Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Live and learn

Okay, so part of the reason I was so frustrated yesterday is because after trying for more than a month to finalize plans for
Thomas' grave marker, we had to "fire" the cemetery and go directly to a monument company instead.

Hindsight is 20/20. We should have done this in the first place, but we're grieving parents who've had a lot of unpleasant firsts since March and we haven't really known a blessed thing about any of them. I remember making the call to my priest from my hospital bed and stuttering while I left the message - stumbling over my words and finally admitting I had no idea where to start or what to do. I'd been preparing for a birth all those months, not a death.

Thank God my Mom made the arrangements with the funeral home. I couldn't have handled that too.

Part of me feels like a little kid who left it all up to her mommy, but the other part of me knows I was a sick woman who was muddled from shock, illness and sorrow. So thank GOD for my Mom.

Anyway, back to the stone. So we ordered it on the 25th of August, I believe. And here it is, the 28th of September. Not a stone in sight. It's a long, frustrating story of negligence and ineptitude, but suffice it to say my advice to anyone who finds themselves in the unenviable position of arranging for a grave stone is do NOT go through the cemetery. It might seem like one-stop shopping, but all you're doing is employing an untrained middleman. At least that's certainly what our experience has been. And on top of that our middleman (or middlewoman in our case) was a miserable, cranky bitch who made us feel like we were an annoyance.

"Yes, I'm terribly sorry that my son dying has inconvenienced you. I can only imagine what terrible strain this has been for you. Please. Sit down. Let me get you a glass of water."

But I digress.

A reputable monument company will do all the leg work for you, including finding out what restrictions there are at your cemetery regarding size and installation. This is their business so they'll work hard to please you and to get it done right. This is what we've learned.

In just 24 hours our monument company contacted the cemetery to find out all the information they needed, called me to find out what we were hoping to achieve, talked me through design and size considerations, created two sample layouts for us to choose from, and told us that they think they have a very similar stone to the one we'd almost ordered from the cemetery. The one that was going to take 16 weeks to arrive.

Once we choose our stone it will be ready and installed in 4 or 5 weeks, just under the wire. The cemetery won't install markers after November 15th. Thanks to the monument company we'll most likely meet that deadline and won't have to drag this out through the winter.

Thomas will have his stone and everyone who passes by will know that our sweet little soul lived and was loved.

No thanks to the cemetery.

Of all the things I thought I'd be an expert on, this wasn't one of them. Who knew I'd ever sit down to write a blog on the benefits of dealing directly with a monument company versus a cemetery. Life sure does hand you some strange things. I'm sure this isn't what I ordered, and yet I seem to have a plate full of it.

Can someone please pass the ketchup?


Catherine said...

Here's the ketchup.

Now let me tell you...monument companies aren't all the same. We purchased our stone in June...finally got the design finalized at the end of July...and are still waiting. As of a frustrated phone call last week, we still have one to two weeks to wait. It's been the most disappointing experience of my life, to tell the truth.

But you can rest assured that all cemeteries are apparently the same. Two days after my son was stillborn, we went to the cemetery to pick out a plot for him. The sexton told us that they were pouring footers on the day we had planned to bury our son and that would put them off schedule. As though we were supposed to change our plans. I looked at him in dead seriousness and said, "Well, you're going to have to be off your schedule then, because I intend to bury my son that day." lol I think I was kind of scary.

I'm convinced that women like us should write a practical manual for what to do when your baby dies. There's all these generic references, like, "You will have to decide what kind of disposition you would like. You might have a funeral or a memorial service." But they don't tell you everything you need to do in order to make it happen. Step-by-step instructions is what I would have found helpful.

I'm so sorry you have a reason to write this entry. I understand the surreal nature of having to do all this stuff.


Sherry said...

(((HUGS))) You're right - we weren't supposed to know (or expected to know) about ordering a headstone for an infant. It's a terrible contradiction, isn't it?