Crazy Cemetery Stories: The Name Game!
This marks the third in my silly series of stories based on six years of employment at a fairly large, very busy cemetery. During that time I saw, heard, smelled, felt, thought, learned, said, and did things I never dreamed in a million years I would. I met all sorts of people in a constant stream of comedy and tragedy. It was certainly never boring. Before you start reading, keep in mind I mean no disrespect. I cared for each and every family served as if they were my own. I am honored to have helped thousands of people navigate through what is at the very least an uncomfortable experience. But this is life. Sometimes life is funny. And sometimes death is too.
The Name Game
I love names. Good sturdy names, quirky names, plain names, unique names. Scheduling hundreds of burials and assisting thousand of family members each year means I came across thousands of names. That doesn't include thousands of files in our file room and tens of thousands of people resting in the cemetery. It is bound to say that there would be some interesting names. Some names left my brain a second after I saw them, and some might never leave that little corner of my mind that they have settled into.
What's in a Name?
There were plenty of good old-fashioned Gertrudes and Harolds. And the timeless Marys and Josephs. And the nicknames you don't hear much anymore. Betty and Peggy and Frank and Dick. And the bad jokes. "Hi Larry. How can I help you?" "Surely, you can help my bury Shirley!" Ha ha. Very clever. And oh the surnames! The common ones were enough to make my head spin: Thomson, Thompson, Tomson, Clark, Clarke, Schwartz, Swartz, Schwarz! And the uncommon ones. What fun I had coming accross these. We had a Mr. Salamander, a whole bunch of Fishes, quite a few Husseys. And the combinations! There are certain name combos that just should not exist, except that they make me giggle. I wonder how bad a married name would have to be before the woman says: I love you honey, but I am keeping my name! I am sure that never happens. Love comes first, right? Besides. What girl wouldn't want to be called Ivanna Beaver!
Just Call Me Donna
I suppose one way to avoid an unfavorable name combination is to use just one name, as with Donna. Like many people do, Donna came to the cemetery to make prearrangements, including her grave marker. When it came to the inscription for her name, she simply indicated DONNA. No Miss or Ms. No initial. No surname. Simply Donna. Why she chose this I do not know. Did she dislike her surname? Bad blood perhaps? Or was she unsure what it was going to be at the time of her passing. You never know how many spouses you are going to have these days. I don't think it was a case of a bad combination. I surely would have remembered that. I don't. I don't remember her last name at all. And neither did the advisor when her grave marker arrived. It was delivered reading simply DONNA. He and I looked at each other and thought the same thing. Donna who?! So long had passed and the file was returned to the drawers of thousands. Filed by last name. The best strategy I could offer was to wait until donna passed away. Then when her file is pulled, in it will be the paperwork for her gravemarker. Problem solved! Someone did eventually recall her name and marker and owner were reunited. Good for Donna.
Yes, Her Name was Frank
This is a case of a first name causing confusion. I was put in the position of assisting a young lady with designing a grave marker for her great-grandmother. The old grave was never marked and she felt it was about time someone pay tribute to this woman. But she was unsure how to put her name. As far as this young lady knew, the woman's first name was Frank. I could tell this made her uneasy. She asked me if she should put Frank as the name on the marker, or should she put Frances. Normally, I tried not to make decisions for families. It was not for me to decide for them, but to guide them. I read every scrap of paper in this woman's file and scoured everything related to her burial. There was not a Frances or Francine or Frankie anywhere. It always said Frank. That is even how she signed her name. I showed the signature to her great-grandaughter, and told this young lady that her great-grandma was named Frank. And that was a fact. If great-grandma was proud enough to use that name and sign that name and didn't feel it necessary to replace it with a nickname or initial then she should honor that. If she was afraid that people would look down at Frank and think she was a man (you know that is what caused the hesitation) then she could put flowers and an inscription like "beloved great-grandmother". And that is what she did. We designed a beautiful marker and I put in the order. A few days later I got a call from our representative at the manufacturer confirming that the order was supposed to read Frank. Yes. Her name was Frank. After that was an inquiry from the production department. Yes. Her name was Frank. When the marker arrived I submitted the paperwork to the superintendent to have it placed. With a note that read: Yes. Her name was Frank. Figured I would answer before they asked. You know the question was coming!
And then there is Miss Tinkle. I came across her file while looking for another. It made me smile. Sadie Tinkle. What a cute name. It brought up an image of a sweet little old lady. Of soft metallic sounds. Piano keys. And of peeing. Sorry Sadie! Miss Sadie Tinkle became one of my favorite names. And then she died. I scheduled her service and typed it on our schedule by typewriter on to a long sheet of paper. Talk about old-fashioned! I was sad for Miss TInkle's passing. But that didn't stop a little smile coming to my face each time I saw her name. That little smile soon turned to hysterical laughter. Side-splitting, stomach hurting, bring you to tears laughter. I got a call to schedule another service. This one for Mr. Doody. I very professionally took the information despite the urge to crack a joke. Yes. I can be that immature. I sat at the typewriter and lined up the sheet to add Mr. Doody. Directly under Miss TInkle! And that's when it started. I chuckled. Tinkle and Doody! Then I reviewed Mr. Doody's file as was standard practice. And listed was a daughter. Jennifer Brown. That is when I completely lost it. I had just scheduled a serivice for Miss TInkle, followed by one for Mr. Doody, possibly to be attended by Mrs. Brown! Tinkle, Doody, Brown! You can't make things like this up! It makes me smile to this day.
As I say at the start of this hub, I mean no disrespect. I have heard my share of jokes at the expense of my last name. I thnk it's just in some people's nature to point out the humorous and obsurd. So I will say thank you to Miss TInkle and Mr. Doody for making me laugh so hard I nearly tinkled right then and there!