Friday, March 30, 2007


Grave ineptitude

When my father-in-law died last August he was buried in the small local cemetery of the small coastal town to which they had just moved. They had just bought into a retirement village/resort in this town, essentially as a place where my mother-in-law would be able to live independently (but with support.) He had been diagnosed with leukemia, and in his inimitable way, was totally pragmatic about the fact that he would die (pretty soon) and that as much as possible should be organised beforehand. Behind the pragmatism was their religious beliefs (fairly staunch Catholic), and their final resting place was important to them. They had no previous ties to this town, but at least they could organise to both, in the end, be laid to rest together.

They bought a double plot in the cemetery... My mother-in-law has been up and down, health-wise, and so finally got down to the cemetery just recently, both to visit, and to organise a proper headstone. To her dismay she discovered that there was a new grave right next to my father-in-law's. It turns out that someone died over Christmas, when the council offices were closed, so this person was just buried, expediently, in what appeared to be the next available plot.

"Oops, Sorry" was the response.

As you can imagine she is in a bit of a state about it. She has consulted her solicitor, but there doesn't seem to be a lot that can be done. Obviously her first choice would be to move the 'interloper', but that would seem to be impossible. There is also some law about there having to wait 5 years before 'disturbing' or moving a grave.

We agreed that something should be done, and asked her a couple more questions about it:

"If they agree to a new double plot and to move Dad at the time of my death, then that will be OK after five years I gather. If I drop off the perch before then, I suppose they will still wait the five years before they move Dad."

Thankfully in there, somehow, she is managing to retain some sense of humour. She is an amazing woman like that.

"They wanted to meet me at the cemetery, but I imagine that is just to tell me there is room between the two graves to 'slot' me in. I'll have to lose a lot more weight!"

The terribly, terribly sad thing about this outrageous bureaucratic bungle is that purchasing of double plots in cemeteries are done essentially for the partner who dies second. Peace of mind etc. And for the children left behind? Usually, but in this case all three of their children, and grandchildren, live hundreds of kilometres away (and so visiting the graves on a regular basis is not an option)..

So either way, no peace of mind for my mother in law eiither way. If she dies in the next five years we just have to promise to make sure that they will be 'together' eventually. If she lives longer, she presumably will have to go through the emotional turmoil of seeing her husband's grave disturbed and moved. How do you weigh up those options? It just isn't good enough to day 'oh well, never mind'.

And for my husband and his sisters as well? What peace of mind does it give any of them to know that to honour their father's wishes, and their mother's peace of mind, five years down the track their father's grave will be dug up to be moved? And what, then, is there left to move anyway?

When I go, cremate me, and scatter my ashes somewhere that meant something to me, or means something to my family.

* My father-in-law's grave is the one with the white cross on the left in the background.

Edited to add: After talking to MIL on the phone this afternoon (and getting the feeling that her city solicitor wasn't really making any waves) I hit on the idea of ringing a friend of ours who happens to work in a law firm in the same local council area. As he pointed out, there are areas of specialty in the law.. Some are good at dealing with wills, conveyancing etc. And some specialise in kicking arse, so to speak. One of his colleagues who is good at that will be back in the office next week and will ring my MIL. Feels like with him she might have a better chance of getting a more satisfactory outcome. Not that there probably is one for this story... but the best possible in the circumstances.


Here here, cremation is DEFINATELY going ot be my stated option. Scatter my ashes and let my charred remains saifall wherever the breeze takes me.
Pretty slack of the cememtary though.
Heavens what a debacle. I'd be so angry.
I don't swear often as you have probably figured out T. But that is one f#%$&@! stuffup. I would be ropeable. Bring on the hotshot lawyers I say. I mean seriously, what's wrong with these people? Surely they mark the other spot in some way when the arrangements are made?
I agree with Pixie... trouble is no lawyer can fix this horrific mess. At least the cemetary trustees should be accountable for their bungling ways.
Lots of support for mother-in-law seems to be the best line of action.

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?