Letting my dad get some shade

Revelations in a cemetery can be a bit ticklish if not embarrassing.

I’m not referring to the Book of Revelations. That chapter can be quite appropriate at a funeral. Suddenly learning your loved one is on the opposite side of the headstone from where you assumed they were for the last 25 years is a little disconcerting.

Karl Terry

Karl Terry

That’s what happened last week at my mother-in-law’s graveside service.

My wife’s family came from Iowa and moved out west to New Mexico in the 1960s. After her dad died in the early 1990s her mom moved back to Des Moines to be near her extended family. She died in January and her body was cremated so that transport and planning of interment in New Mexico would be easy.

The cremation part was new to my wife and I so there was some concern about how the burial would be handled. We traveled to Tucumcari and arrived well before the service to check things out and I walked over the grave to find a hole sized for an urn on the opposite side of the inscription on the headstone.

I went back to my wife and reported that the hole had been dug but it was on the wrong side of the headstone. We talked about it for a few minutes and both agreed that her dad’s grave was on the inscription side of the headstone opposite from where we were about to put her mother.

We went by friends’ house before the service and got to talking about it without resolving the problem. Someone asked how my mother-in-law would have felt about being buried on the wrong side and I assured them she would not be happy.

Our friend reminded us all of a common friend of ours who had been turned around in the casket to make his body fit. He very nearly was buried with his feet in the wrong direction. I later remembered a service where I was a pallbearer and a brief discussion of which end was head and foot broke out as the body exited the hearse.

Finally as we assembled back at the cemetery for the service that afternoon my friend pointed out headstones in that section faced both ways and he pointed to a recent grave that indicated that mom was indeed going to be planted correctly.

The whole revelation shook me up a little though as on the drive back to Portales I realized I had also assumed my dad’s grave to be on the opposite side of the headstone. I don’t think we were back to either of our father’s gravesites immediately after the stones were placed and the graves were grown over when we did.

Apparently the custom (which I believe I actually knew) is to bury Christians looking to the east so that they’re facing Christ as he comes again in the east.

It’s going to take a little bit of adjustment knowing that dad is east of the headstone rather than west. At least he’s catching a little afternoon shade in the summer and his feet will get warm quick in the winter.

Karl Terry writes for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at: karlterry@yucca.net