November 08, 2007

Monday Night's Thoughts on Death

Just because I was dark did not mean I did not write. I just did not publish. I wrote this on Monday night.

Monday

I attended a graveside service today. A woman I knew for about 13 years… 76 years old.

She died LAST year. Yes. Last year.

As one of my friends said with great sarcasm, upon hearing I was going to a service one year after the death of someone I knew, ‘So, what’s the rush?’ to which I said, “Wonder whose been stashing the bod and how much that cost?”

I don’t understand some people, this ‘family’ that waited so long. Her plot and stone were paid for.

She never married, had no children, and no siblings. She had cousins and many friends. She was found in her home last December having died of a stroke. I hear she had been dead for a day or two before she was found. She went to bed and never woke up.

She was a quiet lady, very classy, and intelligent. She had a great love of giving back to society. I knew her from a woman’s organization I am very involved with. She was also extraordinarily active in Eastern Star.

When she passed, the President of our chapter kept in touch with the extended family to find out about services. We were told there would be some ‘eventually’.

Someone from the cemetery called our chapter and informed us she was to be interred this morning.

Nobody had organized anything for her. No family organized anything for her. Nothing.

This has happened before (blogged on HERE), although last time it was a very selfish and spoiled son who was just incapable of doing anything on his own at 60 odd years of age. My chapter put her funeral on… the funeral home confided to someone in our chapter that the son was dropping the ball and ‘could we help’? And our chapter Chaplain threw a service together and it was dignified and wonderful and well attended.

After the service the assistant funeral director said to our ‘then’ chaplain and to me, “Thank you for doing this… Nobody deserves to go to their final resting place without a few kind words said over their body.”

And that has stuck with me, the sincerity of his face when he uttered those words to my friend and me.

And as I sat here this weekend, thinking of how crazy busy this week was going to be, and how I feel like I’m drowning sometimes… work, deadlines, laundry, dishes, holidays, shopping, Christmas cards, school treasury, school benefits, homework, projects, and on and on and on the list seems to continue… I thought to myself, “She deserves to have people at her service.”

And so this morning, on my way to work, I got in the asexual mom-mobile and drove 30 minutes south of where I needed to be, and found her gravesite and found… four ladies from my chapter and three ladies from the Eastern Star… someone from my chapter had called them and said, “Please come…” and… No family.

None.

Our dear friend was laid to rest by a handful of women from two organizations she was a member of, a funeral director named Jose, and two men who were in charge of putting her ashes in the ground upon our departure, one of whom was holding a tube of epoxy to seal the lid on the urn when we were gone right before the ‘lowering’.

I found it to be so… sad. This wonderful woman and that’s what she had. Eight women, Jose, and two ‘grave diggers’… one holding a tube of epoxy, instead of a shovel.

Someone at the cemetery had taken the time to have someone put a tent up for us, with 12 chairs under.

As I sat waiting for us to start the service, wondering whether we were getting a body or ashes a gentleman showed up carrying a marble box with our friend’s inscription on the top.

He said to us, “Good morning. I’m Jose and… this is Betty.”

I think he was a bit nervous, this being an odd situation, I feel certain that internment one year after the fact is nowhere near the norm, and as he introduced us to our departed friend ‘Betty’, he lifted the top off the urn and there I saw her ashes in a plastic bag.

I had to fight the urge to laugh. I don’t know why I found it so humorous, but I did. Morbidly funny.

I sat staring at Betty and now, unfortunately, my last memory of her is not a luncheon we attended or modeling she did at a fashion show, but of a bag of ashes shoved in a square marble urn.

At the end of the service, I took Jose aside and thanked him for assisting us in paying our final respects to our friend. I told him we would be back to put our insignia on her grave, something she wanted and that our chapter does for free. He looked at me and said, ‘Oh. We’ll have to get permission from the manager for that!”

I looked at the rows and rows and acres and acres of gravesites, wondering if someone would even notice our little insignia we would epoxy on her headstone. Nobody even seemed to notice she was dead… except for us. Her certainty of the love others had for her had even had her pre-buy her stone with a little vase at the head so people paying respects could put flowers.

People who did not come see her to her final resting place. It hurt my heart.

I nodded at Jose and said, “Yes, I’ll speak to your management…”

And as we walked to the car, I said to the elderly ladies I was with, in a hushed voice, “Phht, forget that, I’ll come out here dressed in a black cat burglar suit and epoxy that quarter sized insignia on her stone. Nobody will ever frickin’ notice….”

My dear friend who is 82 looked at me and said in her thick southern drawl as she took my arm as I led her to her car, “Dear, you remind me more and more of me every single day…”

I had to laugh again.

And in my head on my drive home, I continued to hear the words, “Nobody deserves to go to their final resting place without a few kind words said over their body.”

And they don’t.

