A Mass so beautiful it could be appreciated even in a cry room with two busy toddlers and a fussy newborn.  (Only the one toddler was my charge, plus SB who was quiet and happy in her sling.)   Clear, sunny, mild weather for the graveside service, in an old cemetery not far from where another longtime acquaintance is buried.

Apparently folks don’t go in much for the actual burying, though.  Father did the graveside service, then guests visited and consoled and chatted (Note: it was not my children who started the game of hide-and-seek.  Willing accomplices, however).  I kept waiting for everyone to reassemble for the burial, but nope.   The crowd gradually dispersed, and then my friend (daughter of the deceased), asked the funeral home guys about lowering the casket into the ground.

Turns out you can, indeed, witness the entombing of the casket, but the funeral home guys don’t offer (you have to request it) because some people do not wish to see it.  Understandable.  We stayed to see the casket closed in its outer vault, and even for the lowering of the vault. 

This is not like the movies.  It is an industrial process, managed by the big strong guys in un-coordinated work clothes, who arrive with a rumble of heavy machinery.   The clean-cut professional mourners in their polished black suits and shiny black car stand back and give way at this time.  Now my grandfather’s family was in the undertaking business for generations — we still have cousins who own a funeral home — and back in the day I swear I remember seeing caskets go into the ground, nice and smooth with tossing of handfuls of dirt and all that.   But apparently today’s kinder, gentler undertakers have moved all the burying procedures firmly into the what-we-do-when-you-are-not-looking side of the business.

Like other processes involving heavy objects and big pieces equipment, not to mention a hole in the ground, this procedure is not so suitable for curious children.  What part of "Back away from the grave!" don’t you understand, little darlings?   But we wanted to watch anyway.  Our toddler, however, was ready for total freedom, the run-in-traffic-and-climb-fences kind of freedom, so I carried her, literally kicking but not quite screaming, back to the van.  Big kids got to watch a little more of the burial process while I loaded and buckled the little ones. 

By this time we were the only bystanders left.  (The family of the deceased was satisfied to simply see the casket into the vault — understandably, their primary interest was mourning and closure, not, say, a job-shadowing field trip.  Well in truth that was our primary interest too.  We just got carried away.)  The grave-filling crew seemed to be sending subliminal messages that they did not actually want our solidarity, thank you very  much, notice the little earth-moving tractor we are waiting to unload once you get your curious little liabilities out of the way?

So we went home.  Before the first shovelful of dirt was placed in the grave.  I thought it was a bit of a disappointment, but I wasn’t going to let on to the kids.  As we drove, I began to explain that what we had just done was one of the corporal works of mercy.  Insert explanations of "corporal" "mercy", etc. etc.  "So by staying to see Mrs. F buried," I concluded with some satisfaction, "we just did the work of mercy of burying the dead."

Mr. Boy replies immediately, "No we didn’t.  We didn’t see her buried.  We only saw the casket lowered, we didn’t see it get covered in dirt."

"Well, you’re right,"  I concede.  "But we stayed as long as could.  I think that counts." 

A boy after my own heart, makes his momma proud. 

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