Eastern OrthodoxPoetry

Dressing the Dead

This weekend, we buried a beloved member of our parish, retired priest Father Gregory Heers. As a member of our burial society, I had the privilege of participating in his preparation. We wash and anoint the body, and dress the reposed, in this case in the vestments he wore in caring for us. It is humbling to be allowed to pay your respects to another member of the body in this way; and, like Lent, a joyous sorrow. I’m sure I don’t capture even a little bit of it here, but this what I can convey of the experience.

It’s easier to dress somebody
When you know it isn’t the last
Outfit they will ever wear.
A kicking and screaming kid
Can be maneuvered with ease
Compared to limbs that can
No longer move on their own.
But we put them in their Sunday
Best when they go to meet God.

When they were those who
Helped us know God in life,
There are even more layers
Hiding the body with the
Clothes of the one who
Fed us with the one body
That makes us all one body,
Bearing that body through
The cross he still bears.

We usually undress for bed,
But still they look asleep in
The clothes we know them by.
We kiss them good-night
And smooth the wrinkles
Left from lying down in clothes
That are always upright and
Make sure they look good
When they go to meet God

And pray their bedtime prayers.

Kenneth O'Shaughnessy

Kenneth O'Shaughnessy

A Northerner by upbringing, Kenneth has lived in the South since his (first) college days. After returning to college, he began to do more than just dabble with writing, and has self-published a children's picture book, a middle-reader's book, and several collections of poetry. Baptized in the Roman Catholic church, raised in the fundamentalist Baptist church, and having spent time in the Reformed Baptist church, Kenneth settled down in the Eastern Orthodox church in 2006.

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