Affording a Mausoleum
“One thing I’ll never be able to afford is a mausoleum when I die. Those are for the wealthy” Tom said to his longtime friend over a steaming cup of Joe at the local dinner. They had met every morning on the square in the upstate NY city of Watertown to chat and sip, slowly easing into their day. Their wife’s would chide them from time to time about the early morning hours wasted at the dinner. However deep down they knew it was time well spent for two old duffers who had worked hard all their lives to provide for their families. Tom and Harvey had formed their relationship way back attending school in the North Country’s small town of Clayton. Later while Tom got his bachelors at Potsdam and Harvey’s higher education came slowly at Canton they eventually were reacquainted by their jobs at Air Break of Watertown. 35 years later the rest is history as they say. While they both enjoyed their jobs they had looked forward to retirement and having nothing to do. Well that soon wore off and the idea of facing endless “honey do” lists day after day had worn thin. Oh they still were willing to do something’s around the house but they needed to get out and “have man time”. That was the catalyst that prompted the phone call a few years back. “Hey Tom what ya doing”? Harvey said early one morning. “Oh not much, maybe knock a few thing off the honey do list today”. Harvey put forth his offer, “Hey listen, how would you like to meet me tomorrow morning for coffee on the square at the dinner”? “Sounds great, what time?” Tom responded trying to hold back the excitement in His voice. And so they tradition started and here they were deep into a discussion about the end of life and who was planning what. “Those things must cost a pretty mint” Harvey spouted, shaking his shaggy grey top. “We should ask Dave, he worked for Jackson Memorials for years didn’t he? Tom mused. The morning wore on and soon the cups were completely empty and the sun was gaining strength. “Time to go” Harvey growled tossing a fiver on the counter covering both cups, Tom’s turn would come tomorrow.
Over the years the subject of preparing for the inevitable would surface and as per usual the subject would bother Harvey enough that he would soon find a need to cut out early. Tom knew this and along with prodding by Harvey’s lovely bride of 50 years he would try to engage his ole buddy on the subject. “I’ll let my kids take care of it” he would say then turn the conversation to the “Cuse” and their latest win or defeat. Once on a rare occasion he mention his parents being buried in Brookside just south of Watertown, and that he would likely end up there somewhere. Once Tom decided to wade in and he asked the question “Do you have things paid for yet?” to which Harvey again pushed the idea off to His family taking care of it. Tom and his wife Mary had been talking seriously talking about the subject. For Tom the subject came easier to talk about. His parents had both passed when He was in his late forty’s and He had taken care of all the arrangements. He had vowed that he would make a plan, but he had ignored it one short year at a time till here he was in his early 70’s and nothing had been done. Lately they had talked about it and Mary had voiced her opinions and reservations of being buried in the ground. Tom leaned toward simply being cremated but still liked the idea of a memorial of some kind. He didn’t want to part this old world without leaving a trace of his footprint on this earth. Surely his life had stood for something He had said in one of their lengthy discussions.
Mary secretly hated the idea of her body being placed in the ground and longed for a mausoleum. She was sure cost was prohibitive and placement in Glenwood, a Catholic Cemetery just down the road from Brookside was a subject she was uneducated about.
