Episode 8 —The Groundbreaking Ceremony
Soon I became quite adept at slipping from purse to pocket as I found my curiosity had become insatiable. I began accompanying CJ more and more.
On this particular day, I was along for a graveside service and burial set in a nearby town at the old cemetery there. CJ followed Mr. B in the flower van, parking ahead of his coach on that dusty lane near the gravesite. After she unloaded and carefully set up the floral sprays, she joined Mr. B for a quick smoke as they awaited the arrival of the family and pallbearers.
“The ground here seems a bit unstable, Mr. Becker,” she remarked as she lightly dug her heel into the loose earth where they stood. “Yes, it is quite a challenge at times,” he replied. “That’s why we have to be very sure the pallbearers step carefully onto those boards and walk evenly over them. We don’t need anybody getting hurt here.” Or cause for any undue embarrassment, I thought.
Soon, the cars began to enter the old graveyard, crunching slowly over the gravel driveway. The mourners made their way to the burial area, where CJ guided them carefully to their chairs. The family was placed in the front seats, nearest the casket platform, which stood draped over the open plot.
Meanwhile, Mr. B and the pallbearers were making their way toward the grave. He guided them onto the planks, but just then, the front side (where family sits) boards began to shift a bit as the weight was placed on them. In an instant, there was a loud snap! This startled the man at the front carrying the foot of the casket, thus causing a misstep. In a flash, he lost his grip on the handle and he slipped from sight, falling feet-first into the gaping hole below! Just as this was taking place, there were audible gasps from the mourners, and a shriek from one of the nearby women. As if acting upon pure reflex, CJ dove toward the now-unmanned casket handle, grabbing it before the balance was thrown off, thus keeping the other bearers from having to make the awkward movements such an imbalance causes. Good grief!
It would appear the worst had happened! Mr. B’s blood pressure was rising, as evidenced by the reddening, then purpling of the back of his neck. This was one of those things he practiced hard to avoid. He calmly walked to the place the man fell. The cemetery men had come to move the draping and other platform coverings and they were now making way for the extraction of the pallbearer. Mr. B leaned down, extending his hand to help the man out. Mercy! The ground gave way some more and into the hole went Mr. B! NOW the worst had happened! A personal disaster for a consummate professional as himself.
As I sat in the bottom of CJ’s suit jacket pocket, I could sense she was doing her very utmost to keep her composure. To see Mr. B down in that hole was too much. Great effort to stifle an unbearable urge to break out in laughter was required of her. This was a supreme Kodak moment, indeed.
Alas, after a few very chaotic moments, the cemetery men were able to recover both of the fallen men and everything wrong had been made right once more. The service then commenced and all was well after that. I noticed CJ had found that clearing her throat helped to squelch the pent-up giggles. When the service concluded and CJ was safely back behind the wheel of her flower van, and only then, she burst into an eruption of belly laughs, tears running down her cheeks as she laughed. In fact, all the way back to the funeral home she laughed. She knew instinctively that this day’s strange events would not be mentioned aloud or re-visited in any fashion. A nightmare of the most humiliating kind such as this would be off limits for a topic of banter or even serious discussion, forever. That was just the way Mr. B would treat it. Thus, that was the way it was.