Chapter 13, Go to the Cemetery Office–now!
Monday, August 25, we started making arrangements for the funeral, which was to be held on Saturday August 30, 2014.
While I was at the mortuary, the family was at the cemetery. Scott had gone to the Alpine City Cemetery sexton’s office to get a map of available gravesites. The only sites on the map he was given were in a newer section of the cemetery. When I arrived, the family was pretty discouraged with what was available. Scott mentioned that the previous sexton had retired two months ago and that it was the new sexton’s first day on the job. The person who had been handling cemetery matters since the sexton had retired was not in the office that morning. We decided to check on Tuesday to see if other plots were available.
Katie's Journal August 28, 2014
Today was the day that Clint and the boys flew in to town. Calli and I headed to the airport to pick them up. It was good to see them. On the drive home from the airport I had the thought that I needed to go to city hall. Calli had the same thought. Hours later I was downstairs with Clint playing with the boys when I heard clearly in my mind, “Go to the cemetery office now!”
When I walked into the sexton’s office, there were two ladies in the room. One of them was sitting at a computer with a glazed look on her face. The other was leaning over her, appearing to be instructing her.
I said, “My brother Scott came in here yesterday and got a plot map. I’m wondering if there is anything else available. We need a raised headstone plot.”
The “other person” in the room started looking on the computer and printed me a different map than we had been given the day before. She circled a few areas on the map and said, “We have one here, and a few here” and handed me the map. The new sexton replied, “I didn’t know anything about those.”
I could tell by looking at the Google Maps image of the cemetery that those plots were going to be perfect! I got the needed information, jumped into the car, called Kurt, and said, “Meet me at the cemetery!” Kurt and Joel came up together, and we found the perfect place to lay my mother to rest. It is in the older part of the cemetery, next to scrub oak (which my mother loved) and right next to where the paved road turns to dirt. It was where my mom would always walk her dogs
Lorna would park at the military monuments, then head north past a secluded peaceful section of the cemetery. She is buried there, in that peaceful, secluded section located in the very northeast corner of the Alpine City Cemetery.
Who was the other person in the sexton’s office that day? Analisa Beck, the sexton of twenty years, who had retired two months earlier. She was on her way to Lake Powell for Labor Day weekend and just happened to stop in to see if the new sexton had any questions. The map she gave Katie—which the new sexton knew nothing about—was of cemetery plot buybacks, plots sold back to the city by patrons who owned them but they were never going to use them.
Katie's Journal Continued
Today was the day we went to the mortuary to do Moms hair and makeup. Well, I lack those skills and Calli does better than me, but neither one of us felt confident enough so we invited Calli’s sister-in law Chelsea Lewis Jackson and mother- in law Debbie Lewis to join us. My brother’s wife, Eliza, was also with us. Chelsea does hair and makeup and has done Moms’hair on several occasions.
This would be the first time to see my mother since the hospital. To say I wasn’t nervous would be a lie. As we walked into the room, I began to cry. The tears didn’t last long, and it ended up being a sweet experience. I was grateful that Chelsea, Debbie and Eliza were there with us. Chelsea was able to get her hair looking awesome and change the blue, old-lady eyeshadow to brown.
Chelsea Lewis Jackson , Family Friend
When Calli asked me to do Lorna’s hair, my first reaction was “of course, Lorna has shown me so much love over the years, and I know how the woman likes her hair!”
Right after I got off the phone, all of the fears started to set in; how am I going to do this? I wasn’t even able to touch my brother who passed away a year ago? So, as I was in my car on my way to the mortuary I said, “Look, Lorna, you know I love you, and you have been there for me like a mother, but if you think I’m going to be able to do this on my own you’re wrong. I need help. I need you and you have to be with me every second of the way. If you leave for even a second, I’m out.
As I walked into the mortuary, I knew Lorna was with me. She was guiding me and calming my worries. She was guiding me on how she wanted her hair and makeup to look. Even touching up her lashes! I kept hearing her “no, a little more in my face. Perfect. Now, could we do something about the color they put on my eyelids.”