On a late summer Friday morning as the guys slid into their booth in the corner Tom was primed as he and Mary had been talking the past week and had actually decided to press in and explore the cost of burial and monuments. As the steaming cups were set on the table and sugar and cream was added Tom took the plunge. “So Harv I wanna run something by ya”. Harvey shot an inquisitive Tom way a ear cocked to better hear. “I know this is not your favorite subject but I want you to be a listening ear for me, now hear me out, OK?” Harvey nodded, it was the least he could do for his old buddy who had listened to his stuff many times over the years. “Mary and I have decided to buy our grave plots and she has informed me she does NOT want to be put in the ground.” “Arg” Harvy groaned as Tom put up His knurled hands and said “Hear me out ole buddy; I need an outside ear and opinion”. Harvey pushed back and dropped his shoulders in resignation. “Ok” he managed. Tom pushed on. “Remember when you said you could never afford a mausoleum and that they were only for the wealthy”? What did you mean by that? “Well I have nothing against them, I just figure they must cost thousands and with my retirement there’s no way I could do it. I’ll be lucky to get an old field stone over my head when I pass. And I don’t give a care anyway. Burry me on the back forty and forget about me.” Tom smiled; he knew that under that tough exterior was an old softie. He had seen the tears at Harv’s daughter’s wedding and when the first granddaughter came along the money and time spent was unparalleled by any standards Harvey had displayed up to that time. “Well I wouldn’t want you to think I was trying to show off if I ended up in a granite building. I sure hope you will come visit me from time to time.” Tom quietly said. “Oh no problems there old buddy, why I’ll even bring you a cup of Joe some morning just for old times’ sake.” Harvey barely covered his smile. “Well I’m going this morning to check it out and I sure would like a little support, ya want to ride along”? Tom knew it would be a cold day before that would happen. “Na I’ve got to whack some weeds out back, Joan’s orders”. He growled. Tom grinned as they parted that day, he knew Harv would avoid getting anywhere near that monument shop, as if it might speed up the unavoidable.
Tom found the “Memorial” store or whatever they called Tombstone places these days. He maneuvered his old rusty pick up on to the lot. He really had wanted to replace it but $40,000 seemed like a small fortune. Not that he could not pay cash if he needed to but He and Mary were on a fixed income and no telling how long or how sick at the end they might be, He had choose to not bring up the idea of replacing the truck, to Mary. He slapped the shifter in park and placed his comfy leather work shoes on the pavement in front of a large display of markers. Off to the side he saw a two person mausoleum and tried to not look to obvious as to his intentions. He hated pushy salesmen and didn’t want to be sold a bill of goods but rather He hoped to take his time. Any way he was not going to buy today without the love of his life beside him. As he poked around hoping to avoid being attacked by a hungry salesmen he saw the front door open and a smiling face turn his way. After a firm hand shake and introductions the questions he had hoped to avoid started. Where are you going to be buried, is it just you or are you married? “Is your spouse still living?
I have to ask, I’m sorry” said the friendly young man. His smile seemed genuine but “hey you never know with salesmen” Tom thought. As they walked among the upright monuments they looked at the many colors and shapes, Tom directed his attention to the black two crypt mausoleum in the rear. “I’ll bet that costs a pretty penny” he chuckled as if he could never be interested in something that expensive. “Well they are a bit more but they’re still more affordable than you may think.” “Well how much does this one run”? Tom asked, turning his head the other way trying not to act very interested. The young salesmen, not wanting to scare a potential mausoleum customer away, turned following Tom’s gaze toward the parking lot where his old pickup was parked. “Well” he started, “it costs less than it would to replace your old pickup there.” Tom’s head made a slight jerk toward the young man who had just captured his attention. “How could that be” He thought, He had imagined it would be so much more. Tom’s eyes searched the salesmen’s face looking for the catch, trying to read the eyes of the man he might write a large check to. “Have you shopped for mausoleums before” the salesmen put forth. “Naw I never been in a memorial shop before, its not like you make these purchases every day you know.” Tom offered. “Well lets go inside and we can look at a brochure” The young man turned and led the way. Over the next half hour things like color, finish, style and price were covered. As Tom turned to head out the door He thanked the salesman He now knew as Phil. They had made an apt. for then next Monday afternoon when Tom and Mary would come in when they had the afternoon free with no pressures to distract them. As Toms trusty pickup turned west of the city for the 10 mile drive home he revisited some of the information He had just been fed. Mausoleum’s were much more affordable than he thought. For the price of the average new car in 2014 he could have one set in the cemetery. The art work and inscriptions were not extremely important to Him, but he knew Mary would want his opinion also. What they would have inscribed should reflect their lives Phil the salesman had said. The possibility of a fine art etching that was totally personalized appealed to Tom because He just knew that Mary would love the idea, that her love of art could be reflected forever on their memorial.