I’ll be taking flowers with me on the day I place the insignia on her headstone. She deserves those too.

Posted by Boudicca at November 8, 2007 07:45 PM | TrackBack
Comments

You are a good woman, Bou!

Posted by: Mrs. Who at November 8, 2007 08:58 PM

Bou,

You are one in a million, but you already knew that!

Incidentally, I already have my funeral planned in detail, I even have a seperate Whole Life Policy to pay for it. So if you are still around and I am not, you may want to attend it will be a blast.

PT

Posted by: P'cola Titan at November 8, 2007 09:17 PM

Mrs. Who- You'd have done the same. ;-) I know it.

PT- You have your wife call me. I'm not missing that party!!! Are you taking requests? I want lobster... Heh! :)

Posted by: Bou at November 8, 2007 10:23 PM

oh bou, this post made me so sad.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at November 8, 2007 10:36 PM

That was sad. It's a good thing there are decent people like you to do the right thing when it's needed.

Posted by: Peggy U at November 9, 2007 02:38 AM

You are a wonderful, wonderful person...very generous in your deeds. It's a very special thing when you can give meaning to a life, when nobody else can seem to be bothered with doing so. The person who died may not realize this, but I think as long as you do...that's what matters.

The person who was my closest friend was cremated. I held his remains in my hands, and there never was a memorial service, no real way to say goodbye, but in every way I possibly could, did whatever was in my power to remind myself that his life truly meant something, to at least one individual who will never forget him.

Memorials full of pomp and shmaltz...these are not necessary, if what is in your heart is a lot of love and happy memories, then that is how they should be remembered. I could just be talking out my ass, but I don't think I am.

Posted by: Erica at November 9, 2007 08:02 AM

Sounds like the only thing her "family" was interested in was her posessions and money.

That is just disgusting and I may put into my will that nobody gets anything unless they give me a proper funeral.

Posted by: Quality Weenie at November 9, 2007 08:49 AM

I appreciate a post which makes me both cry and smile. If you ask me, her family didn't deserve to come to the service. She had you all there, and I'm sure she knows that you care.

Posted by: pam at November 9, 2007 09:09 AM

** hugs **

Posted by: vw bug at November 9, 2007 09:27 AM

‘So, what’s the rush?’ You crack me up.

I had a very close aunt (whose house I now reside in) died on Dec 18, 1999. I said she wasn't Y2K-ready.

There's an old Irish saying:

"You visit your sick, and bury your dead." It means that you honor those who are sick or dead. Yet, I notice that funerals for the elderly are getting smaller and smaller. And virtually no one comes to visit my parents.

You're a good egg, Bou, for being one of the mourners. That old lady deserved that. I hope she gave all her money to charity and stiffed those relatives.

Posted by: Jerry at November 9, 2007 09:39 AM

It's a testament to the sweetness of your friend that people would CHOOSE to be with her at her burial... and a sad statement about her family.

Good on you for being there for her.

Posted by: caltechgirl at November 9, 2007 12:11 PM

Bou - This is just one of the reasons I like you so much.

Posted by: Denny at November 9, 2007 01:38 PM

She was a lucky woman to have you for a friend. No where is the saying "we can choose our friends, but not our relatives" more appropriate.

May she rest in peace knowing she had true friends who really cared for her.

Posted by: Teresa at November 9, 2007 01:56 PM

As usual, even when the post is on a serious topic, you are able to make your points, and give us a smile as well. I can only echo the previous commenters. You "done good", although you don't need us to tell you. You are one of the people who does what's right, whether others are looking or not. Sadly, this seems like it is becoming the exception rather than the rule. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: jck at November 9, 2007 03:31 PM

I just think there should be something... if the person wanted it. It is one thing for someone to say they don't want any type of memorial. Cool. That's their wish that goes along with "Cremation or burial... scattered at sea or buried in an urn... pine box or extravagant". Choices. People make them. I respect that.

But I feel certain this woman felt that she'd have something... some sort of service, in particular being the good Christian woman she was, which makes me wonder what of her church? Did everyone at church forgo due to her 'extended family'? Will they be appalled to find out they were put off only to find out she's 'done been buried'? I don't know. I just know she wanted something... she wanted to be remembered. Why else would her headstone have that vase thing on it. That's an option... a choice on a headstone.

And I don't understand how people think. Some days I lose all faith. The entire event took all of 1.5 hours out of my day. That's it. People are so busy they cannot spare 1 and a half hours? And I lived FAR! Most lived closer. Her family lived closer. I shake my head. The days where people cannot bring themselves to put aside some time to pay final respects... that is a big big gouge in the wall of civilization. It is just not right.

Posted by: Bou at November 9, 2007 11:10 PM

Oh wow. Wonderful post. I am so glad you were able to go.

Posted by: Richmond at November 10, 2007 09:29 AM