Behind the Scenes At Memorial Day

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I’m going to give a view of Memorial Day from a slightly different perspective.

First, a little background. I live and work in a cemetery, have been for seven years. For those seven years, Memorial Day has been nothing but a headache.

My year starts like this:

From April to Memorial Day, my wife (who works with me) and I are responsible for cleaning up and settling any graves dug over the winter that couldn’t be cleaned up. (Winter weather in Pennsylvania doesn’t usually permit finishing the tidying up of a grave.) We do this for three separate cemeteries. Takes about two weeks.

After this, we pour foundations for any graves that need them and for any tombstones sold over the winter. (For us, if you want a stone in place by Memorial Day, the order has to be placed by April 1. You can’t order one today, and have it up tomorrow.)

Once we do this, it’s then up to the weather. If it’s nice, I load up the compressor and portable sandblaster and do cemetery letterings (putting the death date on stones). On yucky days, I’m inside laying out monuments and sandblasting them. In between, we also install any veterans plaques the government sends.

It truly is a miracle that two people get this all done in 2 months. The profit margins are so low that we can’t afford to hire any more help than the mildly mentally challenged guy who mows the cemeteries. He’s the only one who will do it.

Now I don’t expect a three-piece band or news headlines. After all, I’m just doing my job.

But do we ever even get a thank you from a single person that comes to the cemetery? Nope.

I’ll tell you what we get.

We get very rude people from out of town who come in one day out of the whole year. They come in at odd hours during the weekend demanding that I open the cemetery office so they can find someone’s grave.

They park on the road and block my driveway all week. They drive way too fast on the dirt cemetery road, which leaves my home covered in a thick layer of dust.

It got so bad this year that I had to put in a speed bump outside my house to slow people down. I guess people like to play Dukes of Hazzard, even in a cemetery, so the complaints started. Someone even wrote a letter to the editor of our local newspaper about it. Signed anonomous, the coward.

One person went so far as to drive through my wife’s flower bed to avoid the bump. Good thing there weren’t any graves around that bump, that person probably run them over, too.

We have three cats and they can go in and out all year except during Memorial Day weekend. Then, the cat door gets locked. So even they sacrifice.

So please, show respect and courtesy to everyone in the cemetery. Even the live ones. There’s no rush. Nobody you’re visiting is going anywhere.

And if you happen to see one of the people who takes care of the place all year round, say thanks. We’d appreciate your appreciation.

Email Ralph


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