Photographer Describes the Beautiful Experience of Dressing and Photographing Deceased Grandfather
My grandfather died in the spring of 2014. It didn’t come as a surprise to anyone. During the last two years he didn’t respond a lot; he wasn’t present. I don’t know if he thought about dying, whether he was expecting it or afraid of it. I don’t think so. He was 87 years old.
My sister and I helped the mortician prepare him for his coffin. We dressed him into his best suit, combed his hair—it felt like a last favor for him. Maybe I was trying to compensate for the fact I didn’t visit him enough. My conscience isn’t clear when it comes to that.
My grandfather and I weren’t that close because he and my grandmother lived far away from the town where I grew up. It was only after his condition started to deteriorate that I made any effort to visit them more often and those visits were not easy; my grandfather had lost his hearing and my grandmother had lost her short-term memory. She would ask the same questions again and again and he would sit at the table and smile, not knowing what we were talking about. At least he seemed pleased that he still recognized me.
When I was a kid, I had my reservations about him. He seemed very strict so I kept a certain distance. He wasn’t mean or anything—he just didn’t want us to fool around and wreak havoc like children often do. Now I understand that that was just his way of trying to raise and teach us how to be proper humans.
Most people in Finland—where I am from—don’t know that you can dress the deceased. And if they did they probably wouldn’t do it. Death is still a taboo over here. You are not supposed to talk about it, let alone photograph it. I don’t know why this is. Maybe we don’t want to be reminded of our mortality.
Preparing my grandfather for his coffin was a beautiful experience. Time seemed to come to a halt. All my memories of him felt stronger, more concrete. I had photographed him on many occasions and he always had this amazing presence. This was our last shoot together—although, in some sense, he was no longer there. Merely a shell was left. I spent a few minutes taking photographs, then I closed the coffin. That was that. The last time I saw my grandfather.
Looking at the pictures now takes me back to the moment of seeing him in the coffin. In the pictures he seems to be at ease. And there still is that sense of presence. In some way I feel a lot closer to him now than I ever did before.
These photos are from the series To Bury a Father by Kimmo Metsäranta
Latest posts by CDFuneralNews (see all)
- IS FACEBOOK NOW PAY-TO-PLAY? | DISRUPTu! 038 - February 5, 2018
- Homesteaders Recognizes Account Executives for Outstanding Achievement - February 5, 2018
- NFDA Introduces the 2018 Meet the Mentors Program Participants - January 30, 2018
You may be interested
IS FACEBOOK NOW PAY-TO-PLAY? | DISRUPTu! 038CDFuneralNews - February 5, 2018
Are you ready to fight...!? Ready to FIGHT those recent Facebook Newsfeed changes?! You're in luck with this week's brand…
Homesteaders Recognizes Account Executives for Outstanding AchievementCDFuneralNews - February 5, 2018
West Des Moines, Iowa — Homesteaders Life Company, a national leader in pre-need funeral funding, held its national sales meeting and recognition…
We are Building Something Exciting for You… and We Need Your Help!Justin Crowe - January 31, 2018
We want to make your deathcare job easier. Tell us what you want in this 2-minute survey and get entered to win $100! The Connecting Directors and Disrupt Media teams are excited to be planning some new free funeral home marketing content and products for you in 2018 and we want to know what you need most! We want to know your biggest business wins of 2017, the tasks in your day that you hate, and what you feel is holding you back!