dragoness_e: Me in the pink straw cowboy hat (Pink Hat)
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.

It's over.

Sep. 28th, 2010 07:37 pm
dragoness_e: Me in the pink straw cowboy hat (Pink Hat)
The nursing home just called. My mother has passed away. I rather expected it; she was in the last stages of decline when I visited her this afternoon. She lived a long, full life: she was born Dec 7, 1923, got married as an 18-year-old in the midst of WWII, had a kid, had a grandchild, was widowed in 2005 and rode out Hurricane Katrina 3 weeks later, and died today, Sept 28, 2010, just shy of 86.

Farewell, mom.
dragoness_e: (Dragon Tattoo)
Tony Hillerman, one of my favorite storytellers, just died at the age of 83. He was the author of the Navajo Tribal Police mysteries, which were wonderfully complex, character-driven stories.

I first discovered his stories many years ago; back then, I was less interested in character and more interested in action, and thought the stories rather slow-moving. Now, as I've gotten older, I find myself less satisfied with high-action, high-cardboard characters and prefer complex, believable people in my stories... and I enjoy Mr. Hillerman's stories a lot more. Finally, last year, during my trips to and from California, I crossed the country he wrote about (and the country Louis L'Amour wrote about), including parts of the Navajo reservation. I understand the setting of his stories a bit better now.

The inner and outer conflict between the Navajo way and the white man's world is a recurring theme, and results in two very complex protagonists for his stories. All of his stories depended on the people, the culture, the region they were set in; you could not take a Jim Chee or Joe Leaphorn story and change the names and drop it in New York City. It just wouldn't work.

From the point of view of an aspiring writer (me), his stories are good examples of how particular characters can drive the plot--their actions influenced by their cultural background and attitudes, and the constraints imposed and opportunities provided by the harsh, beautiful desert country. Crimes are committed for the traditional reasons you find all around the world: greed, revenge, hatred, folly--yet events unfold the way they do because of the mindset of the characters, because the population is scattered thinly across a vast, mountainous, beautiful desert wilderness with bad or no roads, few telephones, and a tiny native police force to cover all that, and because of competing jurisdictions and interests...

History/backstory is always an integral part of why things happen in his stories. Mr. Hillerman did a good job of grounding his characters in the world, giving them histories that matter as opposed to letting them be generic blobs with names and descriptions. A plot turned on a certain rancher's habit of suing his neighbors for fun, and on another's hobby of flying an elderly WWII-era scout plane... and on a criminal who used his Ute father's stories of how he evaded pursuing Navajo to evade a manhunt of his own.

Raise a glass to Tony Hillerman, or better yet, read some of his books. He lived to a ripe old age, and gave us some excellent stories. What more can a writer desire?

April 2019

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