Picking up the patriarch’s ashes

Charles 1 Comment

James Showers, sole proprietor of the Family Tree Funeral Company, undertaker to the discerning decendents of Gloucestershire, has been badgering me to rediscover something he lost on his computer. He thought it might be on mine, since I once sent it to him. It’s not. But by dint of indefatigable googling I have unearthed it. It’s far too good to keep between me and James. Here are some extracts which will send you galloping in a jostling, whooping horde to the blog whence it came. By jingo it’s wonderfully well written.

…perhaps you won’t mind if I recount the Funeral Parlor Affair … For lo, and it did come to pass that the sibling and I were obliged to saunter along to the Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home, Mausoleum, and Memorial Park to pick up the patriarch’s ashes. For some reason — maybe because we’re not a couple of swooning Victorians — we’d expected to stroll in, palm the urn, and buzz along home.

But no. The consummate weirdness with which modern American death-angst imbues the mortuary biz turned what should have been a 5-minute transaction into a Gothic theatrical production that dragged on for half an hour.

I dare anybody to keep a straight face who darkens the stoop of the Sparkman/Hillcrest Funeral Home, Mausoleum, and Memorial Park. You wouldn’t believe this joint. It was like the set designers from Twin Peaks and Napoleon Dynamite had fused with Elvis Presley’s interior decorator and been reborn as Liberace’s angst-ridden evil twin, who then suffered a psychotic break, and bought up the world’s supply of harvest gold flocked wallpaper, brass upholstery tacks, and fake oak paneling, and ate it all with fava beans and a nice Chianti, and then puked it up all over the living room from Sartre’s No Exit.

But nothing in my education or upbringing could have prepared me for our encounter with the Funeral Director. I almost spontaneously combusted when this specimen materialized out of the Stygian mist. The dude was the ne plus ultra, the transcendental essence, the Platonic ideal of funeral directors. He was still. He was shadowy. He was bloodless. He was creepy. He wore an ill-fitting suit made of larceny and doom.

Here it is.


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Patrick McNally
12 years ago

A real gem! Thanks for finding it again Charles. While I am non-plussed by stereotypical jabs at my fellow funeral directors, this one is so beautifully on target, I have to laugh.
What’s not funny is the mockery of service that clowns like this create for families.
I’ll have to check to make sure the gravitas setting at my funeral home is not on too high.