They say that making a mortuary card gives you something to do instead of being enveloped by grief, at the passing away of a loved one. When I set out to make one for the Month’s Mind Mass offered for a family member, I was daunted by the task. I had in mind the old ones which came like a book in black and white. The photo too was b/w to signify grief.
When I asked for a similar card I was told they did not make them anymore. All they had was what was now called a ‘Memorial Card’ or MC for short. The website of the printers had various styles of these termed MC104, MC 105 and so on. All you had to do was pick one, select which words you wanted out of a plethora of verses, choose a holy picture for the back, quote your quantity, and your card was done.
Somehow this assembly line manufacturing of Memorial Cards did nothing to take away my grief. I felt I was belittling the memory of the dear departed. Worse still, the jazzed up colour photos seemed inappropriate to mark the occasion. Nowadays the trend is to give a takeaway of something the departed person used to like. It could be a music CD of the songs s/he liked or even her/his favourite recipe. What could I offer as a suitable memorial?
I ended up writing a poem for the person, one I had composed when I was present for the funeral. I read it out to the family members and they said it would be a good idea to print it on the Memorial Card.
Choosing the photo was not easy. We did not have many digital images of the deceased and in many he was looking away from the camera, preoccupied, pensive or aloof. How could such a photo grace a Memorial Card? We always choose the best photo of the person to remember him/her by. In this case, the family liked one and I liked another. So we ordered 2 sets of cards, 1 for each picture. Mourners could choose how they wanted to remember the deceased.
Imagine my shock when I paid the advance and in the space provided for the name of the person who booked the order, was put the name of the deceased! As though he had just walked out of his grave to order his mortuary bookmarks! The printers said it was easier to identify the order that way.
As I sent the Memorial Cards across the world, Charmaine from the US wrote in to say, ‘Thank you for the mortuary card it is sooo [sic] nice that we can, thanks to the internet, receive memorial cards and feel that we are part of the family.’
The rate is Rs. 6 per card. Rs. 6 extra for lamination. I opted for plain card without lamination as I wanted the Memorial Card to be fragile – like life.
Published in Gomantak Times, Weekender St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 13 September, 2015.