Monday, October 25, 2004

A Grave Error

Wherein my mom tries to make contact from the afterlife.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Oct. 23, 2004In an effort to get into the Halloween mood, Claire and I headed to an outdoor screening of Rosemary's Baby Saturday night at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary. Nothing cooler than seeing a movie at a graveyard surrounded by dead movie stars and producers, as the film is projected onto the side of a mausoleum, the ground is moist and moosy, and right next to us is the final resting place of Douglas Fairbanks. A non-profit group called Cinespia has been putting on these screenings twice a month since April, and this was the final night of their 2004 season.

On the way out, Claire and I realized a few things. For one, this is the second year in a row we've been in a graveyard after dark on an October night (last year, at around 3am, we snuck into the Salem, MA cemetery where all the witches are buried). Secondly, this is the graveyard we want to be buried in - besides the film screenings, they even hold plays, birthday parties, and weddings there. And more importantly, Claire helped me put together the pieces of how my Mom tried to get in touch with us AFTER she died...

Claire picnicking at the graveyard before duskIn the week before my mom died, my brother Jimmy, sisters Patty Jo and Allison and I went to set up funeral services in advance, pick out a coffin, and in short make final arrangements. One of the details left to me was to pick an actual gravesite, and the cemetery coordinator showed me a gorgeous spot under a great oak tree on a slight hill, near a crossroads in the graveyard. When I returned to visit my mom at hospice, I was excited to tell her I couldn't have handpicked a more perfect spot. She was so happy that later that night she woofed down a couple chili dogs from Tony Packos. (actually, I don't think she cared too much about the grave, but she was quite contented with the chili dogs).

A couple days later, my mom passed away, an on that same day I received a phone call from the cemetery coordinator to tell me he'd made a mistake - the plot I'd picked for my mother had already been reserved for somebody else, and he'd only learned this when he saw that someone was being buried there.

I'd call it a "grave error". (ha, ha... yeahhhh.)

Two days later was my mom's funeral. While everything else went according to plan, including playing Elvis gospel tunes at the viewing, I had a small pit in my stomach knowing that she wasn't going to be buried in the gorgeous plot that I'd told her about before she died. The funeral procession moved on to the church for the service, and on the way out our cousin Bobby, a pall bearer, tripped and nearly spilled the coffin. Everyone giggled, knowing that if our mom were still alive, she'd have laughed at the moment the loudest.

Finally, everyone ended up at the graveside at a plot far less glamorous than the one I had hoped for and bragged about. I told myself that she'll never know the difference, because if there is an afterlife, I bet she's in a much better place than a graveyard in Toledo, Ohio. Of course, as the priest was saying one last prayer, in the midst of a private moment, a ringing cel phone disturbed the peace. My mom's best friend, Pat Sahadi, looked confused as she fumbled for the phone in her purse to turn it off before the service could wrap up.

At the wake afterwards, she said that she didn't know who it was - the caller ID said the number was unknown, she'd only gotten the phone a few days earlier and the only people who had the number were at the service. The joke, of course, was that it was my mom, likely calling to laugh at everyone freezing their asses off in the January chill.

I now know better. She was calling to complain that her grave was moved.

Nickerblog writes about celebrating the Halloween season California style at Mr. Bone's Pumpkin Patch... there's a recipe for Pumpkin Bread at the Vegeterian Recipes blog... and I found another mention of "How To Vote" by Freeker at California Dreaming...