I buried my mother yesterday. Since Dad was a WWII Veteran, and he died 5 years ago but his ashes were never interred, I informed the funeral home that I wanted to see them both buried at a National Cemetery. Not a problem, all they needed was a copy of his discharge papers which I dug out of Mom's filing cabinets. They arranged everything.
A bit of bad comedy ensued three days ago when I checked the urn I thought Dad's ashes were in and it turned out to be (a) already opened and (b) empty. Oops. I guess Mom scattered or buried Dad's ashes without telling me. Unfortunately, the funeral and burial were already scheduled and my in-laws were already on the way down. Double oops.
Several frantic phone calls to the funeral director later, they got on the phone and checked with Biloxi National Cemetery and found out that it was not a problem; Dad would just get "In Memory Of" on his stone, and Mom would be buried there as planned. Cue me stopping panicking and having hysterics.
Yesterday was a very nice day; on the way to Biloxi, we passed many, many classic cars that were in the Gulfport/Biloxi area for "Cruising the Coast", a classic car gathering/festival. Didn't even know about until I saw the cars, so it was pure lagniappe.
When we got to the VA complex, we followed the "Funeral Procession" signs as my funeral director had instructed... and they stopped at the entrance of the Cemetery. We had no clue where to go, and drove around a bit until I noticed the pavilion and earth-moving equipment. Beyond them was what turned out to be the admin building. A-ha, this must be the place!. Also while searching for the right place, we saw a red fox hanging around the columbarium; he kept ducking behind banks of mortuary niches when we looked at him, then peering out from behind the other side to see if we were still there.
At the Admin Building, the gentleman in charge pointed us to the pavilion, and told us to talk to Becky, the sexton in charge of things. I asked about the fox, and he turned out to be a well-known inhabitant, and was apparently much annoyed from all the stirring about and setting up for a burial today. We then went over to the pavilion and talked to the sexton; Becky was very helpful, and introduced us to Deacon Henderson, who was very nice and was the chaplain to conduct the burial service. Once we got everything set up, we waited for the appointed start time, because I thought some of Mom's friends might show up, and it was a good thing I did, because Julia S., her friend and former lawyer, did show up, so it was me, my daughter, my spouse, his parents, and Julia S. there.
It was a very nice service, outside on a very nice fall day. After the brief service, we walked over and watched the urn buried. For a cremation urn, they don't use earth-moving equipment; they dig the hole by hand and fill it in by hand, all very old-fashioned. The stark white marble stones that they use in a military cemetery stand in neat ranks, and there is something profound and inspiring about those ranks, all of them engraved with the names of those who served, and sometimes those of their wives (or husbands). If you have ever served a term as an active duty military person, you are entitled to a grave in a National Cemetery, and so is your spouse. If you have [i]both[/i] served, both of you are entitled to a plot and a headstone. (Otherwise the spouse shared the headstone with the one who served).
We'll return when the headstone is installed, in a couple of months.
After the burial, after we thanked everyone--and everyone involved was very helpful and efficient and nice--we all went off and had lunch. On the way out, we got to see even more classic muscle cars. All in all, it was the nicest funeral I've ever been to.