The Shroud of Mystery

As I mentioned before, The Bowery Girl is the latest version of The Bowery – a column I wrote for a community newspaper a lifetime ago.

Back then, as today, I wrote about pretty much anything I chose to. I think the editor was simply glad to have one less thing to assign me.

Regardless – I have always found humour in the damnedest places. Which is where one of my Mother’s favourite column came from. Since she learned I was “live” with my writing, she’s asked when I would share this one. I actually dove into the tote I stored my newsprint life in, but couldn’t find it.  So….for my Mom, I’m rewriting it….sheesh….

My Granny was my Dad’s mother. She was a tiny, tough, Englishwoman. Around her you WOULD drink tea (hence my life-long aversion to the beverage to this day), and you would be scolded for eating HER chocolate covered graham cracker cookies. Why she would bring these around two young girls and NOT think we would inhale them is beyond me. I’m sure she was distressed that my sister and I were not orderly and well-behaved as young ladies should be. We had the run of a farm with neighbours far enough away that they’d never hear your sister scream when you pounded the crap out of her……..ahem.  Around Granny you did NOT shout and you certainly did not use profanity. There’s a whole other entry on the time she heard my father in the barn over the intercom during a particularly stressful morning of chores…

When I was a teenager, Granny died. It was a blessing since she was suffering from a dementia and the last few years were difficult, especially for my father. Now organizing a funeral for a parent is stressful, but this funeral was becoming BRUTAL. Aside from the regular bureaucracy one has to go through when a hospital and nursing home are involved, there were the stipulations laid out by my Granny. We had to get her in the ground ASAP!

Let me explain….

When my Granny was a younger woman, her mother (my great-granny) would tell her daughters that when she died, she wanted to be buried in nothing but a shroud, “Just like our Lord Jesus.” What ever possessed her to decide this was never fully explained, but it was simply understood that these are her wishes. When Granny’s mother died, her sisters refused to bury the elderly woman naked, in a shroud, pointing out it was not “proper”.  So their mother was buried in a “proper” dress and “proper” pearls. Likely with appropriate shoes that had a modest heel. This outraged my Granny.

Therefore, she took on the concept. SHE would be buried naked in a shroud, “Just like our Lord Jesus.” This would honour her religious convictions, as well as her mother’s legacy.


Can I point out here that my Granny was ANGLICAN? In anything I have come to understand about religion, there aren’t too many Christian-based beliefs that required wrapping one’s dearly departed in a sheet to honour God. Judaism requires a quick burial, but I am aware of that rule being stretched to 48 and even 72 hours after death. But I only took Religion/Cult/Occult in college as an elective, so I don’t pretend to be an expert…


When the time came to plan the funeral, my Dad was working as quickly as he could to ensure it was a quick turnaround. My aunt was trying to get back into the country, therefore the little “details” of the funeral were left to my Mother. And she was having some issues. We all knew that Granny wanted to be buried in a shroud “Just like our Lord Jesus”, but was having a really hard time envisioning this tiny frail woman being in the ground with nothing more on her than a bed sheet.

This is when “logic” kicked in.

Mom decides to dress Granny in one of the cozy track suits she wore in the nursing home. She picked the pink one, well, because, well, it’s a visual thing right? She can LOOK like she has nothing on. Then she comes into my room.

“I need a pair of socks,” she said.

“Oh, ok.” I said.

“Make sure it’s a pair you don’t plan on getting back,” she adds.

I give her a couple of pairs, which are deemed unsuitable. Finally I give her a pair of “pom-pom” socks. She picks a pair that are white with pink pom-poms. Even through my Granny is yet to be in the ground, I’m fairly certain she’s spinning.

So with the socks in hand, my mother collects the other items and they are delivered to the funeral home. Oh to be a fly on the wall when the undertaker saw what he’d have to put his latest client in. Thankfully, the casket is closed. Granny is in the ground JUST under the time frame allotted and we are all taking license with the “shroud” concept.

I have since told my mother that her mother-in-law would come back to haunt her for failing to deliver on the final request, and even suggested that she, herself, take on the idea. She’s not interested in being buried “Just like our Lord Jesus.” Guess that takes me off the hook!

We’ve all heard stories young women taken tragically and buried in their wedding dresses, or perhaps a teen who was a cheerleader being laid to rest in her uniform. Men can be buried in military or sport uniforms, or other apparel that has special significance to them.

So I can only imagine what someone might think, years later, if they ever had to open my grandmother’s coffin.

“Look Joe, this one was a GYMNAST!”

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