On our trip to New Orleans, we decided to do the most cliché touristy thing we could think of: take a city bus tour. The tour was great and long, and I *did* fall asleep at one point but what I’d like to focus on here is the part where we stopped at one of the cemeteries.
I hate to say this, because it sounds weird and a little creepy to admit, but the New Orleans cemeteries are, in a word: Fascinating.
Did you know that there can be dozens of bodies stored in these suckers? Or that a “fresh” body must stay in the tomb for one year and one day before another body is put in there? Apparently there are three layers to these. The top layer is for the most recent occupant. The second layer is where the body in the top spot is moved when a new body arrives. The tombs then get so hot in the Louisiana heat that the bodies are naturally cremated. So, when ANOTHER body comes in, the now ashy remains in the second tier are “given the shaft” so to speak, as their remains are shoved to the back, and fall down a chute to the third layer where they get to rest with all their loved ones. Gothic, but a happy ending in a way.
I may have just disturbed the hell out of anyone reading this, but there was only one thing that really curdled my blood in the cemetery. That was the story of “Old Lady Skelly” as the tour guide called her.
Apparently Old Lady Skelly and her daughter had a volatile relationship. You know, one of those things where the daughter wants to just spend money and make crummy choices and mom wants to cut her off, because as you may be able to tell by the palatial mausoleum, Old Lady Skelly was rolling in the money. During one of the blow-ups the daughter reportedly said something along the lines of, “When you’re dead I’ll have all your cash!” This resulted in Old Lady Skelly pouring all of her funds into the court system to have bodies and tombs relocated so she could have a big enough place to build the grandest tomb she could with the money she had left. She proceeded to build a ridiculous resting place for her immortal soul and for her dog. Oh, then she made it clear that her daughter wouldn’t be able to be laid to rest with her and had to find her own tomb. Ouch.
How sad is that? This woman actually spent her last days on this earth using her money and energy to give the ultimate middle finger to her daughter. How lonely. What a waste.
I thought it strange that like any graveyard back home, this cemetery had made me face mortality but not in the way I expected. Instead of reflecting on how short and tenuous life is, I found myself thinking of how I would like my life to turn out… And I knew that when my life ended, I didn’t want it to end like Old Lady Skelly’s.
We got back on the tour bus, and as I promised at the beginning of this post, I fell sleep somewhere in the middle of passing by some old southern mansions. I woke up to find the man in my life’s hand holding up my head.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“You were asleep and your head started falling… I didn’t want you to wake up since you looked like you needed the sleep.” He said in the most matter-of-fact tone ever. As if every man does something this sweet all the time. Oh, AND he refused to tell me how long he had been holding up my head. Good grief, am I a hot date or what?
To get right down to the point, I’m pretty sure that with people like him in my life? I won’t have to worry about facing the end of my days bitter and lonely, and that’s a blessing worth counting every day.