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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Vanity Fair

My favorite perk of being a nun is that I never have to think for one second about whether or not I look pretty. I do check myself in the mirror to make sure I am presentable. No one takes you seriously if you have spinach on your teeth.

But as long as I'm tucked in and freshened up I'm good to go.

I wish everyone had the same luxury. I suppose they could have the same luxury if they just thought about life a little differently. But I am willing to concede that if one's vocation (using the word somewhat more casually) is to, say, read the news on TV, one can't show up like a sack of potatoes. One has to look one's best.

I don't have to look my best. I just have to look--to make sure I don't have spinach on my teeth.

I am of course surrounded by quite the opposite, living where I do. It's amazing that someone can spend so much money to look young and beautiful and end up looking like a Mr. Sardonicus.

Does anyone remember that story? It was a favorite of mine as a girl. Mr. Sardonicus finds out that his father has been buried with a winning lottery ticket in his vest pocket. He decides to dig up his father and grab the ticket, but realizing that this is a perfectly horrible thing to do, he warns himself that he must not look at his father's face while he is digging around at the corpse. Of course, he has to look. Having been dead for awhile, the skin on the corpse has pulled and stretched into a hideous grin. Sardonicus flees. I guess he had the ticket, I can't remember.

When he arrives at home he slumps over the sink and shakily washes the crime dirt from his hands. He raises his eyes to the mirror and there, staring back at him, is the same monstrous expression. His face is forever frozen in this hideous grin.

Hence the name. I suppose his name wasn't Sardonicus until he went digging in his father's grave. Anyhow, he spends the rest of his life trying to find a cure for himself.

After that it becomes a horror story as he captures people to on which to experiment. He is finally outwitted by a plucky couple who injects him with his own powerful muscle relaxant, which relaxes him to death. Actually, I think it relaxes him into a puddle, the couple runs for it and Mr. Sardonicus dies a cruel death unable to move. But I think his face went back to normal there at the end.

The best part of the whole story was the picture on the book cover. Chilling!

Which brings me to today's question:
Hey Sister what do you think of plastic surgery for the dead? Yep, a little botox for uncle Frank so he can look 10 years younger in the coffin. What will they come up with next?

Offhand, I would agree with you. It does sound vain and ridiculous to try to make someone look younger after they are dead.

But upon further reflection, what's the difference between a little botox and all the other cosmetic implants and pancake make up and false teeth and hair pieces that go to the grave with dear Uncle Frank? Undertakers have all kinds of tricks to plump up sunken eyes and cheeks, to hide gashes and scars and make every one look as pleasant as possible. I've seen quite a few of the faithful departed looking like quite bizarre and not at all like themselves.

The idea is to make the person look good, or as good as they can possibly look with no soul to animate them. It's not for the person in the box. It's for the rest of us to have a peaceful last memory of them and to get our heads around the fact that they are dead and gone. So...botox, cotton wads...whatever...

Most of us can't rely on being incorrupt like our sainted brethren. I can't see a problem unless it was some sort of vain last wish of the person who had a vanity problem to begin with and asked the family to spend money they didn't have to make him look ten years younger. Even then, we can't judge.

Let's hope our dying wish is not for botox. But if you were Dr. Sardonicus we would understand.


Granny Annie said...

I had never heard that story. I'm not sure that I'm glad I have heard it now! It looks like something that would have been on the Twilight Zone.

Except for the persons who happen to be with me at the time of my death, no one else should see my remains. I am appauled by the money that goes into preparing a corpse. I want to be remembered as I was, alive and vibrant and not in an expensive box. Creamtion is for me. What is the Catholic take on cremation?

Claudia said...

Working in an OR I can't imagine anyone having surgery or Botox to make the dead look better. A person should not look better dead than they did when they were alive.
The money should be spent on a few Novenas to help the lately departed exit from purgatory. I guess if you went further south maybe you would want to look your best when you would arrive in Handes.
They should be worry about the condition of their souls instead of their face in the casket.
Besides the heirs would be irked that any inheritance money would be spent to fluff up Aunt So snd so's face.....

Janelle said...

You go, SMM. I really like the post from last year, too.

Anonymous said...

I know this is random, but about that war in heaven...

Heaven is actually eternal, right? So it doesn't ACTUALLY follow a linear timeline, right? So everything just kind of exists all the time there, right? So the war in heaven that happened when Lucifer got the boot could be happening RIGHT NOW. My soul might have fought in that war!

Waaaaar in heaven is so confusing.

Feisty Irish Wench said...

I shudder at that story Sister. BLEH.

And Grannie Annie, the Catholic Church permits cremation, however the entirety of the cremains must be entombed. So Uncle Ronnie can not sit on your mantle in a pretty urn or be scattered at his favorite natural setting.

Cathy said...

Botox can't possibly have any effect on dead people. It eliminates wrinkles by paralyzing the muscles used to create the wrinkle, and dead people aren't using any muscles. A little injection of collagen would do the job, but frankly you could inject darn near anything to plump out the wrinkle and have it work. Like more embalming fluid.

It sounds like a scam unscrupulous funeral homes would perpetrate. I'd rather have a few Novenas.

Chris Stone said...

hah. I was thinking at the start of the post that if Dr. Sardonicus had a winning lottery ticket, he could afford plastic surgery.

I don't know much about it but. Botox as I understand it paralyses the muscles. This might be helpful in arranging the dead nicely in a coffin. To me, this is one of the most innocuous uses of botox. Its way more creepy when used on the living.

Smiley said...

3 words which will save you a lot of money


Anonymous said...

