Mr. Ed Is Turning Over In His Grave

Bill and I had scheduled visits to funeral homes during May to get prices on cremation services.  It seems that Mom hasn’t made any plans for the hereafter and it’s apparently up to us to take care of it.  So we decided to gather information and hope that by pre-planning we can not only save some money but maybe get a group discount as well.

The first place we visited was the largest mortuary and crematorium in Sun City (and the entire state, we later learned).  We drove through acres of expansive and immaculately kept cemetery grounds comprised of emerald green grass that was dotted with several tasteful marble and stone outdoor crypts and a couple of enormous and majestic looking mausoleums.  There was statuary, water features, mature shade trees and small, restful-looking gardens everywhere.  It was very un-desert-like.  We figured this was where rich Phoenicians came for their final rest, but thought, what the heck, and walked into the mortuary office for our 1:00 appointment.

We were seated in a small conference room and less than a minute later we were greeted by a cheerful young man named Chip.  Chip was friendly, clean cut, polished, upbeat and, all in all, a fine specimen of someone named Chip.  He extolled the many benefits of using the services and facilities of this particular cemetery, including the fact that they owned roughly 80% of the funeral homes in Arizona and had an international presence of thousands of facilities in their ever growing network.

As he started to wind down from a twenty minute sales pitch, I broke in to his smooth and soothing spiel.  “So, you’ve pretty much got a lock on pricing in Arizona?” I asked, cocking my head and innocently raising my eyebrows.

“Not necessarily,” he replied with a well-practiced smile.  “As you can see from our price list, if you use the cremation services offered by our newest funeral home in Surprise, it will cost you $300 less than if you use our services.”

“But don’t they just bring the remains back here for cremation?” I asked, as Bill reached for my hand under the table.

“Yes, but they’re a stand-along funeral home and don’t have their own cemetery and grounds to maintain, so they can charge less,” he said as way of an explanation.

“But if direct cremation is called ‘direct’ because we go directly from being dead to the oven and we provide our own urn and we don’t having a viewing or service and we’re not being interred here, why should the cost of grounds upkeep be part of the price?” I asked.

“Well, the pricing comes from corporate and I’m sure they spread it out across all services to make it fair,” he said, smiling even broader.

“I’m not sure who that’s being fair to, but basically,” I continued, as Bill frantically squeezed my hand, “you’re tell me that they treat all bodies equally.  Sort of an equal corpseatunity kind of company.”

At this point Bill stopped squeezing and Chip stopped smiling and handed us a folder that contained literature and prices.  He finished his sales pitch by standing up, extending his well manicured hand and asking that we let him know if he could be of further service and hoped we would consider entrusting our remains and those of our loved ones into their care.  Not likely!

We left the mortuary office and walked silently through the parking lot toward our car, which was sitting in a spot under a perfectly manicured Jacaranda in full, majestic purple bloom.  As we moved across the hot afternoon asphalt, Bill started singing softly, and off key, “A corpse is a corpse of course, of course.  And no one can talk to a corpse of course.  That is of course unless the corpse is the famous Mr. Chip!”

By the time we got into the car we were both singing happily, and probably too loudly, as we drove through the pristine – and highly overpriced – grounds of the largest cemetery in Arizona.  Our next appointment with one of the few non-networked facilities is next week.  I’m guessing we can come up with another original song by that time using, say, the theme music for the Adam’s Family.  Something like “They’re ashy and they’re sooty, Burned up and in a booty, They’re all together ooky, it’s Billy’s Family.

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