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Final Selection


Raye McDonald

"I suppose you all know that your mother had already picked her viewing room." He spoke so very softly, and I had always wondered why funeral home people conversed in such hushed tones. After all, they really weren't going to disturb anyone. My sister and I looked at each other and exchanged grins. Little did this man know just how well organized our mother was. I looked down at the wrinkled box lying in my lap, and remembered a conversation that took place in the nursing home where mother spent her final days.

"Now, I want you to take this dress home with you, because folks steal things all of the time in here. This is my favorite dress." She had never sent anything home with me before. I looked at her frail and tiny body that day, and I knew exactly why that dress would be going home with me.

The funeral director said, "Ladies, it is time for us to go into the selection room. As he talked, I looked at the door that we would soon be entering, and wondered if I could go through what I knew we had to do. The funeral director held the door open as we entered the dreadful place. When I got into the room, I became immediately aware that the caskets were lined up according to price. It was a study in stark commercialism, and I was absolutely stunned by the reality of it. Within my deepest soul, I felt immense anger merging with an overpowering sense of grief. The sound of my sister's voice interrupted my thoughts.

"Look, this one is just like the one daddy had." She was about two caskets ahead of me. I walked slowly toward her and we stood side by side to give it a closer inspection. "You are right. It is exactly the same."

I opened up the box, turned back the faded white tissue paper, and gently lifted out the delicate pink knit dress. I laid it down against the satin lining of the coffin. Almost as if on cue, the director said, "Now, that dress really doesn't match very well with the interior of this particular casket." Even in the midst of my grief, I had the distinct feeling that we were being set up to buy a new dress for our mother. When I finally spoke, I was shocked by the indignant sound of my voice. "I disagree. It matches beautifully!" 

And then I did the obvious thing. I looked at the price tag and could not believe my eyes! It was the exact amount that mother had told us to spend! At that very moment, and without uttering a word to one another, we knew that we had made a final selection for our precious mother.

This is a true story. On the way out of the selection room that day, we saw a magnificent hand carved wooden casket. My sister looked at it, tearfully, and said, "Wouldn't mama look beautiful in that?" When people are emotionally spent, they are not always too rational. I don't want to think that a funeral home would take advantage of the grieving public, but greed can rare its ugly head anywhere.

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