It’s been two weeks since I got the call, one week since we buried my mom’s ashes, and the busy parts of the day are easy. The not busy times, well, you know, they aren’t.  I have to write this next thing out, just so that it doesn’t fade anymore in my mind, because already that day seems like it was a movie.  Like I wasn’t really there.  Like someone told me a story about my mother dying and I wasn’t listening closely enough.

There was a moment during the burial service that was so, well, let me just tell you the story.

My mother wanted to be cremated, so we did that.  We spent a horrible afternoon at the funeral home picking out an urn and a burial container and a few days later a cemetery plot.  The only urn that we liked did not fit into any of the burial containers that we found remotely attractive.  In fact the only burial container we could use was one that looked like a styrofoam cooler.  You know, the kind you can buy at the grocery store to put your hastily purchased beer in?  With the top that has sort of a stumpy pyramid shape.  That.  We knew my mom would be super pissed if we buried her in a styrofoam cooler, but we also knew that there was only so much decision making we could handle.  So, we picked her pretty urn, and decided that the burial container we would view as just sort of a necessary evil.

So the day of the memorial, we get to the grave site for a private internment, and Tavia and I placed photos and things my nieces made, and a letter from each of us, a box of tic tacs, and her grad school graduation tassel into the cooler along with the urn.  We were all crying and it was raining.

My mom’s oldest brother had been asked before the service if he wanted to place the container into the grave, but the funeral director warned him that it is “quite a deep hole” and that if he didn’t feel comfortable he would do it for him.  My uncle told him that he trusted his judgement and would let him do it in his stead.

So, we get through the service, it’s misting and the ground is wet.  They move the table aside and reveal a tiny little hole.  A cooler sized hole.  A hole that you cannot see the bottom of.  The funeral director knelt down on a piece of plywood next to the hole and slowly, with two hands holding the cooler began to bend over, lowering it into the grave.  He was bending and bending and bending.  And the funeral director, is a large man.  Like tall and wide.  And he’s still bending and then, his body reached a tipping point.

You guys, he fell.  He fell face first, arms in the hole, legs kind of flailing about, and we’re all just sitting there stunned.  After what seemed like hours he was able to get himself out of the hole and when he turned to face me, I was sitting a mere 2 feet away from him, his face… His face was covered in mud.  He looked over at me and said, I am so sorry.

My mom was not a person who loved physical comedy, but I do not know how you could have seen this and not bubbled over with laughter.  I think it was Amelia, my youngest niece, who let out a huge guffaw.  And I quickly slipped away to the car with S and sat for about 5 minutes, my body heaving and shaking and crying with laughter.

S and I drove to a nearby cafe and I had a glass of wine so I could get ahold of myself.  I was moments away from having to read my mother’s eulogy, and all I could do was laugh.  A man fell into my mother’s grave.  My mother was buried in what looked like a styrofoam cooler, and a man fell into her grave.

After the service, before we left for the reception, the funeral director approached S and I, by this point I was again all emotion and no sign of joy left in my body, but he came up to us and said, “I just want you to know I didn’t drop her.”  And S, in his signature S voice, that those of you who have never heard him won’t really understand, but believe me it’s a specific tone, was like, “Why not, man?” And then the funeral director said, “I know these next months are going to be really hard for all of you, but think of me from time to time.”

And I do.  I don’t know how I could possibly forget it.