"Daddy, that man ISN’T dead!"

Posted by | January 11, 2007

“We were brought up the Christian way: to love everyone and to do no harm to anyone. My parents participated in all aspects of community life. My mother served as the town’s midwife, ushering all the neighbors’ children into the world. The Hogans, who lived next door, had three sons. Two of their sons, Wesley and Bruce, each fathered 16 children, and my mother delivered them all. She never lost any babies! I helped with some of her last deliveries, so from an early age I experienced the miracle of birth.

“I also learned about death because my father worked as the town’s mortician, arranging for people’s earthly departures and preparing them for the next life. When someone died, the family would call my father and he would hurry over to bathe the deceased person and cover the body with a sheet. He’d put quarters over the dead person’s eyes.

“When I was nine, I went along to help him. My father left the room for a few minutes, and while I was waiting for him, the quarters fell off the person’s face and the sheet moved. I ran through the house screaming, ‘Daddy, that man isn’t dead,’ and headed for home. When he caught up to me, he explained that the body moved because the dead person’s muscles were relaxing. The person really was dead.

“Another time, the dead person sat straight up in his casket twice during his funeral service. Again, my father explained that the man’s muscles were just relaxing, but this incident really scared me. I was only nine or ten years old. I began to wonder if people could be buried alive.”

Libby J. Atwater and Willa B. DeLay

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