As you may already know, sending loved ones off to their eternal sleep does not come without a heavenly price tag, a fact we sadly discovered when we buried my father in law, Salvatore’s ashes recently. Wow! After the last penny left our hands, we were left shaken and numb. I knew this was going to be an expensive proposition and tried to maintain some sense of decorum. I kept telling myself over and over, ‘It’s for Sal, It’s for Sal. It’ll be okay.’ I figured I’d just have to forego a beer and a hot dog at Yankee Stadium next season. No big deal.
Complicating matters was the fact that I had somehow managed to forget that my dear, sweet mother-in-law, Sylvia, was resting comfortably on the back shelf of our broom closet waiting for Sal to, um, join her four feet underground.
Sal bought a plot for his entire family several years ago. He was obsessed with it. He constantly needed to make sure that everything was fine and they someday they would all be sharing the same common ground (so to speak). It was every bit as important to him as it was to always carry an umbrella, flares and a bicycle pump in the trunk of his car. He said this would come in handy whenever he spotted a cyclist out in the pouring rain with a flat tire. For the man who would ride Metro North trains with the sole purpose of finding loose change on the seats, the cost of this entire process would have him rolling over in his urn.
At Sleepy Hollow, we met with a woman named Anne Schmidt. From our observation, she was a prim and proper woman in her mid sixty’s who probably enjoyed a good Guinness from time to time, but would never publicly admit that. She proceeded to inform us of the available various pricing schedules at Sleepy Hollow. As it turned out, there was an extra fee if we wanted to bury their ashes after eleven o’clock in the morning on Saturdays. Mondays, we were told, would be much less expensive. It’s all about volume and supply and demand, I guess. Actually, it’s kind of like happy hours in the bars. If they offered reduced prices between nine and noon every day, all we would have would be a bunch of drunk people walking around hammered before noon. This would bring our nationwide productivity to a screeching halt, much like our everyday congress.
“Now, as far as the cost of the two holes,” Ms. Schmidt said before taking a brief pause, presumably to allow me more time to grind my teeth a little harder and also to sink in my chair and dig my fingernails a tad deeper into my scalp. She continued, “The cost of Sal’s hole is $400.00 but we can give you a break on Sylvia’s hole.” “Why is that?”, I asked. “Is it because she’s been waiting patiently for seven years in the back of our closet for her husband to join her?”
Sensing that the price tag would continue to grow like a freshly watered Chia pet, I asked why Sal and Sylvia couldn’t be buried in the same hole? After all, they slept together in the same bed for years. “Oh no,” she said. “The Health Department would definitely frown on that.” “Okay, so we’re doing a second hole, right? How much will that be?” Anne told us the second hole would be $250.00. “The person who does the digging makes really nice holes. He’s been doing the same thing for twenty years. My goodness, you would be proud to crawl in there yourself,” she said emphatically. “Good, because the last thing we want to do is pay inflated prices for an inferior friggin’ hole,” I shot back. It was here, that Michele, ever the calm spouse, told me to please take a deep breath lest my eyeballs leap out of my head. If they had, I’m sure there would have been a special ‘clean up’ fee attached.
Michele mentioned that we would be getting a footstone for the plot as well. Mrs. Schmidt took a sip of her tea before informing us about the minor little detail called the ‘foundation fee.’ “What, pray tell, is a ‘foundation fee?”, I asked. “By the way, Mrs. Schmidt, you should know that my teeth are getting worn down to the nub with every second I sit here and if this takes much longer my gums will start spewing blood. Please hurry.” The foundation fee of $300.00 is what they charge to place a stone on the actual plot. I asked why on Earth we would need to pay to lay a stone on the ground of a plot that was paid for years ago. “Because, sir, it says so right here on page four of our agreement.” Oh, well, it’s hard to argue with logic like that.
Let’s not forget about the cost of the actual stone itself ($400.00) And, c’mon, what good would a footstone be without the engraving ($400.00) and, seriously, how is the engraved footstone supposed to get to the cemetery plot? Can you say ‘transportation fee’? ($150.00). Yes, that poor, delicate, little stone would have to endure the arduous 2 mile trip all the way from Tarrytown to Sleepy Hollow!
Admittedly, we would have saved a few bucks if we had put a shovel in our trunk and dug the holes ourselves, maybe placed the remains in an old Folgers coffee can and held the ceremony at six o’clock in the morning on Monday, and Sal would have been fine with that. But, you know, for the man who worked, scrimped and saved for his family all his life, this seemed like an appropriate send off.
But, hey, good news, Sal: You’ll be very happy to know that the guy who did the engraving knew you as an Ossining cop. He was so grateful that you never arrested him for drag racing on Route 9 that he threw in all the vowels for free.