I’ve been carrying my gravestone around in the bed of my pickup for a year, so it seemed like time to free-up the space. I won’t go into the reasons why it was still there, let’s just say that it wasn’t all my doing. I’m glad I got it when I did, though, as there would be no money to get it now that I’m not working. I have a small insurance policy that will cover the bare essentials, but I figure that the cost of the stone is now something that my wife, or whoever, will have for other things. Besides, I could get it when there was no rush and be sure that I got what I wanted. The color of the stone and the script matches my folk’s monument, which I wanted.
There was one empty plot between my mother’s yet unused plot and my granddad’s half-brother. Mom checked with that side of the family several years ago, and they don’t plan on using it, so they had no problems with me claiming it. My parents and grandparents have low stand-up monuments, but they’re doubles. Since my wife will be buried next to her beloved first husband in a big cemetery in town, I only need a single. I decided to go with a small flat stone. Not only was it cheaper, but it also lets the caretaker simply mow over it, rather than giving him another stone to trim around.
I told my wife to just torch me and scatter my ashes beside my folks. No visitation and no ceremony, either, unless she wanted to have a little graveside thing. To tell you the truth, I would have preferred to have a regular service, but the prices keep going up, and I get disgusted at funeral directors getting rich from people’s grief. Making a living is one thing; getting rich is another. Besides, my wife wouldn’t hear of us getting pre-paid plans back when we could have afforded them. Go figure. I sort of hoped my wife would go with me today, as it would have saved gas going back to get her when I headed for town, but she wanted no part of it.
The steep drive-way up the hill to the little church, where we went when I was a kid, was so overgrown that I had to watch not to let the brush scratch the paint on the truck. They have only a handful of elderly folks going there these days, so they can’t really do any maintenance. I backed the truck under the low-hanging limbs of hemlocks that were knee-high when I was a kid. Exiting my truck, I strapped on my pistol, since I was out-of-sight and the graveyard is on the edge of hundreds of acres of forestland. I make it a practice to never to go into “the wild” unarmed.
I couldn’t let the tonneau go clear up due to the limbs, but I got it up enough to open the tailgate. Pulling the monument to the edge, I got my fingers under it, picked it up, turned and started walking toward my future home (well, for my ashes anyway). Even a small piece of solid stone is heavy, so this blubbery old man had to stop twice and rest in the 200 foot distance. To do so, I set the stone gently atop a monument and parked my derriere on another. I managed to find members of my own family who I thought might be more forgiving of my seeming disrespect.
Once there, I placed the stone very precisely, sat down again for a longer rest, and then returned to the truck for my axe and shovel. Using the axe, I carefully cut the sod around the monument, so it would drop into a perfectly-sized hole. I then used the shovel to dig down the thickness of the stone. After smoothing up the bottom of the hole, I slid the stone into it, stepped on it a few times to settle it and PRESTO—a perfect fit! I then used the shovel to cut a line about two inches from the stone all the way around, but without removing any sod. Then I stepped on the sliver of sod all the way around to tighten the grip of the dirt on the stone. Most folks could walk by and never know that it had just been installed.
I took a few minutes to savor the autumn day and remember the days of yore when the nearly forgotten little church at the northwest end of the cemetery had hardly a seat to spare. Looking around, I found some more relatives and some neighbors long gone. I also found the grandfather of a man that I used to go to church with elsewhere. I didn’t know that he’d served in Company H of the 3rd West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry during the great Uncivil War. I do now.
Some folks get edgy around cemeteries. I suspect that has more to do with the fear of their own mortality than it does with ghosts and goblins. I’ve always found cemeteries to be peaceful, interesting places. You can learn a lot of history in a graveyard. I actually hated to leave, but I guess I’ll be there permanently soon enough. Then I’ll have eternity to visit with the other residents of the place (well, SOME of them at least). © 2013-