Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quick Hit -- The Ghastly, Golden Ticket

So, Burr Oak Cemetery has reopened but only on a very limited basis. I wrote about Burr Oak in July, shortly after the grave reselling scandal broke. I compartmentalized the pain of this scandal, putting it in a little box where I wouldn't have to deal with it until any new developments occurred.

Well, that time is now. The cemetery has reopened on a limited basis, and for admittance, you have to visit their website, type in your dear, departed loved ones' name and print out the information, which includes a picture of the grave and a map to its location.

I did as instructed. Went to the website and started the long process of typing in relatives' names. My Mother, my maternal and paternal grandmothers, my great-grandmother, my great-great grandmother, both of my World War I Veteran uncles, and at least a half-dozen other assorted aunts, uncles and cousins until I just got tired. I printed out all those "tickets" and then, call it my old, newsroom gallows humor, I started humming.

"I've got a golden ticket, I've got a golden chance to make my way..."

Charlie's theme song from "Willy Wonka" spilled into my head. Because, frankly, it seems just a little bit nutty that you have to have a special "ticket" to be admitted to a cemetery where you paid for your loved ones to be buried.

Not only that, you can't drive through the cemetery to the gravesite anymore. You have to go to a transportation site and be bussed there. It all seems a little excessive but considering the extreme level of disrepair, poor record-keeping and overall disorganization, I understand why the safeguards are in place now. I understand that there are improvements to the grounds and that new signage has been erected to make it easier to find gravesites. Sounds lovely.

I originally made plans to go out there today, first day of the reopening, but ultimately decided against it. I think working in media for so long has made me leery of any whiff of public spectacle. I was worried sick for months about the condition of my family members' graves. I'm glad that, with the notable exception of my paternal great-grandfather, my relatives seem to be accounted for.

I'd like to go and see for myself. But I don't want cameras in my face when I do it. I'd like to have a quiet moment out there to examine, reflect, pay my respects -- think...without the spectacle of a prurient public story.

Honestly, I'd like to have the freedom to visit Burr Oak without having to produce a "ticket" -- a ghastly, golden ticket -- for admittance.

Sadly, there will always be a taint over this historic graveyard. Whether it's because of the media attention or the numerous lawsuits, I'm glad that it appears steps are being taken to implement the accountability at this institution that should have been in place years ago. But Burr Oak will never be an easy, or particularly peaceful place to visit -- with or without a "golden ticket" for admittance.

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