Thursday, May 16, 2019

Life, Death, and Pets

One of these days I will upload pictures from my phone. But I've just been too tired to go through such a hassle by the time I have time to sit down and write.

My mom's cousin Margaret passed away last week (May 8). Her viewing was yesterday (and her funeral today) so before the kids even got home from school Alexander, Zoë, and I headed up to Salt Lake with my mom, my sister Josie, and my Uncle Bruce, so we could swing by the airport to pick up my Auntie Arlene, so we could all head up to Layton for the viewing.

I wasn't sure how Zoë would handle a viewing—we didn't have one for Karen when she died and my kids tend to be very open about death. Shockingly open at times. Like, they say things about death that make people squirm. It's all part of processing the death of a close loved one, I'm sure.

My kids are perfectly normal. It's fine.


I decided that I should prepare Zoë a little bit so that I could perhaps temper whatever outrageous comment she was going to make. So I explained that Naanii's cousin had passed away and that we were going to a viewing, which meant that her body would be displayed in a casket so that family members and friends could say goodbye, and that there would be a lot of sad people there who loved Margaret very much and who would miss her a lot.

"So, she's going to be there," Zoë clarified. "But she's already dead?"


"And people will just say goodbye to her?"


"Okay, that's interesting," Zoë said. "Because we did the same thing for Grandma but she was still alive."

"That's true. Grandma was still alive when we said goodbye to her."

"So, how do you say goodbye when she's already dead?"

"Well, her body is there and you can just look at it and see that it's different from when she was alive, that her spirit has moved on. But you can talk to her still if you want to. There aren't really any rules to this; it's just something we do."

She seemed to be okay with this. Death bothers her immensely at times, but other times not at all.

We got to the funeral home and walked in and Zoë was immediately impressed.

"Nice!" she said. "Maybe we should move here. It's very clean."

"It does have that going for it," I said. "But maybe we should just clean our own house a little better."

"But we are moving," she pointed out. "So why don't we just move here if we have to move. It's clean."

"It is clean. But it's not in Georgia," I said. "'s a funeral home."

I mean, I guess people live in mortuaries—there's a couple in our ward who lived in a mortuary when they first got married—it was a rent-free gig (they just had to answer the phone after hours and so forth)—but we don't have immediate plans to live in a mortuary.

Zoë and Alexander were really pretty good at the viewing. Zoë mostly sat and played on Auntie Josie's phone (thank you, Auntie Josie) and Alexander mostly ran around seeing how many drawers he could open and flirting with random cousins he's never met. Finally, toward the end of the evening, Zoë came up to me and said, "Mom, I think I found out where they keep the body parts."

"Oh, really?" I asked her.

"Yes," she said, pointing to the casket. "They're in that big box. Can we see it?"

"Sure, we can," I said, picking her up.

We walked over to the casket and looked at sweet, funny Margaret—who looked just like Margaret and also nothing like Margaret. She looked like an unanimated Margaret (which is what she was).

"WHAT?!" Zoë hissed. "This is a whole body!"

"Yes, it's Margaret's body," I said.

"I thought there were just going to be parts of her in there! They just put her whole body in a box?!"

So, we, uh, cremated Karen (we had no viewing for her so Zoë never saw her in a casket). I guess the idea of a burial now seems foreign to my sweet three-year-old (I can still call her that even though she turns four next week, right?).

It reminded me of little Piper who cried out in shock at my grandma's funeral, "Why did they put her in a music box?!"

The Kemp family has some saying along the lines of "the graver the tragedy, the greater the jokes" so I don't think they'll mind Zoë's little irreverent shock over burial traditions. Jeff got up today to give his mom's life sketch and began by saying, "I'd like to thank each and every one of you who signed the guest book. There will be a drawing at the conclusion of the service. The winner will receive two free cats."

They aren't sure what to do with their mom's cats.

We don't want them, though they did offer them to me (and though our children would really like to get a cat when we move). The universe must be trying to tell us to give in to our children's demands for a pet because in the past couple of weeks we have been offered: a bunny, two puppies, and two cats. Each time I have graciously declined because we're moving and I have no desire to move an animal across the country (five kids is enough of a hassle). But after we're settled...we'll see.

Rachel has been doing a ton of research and just today we brought home Auntie Josie's cat so that Rachel can pet sit while Auntie Josie is on an epic road trip.

We'll see who really ends up changing the kitty litter...

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