Praying for perspective: A man and wife make their final reservations

The purchase of a cemetery plot is conducted with family and friends—the future visitors to Mount Olivet—in mind

By George Valadie

We finally made our reservations. We’ve been talking about it for some time now. It’s not that we’re all that pumped about going. You know the sort of thing I’m talking about, one of those events you dread but will likely turn out to be fun after you actually get there.

On the good side, we’re going to be there with so many families we know and like: Nolan and White, Frassrand and St. Charles, Herbst and Bundschu and Crowe.

It just seemed like time for us to finally to get it done.

So there we were, Nancy and I, gazing over a broad expanse of gorgeous green grass where they will lay us down one last time.

We bought our cemetery plot.

There was never any doubt where we would go. We’ve long wished to be buried there. Like the theme song from the old TV hit Cheers, we want to be “where everybody knows your name.”

Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery.

It’s the sort of place where if your car zips by too quickly, you won’t even know it’s there. There is little visible signage, no traffic light, and surprisingly, as big as it is, it’s not all that noticeable from the main road.

But if you step back a ways and cast your eyes upward, it’s then you can take in the only view of the hillside on which so many of those markers keep watch over the living.

Section VIII—84B … our new home. Turns out you get to have your own address in case anyone ever comes to visit.

We’re sure hoping they do because cemeteries can be lonely places. There were plenty of souls there the day we shopped, but not a single living one. I’m the first to admit I’m not all that good at visiting either. My dad’s there, three grandparents, and my best friend—still, I don’t go nearly enough.

So we want visitors for sure—you’re all invited. And with you in mind, we tried to think ahead as we made our selection, wanting it to feel welcoming and homey should you come our way.

Thankfully, the superintendent had the patience of Job.

“We have a spot right here. What do you think?”

“I don’t know,” we said. “People don’t like to stand out in the sun all that much. We’d rather have a spot in the shade. Do you have any of those?”

“How about this one?”

“Gosh, that’s right up against the drive; we don’t want folks to accidentally run over us.”

“Here’s a spot. Nobody’s claimed it yet.”

It wasn’t bad but Nancy said, “Sorry, we don’t want to look over the highway down there; do you have anything with a great view?”

He didn’t actually say, “What sort of view do you think you’ll have from under there?” But I know he had to be thinking it. I sure was.

You have to picture us there, relaxing on a nearby bench while directing him to and fro as he studied his plot map, walking here to there, looking up each time with a hopeful face. He traversed from 64-C across to 73-D and then over and down to 111-A, before finally landing on the jackpot spot.

“Here’s one … ”

“That’s it!” we yelled simultaneously. “It’s perfect!”

When he said, “Here’s one,” he wasn’t kidding—it’s just one. But it turns out that’s all we’ll need since if you pay a little extra, they’ll dig the first hole deep enough to accommodate the both of us.

Snug—but together.

We know folks all over the place: Ireland and Terrell, Munson and Weidner, Cotter and Eagar and Fillauer. Nancy has family nearby as well, while I have colleagues and classmates and way too many former students there, too.

Families that feel like family.

But we’ll have new neighbors, too—we just haven’t met them yet.

Jim and Betty are on one side while Rosalind will keep us warm on the other. All three have been there awhile; we’re hoping they’ll show us around.

I suppose I was moved to strike out on this morbid adventure because of the number of funerals I’ve attended lately. Seems like a lot to put on our girls when the time comes. So I gingerly brought it up to Nancy, who to my surprise was willing to come along.

I quickly discovered her reasons. Mostly, she’s a control freak and would never trust me with any sort of decision as to where she might someday reside. That—and she had been planning all along to purchase it with a frequent-flyer credit card so we could earn the travel miles and visit our kids while still in the land of the living.

I knew the woman was smart when I married her.

Turns out, though, you can’t purchase land with a credit card—at least not this kind. So we’re now on the installment plan, paying two house payments at once, so to speak.

We won’t exactly be land barons, but it will be all ours.

We’ve decided on a simple marker—maybe two if the insurance holds out.

But one nearby caught my attention. On theirs, the family had inscribed a verse from Isaiah, “I have called you by your name. You are mine.”

It really will be perfect.

Dear God—We hope to make it your way—just not too soon. Amen.


George Valadie is president of Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga.

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