My mother was the youngest of 16 children. Yes, I’ll say that again for effect. Sixteen, and no twins. Being the youngest she was also the last to die. I’m sure this was extremely hard on her, yet after a while attending all the funerals became so ritualized she could put herself on auto-pilot in order to make it through. As a child I witnessed many of these Catholic mass rituals. One of them always reminded me of the hobby of collecting trading cards and I would think it is strangely related to the custom of cabinet cards in the early 1900s because those cards were also used as memorial cards after death around that time. What she collected were the prayer cards (I’ve actually never heard them called holy cards) handed out at every funeral and mom had quite a collection from not only her own family, but from other family and friends too. Some of them were very beautiful, usually had quotes from scripture but most were on hard card stock in full color. She would sometimes tuck them in her bible or put them in strange places, like a sock drawer so that she would be reminded of these people at different times.
I was talking with Cathy once about keepsakes. About how we all tend to keep something small and “clutchable” of someone (like a lock of hair) we once knew and how the digital world takes that away from us. Another example of the changes in American cultural history at play. Who would you rely on if you wanted something like that to be handed out at your funeral? Would you just leave it to chance? Or would you want to design something more personal? I have some very creative friends. I would truly love to see what they would come up with. Maybe someday I will have a party where the guests will all be asked to create a memorial card with my digital camera and the mountains of art supplies I have lying around. Now wouldn’t that be interesting?