It’s no secret that my mother passed away from brain cancer when I was only 9 years old. Two months before my 10th birthday. The story behind the dress I wore to her funeral, however, is. As a matter of fact, I would dare to guess that anyone who did know this story has forgotten about it by now. For me, it’s something that has stuck with me for the last twenty one years.
I was a typical little girl that loved dresses. The day my aunt and grandmother came to our house to pick out the clothes we would wear for the 9 million hour viewing and then the funeral the next day turned out to be quite possibly more emotionally draining than the day she passed. I don’t remember what I wore the day of the viewing, but I will never forget the dress chosen for the funeral. I just knew that if I wore it people were going to think I was being disrespectful.
You see, the only thing I knew about funerals is that you are supposed to wear black. No matter how smart 9 year old me was, I just knew that you have to wear black and no other colors to a funeral. Especially your mother’s funeral. I was supposed to be in mourning, and how were people going to know I was genuinely sad about my mother dying if I wasn’t clad in black from head to toe, covering every inch of my skin?
The dress picked out for me had an all black bodice, but the skirt had the obligatory early ‘90s bow, and the fluffy straps (it was a sundress) were obligatory early ‘90s colors with bright green, blue, and pink. The skirt hitting above the knee. And did I mention it had palm trees on it? Everything television and movies had taught me is that this was not acceptable funeral attire.
Somehow, word of my crisis got out. I don’t know how or why, but it did and someone in this amazing community I was raised in took it upon themselves to find the photo of John F. Kennedy, Jr. saluting his father’s casket. That’s not what was pointed out to me, however. What was pointed out was that Caroline was attending the funeral of her father. In a blue coat. In white socks. In a short skirt. It was obviously okay for her to wear that, and no one assumed that she was not sad about losing her daddy. And if the daughter of the President of the United States of America could attend a funeral without being fully clad in black, surely it was okay for me to wear other colors on a dress that was short sleeved and had a shorter skirt. Especially since it was June in Indiana.
There are not enough words in any language to describe how grateful I am that they took the time to do something extra for me, nor are there words to show how thankful I am that they are a part of the village that raised me.