Death While Driving

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By Cate Drew

I thought about death this weekend during my weekly house-cleaning. As I was whipping out the Fantastik and the toilet bowl brush, my 15 year old daughter happened to stroll by. “Hey, Claire. Come over here. I’m going to teach you how to clean a toilet, in case I get hit by a bus tomorrow. Then at least someone in this house will know how to properly clean the bowl.” We all have a bus out there with our name on it, after all, so I started to think about death and my brushes (get it?) with the hereafter.

The first came when I was editor of a local newspaper, and the police chief called to ask me to go to a burial. A re-burial, actually. A group of local teens had partied in a mausoleum and took one guy out of his coffin – or half of him, since his legs snapped off when they picked him up – drove him to the beach. They left him ‘standing’ in a phone booth.

More recently, my dad had a reburial, too, compliments of my mother.

Pa was an airline pilot who never thought he’d die – a good trait in a pilot – and he was also a pathological optimist, so he was sure he’d never die. Of course, he did, and we scrambled to buy a plot, a headstone, a casket, the whole shebang. And with tears in our eyes (hell, he had also convinced us he’d never kick), we buried him on a cold November day.

When we bought the plot, it was in the middle of pretty populated section of the cemetery, and we had to walk over a few graves to visit dear old Pa. My mom didn’t like walking over people, she said, and pointed out that my grandfather was in the same cemetery, but his grave was near the road, so she could just drive up, put the car in Park, and visit. Gosh, wouldn’t it be great to do the same with her husband?

So six months after Pa died, my mother called us all to say she was having him moved. Bigger plot, nicer stone and curbside. No need to get out of the car! How convenient.

She also keeps pitching the plot to all of us, since there are four resting places – and so that means two are up for grabs after she goes (my mother is no optimist).

I don’t have the heart to tell her a third spot is already taken. When he was 5, our son Ben adopted a small toad as a pet, but unfortunately bedded him down for the night in a plastic bag. Suffocation ensues, dawn breaks, dead toad. So we jumped in the car with Toady (what else?) and a spoon, and dug a very shallow grave near Pa.

The alternative? Flushing old Toady down the toilet and hell, I had just cleaned the damn thing.

About Cate Drew

I’m on the high side of 40, with three dogs, two teens and one husband, living in a small New England town in a house that’s never quiet. Ever. It’s not that I have a really colorful life – I just tend to write colorfully about it. And there’s plenty of material: marriage to the Man of a Thousand Bad Ideas,.. my mom, who moved Dad’s coffin closer to the street six months after he died so she could visit his grave as a kind of drive-up window…our dog posse…our kids…lots of siblings and in-laws, former co-workers, old boyfriends -- they’re all here. Toss in 14 years of Catholic school and you’ve got a lot of guilt, too. Which reminds me: forget “high side of 40.” I’m 51, damnit.

  • Trish Penick

    Wow! This can be one particular of the top blogs I’ve ever read and so great that you cover topics across multiple subjects. Merely Magnificent