Confronted with the responsibility of viewing the body, it’s good to have as many small tasks to do. Kneeling on the padded bench becomes a slow dance. Contents are now at eye level. Look downcast for reverence (you’re too empathetic to be bored). Or bite the bullet and look at the body. Maintain gentle eyes, this isn’t an exam. Brooding is my style, yet for appearances I force myself to glance once. Mom says it’s just a body now; the soul is up in heaven with our other relatives. I’m led to believe deceased great-grandparents look down from above, paralleling the cheerful song about Jesus being everywhere. Is this supposed to be comforting? Is Jesus in our beds when we climb inside them at night? While I’m in the bathroom do my relatives gaze lovingly on, or do they wheel around out of respect? There have to be limits.
I start treating visitation as though watching a horror movie with people: when you know it’s about to get bad, fix your eyes on the lower-right corner of the television set and focus. Blood and bone are blurred. The twinkle in its eye may be imagined.
Hover on a starched collar, or the fluff of hair at her temple. The hands are friendlier, clasped in eternal prayer. Surely they retain something of the person I knew. Their soul’s begun to re-assemble one slotted piece at a time in heaven. Her hands will be the last up.
Colleen Maynard has appeared in such publications as matchbook, Monkeybicycle, NANO Fiction, and SHARKPACK Poetry Review. Maynard graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute and received training in Botanical Illustration at Illinois Natural History Survey. She writes and draws at www.colleenmaynard.com.