Ponderings with Doug – March 31, 2017

DougFUMCThe other day I was driving in the country enjoying the scenery. I passed a church cemetery. Seems every country church has one. In Europe, they would bury the dead inside of the church. You could find the saints buried under the altar, out in the nave, even in the choir loft. Since they didn’t have electrical lights, bored parishioners rather than counting ceiling tiles (they didn’t have those either) would count saints buried in the floors. When the church crossed the ocean, our buildings were not as cathedral like so we moved the dead to the side yard. I have served two churches that came complete with cemeteries. One church built a columbarium after I left. Wish I had a nickel for all the Google searches of “columbarium” I just created.

They don’t teach cemetery management in seminary. At one church, they handed me a six foot long piece of rebar. I asked, “What is this for?” They said, “It is your job to make sure a grave is not occupied before you agree to bury someone in our cemetery.” “How will I know?”

They said, “If the rebar only goes down 18 inches and no further you have a grave that is full.” If you “pull something up” on the rebar the grave is full too. They were not specific as to the content of “pull something up.” They described it as flotsam and jetsam. I asked, “Doesn’t that wash up on the sea shore?” They said, “Yes, but it will be on your rebar if the casket has disintegrated.”

I gave the rebar to my associate and made casket probinghis task.

I did bury some guy in the wrong hole. A nice lady called and said she wanted dad buried on the right side of mom. So I looked at the foot of the grave and placed dad on the right side of mom I told her I was uncomfortable doing this over the phone, could she come point to where she wanted dad. She said, “I want dad buried on the right side of mom.” When they placed the headstone, she realized her mistake and wanted me to dig dad up. She meant to say she wanted mom at dad’s right side.

I told her I didn’t unbury. Mom and dad were happy in repose.

This church also had Miss Theo. I could rate the dearly departed by Theo’s ham scale. If you were a saint, the grieving family received a whole ham from Theo’s smoke house. If you were a C and E saint (Christmas and Easter) the grieving family received half a ham. If you were never in the pews but on the church rolls to be buried in the cemetery, Theo took the grieving family ham salad. When I would find out about a death, I always called Theo and asked, “How much ham will the family receive?” No matter the Theo rating, the preacher received copious amounts of her ham salad. Her ham salad was to die for.

I was reminiscing about my church cemetery experiences when I passed the church cemetery mentioned in the second sentence. In the middle of the cemetery I saw a recycling bin. It was not a trash can it was a recycling bin. Who and what is recycled out of the cemetery? There are all sorts of theological reflections on the recycling bin in the cemetery, but I will spare you for this article.

Years ago I saw a mailbox in the middle of a rural cemetery in Bienville Parish. I wondered if that was the dead letter box. Maybe you can tell I’m flexing my foolish muscles for April fool’s day. April fool’s day is not as widely celebrated as it once was. There are some good stories connected to it.

In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations and Web sites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences. In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees; numerous viewers were fooled. In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour. In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.

April fool’s Day seems a waste of energy because truth has become much stranger than it used to be. Do you feel like every day has become April fool’s Day?

One thought on “Ponderings with Doug – March 31, 2017

  1. I enjoy your “ponderings” immensely. I tried to reach you at your office this morning and your secretary and I shared some chuckles as we discussed the reason for my call and the topic of your latest “pondering”. Hoping we can connect soon.

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