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Thursday, March 08, 2007

I've been wanting to write about my career stint as a Family Service Consultant at Skylawn Memorial Park, a cemetery in the luscious green mountains south of San Francisco, California. Imagine being recruited (yes, I was recruited) to be 'of service' to a grieving family planning a burial. The sheer goodness of the job was too much for my vanity to reject. So I was shocked when two days into the job I learned that I wasn't hired to counsel the grieving but to sell plots to the living. It's called selling 'pre-need' - talking the purchaser into buying their plot/niche/crypt/whatever before they die.
I won't talk about the 'good' work I did by helping families plan services or design site markers. We've almost all experienced some part of that so there's not a whole lot to add. And I won't talk about the challenges of showing a prospective buyer a beautiful piece of 'property' - a burial site - and asking for their Mastercard. But I'll tell you a few things that I learned.
1. When there's a suspicious odor inside of a mausoleum it's usually exactly what you imagine it to be. Though there's been a lot of progress in the science of embalming, Mother Nature usually wins out.
2. Don't laugh at of the woman (I hate to be stereotypical, but it's usually a woman) who threatens to throw herself into the grave with her loved one. Because it happens. And it's hard to pull a living person out of a grave.
3. No one should ever have to attend the burial of an infant. Ever. It's truly one of the saddest things I've ever done.
4. I have a morbid fascination with headstones and markers. You can learn a lot about a family by reading what they put on a marker. I've written and designed my own and made my husband vow to use it. It's not something to leave to chance.
5. If the deceased was a large person let the cemetery personnel wheel the casket from the hearst to the grave. You can bet that casket will be very heavy. And you don't want anybody to drop it on his toe.
By the way, that's a picture of a cemetery area in Bangor, ME that's called The Home for Aged Women. That's what they do with their old women in Bangor, ME. Wonder what they do with the dead women?


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