My brother flew out to my mom's place in Washington state and started going through all of her papers. After a few days when he had turned up nothing, we decided that we'd just go ahead with funeral arrangements here in Denver.
Since the circumstances of her passing pretty much mandated cremation, we'd had that done, and now just had to figure out where to hold services and whether to inter the remains, scatter the ashes, or what.
I was all about scattering - returning her to the earth from whence we came and all that, but my brother really wanted a place where he could visit and lay flowers. So finally I came up with a good compromise - a little cemetery just outside of town in a rustic location with a beautiful view. They have a "scattering garden" where you can scatter cremated remains and then have her name and information engraved on a plaque nearby.
It was even within the same network as the funeral home in the neighborhood that we grew up in where she'd purchased the pre-paid funeral plan, so everything could be transferred there.
Plus, a dear friend of hers lives nearby and volunteered to host a reception following the service. Everything was falling into place, so I made all the arrangements and had an appointment to go sign the papers and everything the next day.
Figuring everything was set, I went out to a party with some friends. When I got home late, there was a message on the machine from my brother saying, "Wait, I just uncovered a file with all of her funeral pre-planning stuff! Turns out she did own a cemetery plot. Call me tomorrow and I'll fill you in."
So, all night I'm tossing and turning wondering where this plot could be, and what kind of a wrench this is gonna throw into things. There were people coming from out of town who had already made travel plans, and I'd put a week into figuring out all of the details. I mean, she's already been cremated. Can you inter cremated remains in a burial plot? My mind was reeling.
Please... I thought, please let it be in Denver. That would have made the most sense since she was living in Denver when the funeral arrangements were made. But we'd checked every cemetery in the area, and turned up nothing. But where else could it possibly be? We'd checked cemeteries in Washington state, and every city up and down the east coast where she'd lived over the past 30 years and turned up nothing.
Finally, morning came and I called my brother to get the answer. Are you ready for this? Turns out the plot's located in.... drum roll please...
Salt Lake City, Utah!
Huh? Now, my mother's mother was from Salt Lake, but the family hasn't lived there for generations. I was sure we had some Mormon ancestors in the area, but to my knowledge the LDS church wasn't something that my mother ever identified with. Why on earth would she want to be buried there?
Soooo... now what? My brother said that there were also written plans saying she wanted the services to be held in Denver, but then wanted to be shipped to Salt Lake and interred there. He even had an address where she wanted the services to be held.
So he reads me the address, and then there's a long pause. Isn't that... we both say in unison, where the Villa Italia shopping mall used to be? Now, mom loved to shop, but seriously? She wanted her services held at a shopping mall?
"No wait!" I said, the shopping mall is on South XYZ Boulevard, this address is on North XYZ (the neighborhood we grew up in was right on the dividing line where the addresses shift from north to south, a source of endless mail delivery problems during my youth.)
So I go look at Mapquest to see what's at that spot, and it wasn't much better... it's a WalMart parking lot!
But wait... these plans were made 30 years ago, and the WalMart wasn't built yet. Maybe there used to be a church there or something. So we're both racking our brains.
I had a paper route right across the street from that address and I sure as heck didn't remember there being a church there. Then all of a sudden it hits us both. "It was Peterson's Turkey Farm!"
OK, now my mother had an offbeat and bizarre sense of humor. She delighted in playing practical jokes like feeding us dog food or sending us off to school with cardboard sandwiches on April Fool's Day, but really? She's gonna leave us final instructions to hold her funeral at a turkey farm and then be laid to rest among her Mormon ancestors?
I have nothing against Mormons, mind you, it just all seemed a bit strange and improbable. I mean, this is the woman who told me that God and Santa Clause were equivalent concepts, and regularly hauled me off to consult with her psychic and have my tarot cards read.
And I know she was an animal lover but, a turkey farm? Seriously? By now the gears in my brain were starting to send off some serious smoke.
My brother said there was more, but he was late to an appointment with the probate lawyer and didn't have time to paw through it all, so he sent me the folder via overnight mail, and I got to spend yet another sleepless night wondering what in God's name my mother could have been thinking.
Was she some sort of a closet Mormon? Was she having a secret love affair with old man Peterson? Did she have a turkey fetish? Was it all just a cruel joke?
Well, to make a long story short, it turns out that she inherited the plot. Apparently her mother's family weren't just Mormons, they were Mormon Pioneers - these were the folks who made the overland journey with Brigham Young himself and pretty much founded Salt Lake City.
Turns out there's an entire section of the Salt Lake City cemetery reserved for her family, and only people within the direct bloodline can be buried there. It goes back about 5 generations. My guess is that her desire to be interred there had more to do with her love of family history than it did with any connection to the Mormon faith.
As for the turkey farm, turns out my brother couldn't read Mom's handwriting. What he thought was an 8 was actually an ampersand, and the address she provided was the location of the funeral home where she'd made the arrangements.
While the idea of her being a turkey-loving closet Mormon in love with old man Peterson is certainly more... um... colorful, this makes a heckuva lot more sense.
The folks at the cemetery have been very understanding, and even hooked me up with a funeral home in Salt Lake to handle the interment. So we're going ahead with the service as planned, and then they'll just ship the remains out there and the urn can be interred in the family plot.
Now I get to have the joy of coordinating all of this with no less than three funeral homes - the one out in Washington where her remains are, the one in Denver where we're holding the service, and the one in Salt Lake where she'll be interred.
I guess I have to look at it this way - Mom loved to travel and loved a good joke, so I guess even in death she'll get to fly all over the country, and she certainly got the last laugh!