My Son’s Funeral Dress

IMG_5395When Nana Grab Bags died on Memorial Day, we immediately started planning her Celebration of Life, mostly because it felt better to be actively doing something as opposed to sitting immobilized unable to do anything. And those were our only two options.

As we began planning, Uncle Michael, Matt and I explained the event’s significance to C.J. and Chase.

“What are we going to wear to the Celebration of Life?” C.J. asked immediately, because even when grieving he is concerned about fashion.

“I’m wearing a tie,” said Chase, who loves any excuse to wear a tie.

“I want to be a girl at Nana’s Celebration of Life. I want to wear a dress. That’s how Nana would want me,” he declared and asked if we could go shopping. I promised him we would.

“Will everyone at the Celebration of Life know that I’m gender nonconforming?” he asked.

“No.”  I waited for the usual self-editing and deep consideration about his gender expression around new people to begin.

“I don’t care,” he said. “I’m wearing a dress.”

“That sounds good,” we said.

IMG_5397He could have said he was going to dress up like a dragon or be a dandelion and we would have said it sounded good — because a sudden death of a loved one puts things into perspective (and because the Celebration of Life would be casual, loving and accepting, like Nana was).

Every day, C.J. pressured me to take him shopping for a new dress and every day I told him that we needed to wait until Uncle Michael got back in town. I was physically and emotionally spent and didn’t feel well-equipped to help my son pick out a dress for his grandmother’s funeral. I had spent loads of energy getting the funeral planned and her visit site properly cared for. I needed some back up, some support and in this case I knew my brother was the person I needed most.

When Uncle Michael arrived on Thursday, our first stop was Target. You’d think that for our mother’s funeral we’d hit a higher end store, maybe even Nordstrom. But we all felt too numb for Nordstrom – which is saying a lot. And, besides, Target was Nana’s favorite store.

IMG_5398C.J. led us to the “girls’ section” and started purposefully working the aisles and holding out fabrics he fancied. Uncle Michael and I did the same. The three of us called out to each other when a dress caught our eye and held it up for comments and opinions. Uncle Michael and I have similar tastes and found a few options that we thought were perfect. C.J. nixed them all. Uncle Michael looked at me shocked and flabbergasted that someone would argue with his good taste (and it is good, after all he helped me win “Best Dressed” in high school).

C.J. decided on a cream linen dress with delicate eyelet detail, a dainty navy blue cardigan and a headband with blue and yellow flowers adorning it. He could not be swayed.

“This has to be his decision, this is how he wants to send off Nana,” I told my brother.

“But, there are several better dresses…” he started.

“Trust me, I know.”

The next two days, C.J. kept reminding us that he was going to be a girl and wear a dress at Nana’s Celebration of Life. We said we knew and thought it was perfect. If that’s how he felt Nana would want him, then that’s exactly what he should do.

IMG_5394He never again asked about the strangers who we would welcome into our home and what their reactions to a boy in a dress might be. He was unwavering in his decision and he didn’t care what other people thought. He was committed to making the event about him and his Nana. That made me proud. Because, that is what memorializing a person and the relationship you had with them is all about.

“Pa, I’m going to be a girl at Nana’s Celebration of Life,” he said to my dad the night before the service. He looked his grandfather right in the eyes and stood firm. If anybody in our family was going to have a reaction it would be Pa. I nervously held my breath.

“That is exactly how Nana would want you and that’s what you should do. It’s about you and Nana and she loved you so much,” Pa said as he wrapped C.J. in a hug.

I teared up (because this death has turned me into a crier and) because it’s the first time I’d heard my father be that accepting and empowering of C.J.

The day of the Celebration of Life, C.J. made sure I steamed his dress, like I did mine, and flat ironed his hair, like I did mine. He spritzed on some Chanel Coco perfume and applied his favorite lip gloss. After he put on his cream dress, navy cardi and flowered headband, I surprised him by presenting him with a strand of Nana’s pearls to wear.

FullSizeRenderHe greeted people at the door as they arrived at our house for the Celebration of Life. We introduced him to people from my parents’ church and to their friends who had never met him before.

“This is our youngest son, C.J.,” we’d say.

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” they’d say. “Your Nana told us so much about you.”

That afternoon, my son was not one bit worried about what perfect strangers would think about him wearing a dress. He listened to those strangers tell him that his Nana loved him very much and that she told everyone all about him. He was unabashed and unashamed. He honored Nana and their special relationship beautifully.

