• Octavio Cesar Martinez

Death Comes to a Black Suit



January 16, 2010, was the first time I wore my only black suit.

I officiated the wedding of my dear friend Cindy, to her husband, Chris. In 2009, she worked at Banana Republic in Chicago and we decided to pay my honorarium with the black suit. That suit is a 42R with 34x32 pants. Since then I only wear J.Crew Slim Ludlow suits [28+ and counting] in size 40R, with 33x32 pants.

I’ve toned a little.

Since that first time, my black suit has only been on my back for the occasions which call for a black or dark suit: specifically weddings and funerals.

This suit has many stories.

I wore the black suit to attend the wedding of my first son, David, to his lovely wife, Anna. I wore it again to officiate the wedding of my second son, Michael, to his wonderful wife, Amber. I’ve worn the black suit to officiate 40+ weddings. Many were for friends, and some were for strangers. I met Victor at a Starbucks that no longer exists. We became friends and I officiated his wedding to his beautiful wife, Kristen. I wore the black suit for Victor and Kristen to officiate the renewal of their vows several years later. Victor and Kristen were the second set of friends I made at that Starbucks, and then later officiated their weddings.

Some couples have divorced, but most are still married.

I recall wearing the black suit for the back to back funerals of a 19-year-old man and a 72-year-old man: a drive by shooting victim and a pneumonia victim; both had died within 18 hours of each other. I wore this suit to officiate my father’s funeral, and I wore it years later to officiate my mother’s funeral. I cannot recount all the funerals I’ve had to officiate, but the saddest was for a teenage suicide. Everyone wept over the loss of a beautiful, broken boy. So did I.

The last time I wore my black suit was to officiate the wedding of two great friends, Arlene and Leo, on May 19, 2018. Walking into the venue, I slipped and fell, tearing the knee of the pants.

I’ve chosen not to repair this suit.

In eight years, I have dry cleaned it seven times, steam pressed it another ten times. It’s been cried on, smeared by makeup, had cologne and perfume linger in its threads, and once a bird pooped on it. Every time I wear it, I brush it, then hang it alone on a thick wooden suit hanger for 10-24 hours before I replace it in my closet. Even now, it still looks new.

Last weekend, I retired the black suit. It will join other clothes with stories at The Salvation Army in Whittier, California. And, I’m a little sad this part of my history will be gone.

May I ask a favor? If you have a photo of me wearing this black suit, please post it or send it to me. Thank you.

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