them look like they are peacefully sleeping. We work with what we have to give your families the closure they desire. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

Every funeral professional has been faced with those four words that indicate that a storm is coming. The family has been ushered into the chapel to view for  the first time, and then you hear it. “That’s not my mama!” I’ve always tried to be transparently tactful when explaining things like this to people. 

On this particular day, I was swamped. Buried behind a mountain of paperwork, trying to make sure everything was in order for the following week. Mr. Jones was kind enough to usher the Thomas family into the chapel for their private viewing.  Taylor, the youngest daughter, was clearly not happy. 

“That’s not my mama!” 

I heard those words echo down the hall all the way to my office. Of course it was her mother. I sat quietly to hear how Mr. Jones would respond.  I heard Taylor’s sisters try to calm her, reminding her that mom had been sick for several months, and it had been some time since she’d seen her. 

“She doesn’t look like she’s sleeping.” Taylor said quietly. 
Mr. Jones stepped forward and leaned over the casket, taking another look at Mrs. Thomas. 

“Well, she not sleeping baby, she dead.”

The room was silent. All eyes were on Mr. Jones. 

“If you truly believe your mother is at peace, then her spirit is gone. She’s moved out. What we’re looking at now is an empty house. You can’t move everything out of your house that made it a home and then expect it to look the same.” 
It was a risky way to approach this concern, but he wasn’t wrong. 

I expected Taylor to yell at him, to ask to speak to someone else, but instead, she wiped her eyes, and thanked him. 

Ultimately, the family decided to keep the casket closed for the ceremony.  Wherever Mrs. Thomas is, I hope she found peace.  I think about that day from time to time, and the wisdom in his words still resonate with me to this day. 

“You can’t move everything out of your house that made it a home and then expect it to look the same.” 

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