frangipani

“What colour lipstick did she wear?”

Such a simple question but I had to pause before answering the young mortician.

“A coral colour, I think.”

I’d known my aunt Mona all my life. In fact, I’d never not known her, but there was so much more to her than a lipstick colour.

She was a sparkling, chatty, capable woman, who meant the world to me. She had an indomitable spirit and I thought she’d somehow defy death, but it caught up with her one morning in her 94th year while she was having breakfast.

“If you bring the clothes in tomorrow morning, I’ll dress the body ready for the viewing.”

Perhaps it was the suddenness of Mona’s death, but when the funeral director asked if there was to be a viewing, I thought, yes, that’s exactly what I want. I do want to see my beloved aunt one last time.

So I picked through Mona’s extensive wardrobe and found a tailored skirt, a silk blouse in a dainty print and a lovely wool cardigan.

The viewing was to take place half an hour before the funeral started.

No other family members wanted to participate, so I was alone with Mona. With some trepidation, I looked into the casket and realised instantly that the indomitable spirit of my aunt had left the lifeless body I was now viewing.

I felt sad and wistful, but more than anything, I felt relief.

A certain lightness descended on me and I felt ready to deliver a eulogy that would make Mona proud.