It’s been an odd couple of weeks around our house. And if I weren’t Catholic, I think they would have depressed me greatly.

First of all, we lost my mother-in-law. “Babci” as her grandchildren called her, passed to the next life after a short hospital stay. True, she made it to 90 and was sharp as a tack all the way, but that doesn’t make our dinner table any less empty. She lived with us for five years and suppertime is now decidedly diminished without her nightly report of events gathered from a day spent cruising her favorite cable stations.

Due to some logistical issues, we had to postpone Babci’s burial until a week after her funeral Mass. We buried her on a Monday morning and stopped by later to see how she was settling into the new neighborhood. We also took some measurements we needed to order her monument; that included the uneasy process of measuring other people’s monuments for reference.

Please tell me someone else out there has done that.

While we were skulking around measuring tombstones and taking photos of the latest in posthumous real estate, my son asked if my wife and I knew where we would one day be buried. I’m telling you, this kid is fearless about the realities of life. You should have seen him leading prayers and singing to Babci in her hospital room (she always loved to hear him sing).

Fortunately, an answer to his question was at the ready. Mary Ann and I had discussed the subject in recent days. Our plan is to be buried in the very same cemetery. We have a daughter there who died in utero and now we’ll have Babci and my late father-in-law there.

What my wife said to Michael next came as a bit of a surprise…even to me. It seems that, while making arrangements for Babci’s interment, she made a reservation for herself and me in the two plots right next door. It makes perfect sense, getting in at today’s prices, but it still took me a little by surprise.

And the way they arrange things in cemeteries, it’s husband on grave right, wife on grave left; that means, the way these plots sit, it’ll be Babci and me, side-by-side, until Jesus separates the sheep from the goats.

Fortunately, it’s no big deal. Babci and I were great pals and I’m glad my son won’t have to decide where to put Mom and Dad when our time comes.

Of course, there’s that old Irish tradition that says if you get a chill, it’s because someone walked over your grave, wherever it may be. I’m thinking of heading over to the cemetery and putting some barbed wire around mine to keep people off of it.

Like I said. It’s been a strange couple of weeks.

In case you’re among the people who believe unpleasantness always comes in threes, let me give you one more. My doctor hates me. He probably found out I bought a cemetery plot and wants to make me feel old enough to use it.

Trust me. This is going somewhere.

He diagnosed me with acid reflux and suggested I start drinking decaffeinated tea instead of my standard coffee. Congratulations are in order. I have matured into the target audience for the stomach medicine Larry the Cable Guy sells on television.

I’ve had, on average, about a quart of black coffee every day since around 1978. None of those cream and sugar confections, just good, honest black coffee. It was good enough for my mother; it’s good enough for me. Now, Dr. Killjoy wants me to disrespect my mother’s memory and start drinking decaffeinated tea. I’ll drink some, but no coffee at all is off the table.

So let’s see…my household has lost a beloved member, I can picnic on my own grave, and I now have to order my coffee from the conspicuous orange-lidded pot that tells your fellow diners that you just can’t take the hard stuff anymore.

Not a laugh-riot couple of weeks.

But here’s the strange part. As much fun as it is to complain and crack jokes about all of this, I’m incredibly at peace with it all, including being in the over-50 pharmaceutical demographic. I’ve been that way ever since we all gathered around Babci’s hospital bed to pray with some wonderful priest friends who stopped by to visit her, anoint her and give her the Apostolic Pardon.

Watching her pass peacefully, having received all the sacramental care she could have hoped for made me very unafraid, all of a sudden. The sense it all makes is undeniably logical…death comes…for everybody…that’s that. But it doesn’t win…it just happens…it has to happen so we can get where we’re supposed to be.

As I said above, if I weren’t Catholic, recent events would have left me very depressed; as it stands, I’m happy for mother-in-law, because she had a beautiful send-off, and I feel not-at-all intimidated by that little patch of earth, with my name on it, over at Resurrection Cemetery.

I love being Catholic. It gets us through everything…maybe even decaf.

 

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