Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The Final Irony
Last Friday a voice mail message was left on my home phone. I needed to call the local funeral home and make arrangement for Mother's ashes to be buried next to my father.
I left the task of making arrangements until Monday, assuming this would be a very simple procedure. Set up a time after school -- say 3:45 p.m. -- go to the burial site and watch the interment.
Of course, I was wrong. Dead wrong would be too much of pun, right?
Because the funeral home had received the instructions more than 30 days ago, they refused to proceed with the burial of the ashes without signature authority from the closest relative 24 hours in advance of any scheduled "service." I use the word service lightly -- no service was planned other than putting the ashes in a pre-dug hole. And they had to do it between 9 and 3 during a weekday, a time when normal people are working.
Now Hubby was not at all happy about the whole prospect of having to attend this "service" and was especially not happy about having to drive out twice (once to sign papers, once to inter the ashes) to do it. On Friday he was downright surly about it all, but by Saturday he had mellowed out and just shrugged and said, "Set it up how you want it."
The agreed interment was eventually planned for Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m. -- the only time this week available. I would need to take half a day from school. And I had to show up 24 hours in advance and sign papers -- except I am a mentor to a first year teacher and I had a "mentoring" district meeting scheduled from 3:30 to 5:30 in Kansas City, Kansas -- meaning I could never make the funeral home in Missouri by 6 p.m. Monday night.
The funeral home was adamant but eventually I found my school teacher voice -- and though they wouldn't agree on my showing up 30 minutes before the interment to sign the papers, they did finally accept my showing up on 3:30 Tuesday afternoon for the 1:00 Wednesday event.
I notified my principal and the school secretary (the most important person in the school, of course) and Hubby picked me up at noon today. We made it to the burial plot with 15 minutes to spare.
The funeral home, attached to the cemetery, had gone all out: canopy, chairs, carpet, and the unctuous grief counselor (who actually looked a lot like Uriah Heep).
Now the lawyer who had contacted me to tell me Mother had died, had said repeatedly that the family that cared for her in the last months of her life would be bringing her ashes to Kansas City for burial.
Evidently, the money was not going to be provided by the estate for such a trip. No one came from Colorado.
The funeral home thought someone I had never heard of wanted to attend the interment. No one showed.
In the end, at the very last of Mother's time above ground, it was just me, the unctuous attendant, and Mother. Hubby sat in the car with the boys. All the people who claimed a piece of her during her life had drifted away. I'm sure she didn't foresee that it would end up being just me and her, alone at last. She refused in the last 10 years to see me. She claimed to friends that she didn't know where I was. She surrounded herself with varying assortments of "hanger-ons" while refusing to acknowledge the family that could have cared for and loved her. But for a brief time this afternoon, with a chill breeze blowing and the sun crisply shining, she and I were finally united in one last, ultimate goodbye.