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July 29th, 2004

10:13 am - It's sometimes hard to comprehend.
One 16-year old is bad enough. But two?Collapse )

Mausoleum windowsCollapse )

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July 23rd, 2004

02:22 pm
Many people don't understand why we act so zany up here at the cemetery. The reason is: if we don't, we'll go nuts.

The cemetery can be a very depressing place sometimes. This upcoming Monday will be one of those days. We will be hosting the funeral of a 16-year old boy who recently passed away from cancer. We expect this to involve a huge funeral procession and many distraught friends and family. An event like this definitely leaves you feeling sad and helpless, even though you are only a spectator. "Why?" is always the first question to enter your mind, that inexplicable question, always a subject of debate.

It is especially hard to have to deal one-on-one with the family in mourning. One must be respectful and understanding, even though all you really want to do is reach out and give them the biggest hug you can muster. I had to do this today -- I sold that family the lot for their son. Something like that is NEVER easy. We walked out to the location, which is under a big maple tree. The mom was crying, and the stepfather was crying, but both were satisfied with the lot under the tree. It breaks your heart to face a situation like this, especially when the person is so young. It leaves you thinking, and it leaves you sad.

Death is something that we will all face, and no matter how many funerals attend, no matter how desensitized you think you've become, you still carry a bit of dread -- Existential angst, if you will. And I don't think that as cemetery workers we can become totally desensitized, and still maintain the level of empathy that we do. Every funeral is sad, and you can't help but share some of the grief of a distraught family. But if you share everyone's grief, eventually you become extremely depressed. So we cope with the sadness of our job by being zany and fun during non-funeral times.

Some people are want to think that our humor and laughter is disrespectful of the nature of the job; but this simply isn't so. We are professional, sensitive, and empathetic to the families that visit us, and we are aware of the implications of a job like this. But we simply cannot carry that serious tone all of the time; that's too much to ask.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

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July 19th, 2004

06:14 pm - Cleaning out the Mausoleum
Today Jacob and I cleaned the storage rooms in the mausoleum. They hadn't been touched since the doors were closed over 40 years ago. And BOY were they DIRTY!! We had to wear dust masks, and even then our faces still got coated in dirt and grime. But we found some really neat stuff, including:

* a set of original wooden folding chairs, used for funeral seating
* a tin canister of sodium bicarbonate, the predecessor to AlkaSeltzer
* a tin canister of Bon Ami scouring powder -- one of the original tins
* a newspaper from June 1944
* a set of postcards featuring our mausoleum
* two bars of Trilby Hardwater soap, which used to be manufactured in the area
* a bar of the original Lava Soap
* a set of taper candles, made in Germany
* a pair of old bronze grass clippers
* a receipt book with receipts for lot and crypt purchases made in 1920-1924
* an advertisement for a stone-cutting company

All of this cool stuff made the dust and grime worthwhile! Tomorrow the stained glass company starts work on repairing the windows. Speaking of, we uncovered two stained glass windows in the sides of these storage rooms, which had apparently been blocked over with sandstone at some point. Why? Who knows!

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June 30th, 2004

08:42 pm
There was something comforting about this morning's scene, something that led me to pause and memorize every detail.

Me, on a mower, in the western half of South Section, one of my favorites, with all the really old tombstones in slightly crooked rows. I was only a row or two in from the road, and I was near the very front of the cemetery. Jacob on my right, on a mower, working up the west side of the section, a smile on his face and a little wave in my direction each time we pass each other. On my left, Ron sitting in the Bronco, observing the backhoe, left hand pressed to his lips in contemplation. Paul standing at the driver's side window of the Bronco, posture stiff and legs planted firmly, hands on hips, chatting with Ron. In the backhoe, Denny, in a bright green shirt, working hard and concentrating on the task at hand, making smooth and predictable swipes, moving dirt from the ground to the dump truck.

