Saturday, September 8, 2007

One Helluva Story

This week, the HFC girls all went to see Linda Armstrong Kelly, Lance Armstrong's mother, speak. Great speaker, amazing life story of hope and courage. As we were sitting at our table, several other business women joined us. A few were from different banks, and one was from a funeral home. Not just any funeral home, but the funeral home where Allie is buried. She asked us about our organization and what we do. She got very animated and proceeded to excitedly tell us how she would love to meet with us and tell us about the services they provide for families whose children have passed. Larissa, sensing the muscles tensing in my body, leaned in to me and said, "don't say anything--not the time." I sat, seething, as I listened to the woman babble on and on about the "utmost compassion and excellence" given to families at their funeral home, all the while wanting to scream at the lady.



Now, you might not understand why I was so upset to hear about compassion and excellence from this funeral home, but you will understand when I share the following story. I've never blogged about this story, but I promise by the end, you will probably be seething too. It's going to be a long one, but here goes.....



On Tuesday September 14, 2004, Andrew and I walked into the funeral home (to remain nameless) less than eleven hours after the death of our only child. We were joined by my mom, her boyfriend, my brother, his mom and stepdad, and his dad and stepmom. More than a week prior to her death, we had more than one person in the family call to inquire about Allie's burial in relation to my father. We wanted Allie to be buried with my father. Not near my father but WITH him in the same plot. No problem, our family member was told. We were given a price and instructions on what to do when the child passed. This provided my family comfort and peace in the final days of Allie's life, kwowing that she would rest with my father.



So it was a shock to us that Tuesday morning as we sat sleep deprieved and grief stricken when the woman says to us, "Um, yeah, you wanted her to be buried with Gary Larson???" My dad is Jerry Lawson. "Um, well, that area of the cemetary doesn't allow for double dipping." Double Dipping?!? Did she say "double dipping" to refer to the burial of my daughter and my father?!? Oh yes, she did, and she used that term several times that day. So, while I had remained composed to that point, I lost it when I realized that the one thing that comforted me during the death of my daughter was no longer as reality. My daughter would be buried--alone. The woman assures my family that there were plots available near my father and near the tree he is buried under. So, we agreed to go out and look at availability.



It was the first time in four years that I had visited my dad's grave. I went once after he died and had nightmares for over a month about his passing (that's a whole other story though). So, we went out and saw one available plot. In passing, she told us there were two plots up against the retaining wall in the corner that were also available but made it clear that they weren't very good spots. We found one on the other side of the tree and headed back to the funeral home to make final arrangments. One phone call, she said, and we would have it all set. Moments later, she returned to the room to say, "Oh, I am so sorry, but that plot was actually reserved yesterday." Oh, but she had another available that would work--still close to the same area. Would we like to see it? We asked her to check on whatever first, have it staked and we would drive out there without her. She steps out of the room to make another call so we are told. "Oh, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this plot was sold this morning." WTF?? Are you kidding? At this point, we've been there for hours and if you include the plot with my father, we've been through three plots and still nothing for Allie. No one has eaten, we're supposed to go to the church for the memorial service planning, and we're all frustrated. The next option was no longer under the tree or even that near the tree, but up against the sidewalk. The same process of making a phone call followed. Oh yeah, you probably know what was said next. In she walks saying, "Well..." Jane, Andrew's stepmom, fuming says, "We don't to hear any excuses. is it available or not?" "Well, you know how I told you it was up against the sidewalk?? I read the site map wrong. It actually IS the sidewalk." This freaking lady tried to sell us CEMENT!!! Furious, the family asked her to step out of the room. When she returned, we told her that we would be leaving for a lunch break but when we returned we wanted to have this issue resolved and expected to meet with people higher up than her.



