Episode Three

wrecked carAfraid to look at the car, yet consumed by a morbid curiosity, her eyes swept over the smashed body and peered inside.   Bloodied glass everywhere.  His blood!  The news broke that very day.   After lingering in hospital for several hours, he succumbed to his injuries.  A night of drunken carousing and life was over at age 21. How fortunate for her they had parted ways the month before. She could well have been a passenger in that vehicle of death!  Ironically, she was just learning to drive.  It affected her state mind and fuelled a burning need to see the wreckage.

There would be two days of visitation, followed by a Catholic funeral mass, then interment.  This was her first brush with death and the grief overwhelmed her.  She couldn’t face going to the funeral home alone and enlisted a friend to lean on.  According to rumours, the family had insisted on an open casket, despite the severity of his injuries.  Hard to find a sombre outfit.  It was 1971 and her wardrobe was full of mini skirts and hot pants.  That black maxi skirt at the back of the closet would have to do!  Knees trembling, stomach tight; she waited for her friend to collect her.

casket and flowersAs they entered the visitation room, she could feel all eyes boring into her.  Some people were whispering and she guessed what they were saying.  “That’s the slut he was involved with.” Older generation Italians didn’t take kindly to outsiders and she wasn’t even Catholic – the ultimate sin!  Her friend gripped her arm and muttered: “Ignore them!” Shaking now.  They slowly made their way to the casket.  He was wearing his best dark blue suit, with a white shirt and striped tie. She’d never seen him in a tie before.  This was the era of colourful printed shirts and open collars. On closer inspection, she realized the hair was a wig. Yes, it was black, but a different style!  She barely recognized his face and noticed the heavy makeup.  Feeling sick and trying not to faint, she leaned in a little closer, then recoiled in horror! Part of his nose was missing, the side facing the mourners propped up by toothpicks.  She stifled a scream and embraced her friend.  “Please get me out of here.”

That spectre haunted her for years.  She refused to attend any more visitations, until decades later when a close friend passed away.  His was a peaceful death and there was nothing to fear,  yet that feeling of horror returned.  Visions of that broken face from long ago swam before her eyes and they filled with tears.

©D.D.B. 2014


Photo Credits:  Car   Casket

Do you have a haunting memory you’d like to share?
Looking forward to your comments!


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Debbie D.

Canine Innkeeper in suburban Toronto, Canada, known as “The Doglady”. Writer/website owner, animal lover, music fanatic, inveterate traveller. History, literature and cinema buff. Eternal “hippie/rockchick”. Binational, German/Canadian and multilingual. Currently working on various memoirs, travelogues and creative writing pieces. Looking for the next adventure!

Debbie D.

Debbie D.


Filed under Creative Writing, The "She" Chronicles

14 Responses to THE VISITATION

  1. Great writing Debbie. Sad to know it’s a true story. But it’s those early encounters with death that stay with us for life. I’m sorry you had to go through that. Thank you for sharing your story. It’s a powerful reminder about drinking and driving. Back in the 70s we did it all the time and never thought anything of it. Until something like this happened…
    Michele Truhlik recently posted…Happy Dogs…and One CatMy Profile

    • Yes, it certainly left an impression on me for a long, long time and it was difficult to write about, even now. (Hence, the third-person narrative.) Thanks so much for reading it Michele and I’m glad you liked the writing. It’s true, nobody worried much about drinking and driving in those days. 🙁

  2. Wow Debbie i am sorry you had to got through that. To me they should never had an open casket. I did have a friend that died when I was 14, he was a class mate, but it was a medical reason. He had to have surgery done on his brain and what amazed me is they has shaved his head for surgery, but kept the hair. They had glued his hair back on just like he wore it. Totally amazed me.
    Now i had another friend that was killed in Vietnam and his was a closed casket and for many years I would see someone walking down the street and think “Oh there he is.”

    Does that mean that I deal with closer better if I see them?
    Oh, by the way my oldest daughter was 4 when I took her to my Aunts funeral, and explained that we were just saying good bye to her body, because it makes us feel better. Her soul was really in heaven. She became a CSI when she grew up. That stuff does not bother her she says, unless the blood is gurgling.
    Thank for sharing this story Debbie and have a good weekend.
    Debbie recently posted…How Single Mom’s Are Sexy WarriorsMy Profile

    • That’s a pretty horrific experience you had as well, Debbie! Yes, sometimes it really is better to close the casket, but I see your point as well. (Same thing with the wrecked car.) Funerals I can handle, but always avoid the viewing ritual, except for that one close friend. His wife would have been hurt had I not attended. That was a perfect explanation for your young daughter and she obviously turned out well. Thanks for visiting. 🙂
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  3. Debbie, your writing is hauntingly descriptive and powerful. Thank you. You trigger memories in all of us with this snippet.
    Author Charmaine Gordon recently posted…3/3/14 WEWRIWAMy Profile

  4. Mary Purpari

    Haunting memories–I guess that there are two that might qualify, although perhaps not lifelong… The first is one that took place twelve years ago; I still have an occasional nightmare Of Maurizio Monzu, the git that tried to rape me. The other is much more recent, and although I hope it won’t last for the rest of my life, I have a feeling it will; every time I close my eyes I see R… after he fell. And again in the hospital, at the end. What haunts me is the fact that I did all that I could, and it wasn’t enough.

  5. Thoroughly drawn in with this story, Debbie, the horror of the ‘viewing’ there for all to feel… My Aunt tried to make me and my two siblings ‘view’ my Uncle as he lay dead. We were all under ten I think, hard to remember the full facts, but the horror stays with me, such a young age to think of death and a loved one without any ‘life’ inside them. We all are touched by deaths finger, relatives, friends wise, and our memories of those gone on ahead are so important. xPenx
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  6. Mike

    Good post, Debbie. After attending many funerals for both personal friends, family and work related I chose several years ago not to attend any more. Ok, I’ll have to attend my own, right? My last memory of people going forward will always remain a good one.

    Haunting memories…hmmm. I would prefer not to stir those up at the moment. Thank you for sharing this 🙂
    Mike recently posted…Top 10 Steven Spielberg Movies – Getting Started With Part IMy Profile

    • Hi Mike; Funerals are depressing, no doubt about that! 🙁 You could always opt not to have one. My father didn’t, as per his wishes. I agree, it’s better to remember people as they were and not as they end up. we all have haunting memories, yes? To share or not is certainly a personal choice. Thanks for visiting and have a good weekend. 🙂
      Debbie recently posted…READ FOR ANIMALS – A WORTHY CAUSE!My Profile

  7. I’m haunted by the ghosts of my innocence. Of the times I innocently hurt other with my words or with my temper.

    I still see the occasional face of a person who was hurt by my careless choice of words, words that I did not know could hurt, words of the un-socialized child or child within.

    I regret that I can not go back seeking redemption for my sins. Most of these people are long gone and one or two far away not heard from again.

    I guess we all have our ghosts from days past; mine no better or worse than any others. Just that these belong to me forevermore.

    • I think we all have our moments of petulance, but that’s just part of life. Words once spoken can’t be retracted, but here’s hoping the person on the receiving end of such vitriol was able to overcome and perhaps even gain strength from the experience. I was mercilessly bullied as a child and that left me with the “take no shit” attitude I have today. 🙂 Yes, we all have our ghosts, don’t we? Thanks for visiting Chi Chi and have a good weekend.
      Debbie recently posted…READ FOR ANIMALS – A WORTHY CAUSE!My Profile

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