Robert Schroeder : click for home page
freelance journalist
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Interview with Lynn Armstrong Patterson
Straight talk about the funeral business with a Washington, DC mortician.

The Washington Post Magazine
June 10, 2001

I guess I sort of do a little bit of everything. I usually dress and casket every person that comes here. That's sort of my specialty. I'm not exactly sure what attracted me to it, but I've wanted to do it since I was about 18. And I let some of my high school classmates talk me into not doing because, just the reason "What a horrible kind of thing to do," you know. "That's terrible, you don't want to do that." So I embarked on another career for almost 20 years.

When families come to see their loved ones for the last time, they've got to feel some sort of comfort in the way that person looks. And I wait to hear them say, "She looks beautiful," or, "He looks beautiful," or, "Thank you," or, "It's made it a lot easier for me, it was an easy transition." I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it's just the satisfaction of being able to help them through that period.

Initially it's always somewhat of a shock, because a person doesn't look the way they looked when they were living. So, very often what happens are that people come in and say, "He looks like himself," or, "She looks like theirselves" and, "She looks like she's sleeping."

In my particular family, when we bury our loved ones, we always dress them in pajamas or a robe or some sort of sleeping attire. I don't really know where the tradition started—but we always put people in some sort of sleeping attire. A nightgown, a smoking jacket, a robe or something. And in the Bible it says that while we are waiting for Jesus to come back or the Savior or the Son of God to come back, we are just in a sleep state, we are all just sleeping and resting and waiting.

I remember once I had a little boy whose family didn't have a lot of funds. He didn't have any clothing, so I got a suit that belonged to my son and put it on him—but it was just an eerie feeling to see this kid in my son's clothes. You know, it was just sort of a strange feeling. But the family didn't have anything, so, you know, I wanted to provide some clothes for them. You have to do whatever it is in order to comfort the family. Whatever it takes.

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