I imagined her looking down on him.

“That’s my beautiful boy! You look so pretty! I love your dress!” she’d say, like she always did.


About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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64 Responses to My Son’s Funeral Dress

  1. Pingback: What happened when this kid wore a dress to his grandma's funeral. | Bullshit Guru

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  3. Karin says:

    sorry for your lost. Love the way you treat your boys as human beings of there choice. had a lot of trouble from the dad and outstanders when my son wantes a sleepingdress because he wanted to be a girl. never made a problem of it and my mother who was in her seventies when he was born now it right away that he was a special boy, so love you. And my son is 25 now, still a boy but with a feminin site everyone loves. And a lovely boyfriend next to him and now together tehy can conquer the world. The same CJ will be. Sending you good vibes from over the ocean

  4. Pingback: What happened when this kid wore a dress to his grandma's funeral. | Bullet Metro

  5. Pingback: What happened when this kid wore a dress to his grandma’s funeral. | My One and Only You

  6. Mary says:

    I just read this story and was looking forward to see the final picture of CJ in the outfit. So proud of him and parents like you who allow your children to be authentic in their world. Bravo! …if there’s a picture I would love to see it.

  7. Pingback: What happened when this kid wore a dress to his grandma’s funeral. | Emergenturd

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  9. jean says:

    There’s a mass shooting, again. It saddens me, but I came upon your blog post via upworthy. It gives me hope again. The unwavering love and confidence towards your son. It’s beautiful to see and hear about. Thank you for sharing.

  10. David A Morse says:

    I am sad to hear of your loss. I feel your dad responded as he did because grandma can’t be there now.

  11. nirvanama says:

    Thanks for opening your heart out to the world about this important and sensitive issue! I salute your grit and honesty! You are truly inspiring!

  12. So sorry for your loss, but thank you so very much for sharing this!

  13. jolenemariep says:

    I’m sorry for your loss, your post made me cry.

  14. Cheri says:

    So sorry for you and your families loss.

    Several times in the story you wrote CJ said he wanted to be a girl or was going to be a girl at the celebration. Is this new? Doesn’t he usually want to be a boy in girls clothing or dress like a girl rather than BE a girl?

  15. timekillshearts says:

    My heart just breaks for CJ and your whole family! I am so sorry for your loss but I’m so glad that CJ has this amazing nana who obviously adored him just how he is very much!

  16. Jess says:

    Our deepest condolences, prayers, and love to you and your family. Nana will always be with you. CJ is very blessed to have people in life that accept, encourage, and love him for the soul he is…

  17. Josey says:

    These stories always make me tear up a little. You’re such a good story teller & nuturer to CJ. You’ll have quite a book someday. Thanks for sharing. My condolences on your loss & my happiness for your beautiful attitude & the gift of CJ.

  18. God Bless you all in this very heartbreaking time…. It sounds like CJ & Nana had a bond that NO distance, not even death will separate. But I have to tell you the part that choked me up most, was your Father’s acceptance of whatever CJ wanted to do. Reminded me of my Dadda’s (RIP) acceptance of something I thought he would be upset about…but instead he asked me if it made me happy…I told him it did and he said, “Well, that’s what matters most”. Stay strong & hug CJ for me. ❤

  19. dancin' mama says:

    First let me say I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, it brought tears to my eyes.

  20. auntiemip says:

    Rest well Nana Grab Bags. Know with utter confidence that the world is changing for people, human beings, like your C.J. There is a place for him and his bright, exuberant self in this world and that we are learning as he leads the way. Rest well indeed Nana, your C.J. is loved!

  21. I pretty much just cried through that whole thing. It sounds like CJ’s relationship with his Nana was so special and so beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us…

  22. Nancy says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss. A beautiful family. Nana is surely so proud of you all, and you are living testament to her love. I was so touched by what your Dad said to CJ. Bravo, Pa. He must be hurting too, and yet he was able to speak in the spirit of his beloved wife and her connection to their grandkids.

  23. Shane Doyle says:

    I have to say that C.J.’s Nana was a very classy lady. Her love and support of C.J. will live forever in him. I am sure that her support of C.J., as shown in the reaction of her Church patrons, will be a strong influence in his life. I’m sorry for your family’s loss.

  24. Gabrielle says:

    This made me cry. So happy and sad for C.J. and you right now.

  25. Victoria Leavitt says:

    This was such a beautiful, tender story.