I kept saying these things out loud to Calli, Katie, Eliza and my mom, Debbie. And we were actually laughing. A real laugh, full of love for the beautiful life Lorna had lived and the one she now lives,– realizing that she wasn’t gone, just changed! I’m so thankful for the sweet lesson she gave me that day. She wasn’t in her body but she wasn’t gone. She was “her,” and she would help me anytime I called on her! “I love you Lorna. Thank you!”
From a very good friend who has asked that his name not be used because his experience is so personally sacred.
Following my mother’s passing, I joined my two sisters and brother at the mortuary to help prepare Mom’s body for her funeral. During this sacred time, my brother and I were mostly observers. I watched as my sisters tenderly worked to clothe her, fix her hair and add makeup in a way that would be pleasing to our mom. As I watched, I found myself pondering upon what Mom and Dad were doing on the other side of the veil in preparation for the funeral. I stepped out of the room into the hallway, where my brother was seated, reading a magazine. We were in the downstairs area of the mortuary, where the overall feeling around us was more clinical than spiritual. As I seated myself on the couch where my brother was seated, I sincerely sought, in silent prayer, an understanding to my question. I had absolute confidence that Heavenly Father would provide an answer.
As I did this, I felt a significant shift in the feeling around me. The basement foyer was instantly transformed into a very sacred place, where a peaceful warmth and God’s love filled my entire being. My spiritual eyes were opened, and I could see my father with his arm around my mother. They walked past my brother and me, acknowledging our presence. I stood and followed them into the room where my sisters had just finished preparing Mom’s body for her funeral. I sat down and observed how pleased and grateful my mother was with what her daughters had done. I also felt the tenderness and timeliness with which our Dad was guiding Mom through her funeral experience. After a few minutes, they turned towards me and smiled, then walked out of the room. The feelings surrounding that experience gradually followed them.
I’ve often wondered why I was blessed to witness this event which occurred without any awareness of my siblings. I suspect it was because I was sincerely seeking to understand with the expectation that Heavenly Father would answer my request.
My mother, Marlene Wilkenson Neilson, passed away January 18, 2022.
My dad, brothers, sisters and I looked through many photos to find one that we could use for her obituary and the funeral program. My dad really liked one photo. We chose it for the obituary and the program.
We sent it to the photographer, to be cropped so we could use it.
One of my sisters knows the photographer. She received the following text from him: “So, here’s what happened. As I went to touch up the photo you sent me of your mother, I heard her distinct voice whisper in my ear. “I know you have a better one of me, Scott, so let’s find one.” I opened up your family portrait folders, searched through them, and found your mom and dad’s 50th Wedding Anniversary photo that I had taken. Then the recollection came back to me that your mom was very peculiar about the touch-ups I made to her and her hair. That being said, I proceeded to photoshop your dad out of the picture and cropped it to the one I’m sending back for you to view. Now, if you don’t believe that your mom had anything to do with this, she told me to tell you; ‘If they don’t use this picture for my obituary, I’m going to haunt them” Sorry, I’m just the delivery boy.’
When my sister read us the text, we were not quite convinced. We thought that maybe the photographer was overstepping his bounds. One of my brothers especially didn’t believe the photographer when he said he had “gotten that message from Mom”
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, he’s asking, “Who sent this picture of mom to me?” He said it was literally eerie how the photo Mom wanted used popped up on his computer screen.
A short time later, as we were still making funeral plans, I remembered a children’s book Mom had bought at Deseret Book about death, that she wanted read to her grandchildren . I went to get it and gave it to my brother. When he opened it, there was that picture again! She was letting her will be known. We all just looked at each other; there was no denying it.
We all went together to the mortuary to do Mom’s hair and makeup. One of my brothers even applied some eyeshadow, and she looked beautiful. We could feel that she was pleased.
Side note: [Traci] My mom had been with her dad, and then her mom, when they passed away. She told me stories of how in their final days and hours they would see family members and loved ones who had passed away. Because of her sharing those things with me, I was not surprised when she started to have the same experiences.
My mom looked at the closet and said; “Hi, you cutie!” She told me, “My daddy held my fingers,” and most fun of all, “Come here, Daisy!” You can’t tell me that dogs don’t go to heaven.