A ranting lunch where we all voiced our anger and frustation followed. Our parents asked us how involved they wanted us to be and how much they could say. Appreciative of their support and feeling overwhelmed, Andrew and I welcomed their thoughts. As we were heading back to the cementary, we appointed Jim, Andrew's stepdad as our family spokesman. Two men in suits were waiting for us as we walked back in. Jim told them our morning's frustrations and how we wanted to have an immediate resolution. He told them of our dissatisfaction of having been told that Allie could be with my dad only to have that shattered on the day we arrive. Their solution was to offer to move my dad to another location of the cementary specially designed lawn crypts (the technical term for "double dipping")



The idea of moving my dad made me queasy. My brother and I said no right away, but my mother said we should consider it. So, for the second time, we loaded up in the car and headed out to see the site. It was awful. Right up against the highway, shady apartments across the street, no pretty trees or babbling brook across the way (as it is by my dad). Not right for two of my loved ones. Not right at all. I turned to the lady and told her that I wanted to be taken back immediately to where my father was and shown each and every available plot in the vincity. Ok, she tells me, if I will just load up in the car with her, she'll take me. Hell no. I'm walking. I wasn't going anywhere with her! So, Jim, Andrew and I decide to walk as the others ride to meet us over there. Of course, it begins to rain on us a bit. I'm losing it, crying that all I want to do is bury my daughter!



We're met out by my dad's grave with the two suits, the awful lady, and the groundskeeper. On the other side of the sidewalk, far away from the tree and my dad, there are three available plots. Exhausted, we say yes and stand around for a minute. Jim calls me over to show me a plot (in the same area!!) of a mother and her baby in the same plot (oh yes, they double dipped!). As were talking, I turned around to see people marking off all three plots. "Excuse me" I said, with all our family members turning their attentions in our direction,"what are you doing?" "Oh," says the stupid lady, "we're marking off these three plots." "WHY?" "Well, for you, your husband and your daughter." What?? And that is when I lost it. I proceeded to scream--"What part of this do you NOT understand??? I need ONE plot for my daughter who DIED last night!! Get me a plot for my daughter!!" (Think Shirly MacClaine "Terms of Endearment" moment).



Just then, Jim calls me over to another location. Remember in the very beginning how there were two plots "in the corner and up against the wall?" Well, Jim found the plots referred to. They were neither up against the wall or in the corner. They were just fine and less than four plots from my dad. They just didn't want us to get that because there weren't three available for me and Andrew to purchase for ourselves as well.



So, seven hours and six plots later, we select a location for our beautiful daughter's burial.



How's that for the utmost compassion?



Not to mention that during the entire funeral service Andrew and Jim watched the casket like hawks as they worried that any minute it would tip over from the wobbly stand she was placed on.



How's that for excellence?

25 comments:

Erin said...

oh my lord I can't believe the experience you went through. Did you ever end up telling the woman what she did and that you wanted nothing to do with her funeral home because I so would have after that experience. I am so sad that you had to go through that. Thinking of you as always!

royallyamess said...

What a horrible, heartwrenching experience. Thinking about you and your family, especially in this difficult month.

Emily Gore said...

Jenny...

My mouth had hung open for the last 5 minutes. I can not believe these people. Compassion my ass!! How aweful of them! I know if it werent for you dad being there you would have gone elsewhere... My God! I am so so sorry that this was such an aweful experience ontop of such a heart wrenching time in your lives... You continue and will always be in my prayers. I will be sending up balloons again on Allie's anniv and birthday as I have every year since she flew. God bless and all my love to you, Andrew, Maggie and your whole family. *hugs*

H'mama said...

Oh I would have probably done the same thing to her as you did. This second meeting you had with her, thank goodness Larissa was there to help you stay calm.

Donna said...

Jenny, I cannot imagine how awful those people made an already heartbreaking day! You are a saint for not bashing that woman over the head.

Watty said...

Oh...MY....GOODNESS!!! WTH?? You're alot nicer than I'd have been...how dare she try to sell her crappy funeral home while you're trying to go out for a while! That's HORRIBLE!!! I might've started a conversation with the group around me about the horrible experience they provided to make sure they DIDNT get any more business. (because I'm evil! LOL)

Tracey Robinson said...

Oh Jenny, I didn't know that story.

Frankly, you're a lot more gracious than me (wait, is that supposed to shock anyone?) I'd be calling that funeral home out on here for the world to know about. Amazing they've stayed in business.

Hugs to you girl. See you in just a few days.

Renee said...

Well my personal opinion is that Mrs. Armstrong should have known this and perhaps she would have changed her tune on this funeral home. Unreal is all I can say and think while reading this. Yes utmost compassion and great excellence for trying to make a buck on 3 plots instead of the ONE you requested! I'm glad to hear that you finally found a plot next to grandpa! What an ordeal to have to deal with after all that you had been thru! Simply amazing.

Renee

Heather said...

