(THE) VISITATION (and VENUS) | #AtoZCHALLENGE (V) #MusicalMemories

39 Comments#AtoZChallenge 2017, #MusicalMemories, Memoir, Music, Writing/Blogging
Musical Memories #AtoZChallenge 2017
Welcome everyone, to the #AtoZChallenge Blogging Extravaganza, where hundreds of bloggers publish 26 posts in 30 days, one for each letter of the alphabet, covering a myriad of topics! “Musical Memories” is my theme. Click HERE to see all posts and HERE to view the A to Z Blog. Please support our efforts by visiting, sharing and commenting. We have all worked long and hard on this project. Have fun and thanks for reading!
(THE) VISITATION | #AtoZChallenge
Day 22, April 26

The time: Spring 1971
The place: Toronto suburbs, Canada
Okay, so I cheated a little in order to finish the story, which started with ‘I’ and progressed to ‘R’ (letters are clickable links, in case you missed them the first time around). Rather than a song title, ‘The Visitation’ is Chapter Three of The “She” Chronicles, jagged fragments of my life, using third person narrative, for the sake of emotional detachment.

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 the 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 in 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! The face was barely recognizable under 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 the feeling of horror returned. Visions of a broken face from long ago swam before her eyes and they filled with tears.

There aren’t any ‘V’ songs from that time, but for the sake of continuity and the playlist, here’s a great one from the year before. It brings back a memory of introducing it to Future Hubby when we first got together (several months after the funeral). How appropriate that Venus is the Roman goddess of love (because hubby is Italian).

Do you have a memory that haunts you for life?

Looking forward to your comments!

Debbie

The Doglady’s Den #AtoZChallenge 2017 Youtube playlist:
(updated daily)





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

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39 thoughts on “(THE) VISITATION (and VENUS) | #AtoZCHALLENGE (V) #MusicalMemories

  1. Yes, I do have a memory that haunted me for a long time, and it also involved a car crash. Thankfully, the relative who died had wanted to be cremated so there was no viewing. My religious tradition mandates closed coffins, so I was not exposed to that Catholic tradition until I was in a serious relationship with the man I ended up marrying and am still with.

    1. It’s better to remember someone as they were in life, I think. A sudden death is traumatic enough, without adding a nightmare view into it. Thanks for sharing your memory. My sympathies to you!

  2. Wow. This is a powerful and emotional story. What a horrible tragedy. I can’t even imagine what you were experiencing at the visitation. I’m surprised that the family insisted on an open casket. “Haunted” is definitely the best descriptor here. I’m sure you were haunted for many years by this and I’m sure even now when you think of it those feelings of distress surface.

    I remember when a similar accident took the lives of some fellow high school students and the school had the crash vehicle on display for a few weeks to serve as a reminder of the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving. It was devastating, just the sight of the wreckage.

    I’m so sorry that you lost your friend in such a horrific way. Thank you for sharing it.
    And I love your song choice. Venus has always been one of my very favorites.

    Michele at Angels Bark

    1. Thanks, Michele. The open casket is traditional within the Italian community, but they should have kept it closed, in this case. With one exception (as noted), I’ve refused to go to any more visitations over the years, because those memories come right back. 🙁 Good shock tactic by your school! I was horrified by the sight of the wrecked car and still see it in my mind, whenever I drive by the service station where it was parked.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the song. Venus is a favourite of mine, as well. 🙂 Somebody mentioned a remake by Bananarama. Not as good as the original, IMO.

      Apologies for the late response. I’ve fallen way behind and catching up is difficult. Lots of stuff going on offline at the moment.

  3. Debbie,
    Oh you poor, poor dear! I can’t even imagine the anguish you felt on this day. It’s hard to put something like this rest. You were denied the opportunity to get over the break up without additional complications. Reckless living can catch up with anyone at any age. Unfortunately, at 21 good judgment while sober let alone impaired is very weak in one’s youth. It’s truly sad to hear when someone so young becomes a victim of his/her own doing. I know this was a hard, hard part of your life. Time has given you distance from these old wounds and even now as you share your experience healing continues. This will always be with you, serving as a reminder how blessed you were to not be in that car.