As he turned left on the final stretch home he chuckled at the thought of Harvey someday having to go through this process. There was no way on Gods green earth Harvey would want to spend the time and effort to pick out a mausoleum. His tires crunched down the Oak lined driveway that he had been traveling down for the past 50 plus years. Here they were at the time of life thinking of choosing a final resting place, the thought of losing Mary or leaving her behind was something he’d rather not think about, but in a weird sort of way it brought Him s sense of comfort knowing that if he went first that she would have one less thing to deal with at the time of great emotion. As the noisy screen door banged shut behind Him Mary was walking toward Him wiping her damp hands on the towel that hung at her side. The smell of fresh cookies wafted through the air of the log cabin he had built in the late 90’s just prior to his retirement. As a chilled glass of whole milk chased down His second warm cookie he spilled out all the info he had gathered that morning at the monument company. Together they put down their ideas on paper and slowly what had lay deep in their minds, began to take shape on paper. Wedding rings, children’s names and dates of birth were important to the elder couple. “It’s kind of fun” Mary mused as they sat at one point deep in thought. “What do you mean”? Tom responded. “Well, being able to choose what means most to me and not having to wonder after you pass what you would have wanted….. I don’t know it just is comforting to its finally getting taking care of. And thank you Tom fo doing this, I know it’s not your favorite thing but it makes me know again that you love me. I feel cared for”. “So Tom can what about the mausoleum. It’s really a lot of money.” She worried out loud. “Well honey it’s like this. As I’ve thought about it if I replace my pickup I’ll spend way more on that than I would on the mausoleum. Even if had that truck for over 20 years at some point it would wear out and need to be replaced. A monument is forever, or at least as long as stones last”. He said with a grin. “Oh my” Mary responded, “ I never thought of it that way, stones have been around for God only knows’ how long, and for sure everything we own will wear out at some point.” Then Mary got down to brass tacks. “ What about regular monuments compared to a Mausoleum”? She inquired. “ The salesmen said they were $3500 and up for a two person upright monument. So you could spend close to a quarter of the price of a mausoleum very easily”. Tom quoted from his memory as best he could remember. As the afternoon wore on they called and made an appointment with the monument company. It felt good to both of them to have the pressure of what they should do moved to what they were going to do. They knew they could afford it and to get it taken care of just seemed wise.
A few short days after making their decision and placing an order Tom found himself again meeting Harvey for coffee. He wondered what would his buddies reaction would be. He didn’t have to wait long as the first thing Harv asked that morning was “So what’s new ole man”? Tom paused and sipped from the steaming mug of fresh brew. “Well we took the plunge” he baited Harvey and let the sentence drop. Harvey paused just a second and took the bait. “What”? He growled. “We bought a mausoleum.” Tom chuckled. “NO! Way!” Harvey exploded. “You win the lottery or what?!!” “Naw we just did it, we thought it over and with Mary being very adverse to being put in the ground, and me realizing that replacing my pickup would be more expensive and only last a few years compared to a memorial, helped me to agree to take the plunge.” Tom explained. The two were soon lost in conversation about burial plots and of course bottom line cost of all that Tom and Mary had taken on. Harvey’s questions helped Tom to realize that as hard as the idea of preparing for ones passing, it had been it really had all gone very smoothly. And the comfort and relief that he saw in Mary’s eyes made the sacrifice of putting off a new vehicle for a few years all worth it.
A few months had passed and the guys had missed getting together for a few weeks. Harvey had gone on vacation with his lovely bride. Early on a Monday morning as Tom eased into the booth the little dinner was abuzz with patron’s gulping down gallons of hot coffee. Harvey nervously cleared his throat a couple of times. Tom chuckled; he could tell His friend wanted to tell Him something important. Besides the wives had talked and Tom knew Harvey was in discussions with his lovely lady about purchasing their plots and memorial. He let His buddy stew for a while and then broke the silence. “So whats new Harv? Why don’t you just spit it out? I know you got something on your mind, I’d like to hear it………………………..