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IN our culture we seldom talk about death.

It’s a topic we consider a taboo in a polite society.

It’s depressing to say the least.

“Mare,” called a friend of ours in one of those sprightly mornings, “I heard you already own a unit in the XYZ Cemetery and Mausoleum.”

“Yes, we do, Mare. Why?” answered my dutiful wife.

“Nothing really,” she said matter-of-factly, “it’s just that we better get ready for that eventuality, you know. So could you help us go to that XYZ place?”

So, on the following week, off we went to the nearby place to help our friends decide for themselves.

A kindly gentleman-cemetarian met us at the office.

What is a cemetarian? you asked.

Well, nowadays there is a term for everything — even for things like end-of-life issues.

The difference between the cemetarian and the funeral director is that the former only deals with the burial place, be it in-ground, crypt or mausoleum, whereas, the latter is concerned mostly with the deceased persons, like caskets, hearse, etc.

First, the gentleman walked us around.

The place itself was on a high ground overlooking the vast expanse of the Hackensack valley.

He showed us the imposing chapel leading into a much bigger church, and then walked us into an alley punctuated by rows and rows of newly built marbled walls divided into 2’ x 2’ squares.

My beautiful wife asked me aside, “How come some are in small squares compared to others?”

I explained to her in a hushed voice.

“I think those small squares are for skinny people, whereas those big ones are for overweight people.”

The gentleman must have heard my explanation that he roared out a thunderous laugh that reverberated around the building.

The guided tour was interrupted by a cell phone call so we let ourselves wandered around the hallways.

“Hey kumare and kumpare,” my wife calling out to them. This is the unit that we bought. That one is for my sister, that one is for my friend Miriam, and that one over there is for so-and so.”

My kumpare, who hates the idea of going to a cemetery, blurted out, “Would it be much cheaper if we just have an in-ground burial outside over there,” pointing at the rolling hills.

“Not a good idea,” I said, “because during winter time in a below zero weather no one would come to visit you. Plus, they might slip in the ice and blame you instead.”

Then, it’s his turn to ask me, “Pare, how about cremation? I heard it’s only a couple of hundred dollars.”

“Not me, Pare, that’s too hot for me. I can’t stand the heat,” I told him.

“Besides, our friends in the other world might think I made a stop-over in a place called Hell before going to heaven.”

But he quickly admonished me, “It doesn’t matter anymore, Pare, you are already dead by then anyway,” he laughed.

“There are people that I know,” I continued, “who donated their bodies to science for medical students and researchers.”

“But you know, Pare ko,” he interrupted me, “science won’t learn anything if you are old and your organs are mostly defective. No good eyes, no good hearing, useless private part, impaired heart, artificial knees and hips, demented brains, etc.”

“Ha ha ha,” we both laughed at our own crazy imagination.

After a while, the cemetarian came back to us.

“Everybody, come here,” motioning to the four of us to come nearer to a spot in the marbled wall, “You see, when it’s time to open this space, the body of the spouse who died first will be entered head-first, and then later on, the next spouse will be feet-first.”

“Oohhh,” we all exclaimed in disbelief.

“Sir, wouldn’t it be nicer if both bodies would be head-to-head together to look more like in a romantic embrace?”

The group just chuckled a bit.

“Okay, let’s go back to the office if you are interested to sign up,” the guy said to our Mare and Pare.

But first, I asked him, “Sir, do you have any Sale or something like Buy One, Take One Free?”

My companions laughed nervously.

The guy just ignored my questions.

But I didn’t give up easily, “Excuse me, Mr. Cemetarian, Do you have a plan similar to Die Now and Pay Later.”

Then he asked me back, “And who will pay if you are already gone?”

“Oh, that’s easy, my children should pay, after all, I fed them a million meals growing up and babysat them, and clothed them and so forth.”

My wife gave me a glaring look and I could read from the pupils of her eyes, “You shut up, fool.”

“And by the way,” the man stopped us before leaving, “For every year that you didn’t use your mausoleum, there is a $100 additional charge, so in 10 years that would accumulate to $1,000.”

“Ouch! OMG! So does that mean we could save money by dying now.”

Everybody laughed.

We were all laughing on the way home from the mausoleum.

Laughter and tears go together as we live out our own lives.

Our grateful remembrance need not be sad or maudlin.

We are grateful for the gift of family and friends that recognize our bonds of love are unbroken by death.

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