Your body didn’t look like you, Dad, not anymore. It seemed like some wax figure of you, some rough approximation, but thinner, older, without the spark that made you what you are. You didn’t look anything like your driver’s license photo from years ago. Mom had called the home teachers, and we went together to the funeral home with your temple bundle. There, in a small back room, we men offered a word of prayer and began the work of dressing you for the last time.
In life you were so tall, not at basketball-player level, but to me as a child you were an impossible height, and with a power that I could not match. But now you were so small, those arms and legs so diminished that I wondered who had done this to you. Your muscles were now gone, replaced with odd bulges and wrinkled flesh that I could not recognize. Your arms seemed like those of a marionette, inflexible as though fashioned with sticks. You once arm wrestled me when I was a child, beating me easily. Today I manipulated your arms without effort, but I kept finding myself looking at your face for some reaction, some grimace or sign as we moved you. Your skin was mottled, some blue, some red. You had bruises on your forearms bearing the mark of IVs and our health care efforts — at first, to keep you with us just a little longer, and then, ultimately, to give you some comfort as we gathered around you to say goodbye.
Your nails and earlobes (why earlobes?) were darkened and black. Your limbs were cold — so cold, like meat instead of a man — and your body was an ungainly object to move around instead of the spry man we knew. I knew that your nails would continue to grow, but this much? I am sorry that I didn’t trim your nails for you. I remember when you would trim them in Sacrament Meeting, to our mortification. But now that you are gone, I would gladly face that embarrassment once again to sit next to you in the pew.
We placed your garments on you. They were your shield, your protection throughout your life, but now death has claimed you. You wore them to prepare you and protect you in the world, and I pray that they will protect you and shield you in the afterlife. The Egyptians would place amulets of gold and carnelian on the body to ward off evil from different parts of the body, and I remembered this as I saw the markings on the garment. I was praying silently over these parts of you and remembering your initiatory when one of the home teachers asked me, “does he tuck them in?” I shake my head but now, looking back, I’m sure you actually did tuck them in. One fashion choice missed in the afterlife.
Next came your socks, your pants, your dress shirt. We worked tenderly, but there is some force required to pull past stiffened and heavy limbs. One of your socks I left slightly turned off-axis, and I apologized — “Sorry for leaving you with bunched-up socks during the eternities, Dad.” The men chuckled softly and we kept working. As I put on your tie I wondered what knot you’d like. You had many ties in your closet, even several white ones. Mom chose a white paisley pattern for you today, your favorite. I ended up giving you a simple four-in-hand knot but I’ve done it wrong, the underside of the tie is too long. I tucked that too-long portion into your shirt, feeling the coldness of your chest as I do.
Finally, we clothed you in the robes of the priesthood. The bossier of the sweet men with me reminded me of the proper placement, the correct shoulder. I knew it already, bossy man, but I am grateful for the spirit of attention and care to these last rites. We don’t place coins on your eyes or turn your body towards the sunrise, but we have our ways, our rituals to give you a proper goodbye. When we are done, you look as regal as any Pharaoh, but I know that you are not there any more. Your spirit has a headstart on this next journey.
The clothing done, the home teachers thanked me for letting them help. I shook their hands, thanked them back, and asked for some time alone with you. Then I placed my hands upon you, blessed your body and sealed you away until that time when the trump shall sound, and you shall be raised incorruptible. God bless you and keep you, Dad.