I am appauled by this funeral home's lack of professionalism and concern for a family who was deeply grieving the loss of their only child. I personally think you SHOULD disclose the name, because maybe it would save someone else the heartache you guys went through..Just a thought...Maybe you can't disclose for legal reasons. RIP sweet Allie and Jerry.

Krista said...

Holy Cow!! I'm speechless and my jaw is on the floor. Hopefully you were able to slip some exlax in her beverage while she was at your table.

sarahybethy said...

Awful!

Seriously!

UGH!!

Leslie said...

I'm so so sorry Jenny. What an absolutely awful experience. That nasty vile woman should be fired!

christy said...

Unbelievable. Seriously. I don't know how you maintained your composure on 9/14/04 or this week at the table with the this woman.

Emily said...

Okay, I just tried to post a comment and am unsure whether it will post or not, so here we go again...

First, I just have to say that funeral homes suck! There is no nicer way to put it. At best, they can attempt to be careful with their words, respectful of your broken heart, and all that jazz. At worst, they're the people you dealt with! As if dealing with losing your daughter weren't enough to carry that day. Ugh.

By the way, I'm Emily and I've been reading your words since before Allie passed away. I signed in a few times on your other site and feel obligated to do so here, as it bothers me to no end when people take the time to read my personal thoughts and look at pictures my sweet child who has now left me for Heaven, too, and don't tell me.

My third baby girl, Miller Grace, spent five days, eight hours, and forty eight minutes with us. It has been less than eleven weeks since I held her last, so the memory dealing with funeral details is fresh in my mind. Her birthday and the day she died fall in the same week as our wedding anniversary, so yeah I know about these dates... and I'm just learning. But you can count on me lifting you up and thinking of you each day in September.

Thanks for your heart and your honesty and for sharing both of your precious daughters. In doing so, you bless hearts you may never know.

Emily
www.caringbridge.org/visit/millergracecassetty

Dana said...

That is horrible, what a terrible place. I can feel your anger and sadness through your words. Compassion my left foot. I'm sorry you had to deal with that.

Mama of 2 P's in a Pod said...

You are a very strong woman, and this story is just another testimony of that! Compassion doesn't seem to be a word they use there, maybe they should double-dip into a class on how to help parents through the worst moment of their life!

Jennifer said...

Oh Jenny, that is just horrible! I agree that you should share the name of the funeral home, if just to save another grieving parent the misery of dealing with their inadequatedness.

Thinking of you all this week.

LaDeeda Photography said...

Blogger (or me) just erased my long comment. I cannot believe that you had to experience that! It is incredible how cold-hearted one can be! I'm so sorry!

Thinking of you guys always, but especially this week.

Lots of hugs being sent your way!
dehlia

Queen In My House of Blue said...

Wow!! I think I just sat in shock for the entire time I read and re read this!! I can not BELIEVE that they treated you this way during such a time!!!!!!!!!! That is crazy!!!!!!
Been thinking of you this week... trying to do some really fun things with my boys in honor of beautiful Allie!!

speckledpup said...

as a minister's daughter I have been with the family many many times while making arrangements. I would love to tell you that this was an isolated incident....confined to texas....however, no.
so sorry for your experience.

Adrianne said...

After all you had gone through, how could that woman be so heartless. I am awed that you sat at that dinner and bit your tongue, you had every right to tell the table your true thoughts!

3fishies said...

I remember you telling me this story the first time we had lunch. I also remember when you called me one day because you got stuck at the stoplight near that place....and oh my God, Jenny!! I am SO SORRY you had to relive that day during this most difficult week.

I am saving up huge hugs for you on Saturday!

Love,
Jill

Tina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Horses4Me said...

Oh how awful! You have LOTS more composure than I do. I think I would have blessed that woman out.

Thinking of you and sending prayers!

Pregnancy.org is also remembering Allie.

Janice

Jennifer said...

The hair literally stood up on my arms when I read this...I didn't post right away (when you first posted this) mainly b/c I didn't have a google password and didn't have time since I was at work...but I had to reply to this. What a horrible experience -one that no grieving family member should have to bear witness to - EVER! Funeral homes are supposed to make the transition easier, not add to the grief already there. Big, big hugs to you - I'm so sorry you had to go through that. And big kudos for you holding your tongue - I don't know that I would have been able to sit there that long and be quiet.