This is my response to Shirley Smith’s essay “Dressing The Dead,” accessed via Anderbo.com, an online literary journal.
Smith gives us a small window into her childhood as an undertaker’s daughter. It seems to me that most people, not excluding myself, do not want to be near the dead unless they’re below six feet of well-packed, impregnable soil. Respecting the dead—sure—fearing the dead for the irrational likelihood that it will spring new life and eat our brains as a terrifying, slow-moving and moaning zombie—expected—but getting up close and applying rogue to showcase our deceased grandmother’s naturally beautiful high cheekbones—eh, not so much. And yet the way she used language to transform the eerie back of a hearse into a playground was creative and effective.
Smith’s experience in the world of her family’s funeral home business, dolling up the deceased and putting on an act of sympathy for the loved ones the dead left behind, helped her hone her modeling and acting skills. As a student and aspiring author, I take out of this short piece of nonfiction a profound question that I must ask myself: what experiences from my childhood did I use to “dress” who I am today and what I’m doing with myself?