Herald and Journal Herald & Journal, Aug. 28, 2000

Laughter can ease the pain

By ANDREA VARGO

Sometimes humor comes at the oddest times, and it makes me wonder if it isn't necessary to healing the sadness of a loss.

It may seem a bit irreverent, but I know my dad would have laughed at this story.

When my dad died in July, my mother had him cremated, as he wished.

He expressed no preference as to where he was to be buried. My mother thought a good long time about this and decided to take him home to Missouri.

There is a little Assembly of God church about 20 miles outside of Green City, Mo. My dad's grandfather donated the land and built the church.

There is a private, family cemetery there, and that is where my mother decided to bury him the first weekend in October.

The whole family thinks this is a great idea. His brother and sister in Green City look forward to seeing all the family again, including some little ones they have never seen.

Perhaps, it will be for the last time, as we all get older and move to the far corners of the country.

As Mother and I talked one day, shortly after my dad died, she got a call from David. He is the son of my dad's brother, Frank, who died about 10 years ago.

"What a wonderful idea," he said, about taking my dad back to Missouri.

Then he paused. He had also had his parents cremated.

"Do you suppose I should bring my mom and dad? They have been sitting on a shelf in my closet for the last 10 years," he said.

So, instead of having a burial Mass, we seem to be having a mass burial.

Well, I guess this will be a good thing.

Another story in our family is of my sister Cindy's father-in-law.

Cindy is married to a famous composer, John Adams. No, not that John Adams, the other John Adams.

That is another story.

Anyway, the father-in-law's name is Paul. His wife was Alice.

Paul had a life-long bad habit. He frequently forgot Alice somewhere and had to return to get her.

For example, they might go to a shopping mall. Alice would go grocery shopping, while Paul would visit the hardware store.

He would make his purchases and go home. Alice would call, and Paul would make the trip back. He was not ill, just absent minded all his life.

Alice died and was cremated.

As friends and family gathered around the graveside, the minister began the ceremony.

A few words into the service, he stopped.

"Paul, where is Alice?" he asked.

"Oh, shoot! I left her in the car," Paul replied.

Laughter erupted from the crowd, since they were all familiar with Paul's habits.

He ran halfway across the cemetery to retrieve the urn of ashes from the back seat of his car.

My son, Keith, shared a story with me.

A friend of his had his mother die, and his dad wanted to bury her at a family cemetery in Wisconsin.

Circumstances were such that no one was available to transport her ashes to Wisconsin, and the husband Fed-Ex'ed the ashes to the church.

People came from all over the country for the service.

Unfortunately, the poor lady was late for her own funeral, as the husband sent the ashes two-day service instead of overnight.

The service took place, but she was buried at another time.

Then, there is the story of the retired circus lady whose dogs I used to groom. For some unknown reason, I guess she liked me, she left me a little pill bottle of her ashes when she died.

What did I do with them? I'm not telling.

Now that I have exhausted my list of cremation stories, I'll make an effort to be cheerier next time.


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