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May 12, 2021

Washing the Deceased. {Poem}

I do not know you, deceased one.
But you are in my care now
until they put you into the ground
or into flames.

I will start by introducing myself.
Though you cannot hear me,
it’s something I always do.

I do it so I will not lose my connection to humanity.
I do it, out of respect—
for you.

It can have a grueling effect on the living,
I will do my best to preserve you,
if only for a bit.

You are used to your privacy.
I often wonder if you are trapped inside, knowing that you are no more.
So I take the most delicate touch,
and in my odd humor, laugh inside
as if I am disturbing you.
But there’s always that what if.

This is the last cleansing
you will receive before
there is nothing but darkness
around your body.

I find that very personal.
It may be just my “job,”
but it’s also a memory created in my mind,
and I do not want to have bad memories.

I do not want to ever make crude jokes or remarks.
And no matter the amount of money you had,
it will not make a difference in how I care for you, deceased one.

This was someone who was special to others, someone who deserves to be properly treated
with kindness and respect.
And even if they weren’t, I am not one to judge.

So I remain in the mindset:
wash the deceased as I would want someone to wash me,
when I meet that fate.

I take time washing the deceased.

Washing their hair.
Brushing their teeth before I set their mouth closed.
Grooming them.
Clipping their nails.
Cleaning under their nails.
Even in their ears and between their toes—
every inch cleansed,
the last time,

Making sure,
usually through old photographs that families give me
to keep them looking as close to themselves in death—
as they were in life.

I take pride in knowing that I will present the deceased to their loved ones in a manner that brings them ease and comfort.

Even when the deceased have no one there,
I will still care.

I will wash no differently.

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Amy Bowdoin Thomasson  |  Contribution: 840

author: Amy Bowdoin Thomasson

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