His Dad’s Final Joke

Stephen, Bob Bolster, Bill Settle, Jerry Kizerian, and the man stand over their father’s body. He is laid out on a metallic table and covered in a sheet. The temple clothes are folded next to him, and the man has a pair of garments to dress him in. Dad looks pasty and puffy, not really like himself. His hands are folded over this waist, though his elbows are partially sticking out away from his sides. It looks awkward.

Regardless, they get to work. The man performed this service for Bill Titlow about ten days before, and he has done it for a couple of other men in his ward. He takes the garment bottoms, slides them over Dad’s feet, and begins to work them up his body. Stephen helps the others work on the garment top. Then they move on to the white shirt, white pants, socks, shoes, and other pieces.

When they have it all in place, the man looks at the other men. “They said we could place him in the casket, so why don’t we do that?”

“All right, then,” says Bill.

They gather around and grip a sheet between his body and the table. They lift. There’s a reason they call it dead weight. Even losing weight because of his condition, the man’s father is big. As they shift awkwardly toward the casket, Bob Bolster groans, “Gordon Laws, you are a BIG man.”

Stephen laughs. So does the man. Stephen and the man are next to each other near Dad’s waist.

They shuffle carefully, then lift him over the side of the casket.

“Okay, easy now,” Bill says, as they lower him to the bedding.

They have miscalculated. Dad’s right arm is too close to the side of the casket. As they lower him, that space between his elbow and his waist turns his elbow into a hinge. As his back hits the bedding, Dad’s right hand suddenly swings up between the faces of Stephen and the man, nearly whacking them both. Stephen immediately breaks up laughing, and so does the man. Dad’s hand is straight up in the air between them.

“We gotta shift him left,” the man says.

They lift together, shift him left, and set him down again. The hand starts to lower, and the man pushes it back into place over his left hand.

Stephen can’t keep it together. He squeezes his nose near his eyes and tries to suppress his laughter but can’t.

“Thank you, brethren,” the man says.

“No problem,” says Bob.

“A privilege to help,” says Bill.

Stephen shakes his head and says, “Sorry. I can’t help it. It’s his final joke. He tried to backhand me in the face.”

The man laughs too. “Almost got me as well.”

They head out to their cars, and when they are in the car, Stephen is still laughing.

“Dude, I’m sorry. I know that’s supposed to be sort of sacred. But I can’t help it. It’s freaking hilarious. Dad nearly whacked us in the face.”

The man chuckles. “No need to apologize. It’s the sort of thing Dad would laugh at himself. In fact, I’m sure he was there. Wouldn’t surprise me if he somehow helped cause it to happen.”

“Totally,” says Stephen.

“He’d be all, ‘Of course I tried to whack you. It’s for all those times you aren’t doing what you should and I’m not there to whack you.'”

Stephen laughs harder, tears coming from his eyes. “Yes, exactly.”

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