So it occurs to me that you’re probably wondering what I’ve been up to for the past year. (Yeah, I know you’re not. Humor me.) Honestly, there have only been a couple of notable developments.
My grandmother Pauline passed away in February. I’m always going to miss her, but I’m finding it hard right now to convince myself that she’s gone. We lived in different cities for the last 20 years, so I didn’t get to see her as often as I’d like. And that means that right now, I’m still convinced that she’s alive in Moultrie. She was one of only two grandparents that I ever knew, and her husband (my grandfather) died in 1983. Both of my dad’s parents died before he was grown, and my dad died in 1995. That means that my mother is my only living “ancestor,” for lack of a better word. That’s a really odd feeling, as if the grave made a quantum leap toward me when my grandmother died. Maybe that’s why I'm finding it easier to believe that she’s still alive.
By the way, something happened at her funeral that everyone saw and no one mentioned, at least to me. It’s been bugging me, and I want to explain what happened. Even if it’s just for my lone reader in France.
My brother and I were asked to be casket-bearers, so we met with the funeral director before the funeral so that they could explain what we needed to do. Yes, I paid attention, but you’ll understand if I had other things on my mind. The instructions were pretty standard: roll the casket toward the hearse, lift it into the hearse, follow the hearse to the cemetery, take the casket from the hearse and carry it to the gravesite. From there, we load it onto… that mechanism thing that lowers the casket into the grave, whatever it’s called. They told us the gravesite would be “dressed,” whatever that means. They also told us that they would be right beside us every step of the way in case we messed up.
Things went pretty smoothly until we got to the cemetery and my family gathered around the gravesite. We lifted the casket out of the hearse, and started carrying it toward the gravesite. I was on the front left corner of the casket, with two people directly behind me. There were two people already buried in this family plot: my grandfather Everett and my mother’s older brother Dick. I never met Dick. He died as a little boy when he was hit by a car.
Anyway, as I approached the gravesite, I realized what they meant when they said the grave would be dressed. It was already open, of course, and they had laid Astroturf around the grave so that we could walk across it. And as we approached the grave, I looked down and realized that I could see the edge of Dick’s grave sticking out from under the Astroturf.
I’m sure every mother thinks that part of her job description is to continue preaching the same sermons over and over in the hopes that her children will eventually listen to her. My mom and I even joked about it. “Mom, is this sermon #37 about being careful and not driving too fast? Should I just go get it out of the filing cabinet and re-read it so you don’t have to go through it all again?
” I’m sure it was the same with your mother. But what amazes me is that there are a few things that she told me only once, and they will probably stick with me all my life. In this latter category is something that she told me years ago when we were visiting a cemetery somewhere
. I couldn’t tell you where. Maybe it’s where her grandparents are buried. Anyway, I was a little boy, and I was walking and playing everywhere in the cemetery, as little boys will do. And she told me that it was very disrespectful to walk over the top of a person’s grave. And for some reason, I haven’t ever been able to shake those words.
So flash forward 30-something years to the day that I’m burying my grandmother, and I’m approaching her grave and realize that I can’t do this without walking across my uncle Dick’s grave. And I can’t. I just can’t. The mechanism thing that we’re going to put the casket onto has wheels on the top, much like the back of the hearse, so obviously the casket is supposed to roll. It made sense to me at the time, but like I said, I had other things on my mind. I put the front edge of the casket onto the rollers… and I just stopped walking. I refused to walk across the grave of an uncle I never met. The men on the right side of the casket kept walking, but the men behind me couldn’t go anywhere. Fortunately for me, the funeral director was
close by, and he did
grab the handle and pull the casket forward while I just stood there stupidly. With my family in the little folding chairs in front of me, watching. I’m sure they thought I was grief-stricken, and in a way, I guess I was. But honestly, I didn’t go any further because my mother told me that would be disrespectful.
It’s weird. I nearly typed “because my mother always said that would be disrespectful.
” But that wouldn’t be accurate because, in this case, she only told me once, and once was enough. I have no idea why.
So that’s it. Like I said, there have been a couple of other developments in the past year, but all of a sudden they don’t seem so important. I’ll get to them one day if you’re interested.