People have been asking me if I'm afraid to die, and I tell them, "I don't know yet. I've never been dead before." But if the results of my bone scan are positive, I'll have to make the ultimate fashion decision of what to wear when I'm dead. I still have a floor-length formal gown that I wore just once, seven years ago at our daughter's high school for a celebration they call Junior Dads, to which the dads are politely bullied into dining and dancing with their Junior daughters. As I recall, our daughter wore a rented tuxedo, and I felt superfluous, being just a Junior Mom, and might as well have been wearing a milk carton. On the other hand, I could go casual in my new wig or the turban-and-bangs-combo, my black blue jeans and black ballerina-neck long-sleeve shirt, which gives me that world-weary retro Beatnik starving poet look that any loved one with the slightest artistic ambitions would be proud to wear on her final journey to the most beyond. 

In the end, maybe the best way to go is to be zippered up in an extra-strength black plastic body bag and rolled out on a gurney, so quickly. How do the men from the funeral home get where they're needed so quickly? Before they took my mother, they must have been staked out at the curb, in their unmarked station wagon with the back seats permanently removed for easy loading and unloading, because I heard my sister call them, they came and went, and Mother was suddenly gone from her bedroom, the house empty of her presence. Knowing there was a good chance she'd never come back, we threw open the curtains and the windows, and went through her closet and her drawers looking for any clothes we'd always coveted.

Since her tastes ran to the baroque in her older age, since she was a 10 and I a 12, I took a man-tailored, off-gray Burberry raincoat (in whose pockets I found a monogrammed handkerchief with her initials from a previous marriage), with an elegant kick pleat at the back of the knees, a bit of Secret Service display of machismo at the shoulder blades, and a belt that I looped with a knot around the waist to look like Ingrid Bergman (at least in my imagination), waiting for her letter of transit to the free world. I wore my mother's coat, rain or shine, till the lining was torn under both arms and the collar frayed from my sweat. And if the results of my bone scan are positive, and if the crematory doesn't strip it off me first, and if my family obliges me, I'll make my absolutely final appearance, maybe with a long string of faux pearls -- after all, why burn the good ones? -- in my tattered body and matching raincoat.

Now, as to the question of what shoes to wear . . . 

[Forever after at


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