A Somewhat Morbid Request From an Old Friend

My wife has a friend of many years, who is getting on in years. Recently, this woman has been talking about preparations for her funeral, estate, etc.
Now, she has made a kind of morbid request to my wife-she is worried that she cannot get a shroud to be buried in!
So she purchased several yards of white cloth-and asked my wife to make one for her.
My wife is a skilled seamstress, so making one is no big deal.
Still, reminds me of “Quequig” of “Moby Dick”-the indian whaler who wanted the ship’s carpenter to make a coffin for him.
Kind of creepy!

why is that creepy? Every coffin/shroud is made by someone, why not someone who is a friend v. someone doing it for a buck? My Mom was dying of cancer years ago while I was taking glassblowing classes. She asked me to make the urn for her ashes. Turned out to be the best piece I made.

It’s a little strange, planning for someone’s death. Years ago my mother and grandfather were shopping for a headstone for my grandmother while she was in the hospital. It was overwhelming for them.

It may be a little strange to plan for someone else’s death, but it’s a great thing for the survivors if the deceased has done the work already. I know it made things much easier for us when my mother died. She had already made the arrangements with the funeral home, picked out her coffin, flowers, bought her plot and headstone, made arrangements to be cremated, etc. She had money set aside for part of the cost, and had an insurance policy for the rest of it. She also had a living trust set up to bypass the probate process, and made sure that all of her kids knew where the paperwork was kept, and how her possessions were to be divided.

The death of a loved one is stressful enough. Pre-planning takes a big load of stress off their family. The fore-knowledge of the will also made sure that there was no friction about who got what items, so we didn’t have one of those classic battles about dividing up heirlooms, etc.

Dad’s estate, on the other hand, is going to be a mess. He has remarried after the divorce, and some of her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids are going to swoop in like vultures, with vans and trucks in tow, to pick through things. But he wants nothing to do with a will or pre-planning - none at all.

That’s so true! Death is a messy enough business without all of the legal and logistical junk that goes with it.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone buried in a shroud. Is there some reason why this woman wouldn’t want to be buried in regular clothes? Just curious.

And the legal part must be truly mindboggling in a complicated case. I was the executor of my mother’s estate. And her estate was a fairly simple one. She died just over a year ago, and I still get mail addressed to her about this and that. Most is junk mail, but it took a long time to get refunds from utilities where she had set up automatic payment plans, cancel magazine subscriptions, notify professional organizations and regulatory offices. My mother was a nurse, and I just got a notice last week that the state wants her to renew her license - go figure.

Do your kids / heirs a favor. Bite the bullet, and do the pre-planning. A will is only the first step of the process. Think living trust, think of planning the funeral service and where you want to be buried, think cremation vs. burial. Put together a list of principal assets like real estate, insurance policies, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, and where all the paperwork for each is kept. There’s got to be a resource in your area that has more detail about this. Or maybe AARP has something on this, too.

My apologies to Ralf124C - I’ll shut up on this now, as I don’t want to hijack his thread. (Nice user name, BTW!)

I think it’s nice of her to have everything planned. My sister has given me her directions, told me what she wants to wear, given me the rosary she wants to hold and told me the music she wants played.

I keep telling her to make sure Henson and husband also know what she wants, or it may not be done her way. However, she will be dead so there is nothing she can do if it’s not what she wants.


It’s Queequeg, and he was neither Native American (that would be Tashtego, one of the other harpooners) nor from India. He was from somewhere around Hawaii.

Back To The OP

I like it. In Judaism, you’re taught that a funeral and burial is the last kindness you can do some one. In Orthodox funerals, the mourners actually shovel the dirt back into the grave after the coffin is lowered.
Besides which, this woman had a worry. By making the shroud you’ve taken away that worry.

My BIL, my husband’s twin, had a friend build a wooden box to hold his ashes and had great input into the design and even saw the finished product before he died. Not too morbid or creepy at all IMO.

This is my question, too…never heard of anyone these days needing a shroud

Jews are usually buried in a shroud, no other clothes. No open casket. On Yom Kippur, it’s traditional to wear all white to the synagogue for the all-day service. This symbolizes the shroud, and seriously old-school types wear their shroud, which they already have prepared.

Amen. I once read an article from a fellow discussing that very topic. IIRC, once a year he’d write a letter to the family, to be opened if needed, that listed locations of all that sort of stuff. I need to do that - make sure I can pintpoint the will / trust locations, and also information on how to access all the online accounts. These days, the actual paperwork isn’t that big of a deal (beyond the wills), but all our financial info… oy. Fortunately, we’ve been gradually documenting everything in electronic form - between Quicken, and the password vault, it’s all there.

Re the OP: What a wonderful gift, to take that worry off the friend.