    For years I was a haunted by my former bosses’ death. The day before his massive heart attack, he was upset with me because I was looking for another job. This was my first real job after college. I was a computer consultant working strictly on commission and while I learned a lot on the job, I found out I wasn’t aggressive enough to be in sales. Not being able to contribute to our income really hurt, so I felt it was time to move on to something new. But, when Tom found out, he felt betrayed and I wonder now if he used my naiveness to play on my guilt for not remaining loyal. It was horrible for days, weeks, and months after Tom’s death because I felt terrible. The last memory I had of him was his anger and disappointment. It took a couple of years to lay that part of my life to rest knowing I didn’t do anything wrong. I just wished I had the chance to smooth things over between us but we are not promised tomorrow and that’s why it’s important to make the most out of each day.

    Thanks for sharing and happy a2zing, my friend!

    1. Thanks, Cathy. It was a horrible experience and I am grateful to have escaped a similar fate. It’s sad you didn’t get a chance to clear the air with your boss, but as you said, you did nothing wrong. So true – one never knows what will happen tomorrow. Apologies for these late responses; I haven’t been online much the last few days.

  4. I can’t imagine why they would insist on open casket when he suffered such brutal injuries. And at such a young age! Were they trying to give a message out to his friends, on what happens if you drink and drive?
    You were very brave. I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to go. And I can understand the third person writing. I used it too when I wrote about my last night with my mom.

    Anyway, I got tied up with work yesterday, so couldn’t complete my V post. Do visit it today. Happy AtoZing!

    1. Open caskets and viewings are traditional within the Italian community. Still, they should have made an exception in this case! 😮 I felt a compulsion to go, somehow, just like with viewing the wrecked car. Perhaps, for the sake of closure? Third person POV makes it easier and allows for some emotional detachment. Still difficult, though, as I’m sure you discovered when writing about your mom. Thanks for hanging out here during the A To Z. Apologies for the late response, but better than no response, yes? 🙂

  5. I’ve been to plenty of funerals in my lifetime. Why the funeral home allowed them to have an open casket is beyond me. I think it’s always in the best interest to remember someone for how they were, rather than for how they went out.

  6. YES! Mariska Veres! And you know where she’s been… lol!

    The story reminds me of one you might check out. A song called Nobody Wins by Brian Fallon. That video had me thinking he was going to a wedding- until it didn’t.

  7. You were SO brave to actually go there and see him!
    The only dead person I said goodbye to was my Granddad, and he died peacefully shortly after turning 90. Still the picture of him lying in that wooden “box” haunted me.
    Now a young person, accident victim must be so tough.

    This week I learned that a young man from our village had an accident in the mountains. He was a good guy, boys scout leader, nature lover, 21 years old. So sad.

    I am the generation who thinks “Venus” is a Bananarama song!! 😂

  8. How shocking to have an open casket when he died in such a brutal way! That would have haunted me, too to see his disfigured nose. The stuff of nightmares. So totally tragic that he was so young. Yes, I guess the one consolation is that you weren’t in the car with him!

    I like that song. I remember it but only vaguely. Love the band with the long hair and fun outfits. Love the cute grin of the drummer. Ah, the nostalgia! Another great post, Debbie. Thanks for taking us on a journey back in time with you. That sixties and seventies music is so much fun!

    1. Thanks! 🙂 It was the least painful style to use, but still difficult to write, nonetheless. Not sure what you mean by ‘prompt’. There isn’t one. This is a true story.

  9. Yeah, I can imagine the horror of seeing him in that condition, DEBBIE. I will never understand the whole open-casket idea. Is that REALLY the final way anyone wants to see a loved one — regardless of the type of death and condition of the body?

    My all-time favorite teacher from 5th and 6th grade suddenly died of a rare illness when I was in 7th grade. It was an open-casket funeral and I was always sorry I filed by the casket with the others and looked in.

    When my friend Ty committed suicide in 1976, that too was an open-casket affair, but having learned my lesson at Mr. Oldham’s funeral, I declined to go up there and look at the remains of Ty. I preferred to remember him alive and his unique laugh.