  26. Brandi says:

    You are a wonderful mother & this touches my heart. Sorry for your loss.

  27. scientiste says:

    So sorry again for your family’s loss. How wonderful that Nana continues to help so many people accept and love CJ for who he is. Hugs to you and your family.

  28. jbutlerc18 says:

    Your son is so incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful and supporting mother. Keep doing what your doing! We need more people like you in this world.

  29. What a lovely post. I’m sure Nana will be there will you all, this is not the end. X

  30. Jessica says:

    Powerful and moving. You are raising the bar on parenting, that’s for sure. Your family is in our thoughts. xo

  31. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post!

  32. Etzzyvonne says:

    I couldn’t read the full story.

  33. Fox says:

    As so many have said here already, there are no words, just smiles and grins and warm fuzzy feelings. What a family. Doing it right.

  34. tiahillary says:

    Love to you and your family.

  35. susinko says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I cried as I read about C.J. trying to find the perfect dress to wear for his Grandmother. What a sweet and wonderful little boy. My heart goes out to you and your family.

  36. Jenny says:

    There are no words, just tears. Love to you and your family Lori. Thank you for sharing the journey.

  37. Love and hugs for all of you …. what a lovely family.

  38. jerbearinsantafe says:

    Beautiful, if anyone wants to understand real family values read this post.

  39. much love to you Nana Grabbags, your love shines on…

  40. Emily says:

    What a wonderful woman. And CJ’s hair is perfect; the highlights look fantastic.

  41. Sammy says:

    God bless you CJ what a sweet and caring boy

  42. Ken says:

    Lovely! Well done, all of you… especially your dad. Proud of CJ. Beautiful dress, too. I got teary reading the account.

  43. Isabelle says:

    This is beautiful. The love between Nana and CJ is so evident. I am so glad that your dad and Nana’s friends were supportive and accepting.

  44. Donna says:

    Tears!!!! Why is the deepest love so beautiful and so painful at the same time!? I am crying for CJ and his bravery and for claiming WHO he is with such comfort. I am crying at ALL the support of people who GOT IT exactly when they needed to GET it and all acted just like the proud, strong little CJ has always acted….with his heart and inner truth leading the way. Am I crying that….that it has to be this “hard.” That it just can’t “BE” this way always. The fact that this “perfect situation” isn’t the norm. Beautiful! Praying for you as you all grieve the loss of a very profound, strong and impacting woman!

  45. ravinj says:

    This brought tears to my eyes for the first time in a very long time. I’m so sorry for your loss. The stories you’ve told make it clear what an amazing person she was.

  46. Dan Goldman says:

    What a beautiful celebration of Life for a beautiful woman who raised such incredible children and grandchildren. Your post brought tears to my eyes.

  47. Kim says:

    Lori I am so very sorry for your loss. Your whole family’s growth has been one of the most compelling parts of your story and this is such a perfect tribute and testament to that. I can only imagine that your mom was/is incredibly proud. Peace to you and family.

  48. dita48 says:

    Oh, my heart just aches for you and your family, Lori. When I lost my father suddenly the day after Easter 12 years ago, my kids were so young. I grieved so terribly, but worse was facing them with news they couldn’t comprehend. I think it grows up little ones quickly, when they have to face the finality of life. Thank you for continuing to share your story, even through personal grief. May you and your family have peace and comfort in this time of grief.

  49. Jamie M says:

    What a beautiful way to celebrate an amazing woman- I always loved when you wrote about Nana. Sending you lots of love during this difficult time.

  50. ButchDykeinNYC says:

    How appropriate and what it should be.

  51. Kristi says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss.

    You never cease to amaze me with your acceptance of CJ. You are the perfect family for him!

  52. This made me cry. I’m sure Nana would be proud of how well you continue to raise your kids.

  53. H C. says:

    Thank you for this posting. I enjoy your blog more than you ever could imagine. I am so sorry to hear about Nana Grab Bags. Im sure Cj looked beautiful.

  54. Michelle says:

    He’s lovely both inside and out.

  55. Kerri Hudon says:

    Such a beautiful story C.J. is so courageous and I’m so sorry for your families loss.

  56. Mark J says:

    Grandmothers and their love are a gift.

  57. jmgoyder says:

    Beautiful post and I am so sorry for your loss.

  58. Dan Woog says:

    Nana will live on in CJ for a long, long time.

    A beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it — and for all you do, for so many.

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