She Wore Blue Velvet

This little item caught my eye:  

CW Blog: Irregular Blogging by Irregular Writers …: Urning Potential

Evidently, the editors at the Provo Daily Herald have realized how useless online surveys are and have just whimsically started asking whatever nonsense questions pop into their heads. Here’s this week’s bizarre poll:

Which statement best describes your view on cremation?
( ) Makes resurrection difficult; cremation should be avoided
( ) Cremation should be encouraged; God doesn’t care

… because, of course, there are people in the United States who, after much thought, have realized that cremation is just a huge incovenience for God. He’s got enough to do on Judgment Day without looking all around the world for your dispersed ash particles and then gluing them all back together in the right order before breathing life into your incinerated carcass. Sure, The Omnipotent One could do it, but what a pain in God’s ass! I wouldn’t be surprised if He just decided to call the whole thing off. 

The last time I saw Mom, she was wearing blue velvet, sitting in the middle of a patio table as my sisters and a couple of my nieces sat around toasting her, singing to her, and laughing over old family stories. There was even singing – “She Wore Blue Velvet” was the big number that day.

Okay, well, her cremated remains were in a little container that was tucked into a decorous little blue velvet bag, and my sisters and I had just returned from the business of picking her up from the historic, rather stuffy old funeral home where we’d made “the arrangements” just a few days before. I’m sure the staff was rather shocked at our hard-nosed attitude toward all the nickel-and-dime crap that the death industry sticks on its carefully worded invoices.

One oddity that we had to overcome was that all three of us had to sign the cremation order – apparently it’s a quirk of Utah laws and religious sensibilities that all surviving adult children (and any spouse) must sign, or no cremation may be done. There was an incident in another branch of the family a few years back where one family member refused to sign a cremation form with the other siblings, going against their parent’s wish to be scattered near the family’s vacation cabin (where other close family were also scattered). It was a situation that Mom wished to avoid, and fortunately we were all able to sign the form, approve the ridiculous list of charges, and get on with all the other things we had to do that week.

Mom had made very specific instructions about being cremated with the minimum of expense or bother,  and an obit in the Salt Lake Tribune only (she liked reading a well-written obit, and hated the smarmy-warmy gup that passed for death notices in both Salt Lake papers, but preferred the Trib’s). We probably shocked the hell out of the mortuary counselor, or whatever his title was; but he was far too well trained to show any trace of disapproval. I did form the opinion that we were expected to spend money in proportion to our love and respect for our mother, but we knew better and actually had a couple of charges and services 86’d, because we weren’t paying for frills or junk fees.

When went back to pick Mom up and cast a carefully deadpan eye over the final invoice (gosh, it costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars to drive a dead person to the crematory and back – one at a time? I think not!) we three weird sisters waited out in the boardroom of the historic mansion while a functionary in quiet shoes fetched Mom’s remains from the nether regions at the back of the house. When the young woman appeared, carrying a blue-velvet bagged object carefully by the base, Timmy and I made sure not to look each other in the eye, because we were both thinking one thing:

Crown Royal.


Not only did Mom’s new outfit evoke the evuls of drinking, in a staid Utah funeral home no less, but it reminded us all strongly of how she and my Aunt Lucy used to keep their penny poker stakes in little Crown Royal bags sized for mini-bottles, so there was an air of gambling about her new look, too. Mom used to go up to Lucy’s condo at least once a week to play poker and gin with Lucy’s neighbor cronies, and it was a running joke between them that Mom must remember to bring her stakes, though “it was only a penny to play.” It was pretty cuthroat stuff, but nobody ever lost more than a few bucks. Lucy, though, had a lot of pennies stashed away. She’s been gone for years, though. 


So here was Mom, resplendent in blue velvet, looking almost respectable and decorous, and not dissolute or fallen in among drunks and gamblers at all. I can’t remember which of us carried her in solemn procession to the parking lot as we tried to cope with the absurdity of it all without making asses of ourselves.

We were almost to the car before the rot set in.

We started to splutter and get the giggles, and made snarky remarks about some of the fees we’d just signed off on. Hysterical laughter was breaking out all over, so we hopped in the car as quickly as we could.

We spent a good few minutes in the parking lot lot of Evans & Early, making speg tiggles of ourselves in the car over Mom’s new outfit, and laughing off the whole encounter with the professionals of mortuary care. Then we ended up calling my oldest niece and meeting at her little house in a funky old Salt Lake neighborhood, sitting around on the patio drinking and laughing and singing. It was not Crown Royal – it was some fancy-shmancy stuff that Holly had – but it sufficed.

Mom’s last wishes were to be cremated and the ashes scattered near a certain scenic overlook near Rabbit Ears Pass south of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It was at this spot (or near it since the road has probably been realigned) that she and Pop got engaged; it was their favorite smoochin’ place when Mom was in Steamboat with my sisters at a family-run dude ranch. Pop would drive up from Grand Junction, apparently, though I have to do a little more research on the details there. When Pop died, his ashes were scattered near there at Mom’s request, and so next month we’ll scatter her there, too.

It’s been almost a year… but now that I think of it, I wonder what we’re going to do with that blue bag?

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One thought on “She Wore Blue Velvet

  1. A marvelous story.

    Apparently there’s a whole lotta folks who oppose cremation based on that whole “resurrection of the body” thing. Why ashes would be more difficult to gather together than worm leavings has never quite been understandable to me.

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