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Laid Out

The Meeting the Bar challenge presented at d’Verse Poets is to tackle a tough topic.  We are to choose family, death, sex, etc. and use  imagery or metaphors to discuss the topic.  I am writing about the death of a man through the eyes of a grandchild. I remember my grandmother telling me about her grandfather, who lived with them and died when she was two, being laid out in the drawing room, as was the custom before funeral homes.  She wandered into the room and tried waking him up but couldn’t.  She always hated death and funerals, and this first experience seemed to be a cause.  After my grandmother’s passing, I was talking with her brother one day, and he told the exact same story, but he was the child trying to wake their grandfather.  Obviously, the dying and prepping a body for burial in the home made death much more real to these young kids.


Laid out in the drawing room,

silent and still, dearly departed

already gone from shell of a body.

Tiny toddler feet pad into the room.

“Gampa. Gampa,” calls a tiny voice;

sticky fingers reach for cold suit coat,


Silence returns granddaughter’s greeting.

Ignored and rejected; tiny heart breaks,

Tears fall; no hand reaches to comfort;

no arms to hug, rigid and still.

Only mocking silence

from Gampa’s resting figure

laid out in the drawing room.

7 thoughts on “Laid Out

  1. I remember the wake of my grandfather as well ~ Funerals can be scary but then again, a child can see their spirits, I believe it as my young son then saw his dead grandfather ~ Happy weekend ~

  2. Wakes and open caskets as a child were scarring and haunting. I remember our Great Grandma wanting the traditional casket family portraits and me freaking out…and then having to get in line to ‘kiss the corpse’ to say good by. I much prefer the native wakes of my husband’s family. Where there is food, company and celebration of life. Great piece for the challenge.

  3. I’m one of those kids…my grandmother, with whom my Mom and I lived after she was widowed, was “waked” at home. My remembrance, at five,were of walking between the legs of very tall family members. :0) When I lived in France in the early 70’s, I was a nurse in what would now be called a long term care facility. When someone died there, I had to lay them out myself and then take their body to a small building outside the facility for viewing. They buried them the next day. Guess I’m giving away my age.

  4. you got me…i commented on another poem for this prompt about losing both grandfathers by the time i was 10…my first brushes with death…and then my own boys lost a grandmother when they were 6…i remember my oldest comparing her to sleeping beauty…and yep, i got a tear right now…smiles.

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