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Front Page » March 20, 2007 » Opinion » Grave mistakes are often not that bad
Published 2,687 days ago

Grave mistakes are often not that bad


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

After my father died almost a year ago, I decided that the gravestone he had purchased for both he and my mother, who had passed away in 1991, was not adequate enough to honor what I consider to be two of the best parents who ever lived. So I decided to replace it.

It took me almost six months before I could even get started on the project because of some problems with the estate, and I had to see what kind of funds we had to do something better than what was in place.

Now my dad was a simple kind of guy. He never cared about flashy kinds of things like new cars or a big house. In fact he and my mother were very conservative when they bought anything for themselves. I remember as a kid my mother wanting a certain kind of chair for our living room, but when they went to look at them, they decided to buy something much less to her liking, because it was more within what they had expected to spend.

They never spent money on themselves, but they didn't mind spending it on their kids. Around our house there was basically a no holds barred on whatever we wanted, in particular for me. Probably because I was the baby of the family and the only boy. Yeah, my sisters always accused me of being spoiled and I guess they were right.

So I decided that in their death, they could at least have the best I could buy for them, because they never would do it in life. In November I went to a monument company and picked out the biggest stone they had in their showroom and it took me and my sister about two months to finally get down exactly what we wanted on the new grave marker. The final design from the monument company came to me via email in January, and we approved it. The monument company told me that it would probably be placed on the grave around March 1.

Well last week, after having a very busy February and first two weeks of March I though I would call the monument company and ask where they were on the project. A nice woman answered and told me that the stone had been put in place at the West Jordan Cemetery. I told her I would go and look at it over the weekend.

Saturday morning I made a very pleasant drive to Salt Lake and arrived at the cemetery around 8 a.m. As I pulled up to the grave site, I couldn't see the stone I had purchased. Things looked just the same as they had for the last 16 years. I walked the 40 feet to my parents grave and there was the old stone still in place, not disturbed one bit. I stood there and pondered a little wondering what had happened and then it dawned on me that maybe they had put the stone on the wrong grave. As I turned to my left to look around the cemetery, two rows away, a large gray headstone loomed in a place I had never seen one before. It had newly placed sod around it too. I walked over and there was the stone I had ordered, perfect in every way, except it was about 20 feet from where it should have been.

I looked down and noticed that it stood on a grave that had recently been covered. Apparently the crew that placed the stone thought that it was going on a new grave, not an existing one. I imagined myself being a family member of the person buried there coming to the grave of a newly departed loved one, and seeing my parents 50th wedding anniversary photo smiling at them from a big gray stone. I can't imagine the range of emotions they might go through.

On the other hand I found myself starting to laugh. All this time I had spent thinking about honoring them, and now they were really special. They were probably the only people in the state with two grave sites in the same cemetery. I kind of looked up into the sky as I smiled and in my mind I could see my mother laughing (she had a great sense of humor) and my quiet conservative dad shaking his head, not at the mistake, but at the fact I would spend so much money on a silly piece of stone.

Monday morning I called the monument company and told them "the monument is beautiful, but there is only one thing wrong: It's on the wrong grave."

The woman on the other end of the line hesitated for a moment and said "I guess that won't do, will it." Then she apologized and told me they would fix it as soon as possible. Then she apologized some more.

I told her to stop apologizing, because I understood mistakes and peoples reactions to them so well.

"You see I am a newspaper publisher and people yell at me all the time about little simple mistakes we make," I said. "You are going to do a correction, so I am fine with it."

We both laughed. She because she was relieved that I understood. Me? Well because that is the way my parents would have wanted me to react to something that was so fixable.

And so innocently done.


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