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Home  »  Iris, Cleansed

Iris, Cleansed

          There were seven women working around the body, the body was lying on the chaise on the back patio and the three oldest women were under the sheet cleaning the body off and washing her and the buckets of water were filled by the men who were sitting with their backs to the women and the body, the buckets of water were kept filled and the pitchers were then filled from the buckets and the water was poured over the body, over and over and over and the younger women held the sheet up keeping the sun from hitting the body, keeping the men from seeing the body, keeping the neighbors who might have gone outside at that moment from seeing the body, and the sheet was held up, sometimes getting in the way inadvertently, sometimes held to the side so they could see what was happening, and the older women had one long conversation amongst themselves which was the only conversation that was heard, telling each other to roll her one way and then roll her the other way, the younger women read parts of the ceremony aloud, adding their voices to those of the older women and a few poems were read, and a few prayers were read, and a few comments were made about the sheet, or the water, or the clothing that was used, and the older women dressed the body in the clothing that had been prepared the night before, the legs of the linen pants had been sewn together at the bottom, the shirt had been sewn together, too, parts of the pants had been used to make a head covering for the body which was part of the ceremony and which everyone there found funny because it appeared as though the head covering had ears, or horns, and everyone agreed the woman who died would have enjoyed that since she’d always insisted she’d been descended from Vikings who raped and pillaged her Russian Jewish ancestors, and she would have loved the Norse look of her head covering, and the body was finally washed and dried and dressed in the traditional linen clothing and then the younger women dropped the sheet over the woman on the chaise to cover her one last time, the young men got up from their chairs and picked up the chaise to get it out of the sun and they put it on top of the hot tub under the redwood trees since that was the only shade easily accessible, and I thought the woman who died would have liked that, too, to be carried by her grandsons and great-grandson like the prima ballerina she was when she was alive being carried off stage, and the women hugged each other and cried and talked about how amazing this experience had been and how happy they were that they’d done it, and how lucky they all were that the woman died there, in her granddaughter’s home, surrounded by so many members of her family so that she could be cared for, and that this ceremony could be performed by members of the family and not strangers, and the funeral home was called and they came within the hour and they took the woman off the hot tub and apologized to the family for having to strap her to their gurney so tightly and the women and the men all came outside to say their last goodbyes and then Iris was taken away, to be cremated, after three days ending two weeks of intense, emotional care giving by her family.