Victorian Death and Post-Mortem Photography, and Reworking the Wiring

I don’t know why, but I find post-mortem photography intriguing.  I know such a curiosity can be considered somewhat macabre- taking pictures of dead people is rather morbid and viewing them is even more so, but there is so much written in those pictures that is unsaid. 

Babies and children seem to be so over-represented in post-mortem pics, but the sad fact is that young children and infants routinely died of diseases that we either vaccinate against or that can be treated with antibiotics.  I’ve seen so many pics of bewildered looking mothers holding their dead babies for that final portrait.  It’s haunting even when one considers the high infant mortality rate of the time.  I’m sure the fact that it was a major accomplishment to get a child to live until his or her fifth birthday in those times did not make it any easier when infants died.

Today it is not as common to take pictures of dead people.  I took pics at Grandma’s funeral pretty much at Mom’s insistence (I will not post them) and more or less to remind myself why I do not want either the bad pink nightie treatment or an open casket funeral. Cremate my happy ass and put up a picture taken when I was still alive.  If anyone shows up, let them speculate on how nasty I looked at the hour of death or whether or not I looked better dead than alive.  Grandma, in spite of the funeral director’s art, did not “look good.”  Very few people do look good when they are laid out in a coffin getting ready to be sent off for the Big Sleep.  She died of either pancreatic cancer, liver failure, or congestive heart failure, or more likely, a combination of the effects of all three (she was 93, after all) and it was all the mortician could do to tone down the sick bright yellow glow of her skin.  They did a better job with Grandma than the funeral home who dolled up poor Aunt Ellen (I will never forget the Day-Glo orange lipstick,) but the restorative arts can only do so much.

I had to wonder about post-mortems where the dead dude (or chick) is standing.  The Victorians had a way around that too:

Sort of like a guitar stand for the dead.  This explains Keith Richards.  Screw the guitar, how about a stand to keep the guitarist vertical? Especially since he must be about 90 years old, and has probably been dead since 1980.

Now I know I am overworked and sleep deprived, but I like it like that.  I know better in a way, but today is the first day in a very long time that I actually came to work and wasn’t completely buried in more stuff than I can possibly get done.  Tomorrow will be different.  I should have asked to go home this PM since I really don’t have much to do, but the minute I do that, a.) I set a bad precedent for others, and b.) some sort of crisis will materialize that will turn into a full-blown cluster f— tomorrow.  Murphy’s Law is alive and well.

In all seriousness, I really do need to get a bit more balanced.  I have a really bad tendency to get focused on one thing and then I don’t really bother with anything else.  I’ve done that with overwork before and it wasn’t very good for my health.  Lately I’ve been living on Monsters and Subway and heavy metal which couldn’t be terribly good for a young kid, let alone a distressed old fossil such as me.  On the bright side, I am enjoying Metallica and Billy Squier and Queensryche and Led Zeppelin, so it can’t be all bad.

I’d like to get that EVO phone that Steve-o has been raving about that not only is Android-based, but has a camera in the front so you can have phone conversations and actually see who you’re talking to.  For the life of me I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would want to look at me on a phone screen, but to each his own.  I do want to be able to see my grandchild, which I think is the reason behind this logic.

The creepiest post-mortems are those where either the eyes are still open or the photographer paints them on later.  It’s pretty clear she’s dead, so what’s up with the open eyes and blank stare?

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but this year I really haven’t had time to do anything fun.  I haven’t really had time to do anything fun all summer either, and now that winter is pretty much here I have to wonder where the time has gone.  I did get some time in the cougar pool and a couple of good road trips, so I should be satisfied with that.  However, I don’t see myself getting all hyped up for Christmas and all that as much as I would like to enjoy the season this year. 

I need to slow down, take a moment to simply be, and to repair the wiring, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

Too bad I had to take down the cougar pool.

3 thoughts on “Victorian Death and Post-Mortem Photography, and Reworking the Wiring

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