Sarah was my 90 year old Mother, who passed away last week from a stroke. She had suffered from Alzheimer’s for several years. In a way, it was a blessing that she passed on to a better place. This blog entry is not so much about my Mother as it is about what happens After someone dies. I am infamous for my Gallows humor, so if you think this entry might offend you, you need to skip it.
My Mother is certainly not the first person that I have lost. Two sets of grandparents, my father and, early in life, my brother. However, as the oldest, this was my first experience of “handling” someone’s death. My father had purchased 4 cemetery plots years ago, in Tennessee. My father, my brother, and my grandmother were already there. Great! I know where she is going to be. Her only sister lives in Nashville, so that works. My sister, who lives with me, and was Mother’s favorite, has always been sheltered, when possible. And especially now that she is handicapped, I try to completely handle everything for her. However, I also wanted to include her in being involved in Mother’s burial. We knew, per Sarah’s request, that she had wanted to be cremated. So, we know how, and we know where. Easy-peesy- right? HA!
My sister, my husband and I went to the local funeral home to start the process. It might be of interest to know that my Mother had nothing, owned nothing, no will, no life insurance. She had lived in the nursing home for almost five years. She chose cremation thinking it was cheap; plus she often talked about not wanting people to “gawk” at her in a casket.
So we meet with “Dwayne”, who is trying to be friendly and helpful. I told him this was my “first time” and I would need his help to get through this. I had to bring a photo ID of Sarah, which he immediately scans into the computer. Her picture is projected onto a large screen on the wall, along with about 20 questions that we have to answer. I never knew there would be a Quiz! Where was your mother born? I’m sure, at some point, that I knew the answer to this question, but, I’m 64 years old now. I’ve forgotten. I looked at my sister. “I don’t know”. Great! So we try quessing (There is no one to ask – Did I mention that Sarah’s only sister Also has Alzheimer’s? Yeah.) I knew the state was Tennessee; maybe Smryna, LaVergne? My sister suggested Murfreesboro. Dwayne was getting a little impatient, so he typed in Tennessee native and moved on. Next question – what high school did she graduate from? She was 90! Is this important? We skipped that one.
After we struggled through the obituary (do we name the grandchildren or no? Can you think of all the great-grandchildren’s names?) it was on to the “arrangements” and oh yes, the all important , Pricing. So much for “cheap”. Cremation is $3000.00! To run her obituary in our podunk newspaper is $94. Add tax. Did I mention- there are no easy payment plans. Check or credit card – NOW. I wrote a check for $3,100.00 on a Monday morning, that I didn’t have FYI. Okay, assuming the check clears, you can pick up your mother’s remains on Wednesday. She’ll be in a nice box and we will provide a pretty white plastic bag to transport her in. You will receive 2 copies of her death certificate. Hand shakes, all around. Nice of you folks to stop by.
Next, I call the cemetery. First person that answers the phone asks if my mother is deceased. Uh, yeah. That’s why I’m calling! Hold on, I’ll transfer you. Next person – if your mother is deceased, I’ll need to transfer you to the cemetery section. Do people actually call up cemeteries about Living people? I don’t know. After the third phone call, I got Holly. I explained that my mother, yes, is deceased, was being cremated as we were speaking. Plot is paid for, when can we do this? Easy? Nah!
First, to dig a 4 x 4 hole for my mother is $895. We will take credit card payment over the phone. Next, your mother can Not go into the ground in a box, silly. You have to purchase a vault. Ours start at $750 and must be preordered. Oh, and someone from the family must come here and verify the site. Yes, she knows which site it is. Yes, it has my family name all over it. Yes, she can see it from her office window. Still. The site must be verified at least 24 hours before the gravesite service. So if you want the service on Friday, ya better get someone over here. Did I mention – I live 80 miles away, in Kentucky, and I’m at work? Okay, called my cousin, in Nashville. Yes, they can go verify the site. Great.
Went to the funeral home on Wednesday to pick up Mother. Tim handed me a cardboard box the size of a personal pan pizza box, only a little deeper. Okay. Told him I needed a vault for burial. Did they have any – cheap? Sold me one for $150 (yay, a sale). Looked like a plastic waste can with a lid. Gunmetal gray. He put the box in the vault, stuffed bubble wrap around it (so she wouldn’t slide during transport), sealed the lid and handed me papers saying she was dead.
Okay – this is Wednesday. Burial is not until Friday. I have tried to keep my sister out of this part, so now what? I’m not going to take her into the house, so. So, I let her ride around in the back of my car for 2 days. It’s not like leaving your dog in a hot car, right? She’s already been there, done that.
Friday finally came. Sarah is resting, at last, where she wanted to be. Please, please, make things easier for the people who will be left behind to deal with all this. It’s not enough to say what you want. Leave some money for your people to deal with things. Remember the Quiz! Write things down! Where were you born? What school did you graduate from? What was your mother’s maiden name? Please don’t just assume that your children or relatives automatically know this stuff! Help them out!
Rest In Peace, Sarah! You were Loved! See ya again, someday!❤️