09 December 2011

What Choice You Had

What Choice You Had

"Come to my room, help me 
choose the dress I'll be buried in.
Is it too morbid of me to ask you?"
Your first choice a fuchsia dress
silk, long sleeved, belted.
"Is it too garish for a funeral?"

You decided,
at your funeral you would wear
what you wanted,
bright color such a deliberate
counterpoint to your fading.

Final statement
by a legend of stylish dressing.
"Perfect choice, Mom."
"Guess what," you whispered, "it's a size 10!
I've always wanted to wear a size 10."

We laughed at your perverse
pleasure - loss of weight
even if it's to cancer, size 10
even if it's in your casket.

It had its intended effect.
Mourners remarked on how 
beautiful your dress was, 
how so like you.

                                                                                        Mary Harvey Warren
in loving memory of Mary McLellan Harvey

I posted this poem  two years ago for a 100 word challenge. This is its full version posted in response to Victoria Slaotto's prompt at dVerse Poets entitled Meeting the Bar: Writing Emotion.
Check out this great resource blog for poets which contains both information and prompts.


  1. oh wow this is awesome.. we shy back from talking about death and those arrangements.. but we should..and in exactly such an open and honest way... touched me..

  2. It was delightful, and it touched so many chords!

  3. when we were at my wifes family for the holidays, several of them wanted to speak to me regarding their funerals...i did her moms a couple years back...and it was definitely different conversation...that it was so heavy on all their minds at the holidays...

  4. So often those who are close to the other side of the veil that separates life from the void are able to laugh about it--it seems to free something in them. I get a wonderful sense of the person you write about here, as well as the emotions of the person who writes about her, and your last stanza is intense with understated feeling.

  5. This is so sweet and funny and touching. Momentarily, I wondered whether I should think about what I want to be buried in, but then I remembered I want to be cremated. But I totally get you mother's pride in her size 10 dress!

  6. Claudia, My mother died six weeks from being diagnosed with cancer. This was one of the stand out memories from those weeks.

    Rosaria, Looking back, I'm so grateful to have this special moment with my Mom.

    Brian, It does come circling around in these days of family time. How wonderful that they can speak to you of such matters.

    Hedgewitch, You put your finger on something, my Mom did free up and say what she wanted to to me, my daughter, my nieces. And thank you for reading between the lines and seeing this warm, wonderful woman I loved. I felt like my world crumbled when I lost her. I'm so grateful we had that short time together before she died.

    Nancy, She was so genuinely delighted at the size 10 that I couldn't help but laugh. And the dress was so lovely. The belt was from the same material as the dress in this deep saturated color...

  7. That sounds like it could have been MY mom. She was terminally ill but still enjoyed getting slimmer. It's a lovely poem, it made me smile in memory of my dear mother.

  8. DJan, It's hard to lose them at any age. Glad you smiled in memory.

  9. I remember this poem. I like it just as much now.

    Two years ago? Oh, my gosh, has it been that long ago?

  10. Patti, The shorter version was two years ago!

    Sunny, Thank you, glad you stopped by.

  11. Great poem! Reminds me of a similar conversation with my mum. Later when I was around friends' 3 and 5-year-old kids who knew she'd just died, I was able to divert them from the heavy stuff into a more empowered (if that makes sense) view of death by saying, "you know, when you die, you can pick exactly what you want to wear at your funeral." One of them immediately said "my ballet outfit!"

  12. What a delight to visit your blog and to enjoy the touching poem you brought to the pub yesterday, Mary. You live in a beautiful part of the world. This poem is a perfect example of how to create emotion using narrative and detail. I enjoyed it very much. My 91 year old mother has told us she doesn't want anyone to wear black to her funeral. Like your mom, mine open the door to light-hearted discussion about her death. As a former hospice nurse, I've found conversations such as you had with your mother to be so healing. Thanks for sharing this beautiful poem. Victoria

  13. Kathy, I love that my mother chose just what she wanted to wear and I love the five year old's desire to wear her ballet outfit- of course! I have a five year old granddaughter who also is very attached to her pink tutu.

    Victoria, It was my pleasure to read your information about writing to create emotion and to share this poem about the conversation with my Mom. You're right, they're very healing. As a hospice nurse you must have some great stories.

  14. So touching, Mary. I'll remember this always, especially as the time nears for me to have a similar conversation with my mom. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Lisa, She's the one who initiated it but I was glad. Hug your grand-babies!

  16. My last seven weeks with my mother were such a miracle . . . such a blessing! We did not have that conversation, but I have very similar memories.

  17. June, My mother died six weeks from her diagnosis. Three of those weeks I spent with her and am so grateful for. I'm glad you had precious memory time with your Mom too.

  18. Morning, Thanks and glad you stopped by.

  19. This is a touching poem, a very touching poem. Your mother sounds like she was quite a character in life as well as in death. I agree 100% that one should be able to wear whatever one wants to at one's own funeral!

  20. Mary, Yes, she was quite a character, her own person right to the end. I loved spending time with her. She often said how much she liked teenagers, for instance, because they had fresh viewpoints to discuss. I found she was right when my daughter became one. And oh how she liked nice clothes!


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