    ~ D-FensDogG
    ‘Loyal American Underground’

    1. Open caskets seem to be the norm for Roman Catholics and there’s always a viewing period before the actual funeral service. 😛
      I’m with you, Stephen; better to remember people as they were in life, not in death. Losing a friend to suicide must have been devasting! 🙁 My sympathies!

  10. My heart goes out to you. I don’t agree with open caskets at any time. They never look good and that certainly isn’t the way I want to remember them. At least the funeral i went to back in 1965 had closed caskets. Love Venus.

  11. I am not one for all these open caskets. I have been to too many funerals with these open caskets and I always felt the makeup was creepy and they never look the way they should. That is a horrible thing you had to go through and one you obviously are carrying with you…how can you not?? Aside from seeing my dad right after he passed, I have a few memories of funerals and some are just weird ….well all are but there is one that still comes back to me and I was little. It was 1971 and my uncle passed away from cancer. I know the smell of a decomposing body….strange…almost sweet smell…yuck….to strange to try to describe. I couldn’t remember how I knew until I was speaking with my mom many, many years later. Apparently, my aunt wanted her family to come and pay their respects and see my uncle Ambrose before he was taken for his burial. He was at the funeral home for something like 10 days or more. I remember seeing the sides of his mouth and his nose turning black. Mom said that daddy told his sister in law that this was enough and not paying respects to her husband. She finally let the funeral home end this because her family never did come. It is weird of my aunt, disrespectful of her family not coming and…wait…..why did my parents bring me there even aft this was all happening?? They did anyway and he was decomposing no beginning to stink. Yuck

    1. That must have been a dreadful ordeal, Birgit, especially for a child! 🙁 Odd that the family wouldn’t come to pay their respects. Isn’t it awful how horrible memories like this stay with us? Thanks for sharing your story.

  12. Can’t think of any memories that haunt me. But I hate funeral homes. I hate open coffins. I hate coffins period. My kids have been told what I want and I really need to put it in writing with my trust documents. My mother lost her mother at the age of eight and was forced to see the body after death and to kiss her. She said that had haunted her all her life.

    1. Good idea to document your wishes, Denise. Cremate and scatter has been my family’s tradition. Having to view your mother’s body is bad enough, but to kiss her, as well? That would give me nightmares, for sure! 😮

  13. Tragic! to die so young and pointlessly. Untimely deaths are traumatic – beyond tough to lose a friend this way. Why have an open casket for someone who has been through such an accident?? Brave of you to attend.

    1. The open casket was traditional with Italians at the time. I thought it was a terrible idea! Better to remember people how they were in life. I felt compelled to attend, the same way I was drawn to the wrecked car.

  14. Hi Debbie – that would haunt me too … well not sure if you were brave or stupid – but lesson learnt. I was taken through a morgue at a big London hospital by a doctor boyfriend – and there was a body on the table … an older man – a few hairs popping out of his head … never forgotten that! I did see my mother – and rather wish I hadn’t … they never look the same – understandable I guess …

    Venus in Blue Jeans should shake us all up and give us something to bop to … desperate to lose friends so young – but as you say you could so easily have been in the car – thankfully not.

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/v-is-for-vaynol-cattle.html

    1. I’m not sure either, Hilary, but I think closure was needed and that’s why I went. Viewing any corpse is shocking, but when it’s your mother, even worse! 😮 I was spared that but required to identify a photo of my father. That was bad enough. “Venus in Bluejeans’ was a different song from an earlier time. Enjoy. 🙂

  15. “Venus” is a great song. I remember having the 8 track cartridge of the Shocking Blue album.

    I was never very close to death until later in life. The first funeral I can remember going to was when I was 21. It was for my grandfather. To go to a friend’s funeral who had died in a car crash would be devastating.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

    1. Funeral’s of any type are awful. 🙁 I don’t understand why they had to have an open casket in this case. ‘Venus’ was such a huge hit all over the world. Great song! Somebody mentioned the remake by ‘Bananarama’. Doesn’t compare, IMO.