I just finished an amazing memoir, Thirty Rooms to Hide in: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic by Luke Longstreet Sullivan (2012, University of Minnesota Press). You can read my full review on Goodreads.
SPOILER ALERT (kind of): I’m not ruining anything for anyone who reads the first pages of the book. But if you are super picky about not finding out about any part of a story before you read a book, then you should probably not read the rest of this post.
Longstreet Sullivan’s father dies at a young age, and the narrator is around 10 or 11 years old. I don’t often come across scenes of visitations in memoir, but this one is one of the best:
“I reach out, up a little, over the edge of the casket and touch his…his cheek? his hand? I don’t remember. I do remember a feeling of cool. The suppleness of skin was gone. There was a hardness that the living have only at their kneecaps or where the bone rides under the flesh. The reaching out, that touch of cool, and then nothing. The film stops. No memory of turning my back of my father forever, no image of sidewalk under my dress shoes, no feeling of the hot summer night, no sound of car doors slamming. Just the good-bye hand reaching over the suit, the cool, then nothing.”
I have similar memories of seeing my dad in his casket. I was a little older than Longstreet Sullivan, but my dad’s wake and funeral were also held during a hot Minnesota July. I’m quite sure that anyone who has seen their parent(s) in a casket remembers their strong visceral reactions, but I haven’t read many descriptions. Have you?