Winning Friends and Influencing Dead People

Sitting up with the dead. Back when the dearly departed were routinely brought home for the wake, the protocol required that someone, usually male friends or relatives, sit up all night with the coffin after the visitors left so the deceased was not left alone while the grieving family slept. Flower-draped casket, Mississippi, glass negative, ca. 1930, Harris & Ewing Collection, Library of Congress.

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Winning Friends and Influencing Dead People

by JL Strickland
Southern Cultures, Vol. 20, No. 2: Summer 2014

"Joe cackled fiendishly, addressing Vernon through the closed lid. 'Who's got the last laugh now, big boy?'"

When young men of my generation were asked to be pallbearers at a funeral, they knew they had been accepted into the ranks of southern manhood. An even higher masculine honor was an invitation to “sit-up with the dead.”