Today, Cookie finds himself on the otherside service and burial for our Loved One.
If you have seen the Loved One (1965), the black comedy movie based on the book by Evelyn Waugh, then you are familiar about that, which I am going to write and you to read. If not, well then, You'll just have to watch it, and then write a 150 word theme on why Mrs. Joyboy's eating habits were very poor.
But, let's get back to me.
When I tell you that I really thought I found myself inside the movie in preparing for my MIL's funeral, then you have a idea of what kind of surreal nightmare where one is simply appalled, and yet one cannot not help but snigger and shoot looks at the others to see if they too are holding their outrage in.
We arrived at Fortesque and Son's the morning of our Loved One's passing. Young Mr. Fortesque, a fourth generation Funeral Director, was going to handle my MIL's funeral. His father, Old Mr. Fortesque had handled my FIL's funeral. At that time, and among the lies that we were told was that FIL chose to be cremated, and therefore we had to buy a casket.
"But, why?" we asked?
"The Loved One is cremated in casket," began Mr. Fortesque. "Shall I show you our Ebony Master, a casket made of only the finest woods harvested from pristine Amazon basin...."
I interrupted. "Did you just say that you cremate the body in a retail casket?"
"Yes, Commonwealth law," he said, "and over here we have heartwood cherry, resplendent with a seven coat finish..."
Now Cookie has been around. And as a genealogist, Cookie knows funeral homes and the funeral business. Cookie's former husband was a licensed funeral director (although he was not in the business at the time we were together) so I know the scams.
So I decided to fuck with him.
"And this one," says I, pointing at a $20,000 bronze model with a triple seal lid.
"A wise choice..."
"And you cremate with this?"
I called bullshit by saying "I call bullshit. No one on earth has a crematory for that unless you are a alchemist."
So I called my mortician in Ohio and I asked him what was going on. He called bullshit, too.
So back in, in front of my in-laws I said "Pine cremation casket."
He gave me a very disgusted look. But he knew I was onto him.
Well this time, MIL wanted to be buried, so we had to buy a casket.
Husband asked about price and Young Fortesque (who is in his mid 60's) said its all one price, $9,500.
He then took out five envelopes and began writing on them. "These are for the outside costs we cannot control..." $500 for the weekend dig. $750 permits and the vault. $250 for the rent-a-minister. "$110 for the town clerk for the death permit and the ten certificates."
"You need a permit to die? Couldn't we have gotten that in advance and saved a couple dollars?"
That got me a dirty look. "I don't set the outside costs, sir..."
Then, when the minister and the cemetery personnel were secured, then we went casket shopping. That took us down, down flights of stairs into the dank recesses of what looks like a rumpus room from the early 1950s. There were three rooms. The front room, the middle room, and the "value line" room.
I figured that Ebony Master would have marked down, given that the model was three years old, but no. Now we had the New Ebony Master Supreme. "In addition to the improved seals, the Loved One now rests on a memory foam and gel mattress for eternal comfort." And the cost? $21,000, includes all of our services of limo, room rental...excludes outside costs."
Then were were shown:
"Eternal Ironwood, with a pure silking...2k gold plated hardware...down eternal rest mattress that is also coated for waterproof durability... $15,000 includes all services..."
"Cherry Hill, pure silk...bronze hardware, and the departed's name is laser etched in the lid...$14,500..."
"Eternal Rest Bronze, now with a four lid seal, with two inner lids and two inner lids...$18,000..."
So the husband asked "What happened to $9,500, all costs included?"
He took us to the very back of the Value Line room, back to an area where the carpet yielded to a painted concrete floor, flipped on a buzzy fluorescent shop light. There, on the lowest display level was the "Ticonderoga". The Ticonderoga was shiny battleship gray - everything. Casket, hardware, lift handles, everything. He opened up the lid, which sounded hollow. the interior was upholstered in "poly tricot with a fiberfill pad."
He let the lid down and it sounded like the door to a Toyota Echo.
"20 gauge steel, same as car panels. Comes with a three year leakproof guarantee. We sell this model mostly to budget minded families and next of kin. I would suggest a closed casket viewing with this model."
"Of course," Mr. Fortesque intoned, "She was a longtime resident of our community, so she understood our local customs and standards..." And with that, the Ticonderoga slipped off into the distance.
At this point I stepped aside. This was a decision for the husband and the siblings.
When we were done - and they went with the "Roselle", which MIL would have liked. But it wasn't $9,500.
THEN it was time for the vault.
"Of course, we don't sell the vaults," said the undertaker.
"Of course," said I.
The vault is sold by the Commonwealth Vault Company. He pressed a button and in a minute we were joined by "Jonathan" who worked for the vault company. "We have an office on premises and the Fortesque's said that you would visiting. We then went on the grand tour of vaults. For this, they settled on one and a price was named, which was not covered in the funeral estimate because the vaults were sold separately.
Unioffically, we were on the BOHICA plan.
After the funeral my husband and his family rode off in the limo, and my sister in law Matthew and I went to the market to pick up some food for the after visitation. When Matt's phone went off.
"It's you husband, and you haven't answered his calls," I turned the phone off, " he wants to know if he tips Tim the limo driver from Fortesque's.
I said, tell him to tell Tim that that the tip was already settled with Young Mr. Fortesque.
"It was included in the price."