With its white stucco exterior, red tile roof, and expansive green lawns behind it, the entrance building of All Souls Cemetery and Mortuary in Long Beach might easily be mistaken for a golf course clubhouse.
After all, a golf cart was grounds supervisor David Morales’ mode of transportation for taking a ride around the cemetery’s 47 acres on a recent September morning.
“There’s a sacredness about working here,” observed Morales. “It’s like an honor and ministry. I feel like I’m serving my community, serving the families. It’s not like a regular job — 100 percent.”
Helping families bury a relative is part of the 48-year-old’s job description. He tries not to stick out while standing in the back during graveside services. But his work clothes, a blue shirt with his name stitched on the front and darker pants, usually give him away.
When it’s over, he or another worker climbs up on a yellow backhoe to cover the casket with dirt unearthed earlier and then packs it back down. When he steps down from the vehicle, he sometimes gets a chance to console a lingering member of the family….
“It’s not like digging a hole, right?” Morales said as he steered the golf cart with one hand while motioning with the other. “No, to me it’s very important to be respectful….
But the main task he does is digging graves, 4 feet down for a single interment, 7 1/2 for a double. The standard width is 40 inches for both, however, because with a two-body internment, one is stacked on the other. Depending on the soil, it usually takes a team 30 to 45 minutes to dig a grave….
Often, accidental deaths bring up the question of a public or private viewing.
When a body comes in with severe trauma, workers at the care center do a head-to-toe assessment of its condition. A report is written up for the funeral counselor before he or she meets with the family. Sometimes it reads, “Viewing not recommended.” But if the family is adamant about seeing the deceased one last time, they must sign a waiver.
“We do everything we can to try to make them look the best we can,” she said.
“Sometimes we’ll just have the hands showing. If there’s nothing we can do, the family can come in and hold their hand. What I recommend and tell counselors is that perhaps you have one chosen family member to go in and see them first. And they make the determination whether the rest of the family should view.”
The above comes from an Oct. 24 story in Angelus News.