The Confusion Behind Mabel’s Grave Site

There was snow on the ground when we buried Mabel.  They laid some green turf-like blanket on the ground to hold her tiny casket and flowers while we held our ceremony graveside.  I asked the funeral director, how will know where her grave is?  He said there will be a temporary marker, and showed me one made of plastic with her name and date on it.  It was sweet.  When we visited her grave in the weeks following we could find it easily.  Though after a visit or two I started wondering if the marker was in the right place.  It was off to the side of another marker, where I thought there wasn’t any fresh dirt.  Chris contacted the funeral director for help.  I really needed to know where my daughter’s body lay.  I bring her flowers and talk to her.  I don’t know exactly where Mabel is now, but I imagine she is there when I talk to her grave.  I imagine her looking at me and hearing my words.  I want to be sure I am looking at her too.  After Chris talked to the funeral director, the marker was moved- but it felt like it was on top of another grave.  It was moved to just in front oa a grave markers that is flush to the ground.  I was visiting once and there was a groundskeeper there, so I asked him.  He thought it was next to that marker because it lines up with other graves.  So he moved her marker.  But the next week it was moved back to practically on top of that grave marker.

It’s heartbreaking to bury your daughter.  To know that she’s in the ground and not in your arms.  To have to use the money that is meant for childcare to buy her burial plot.  To browse the internet for ideas for gravestones.  These are the things that are hard enough.  I just want to know exactly where my daughter lies.  So finally I called the cemetery.  Chris had been handling this mostly because I’m still a bit fragile, but he is pretty busy at work lately and I felt like I could do this.

It took two phone calls.  I got a machine at first that directed me to call another number.  It took some building up just to make the first, so the second seemed daunting.  I did it.  I spoke to a woman who knew just who I was when I said I had a question about my daughter’s marker.  She explained to me that my daughter is buried where the marker is currently- what seems like on top of another.  The other space beside the marker is actually occupied by another internment, just unmarked.  I wanted to be totally clear, because I felt like I couldn’t call again or I’d be annoying.  So I said, “Where the marker is now, it looks like she is buried on top of someone else.”  She explained that no, the marker by my baby’s temporary one is at the foot of another grave plot.  My baby’s marker is at the head of hers.  So they are lined up head to foot.  I asked again, just to be sure.  Not only did we pay (a lot of money) for a plot, I didn’t want my daughter hovering above some strange man.  She confirmed that was not the case.

I still don’t like it.  None of the other graves are laid out like that.  It just seems weird.  I want to say, please then just dig her up and put her somewhere where she can have space.  I feel like she’s getting this treatment because she was a baby- would they do this to a full sized adult?  I have enough insecurities about having so much grief for someone I knew for so short a time that I often feel short changed.  I don’t want to feel short changed here too.

She apologized for the confusion.  She had been out because herhusband just died a month ago.  I was shocked.  This woman was grieving too.  And she had to deal with other’s grief while incorporating her own.  The poor woman.  Trying to figure out how to get through the days and then fielding phone calls about grave sites at the same time.  I wish someone could be helping her.

It reminded me that things aren’t always what they seem.  Remember the woman who was greeted with “where’s the baby?” as I left my six week check up? My midwife told me later that she was actually just trying to warn me that there might be a baby in the waiting room.  I can only see things with one lens- mine, the grief tinted one.  I’m not sure if these scenarios make me feel better or worse.  I felt more compassion for the cemetery woman, but I still want my queries to be answered. I think I just wished she didn’t have to be the one to handle this.  It seems unfair to her.  And the six week appointment experience?  My feelings are the same- I’m still sad I have to be greeted with sympathy and not cheer, but at least I know people are still looking out for me.


****update**** 4/13/14

I finally was able to get to Mabel’s grave after the conversation with the cemetery woman.  After talking with her, I did more research about foot stones- because it still didn’t make sense to me.  But I discovered that veterans often have a plaque given by the government.  It’s placed at the foot of the grave if the veteran already has a headstone.  Once I was able to see where Mabel’s marker was, I could see that, yes, it was a foot stone near her marker.  Mabel has her own space.  Such a simple explanation! I feel silly for worrying, but it took several weeks, many phone calls and my own research to really understand it.  A lot for a mother with grief so fresh.

thank you for all your kind words.




2 thoughts on “The Confusion Behind Mabel’s Grave Site

  1. Meghan
    Isn’t the woman at the cemetery experience a little similar to your in that she had to return to a job that is a constant reminder of what she has just gone through. Maybe she has some insight into challenges or good experiences you will face when you return. I know it is not the same but you never know.

  2. From my limited knowledge of how cemeteries work, since you were worried about where Mabel’s body is in relation to other bodies: from the research I did looking for cemeteries for Seraphim before he was born (which I didn’t end up needing since the monastery let us bury him there instead), it appears that usually babies are buried at the foot of another coffin because enough room is allotted for a small coffin and a larger one in the same plot. So, no, they would not do the same thing for an adult only because an adult is bigger. It has nothing to do with their views of infants that die, only space conservation. Apparently in some cemeteries, you can have a baby buried in the same plot as another family member whose plot you may already own for a very reasonable price (only the cost of digging a new hole and filling it in). That is not the case around here, unfortunately. You might want to take a look around the cemetery, see how other babies’ graves are set up. I’m familiar with the grave marker situation you’re talking about because I see it all over the place at the cemetery my grandparents’ are buried in. There are many baby graves surrounding theirs and they looked crammed in, but just keep in mind that a small child is much smaller than a full-grown adult and will need significantly less room.

    I hope that makes you feel better–though confusion over the grave site is definitely aggravating. We haven’t made a trip to visit Seraphim’s grave yet, but hope to in the next couple of weeks (it’s a couple of hours away) when our schedules align again. For us, though, it shouldn’t be too hard to find his grave since there are just five bodies buried there.

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