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At the cemetery office I go to visit my friend who works there. "Can't be busy there" I think. Wrong!
In comes a man asking for the birth date from the tombstone, of a woman and her brother who died "...oh, sometime back in 1950 or '52, around about that time." He was certain of this.
He was followed by a very brisk, officious Funeral Director who just wanted some papers processed and get out of there. He had another funeral to do at two and he needed to get back to his office fast!
Then the phone rang. Could a welfare grave have a "temporary" marker?
This was followed quickly by another, wanting to know why the flowers left last month at Uncle Loved One's resting place had been taken to a different resting place of their own. Why?!?
From the side of the counter diving the office space, the first man came back. "Their last name was Schermer, or Schulmer or Schul... something like that..."
Then the Director, "Well, just mail me back the pink copy, I can see you're busy."
The phone again: "Was LaTourelle buried near the Chapel or near the Young Saint's Shrine?", prompting the first man to stand back and say to my friend, "No hurry on my request. I can wait."
Another Director "...and a Monument Dealer..." dressed like a priest with a football jersey and stonemason's arms, comes in offering to help research the plots he's looking for on his own. He waits a long time and ends up sort of unofficially standing guard at the door against even more intrusions into the morning.
The Welfare family calls again to ask if they can put artificial flowers and a different kind of marker taht didn't cost too awfully much. Could we do that? Then?
Then in walks a gravedigger come to tell that the plot down by the streambed keeps filling in, but the plot in the Cedar Grove was ready for "...that Baby Funeral..." that was about to come in.
All the while this is going on, my friend she's pulling out files, looking old interrment orders up... "I have a Schumacher here, in 1950, was the first name Fritz?" | No, he didn't think so | "Was there a Madaline or Geraldine?." Ah! I think Geraldina! A hurried smile. A lead! At last.
"She was born in Austria but I don't know the birthdate..."
Stonemason Priest grimly grinned and muttered softly "...or maybe Hungary or Bellorussia, I'm certain of it..."
Then a man coming in looking for employement, arrives in a three-piece suit for a digger's job, and with a resume to boot! "Could you take care of this?" and just as quickly out again, the resume left for her boss. And the phone rings again.
"Meadowlark Cemetary, can I help you?" It's a call for how much do plots cost and if a stone was required to be installed right away?
I'mCertain, at the counter, then says that the sister might be buried in her maiden name and not her married name; at any rate the last name was not the same. Were there any Schumachers buried on anybody else's burial plots?"
The baby Funeral Directpr pops in, puffing and sweating as if it were August, all ready to make small talk and "...may I help myself to coffee?" he asks as he walks over to the coffeemaker and pours himself a cup. My it's hot! he calls out to no one in particular and if it's about the temperature of the weather or the coffee we're not entirely sure.
Then enters a couple askiing where their mother was interred last autumn. They had been out to the area and sister could remember a tree nearby but then... there was this other tree that looked like that one...
I'mCertain chimes in again "...there was a Porringer in the family. That could be the name! I'm pretty sure of it!"
The phone again. Did the Cemetery know that at the Turner Family plot, when old Fred died back in '68, he should have been buried deeper so his wife could go with him now?
My friend pulls out a book from under the counter containing a series of maps. To the older couple, "Now... what part of the cemetary did you roam around in? You're not married are you?"
"Oh no! We're brother and sister!" They look faintly aghast at the possibility of their being guessed as spouses. "We're having a marker added in April, but we just don't know where it goes..." then they walk over to the corner where some sample bronze generic plaques lie propped against the wall.
The flushed funeral Director suddeny says, "I'll never understand why infant funerals seem so... macabre! I mean, even though they're young, everybody's got to go sometime!!"
Stonemason Priest rolls his eyes, looking quickly at the elderly siblings, then changes the subject, "Can I see one of those maps?"
Looking up from the cards, "Uh, I have something here, a Podgurney plot with a Geraldine Schulty, she died in June of 1952..." I'mCertain's face beams out as he says, "Yes! That's the one! I'd recognize it anywhere!" then hesitates before asking "...how old?"
"About 57 years and a young Fritz Podgurney, aged 49."
"But what's the date of birth? That's her but I don't think that's her brother!"
Stonemason Priest interjects, about the sister's age, "...it's probably a guess anyway. Nobody could be certain but the Funeral Director who interred her (back in '52) would have all those records anyway."
Old Sister, wearing a bright yellow touque and a worn plaid flannel jacket, now illuminated by a sunburst through the window amking the toque look like a halo. " Is this what the lettering would look like?" and "My what elaborate scrollwork! Is it hand carved?" she asks while pointing toward the cast plate on the floor in the middle of a row of five such markers.
My friend: "Yes! No! No ...that's the way it comes."
"Really!" I'mCertain chimes in, with a new query, "You mean I've come to the wrong place?"
Stomemason fields that one: "Well, not exactly. Now you've got one of the two at least."
Old Sister: "...and will it be this stone? or another one?"
But back to the maps. there's a large general map, then a book of smaller sectional maps lined in countoured grids, colored in according to what they cost and choiceness of the site. Those plots with panoramic views at the top of the hill, a group near the Chapel, and those in the Cedar Grove cost more. "More aesthetically attractive" the Boss chimes in, having entered the office only moments ago. He pours a coffee, a few words with the red-chinned Funeral Director [now grabbing a jelly croissant, biting into it only to have a squirt of filling ooze out the front, almost dropping but caught by a deft finger] then he leaves the room to make a phone call.
The old couple look over the colored map, "I thought she was buried closer to the cross on the hill. Those trees look so much alike."
By now the counter is covered with note cards and files pulled out to answer questions and it's a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to put them all back where they belong. Through the window the visitors from the infant's funeral drive past the gates and head toward the Cedar Grove.
Red-Faced Director: "Oh darn! They're already there! I can't wait to get this over with" sets his coffee down and waddles out he door | "Back in 15..." he says, in case anybody's listening.
Perspectives on: human rights; environmental concerns; life as a visual artist; 21st century feudalism; progressive politics; aboriginal culture; new urbanism; permaculture; sustainable technology; non-traditional families; achievable utopias