There are three things I thought I would never do in my life: physically bury a relative, wrongfully come under suspicion over a serious crime or kill a human being. I have been able to avoid war and bar fights, but the other two have indeed happened to me.
Preparing the corpse of a relative and burying it has become so “hands-off” these days. However the loved one may have died, we are rarely present at the moment of death. The person may have been killed in a vehicle crash, died on the job or passed away in a hospital. When informed of it the officer or doctor asks you where the body is to be sent, and you (if it is even you) tell them which funeral home. Someone else delivers the body and the undertaker prepares the corpse. It may or may not be cremated and is then put into a cremation urn or casket and buried by funeral staff. All you have to do is show up for the services and pay the bills. I have been through this many times and never thought much about it. It was not done that way by pioneers or beyond the frontier by early explorers. Kinfolk or fellow adventurers dug the holes themselves, laid the bodies down and shoveled the dirt back in.
My mom died of nicotine cancer. They took out the grapefruit-sized growth and pronounced her cured, but they also unknowingly excised an artery that fed a foot-long section of her intestine. That portion of the gut died, went septic and killed her. I was not there for the relapse nor was I present when she died, arriving several hours after she expired. The hospital called the undertaker, who took the body to the crematorium, reduced it to ashes and placed them in an urn that we had chosen. Again, it was all clipped and manicured. The undertaker said he would take care of everything, but a series of problems ensued so I drove back to North Carolina, picked up the urn and carried it to the cemetery myself.
It was not grave diggers but me that dug a hole beside the remains of her sister, father and stepmother. My (ex) wife was with me at the time, and we chatted nonchalantly about mom, the weather and lack of rocks as I dug deeply into the sandy soil. I set the urn in the bottom of the pit, and as I began shoveling dirt back into the hole, the heaviness hit me. Suddenly I was no longer confident and nimble, but clumsy, numb and heavy of heart and limb, but I set my jaw and finished the job like a man. I can tell you, burying a parent with your own hands and shovel is closure! I now know how the early explorers felt when they filled that hole under the tree. Perhaps it is only fitting, after all these years of adventures in the wild lands of Florida and beyond that I too had to finally hoe that row.
Not too long ago, a neighbor committed suicide, leaving a wife in a state of shock. I took her some vegetables from my garden a few days afterward, she invited me in for a cup of hot tea and after only a few weeks, we started dating. I justified my lack of hesitancy by repeating to myself her words that their marriage was in name only. Very shortly afterward, however, she dumped me, but then two days after that she disappeared, and I mean she just vanished off the face of the earth. Her landlady called the sheriff and a missing person’s report was filled out. It came to light that I had dated her only three weeks after the suicide and that she had dumped me, so suddenly (there’s that word again) I was a suspect. Egad!
The first detective was a nice man, casually dressed, short, fat and bald, and we talked about the falling water level in the lake and other random issues before he started the interview. The second detective, however, was tall and muscular, stern of countenance, all no-nonsense and literally covered with colors, appliances, leather and steel. He watched me out of the corners of his eyes as he asked every question at least twice. Good cop, bad cop. It turned out that she had simply decided in her paranoid haze to go into hiding out West, but the cops found her anyway. For a while, I was a prime suspect in a disappearance most foul, but now I can go about my business without looking over my shoulder. Whew!
So I guess I’ll stop thinking about things that I might ever do or not. I guess I’ll just do whatever tasks are before me.