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A Potter's Moll: The American Way Of Death

...The American Way of Death seems like another world with its open caskets, visitations, oleaginous funeral home attendants, hugely opulent flowers, cortege, etc. I found it very strange that all the mourners accompanied the coffin/casket to the cemetery only to leave it there on a hydraulic lift device and not bury it at all. What happened to Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust?...

Liz Robison flies to the United States to attend a family funeral.

We flew into Newark, New Jersey, on our recent brief visit to the USA. It was a beautiful sight to fly down over New York State, seeing the beautiful Fall colour in all it’s glory, and then suddenly to realise that we were flying over NYC itself with the Hudson River, Manhattan, Staten Island and the bridges all sparkling in sunlight.

As we landed each time on this trip, the musak came on – Newark, Kansas City, Newark (again) and Manchester; and each time it was playing what seemed a very tired Frank Sinatra song:
It’s very nice to go travelling the camel routes to Iraq
But it’s so much nicer, yes, it’s so much nicer to come back.

A sentiment voiced by many GIs in recent times, I’m sure.

Newark airport seemed chaotic on both occasions – storms the day before we were told both times. After the inward flight we were told to pile our baggage here if our onward flight was within the hour and there if it was later. We put ours over there but one bag still did not make it to Kansas City until the next day.

On the return trip, we had fifteen minutes to get from plane A to plane B. Husband Jim says he has never seen me move so fast. We were the last people on before they closed the door. Phew!

And miracle of miracles, all our baggage arrived with us in Manchester, I couldn’t believe it.

As I said in my last column, the American Way of Death seems like another world with its open caskets, visitations, oleaginous funeral home attendants, hugely opulent flowers, cortege, etc. I found it very strange that all the mourners accompanied the coffin/casket to the cemetery only to leave it there on a hydraulic lift device and not bury it at all. What happened to Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust?

Here the pallbearers (or pall-wheelers to be more exact) were invited to add their white carnation ‘boutonničres’ to the funeral flowers and select another one in exchange. Still, different folks, different strokes, as they say.

It was sad to see mother-in-law’s possessions now reduced to lots for an auction, and it made me resolve to downsize immediately. But what do you do with a collection of thirty- six pieces of Cornish motto ware, twelve jugs, fifteen teapots and one hundred plus tins, to say nothing of a dozen or so ceramic hot water bottles? And don’t suggest e-bay because I’ve neither the time nor the inclination.

We are entering my least favourite time of year after the clocks go back. Fireworks go off nightly, Halloween is a mess and Christmas –creep is everywhere. At least the Americans have Thanksgiving to look forward to at the end of November.

I’m not sure I was in the most impeccable of taste telling the following story to members of the family the day after mother in law’s funeral but it is one of my favourites so I will repeat it here.

A man’s wife died, and as she had been a pillar of the local church, he decided to have a nice inscription on her tombstone. After the usual details of name and dates he wanted the quotation ‘Lord she was thine.’

A few weeks later, the monumental mason called him to say the stone was ready for him to see. He looked at it and all was as he had asked for until he got to the bottom line, where it said ‘Lord, she was thin.’

The man told them that on the whole he was very pleased, But, he said, you have missed ‘e’ off the bottom line.

Next day he returned to see the ‘corrected’ version, which read ‘Ee Lord, she was thin.’

More from me in a fortnight.

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