Posted: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 8:01 pm
The following story was told to me recently by a woman in Tucson, Ariz. She assured me that it’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Of course, the names have been changed to protect the innocent or the guilty, depending upon how you look at it.
Years ago, Sue met a wonderful, young doctor at the hospital where she worked as an administrator. After dating a while, they became engaged. They both agreed she should travel with him to east Texas to meet his family. Upon meeting his parents and other extended family members, she quickly came to the conclusion that they were as warm and accepting as he had promised. The food was delicious and the lively banter of such a large rural family was enjoyable. After the meal, his parents requested a private meeting with her on the back porch. They both looked gravely serious as they re-arranged the rocking chairs for the private meeting for three. His mother took off her apron and spoke:
“Sue, now that you’re engaged to Jim, you’re gonna be one of us and we take that very seriously. Well, we jest want ya to know that Daddy went down to the Mill Street Cemetery this week and bought you a plot. Now don’t worry, you don’t have to thank us. Of course, you’ll wanna be right next to Jim. Jim’s right caddy-corner to Uncle George. Oh, you’d have loved Uncle George. Great sense of humor. Best barber in the county. Died a few years ago and it nearly killed Aunt Louise. But she’s still kickin’. You met her tonight ... red and gray hair, brought the big green Tupperware® of horribly dry potato salad. Anyway, you and Aunt Louise, well, you’ll get along just fine which is a good thing ’cause she’ll be the one to your bottom left.”
Sue was silent. Of all the things she thought Jim’s parents might want to discuss, the geographical location of her final resting place wasn’t even on her radar. She stammered and stuttered and finally spoke, “Well, uh, thanks. I mean, I guess. Well, actually, I’d never thought much about where I’d be buried, but clearly, you have thought a lot about it. I guess I could talk to my parents about it.”
That’s when they went in for the kill: “Now Honey, ALL the Smiths are buried in the Mill Street Cemetery. I mean, if you’re gonna marry into this family, you’re gonna wanna be with us, right? I mean, it’s only fittin’ for a woman to wanna be buried with her husband, right? And Jim, well, he’s for sure gonna be right there next to Uncle George. Ain’t really much need discussin’ that.”
Sue sat silently staring at the purple petunias by the porch steps. She had known her future in-laws for only two hours and they were already burying her down at the Mill Street Cemetery.
As for me, I have nothing to say in defense of Jim’s parents. Their method was lacking, to say the least. My family walked through a local cemetery last week. Reading the tombstones made me stop and think about how I want to invest my own life. As for Sue, my recommendation would be simple. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. Love Jim with every ounce of your being. And in the end, let them bury you where they please. A life well-lived.
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 6.17.09