They hung in the back of my small closet, beautiful in their simplicity. Grasping a handful of the silky material, I remembered the feel of the draped fabric swirling around my legs. They were my favorite dresses, elegant and feminine.

Unworn in years, I could not bear to  think of having them next to my skin. The frugal part of me scolded my shrinking flesh. Both dresses had years of wear left in them, but they housed memories, so I slid them to the back of my closet.

Until now, embarking on a ruthless purge of every square inch of the house, not a drawer or closet are safe from scrutiny.

Pulling the dresses from the shadows in my closet, I buried my face in their soft folds. The scent of lavender embraced me, the pale purple sachets guarded their charges with gentle zeal. “I owe it to them to try them on and see how they fit” I told myself. I slid the black and white dress over my head, feeling the fabric settle over me like shimmering water.  And the film reel started to play.

It was the morning of Justin’s wake. Justin, my first born son with a mop of dark curls and expressive eyebrows. We were at church early to set up the small chapel and narthex for his viewing. A woman asked me as we were placing pictures on easels, “What’s all this about?”

“Our son was killed. We are setting up his wake.”

And she said “Are you kidding?”

I can still hear her as clear as a bell six years later.  It plays in my head, “Are you kidding?” She was never known to be a kind person, but her brusque tone was startling. To this day walking into the spacious narthex of the church recalls that blunt exchange to my mind.

Wrenching my attention back to the present, I stare at my reflection in the mirror. The dress fits perfectly, but my skin crawls, the smooth fabric triggers a cascade of snapshots in my mind, I see the casket and remember walking behind it as we left the church. I pull the dress by its hem over my head and throw it, watching as it slithers to a small black and white puddle on the floor. With no more thought for thriftiness, I add the second dress to the pool of fabric on the floor. I continue reaching into the closet and tossing until all the woven memories of Justin’s funeral lie on the wood floor. Swooping up the pile of castaways, I funnel them into a donation bag and breathe a sigh of relief.

Passing an indigo blue dress hanging on the door ledge, the chiffon flutters at me as I let my fingertips glide across the smooth fabric. I need to take it to the cleaners, but I am delaying its departure. I hold the dress close and breathe in the scent of flowers and wedding cake, luxurious rose and vanilla fill my lungs. I smile remembering how I texted my sister from another mother that I had twisted the chiffon and needed help as I was racing the clock to get dressed for the wedding. This dress holds the remembrance of a tall handsome son, my ginger haired youngest with gray-green eyes, clasping the hand of his radiant bride as they walk down the aisle, their first steps as a married couple.

I drift away to another task, content to let my dress hang like a vibrant blue piece of artwork. It’s a keeper. A wrap in layers of tissue paper keeper.  A memory to shake out and hold close when I need a reminder of the fabric of life.






12 thoughts on “The Fabrics of Life and Death

    • Dear Dana,
      Thank you so much for everything. You have been instrumental in introducing me to a community of women and writers who are nurturing and supportive. Thank you for the gift of your friendship.

  1. Terri,
    I treasure the lovely memory of you watching, shining-eyed, as Ryan and Diana danced. May the joy of that moment sustain you.

    • Thank you so much Melinda for your careful reading of this piece each week, thank you for the gift of your time.

  2. This one… incredible writing. It gave me chills… I could see every description so clearly. I could feel your thoughts as you wrote it. Love you.

    • Dearest Liz,
      Thank you. You give me the courage to keep writing. Love you too.

    • Thank you so much Laverne for your help in polishing this piece, thank you for the gift of your time.

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