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Crazy Cemetery Stories: Oh, Mother!
And now the fifth in my series based on my work at a large cemetery. Six years of working eight hours a day, sometimes six days a week, and on call nights and weekends, has left me with stories that would make your skin crawl just as much as make you laugh like never before. This little group of stories is all about dear old mom. I mean no disrespect to mothers, or their children. Nor do I take lightly the incredible loss that comes when a mother passes away. But sometimes laughter is the best medicine. And don’t you think mom would want you to be happy? So go ahead and laugh. You will be glad you did.
Mr. Carlson passed away leaving behind a large group of adult children and a second wife, who they not so lovingly referred to as the step-monster. Exactly why, I am unsure. As far as I could tell the children were grown, or nearly so, before Mr. Carlson wed his second bride. So put all thoughts of childhood abuse or neglect out of your mind. Perhaps they did not approve of the union? This would certainly cause some tension. So might the fact that Mr. Carlson left everything to the step-monster in his will! I have a feeling they did gain a little piece of mind knowing that she at least did not get the burial plot. By law, ownership passed directly to the children. Second wives are out of luck. Step-monster can be buried in one of the available spaces, but she won’t be allowed to sell it out from under them like she did the house!
Some time passed and the children began inquiring if step-monster had bothered to mark the grave. She had not. Convinced that she was set on squandering her inheritance with no thought of her late husband’s memory, the children inquired about a grave marker. As owners of the plot, they are more than welcome to purchase and place something. Less than a week later, who called inquiring about placing a maker than the step-monster. As the one that made and paid for the funeral and burial services, she also has every right to memorialize her late husband. Now what? Will the gaggle of kids and the monster have to agree on how to mark the grave? I see a feud on the horizon with a poor undeserving memorial advisor caught in the middle.
Well, there was no feud. This particular cemetery allows two markers per grave - one at the head and one at the foot. So rather than his grave go unmarked while widow and children hash it out over emblems and inscriptions, Mr. Carlson is doubly memorialized. The advisor even went as far as to have the markers placed at the same time. She was not about to give those nuts one more thing to quibble over. I am not sure if anyone was really happy at the end. And that is no one’s fault but theirs. That woman must have done something right to steal away their inheritance. Or they did something awfully wrong to lose it. Regardless, if they cared so much about dear old dad, maybe they would have footed the funeral bill instead of leaving it for the step-monster.
The Ugly Flowers
Norma Byrd’s daughter was a frequent visitor of the office. Her mother was entombed in one of the large mausoleums. On the very top row. Her crypt included a vase for flowers, but it was far too high for her daughter to reach. Periodically, Norma’s daughter would come to the office with a floral arrangement. Sometimes one of the guys was available right then and she would accompany him to the crypt as he placed the flowers for her. Other times there was no one available, or she was in a rush, and she left the flowers to be placed later. The guys were always very careful to place the flowers securely. The last thing they wanted was the headache of me getting on their case about missing flowers. I made it very clear to them that I did not enjoy being reamed out by family members that came back only to visit an empty grave that had just been decorated, and I would gladly pass that misery on to them.
So you can imagine my amazement when Norma’s daughter showed up one day telling me that her mother’s flowers had fallen out of the vase. We both found it odd considering it had never happened before. She had the flowers, they had not blown away or been picked up. The flowers were securely replaced that day. Not too long after, she came back again. With the flowers. And a third time. At this point it had become ridiculous. There was nothing about the bouquet that would cause it to fit any differently than the others, or to catch the breeze any more. So I offered her the only explanation I could come up with. Clearly, her mother did not like those flowers and was tossing them out of the vase. I reminded her of the stories she had told me over the years about odd noises in the house, open cabinet doors, and other oddities since her mother’s passing. If mom can open the kitchen cabinet, she can yank some flowers out of a vase. It was time for a new bouquet anyway. The offending flowers were retired and subsequent arrangements continued to stay put.
It might serve you children well to learn mom’s tastes while you have the chance. If you think she is difficult to shop for now, good luck getting it right once she has passed on to the other side!
An Odd Sort of Family Picnic
Upon calling the State Division of Cemeteries I was put on hold. An unusual occurrence. I was eventually greeted by the representative, a very knowledgeable lady, who could not help but tell me the reason for her delay. She had just spent quite a bit of time explaining to a family that, under no circumstances, would it be permissible to cremate their mother in their back yard. Yes. You read that right. Their beliefs required that the recently departed be cremated. Not at all unusual amongst a variety of religions and cultures. They insisted that this be done via a funeral pyre in the back yard. Had this request been made somewhere such as India, it would not be that out of the ordinary. However, in the suburbs of Upstate New York, it is not an everyday request. And it was definitely not a request that would be granted for reasons of public health and safety. Had it been allowed I am sure it would have been quite an event. Can you imagine the neighbors surprise as he walked out into the yard to fire up the grill only to find a very different sort of fire next door!
Oddly enough, it would have been perfectly legal for the family to bury their mother in the yard as long as it was deemed permissible by the health department. Whatever eventually transpired, I sincerely hope the family found a solution that served their needs. We wouldn’t want dear old om to be slamming cabinets and tossing flowers now would we!