Taxidermy for amateurs (short story)

1

Emma had no way of knowing how her experiment in home taxidermy would work out until she tried. She’d read up about it in a correspondence course, changing her name to Eugene on the paperwork. No self-respecting school would teach a woman how to do such work, especially if they knew how she planned to use this knowledge.

She’d started simple – a dead raccoon she found near the edge of the field. A bird who’d gotten too close to a stray cat. It was unfortunate that the possum she’d spotted just down the road from the farm was too far gone, the turkey vultures having gotten first dibs. Sure, she still could have practiced on the mangy thing, but she wanted her artwork to look natural, or as natural as the deceased can look.

It took her two and a half years to work up the courage to try on a human. This had been her plan all along, but she had to be sure of her skill before she tried something so bold. Even men wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to step into that field of work without official license.

Emma knew too many folks in the village who went into debt over having to bury their dead. There was no good reason to spend a year’s income on someone who couldn’t appreciate it. New fancy clothes for someone who could never afford better than hand-me-downs his whole life? Nonsense. Silk lined coffin to sleep in, when cotton sheets were just fine all their life? Ludicrous.

And worst of all was all those chemicals pumped into their veins to keep them fresh for whenever Jesus got around to making a return visit. When he came, he’d better have a shovel, a jackhammer, and a pair of wire cutters to help them out after he woke them from their slumber. 6 feet down stuck in a concrete vault and a locked coffin was bad enough. Their mouth wired shut (to avoid any unpleasantness during the viewing) would make life difficult for the newly reanimated. Who wanted to come back from the dead like that?

Emma had another plan, a kinder, cheaper plan. Taxidermy. Dry out Grandpa Ross or Uncle Seymour so he doesn’t develop a case of the rot, and prop him up in a chair in the living room. Much cheaper, and he’d still be around to chat with. When the second coming happened he’d be just as ready as anyone else.

The burial

Joseph, a wealthy man from Arimathea in Judea, came to Golgotha in the evening. He was an important member of the Sanhedrin who had not agreed with what they had decided to do about Jesus. He was also a righteous man and secretly one of Jesus’ followers. He looked forward to the coming of the kingdom of God.

He boldly approached Pilate to claim Jesus’ body. Pilate agreed to his request once he learned from the centurion that Jesus had already died. He was surprised that he had died so quickly.

Joseph removed Jesus’ body from the cross and wrapped it with fine linen he had bought. Nicodemus (the Pharisee who had earlier come at night to secretly talk with Jesus) was also there and he brought a large mixture of myrrh and aloe. They used it along with the linen to prepare Jesus’ body in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

Joseph placed the body in an unused tomb that was cut into the rock in a nearby garden. They did this because they did not have time to take care of the body because the Sabbath was quickly approaching. Joseph rolled a large stone over the entrance and then left.

Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph were seated nearby, watching where the body was placed. They returned to where they were staying and prepared spices and perfumes for the body. Then they rested, because it was the Sabbath.

MT 27:57-61, MK 15:42-47, LK 23:50-56, JN 19:38-42

Burial chamber

I was looking at the “Lakeland Cam” website today and came across this picture.

14051318carn_llidi (1)

The author describes it as “burial chamber”. He is in Pembrokeshire, Wales. On the picture’s metadata, it is labeled as Carn Llidi.

I know, in my heart, that it isn’t a burial chamber, in the sense that we mean it. Sure, there are burials there. But not in a physical sense. There are no bodies there.

It is a place for shedding off skin, like a snake. It is a place of building a cocoon if you are a caterpillar. But the snakes and the caterpillars are human, in this case.

These are deaths, sure. These are most certainly deaths, but also rebirths. These are transformations from one state to another. This is a place where people go to become human, to evolve.

It is a place to let go of old selves. It is a place to smooth off the rough bits.

It is a shelter and yet a danger. Look how it is a lean-to. If you sit under it, you’ll be protected from the sun and the rain, but you can still see and hear. You aren’t sheltered like you are if you go into a cave. But it is also a danger. Look at the size of that top rock, and how small that supporting rock is. There is a risk of death there. The rocks could shift and it is all over.

The same is true with transformation. It isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always good. Sometimes bad things happen when we go from one thing to another. Sometimes it isn’t how we planned it would be.

We transform all the time. We transform when we graduate from high school or college. We transform when we marry, have children, get that promotion. We transform when we publish a book or start a band or a business. We transform when we retire. We transform when we die.

There are often ceremonies and rituals for these transformations, these gateways. There are often special places we go to mark them.

This is one of those places.

So sure, it is a burial chamber. But it is also a nursery. It is a place to lay down the old self and pick up the new self. And there is just enough room in there for you. You bury yourself, and midwife yourself here too.