On the subjects of death and charity for the living, I have a question about refusing treatment. I talk with my (young adult) children every so often about these things. They already know I want to be buried or cremated inexpensively after a proper mass, for example. Then there are other end-of-life "what ifs," such as "what if Mom is stuck on respirating machines with no hope of improvement and unable to communicate?" I tell them, I'd just as soon not have further medical treatment at that point, so they can in good conscience order my treatments withdrawn, except that I'd like pain medication until I'm actually dead, please. And I also tell them that if for any reason --like keeping peace in the family or hope that the doctros are wrong, or insurance or something-- if for any reason they honestly think it's best to keep me on the machines till I'm truly brain dead, then that's fine too.

Recently a friend whose opinion I respect said that I'm encouraging the kids to commit murder because withdrawing treatment "hastens death," especially if I get pain medication at the same time. That's crazy, right? Refusing treatment is not murder, and plenty of saints have been declared saints after going without treatment that could have prolonged their lives. Right? Or does wanting the pain medicine somehow nullify this. I'd rather skip the excrutiating pain if I can, but if you say it's the only choice then I guess it's back to offering it up. Not that I'm there yet, obviously, but sometimes it comes up.

What is the nun's eye view on this?

Thank you so much for your wonderful, funny, thought-provoking blog.

Anonymous said...

Sister! I had a dream last night that my face looked like that guy's! I had to blow threw my nose to keep it from bending in! Ha! I was fine though, and I woke up in like one second.


Anonymous said...

the Church teaches that EXTRAordinary means are not necessary. It would be wrong to go without hydration & nutrition (probably I.V. at that point), but if the only reason you're still "alive" is because the machines are doing the breathing and beating, you are not refusing treatment and your children are not murdering you. And, like food and water, pain relief is not classified as extraordinary. Pax

Anonymous said...

Oh, dear --IV is ordinary? Yuck. If that's correct I will have to er-train my kids. For purposes of taking me off machines, I have given the following ammunition: "This is a lady who didn't even have an electric sewing machine when I was little!" And for purposes of keeping me on, I have given them: "Anyone who's given birth more than once cares more about family than her own comfort." But if being hooked up to tubes is part of the "ordinary measures" deal ... I'll have to think of something else. Or maybe I can just leave it to them. It's just nice to give good advice while they're still listening.

Glad to hear about the pain meds, though. Thanks.

Politichique said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,
I Just wanted to ask you:
Where would I be able to get a hold of the head piece which covers the neck and hair, that Nuns usually wear.


Liberator_Rev said...

In the same way that German citizens were forced to view what had been done at their

concentration camps during the Jewish Holocaust, all Roman Catholics who believe theirs is

"the one true, holy church" ought to be required to view the videos below.
Cardinal Eugene Tisserant, Prefect of the Congregation of Eastern Churches at the time,

testified to some of the facts involved, when he wrote in a letter sent in March of 1942 to

Croatia's representative to the Vatican:
"I know for a fact, that it is the Franciscans themselves who have taken part in attacks

against the Orthodox populations so as to destroy the Orthodox Church. . . I know for sure that

the Franciscans in Bosnia and Herzegovina have acted abominably, and this pains me. Such

acts should not be committed by educated, cultured, civilized people, let alone by priests."

Catholic holocaust perpetrators -

Part One

Catholic holocaust perpetrators -

Part Two

Catholic holocaust perpetrators -

Part Three

Catholic holocaust perpetrators -

Part Four

See much MORE at JesusWouldBeFurious.Org/C


Claudia said...

There are things such as a living will, and advance directive.
This will detail what you would want at the end of life. It should be witnessed, and one copy to you doctor and possibly attorney. But I have seen these documents not followed when one of the descendants refuse to follow and demans for extrordinary means are requested. The medical profession are wary of a law suit by the family if they do not initiate measures that were not wanted to the ill person. You have two options, one, discuss your desires with your children. Two, put in writing that anyone who institutes care you did not request will be automically out of the will. The number two part is my idea but I think that will hamper any thoughts of changing your living will.

Unknown said...

Smiley - 2 words that'll save you even MORE money: NO FUNERAL!

Personally, I don't care what my family does to my corpse once my soul isn't in it. If pumping me full of chemicals and proping me up in an expensive box makes them feel better about my passing, then let them do it.

I think people like the idea that talented people will be paying lots of attention to their corpse. Would you rather have funeral directors and morticians fussing about and preparing your body or have it simply discarded and forgotten about the moment you die?

Your funeral is the last time you'll ever be the centre of attention here on earth - you might as well look good and enjoy it!

Janelle said...

Speaking of the Holocaust, I just spent today at two Holocaust talks. I learned there are many different approaches to writing modern histories by credible historians. And so, being a little more familiar with ancient history, I let a few moments strike me. First, hearing about how the last trainful of Jewish children left Paris to be killed in a concentration camp only two days before the liberators arrived made me think of the Catholic pro-life stance. Then, there was a German priest who asked his flock simply to pray for Jewish neighbors being deported. His Catholic fold reported him to the Gestapo. While we should never forget the victimized, we should also remember that we're not simply watching a train wreck in horror... but we're also celebrating the dignity of the victimized and our collective affirmation of life.

And, after such a heart-breaking, somber day, I'm eagerly awaiting your next fun post, SMM!

Anonymous said...

More Serbian propaganda!
Liberator_Rev, why don't you take it to some other web page, internet is full of places where people like you can argue.
Don't infect the good sister's blog with your hatred for Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the Holocaust, I saw on the WDTPRS blog by Father Z that Archbishop LeFebvre's (founder of schismatic Society of St. Pius X) OWN father was killed in a Nazi concentration camp. His "crime" was to work for the French Resistance movement!

Anyway, I haven't heard from you for a little while, Sister, and I hope everything's going OK with you.


Terry Nelson said...

The secret to my good looks is to use celebrity photos for my profile picture.