The Cancer Diaries: Road Trip

While the birds were flying south and folks were getting their last tans yesterday, I was taking a drive in the country with Jennette to one of her favorite spots - the funeral home and cemetery -- to visit her dad, mum and Roger.

Capital Gardens actually could be mistaken for a golf course, with its rolling greens; it's not until you get up close that you see all the benches and memorials topped by real and imitation shrubbery depending on which plan each resident picked for their final resting place.

It's a nice spot for a picnic, not at all creepy like the cemeteries of yore.

It's like a park that you're planted in.

We took this ride to finalize Jennette's funeral, which she actually started paying for after Roger died more than three years ago. She wanted to check her balance, and add on a few smaller details so that when her time eventually comes, she's off to the races.

I was with her way back when, meeting with Randy, the cemetery sales guy. He's become a friend to Jennette in recent years, and he's always up for a little coffee and TLC for one of his favorite clients.

Jennette is one of those frequent flyers at Capital Memorial. She buried her husband and her dad in rapid succession, in between bouts of mouth cancer. She's been there so many times, she can rhyme off the numbers on the pickle trays.

And she's a bit sweet on Randy, who is a teddy bear of a guy with a permanent tan from riding around on the golf cart he uses to squire widows back and forth to the resting places of their husbands.

We met him on the day after Roger took his final journey on Jennette's dime. Even though we loved Roger, in our way, we both were a little resentful that he had secretly pulled his pension when Jennette was posted to Washington for her job, and hadn't worked since Jesus was a glint in God's eye.

Even though we knew Roger was for the high jump, we were both a little shocked when he actually passed. Scott lost the bet that Roger would outlive Gordie, the Jurassic pug. And we were still reeling from the whole death at home scenario, with cops, coroners and the meat wagon.

Funerals are always weird and people do the weirdest things. During our meeting with the young funeral director, for example, I found it strange that Jennette asked her to check Roger's pocket because she thought he had a twenty. Nope! He'd spent it before he took his last supper of pate, crackers and opioids. A scallywag to the end.

We met Randy when Jennette decided to prepay her funeral a week or so after Roger's planting. She reasoned it made sense because she was now a widow with no children. As per usual, she didn't want to be a bother to anyone.

So for three years, she's been coughing up payments, and now she was getting ready to cash in.

Randy had no idea that Jennette's cancer had returned. It was only when he saw the bandage on her chin that he knew something was up. And so we spent one of the last glorious days of the season signing papers and deciding on flower arrangements.

She picked red carnations that she thought would go well with the urn she'd chosen, which has a lovely little hummingbird on it. She said she wanted an afternoon service, because she has never been a morning person.

"Really?" I said. "It's not like you're going to have to get up for it!"

But afternoon, it was. We also had Randy select a minister whom Jennette would meet. This was my suggestion because I've always hated those services conducted by ministers who have never met the deceased. At least I thought, the emcee could get the sense of her. Jennette got that.

"It's such a shame that I won't be there to enjoy it," she said as she nearly made us roadkill on the highway coming back. (She has a heavy foot, and is a very aggressive driver for a person who can barely see over the steering wheel.) "But I wanted to make sure that I got the funeral I wanted and now it's done."

I had suggested to her a Viking funeral up at Geri's cottage, which she declined. Randy said they had a nice pond out back but they might need to get a permit.

In the end, we decided we'd sprinkle a bit of her foot and head into her favorite waters at Lac O'Neil.

"Just make sure the dogs don't get them," she warned, then grinned.

It's nice having Jennette as my person.

Knowing her, when she finally meets the Grim Reaper, she'll ask for a second opinion.


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