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The Last Dance

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

a burial shroud being prepared for a child's last dance

Moments of contrast. Yesterday I received a phone call that caused me to step away from a family gathering marking my mom's 93rd birthday. A granddaughter baked an elaborate cake and we'd gathered around the table to sing, indulging in stories and sweet fun. The call was from a funeral director, a colleague I've learned so much from about what it means to show up for the people we serve. When she calls, I answer.

I was ironing a shroud and thought of you. Remember the one you sent me, sheer, with flowers? I wanted you to know it found it's person. They're 11 years old.

This is the moment in the story where the child and their family came into our mutual care. Sitting on the steps in my mother's front hall, listening as my colleague tells the story of this child and their parents. She thanks me for this shroud that's been tucked away in her inventory since before the pandemic. All the while her iron criss-crosses the fabric, making it ready. With the phone at my ear and tears crossing my face, the shroud's making and purpose meet in the ending of one human's journey across the arc of their time. It is a moment filled with respect for life, we breathe in sorrow and breathe back beauty in friendship, compassion, and care for the living and for the dead.

I remember the moment I found this fabric. I remember the surprisingly soft feel of it and the way the flowers were generous but not too many. I remember thinking to myself, oh, this will find it's person. The Seamster who sews Last Dance Shrouds opened the length of cloth when I brought it to her and said, oooo la la! She saw what I saw when I first found it. I only bought enough for one shroud, this is a one of a kind Chrysalis. I make a mental note to find more sweet fabrics like this, shaping them with purpose in trust they'll find their person to accompany into the great mystery.

I imagined this shroud's dance when my hand first touched the roll of fabric. Today it will fold stillness upon stillness, wrapping a child's innocence in grace and tears. They'll be cocooned and then laid gently in a seagrass casket. There will be words, music, solace and silence. There will be fire ~ and that moment when parents turn away ~ there is no bottom, no next breath but still the bare necessity of continuing to exist. It will be ok not to be ok. All this in that flash when my eyes found this one bright, pure, straight forward flower tucked in with all the fancy bits ... I reached out to touch and thought, oh yes, this! This will fit just right for someone.

This story of finding, sewing, the marketplace, and waiting has a flow. Words don't work to shape the grateful nuance of knowing this child's last dance is in the sacred care of my dear friend's hands. Washing and lifting, honoring and shrouding. All of this towards a celebrated and solemn ending, a going. The doing done and the body released, only love abides. Innocence and existence entwined in one last dance.

(If you'd like to explore more about Last Dance Shrouds: )

~ in our family when you turn 93 you get a fancy cake!

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