My mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, reads the obituaries every day and cross-checks them against her Christmas card list.
“You got to face facts, Modine,” she says to me. “No sense sending a Merry Christmas card when you ought to be sending a Your-Loved-One-Rests-in-the-Bosom-of-the-Savior card.”

She is very efficient, but she did get her cards mixed up one time. Old Mrs. Schnapps went out to the mailbox one December day, opened up a Rests-in-the-Bosom-of-the-Savior card, and rushed inside to check on Mr. Schnapps who was resting in the bosom of the Barcalounger watching the game, but, like she said, you never know at this age.
Anyway, Ms. Larda suddenly realizes she don’t have a picture for her own obituary.

Not that she’s been feeling sick or anything. She just thinks ahead. She don’t get her picture in the paper often, so she better be sure she looks good.

She actually went through this already, years ago. It was after Thanksgiving dinner, and she brought out a bunch of pictures of herself and let us all vote.

I notice all these pictures were taken around 1950, so I politely say maybe she should choose a recent one. Well! She tells me in no uncertain terms that a dead person got the right to choose the best picture that was ever taken in their life.

That could be when she was 6 months old, naked on a pink satin blanket, I think, but this time I keep my mouth shut.
Anyway, she can’t decide between her engagement picture or the picture from when she was in that bathing suit contest at Ponchartrain Beach. If she chooses the beach one, the paper probably wouldn’t run the whole picture – they would just use her face, which was not the main attraction. Bathing suits covered up a lot more in those days, but even a 1950 bathing suit couldn’t stretch over Ms. Larda’s “endowments,” if you know what I mean.

She decided on the engagement picture and put it in an envelope and gave it to me, along with the list of relatives who Preceded Her to Eternal Salvation; and a list of people still alive that she will be Sorely Missed By, and a P.S. saying however old she is when she croaks ain’t nobody’s beeswax, so don’t put that in there.

And then she adds a P.P.S. that she wants her name listed correctly, not with a nickname in quotes in the middle, like Larda “MeeMaw” Gunch. But we can put “Greatly Missed by Her Beautiful Grandchildren, Who Lovingly Called Her ‘MeeMaw,’ and Her Precious Infant Great-Grandchild, Who Called Her ‘Glub.’”

And then comes Katrina, and everything gets washed away, including that envelope. So now we got to start this all over again.

Only this time she don’t got any pre-1950 pictures. They went with Katrina. So she buys a new wig and trundles over to Wal-Mart and has her picture taken. She don’t like it. She tries K-Mart and the results ain’t no better. Then she goes to a one of them glamour photographers, and pays a lot of money to get made-up and photographed sort of fuzzy, and she gets such a beautiful picture you’d never recognize her.

She comes over to show me. Unfortunately, two of the Precious Grandchildren are there at the time.

My son Gargoyle says, “You know, MeeMaw, everybody reads news online now.” She gives him a look, and he says, real quick “But I’ll post it on Facebook.”

“My people don’t play Facebook,” she says to him. “If it ain’t in the paper, they’ll think I’m not dead, and I won’t have nobody at my wake.”

I tell her my gentleman friend Lust found out from the newspaper reporters who drink at the Sloth Lounge, that the newspaper don’t print your obituary free no more. Evidently it ain’t news that you’re dead, unless you are some bigwig, or you get tragically murdered or die in a newsworthy accident.

But what you can do is, you can get the funeral home to put in an announcement. The funeral home pays the paper. The paper prints it and posts it online. It is all included in the funeral cost.

So she decides to settle for the Wal-Mart picture and take it to the funeral home herself.

She marches in and asks to see the chief funeral director. His secretary was a little snippy, because he’s a big important funeral director, but when he did come out of his office, she realized he was Potato Head, who used to hang out with her boys growing up. This is evidently not the name he goes by now, even though his head is shaped the same, she says, because as soon as she said it he yanked her into his office and said they were happy to be of service, and to please keep her voice down.

He even said she could submit two pictures, a recent one and one from former days. Too bad I don’t have none of former days, Modine, she says to me, like Katrina was my fault. Then Gargoyle says, “I got one.”

We all look at him. “It’s a Polaroid,” he says. Turns out them old Polaroid pictures were coated, and they survived everything Katrina dished out. The catch was, they floated away. But Gargoyle dug this one out of what was left of our house. He tacked it to his dorm room wall at LSU – a nice picture of Ms. Larda beaming at her first baby, Gargoyle’s daddy. My son has a sentimental side. Who knew?

So she brings it to Potato Head, and he files one and even has copies made for us. She tells me she’s now set to die in peace, as soon as she comes down with some dread disease.

But first, she got Christmas cards to take care of.