Above me, barn swallows swooped and glided and chased after the bugs that we churned up with the lawn mowers; dodging in and out, seemingly on a crash course with each other, darting and playing all around us. Their acrobatics brought a tremendous smile to my face, their antics a special treat that can only be witnessed during the early summer. Also above me, a clear blue sky, with only the slightest hint of puffy white cumulus clouds on the western horizon. Below me, bright green grass, the buckthorn and clover growing tall, with wild daisies poking up here and there. Around many of the tombstones, colorful flower arrangements, some real and others silk, brightening up the collection of ancient white marble stones.

I watched as Paul reached a peak in the conversation, his arms flailing and his hands gesturing wildly. Then he finished, and with his posture easing a bit, he rocked back and forth, from heel to toe and back. I followed his gaze as he nonchalantly watched the arm of the backhoe in its pendulum-like swing. I could almost hear him thinking up the next line of the conversation ... "Well, you know, it's like I said, you just gotta ..."

I watched as Denny finished his job, eased out of the backhoe, and stood with a shovel, scraping the sides of the hole smooth. His hair ruffled in the breeze, and he ran a hand through it to keep it out of those startling green eyes of his. His lips were pursed under his beard, as he concentrated. I could see his tan arms flexing and the muscles in his back working hard as he scraped away at the hole. With the ease of a schoolboy, he jumped into the hole, and worked on the inside. It reminded me of the time I watched, amazed, as he jumped effortlessly over that four-foot-tall fence at the front of the cemetery.

I watched as Ron flicked the ashes from his cigarette and grinned, laughing, as Paul chatted. Now and again he would cough, and gaze ahead, not really focusing on anything in particular. His right hand rested on the steering wheel as it always does, cocked at the wrist, with fingers relaxed. I pictured him nodding and could hear him saying "mmmm," his indication that he is following what is being said. When he spoke, he gestured with his left hand, and used his cigarette almost like a pointer.

Beside me, Jacob did laps on the mower, up and down the rows, making one pass on each side of the stones and sometimes a pass or two up the middle. His shoulders were slouched and his back hunched slightly as he sat, relaxed and limp, on the mower, his body bouncing with every rut and bump in the grass. I watched as he smiled slightly, amused at whatever thought happened across his mind. Carefully he maneuvered that five-foot mower deck in between the pathways, sometimes treading backwards in order to catch a missed patch of grass. He bent forward and ducked under the low-hanging branches of that gigantic maple along the western fence, and disappeared under its vast cover.

Yes, this morning scene, around 10:00 AM, comforted me and reminded me of why it is that I love my job so much. I felt at home, at ease, at peace; I felt comforted, and I felt that I was not alone. I felt that everything was right in my world, even if only for those few moments.

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June 28th, 2004

09:32 pm - Whoops!
Somebody goofed!Collapse )

PICTURES from my birthday!Collapse )

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June 25th, 2004

05:54 am - *throws sparklies*
It's my 21st birthday!

I get to dress up for work, and probably work in the office all day and be a lazy bum :) The guys have some sort of present lined up for me ... I'm a little worried ... but I'll keep you posted :O We're all going to lunch at a fancy restaurant, Cousino's, today. I'm excited!

Yesterday Ron invited Denny to come up to the cemetery for no other reason than to try and distract me from thinking about my grandmother's surgery (which took place yesterday afternoon). Well that man picked on me mercilessly yesterday. Nothing he said was hurtful or mean, but still he picked on me to no end. Ugh. Hopefully today, now that everything's over, I will be in a happier frame of mind and can think of some good comebacks!
Current Mood: jubilantjubilant

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June 22nd, 2004

09:17 am
Do a good deed anyway?Collapse )

Casper, aka KILLER!Collapse )

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June 20th, 2004

06:19 pm - How to engrave a tombstone
How they make tombstonesCollapse )

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June 16th, 2004

02:19 pm
Update, and Crazy Genealogy LadyCollapse )

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June 9th, 2004

03:01 pm
Setting up and taking down a funeralCollapse )

Mid-week updateCollapse )

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