Tuesday, July 19, 2011

$25 worth of ‘sorry for your troubles’*

Perhaps it hasn’t quite dawned on me that, despite all those ‘life begins at 50’ Centrum ads, career-wise, I’m probably where I’m gonna be. Instead, I’m always on the lookout for interesting jobs that I could do.

I’ve ruled out some recent jobs that have wended their way on to Pink Slip’s radar. I’ll never be a croquet pro, or someone who grosses up to 700 pounds so that I can peddle videos of myself eating to fat-o-philes . But I actually could be someone who visits cemeteries on behalf of those who can’t make it out to clean mold and bird-crap off of gravestones, pull weeds, dead-head the geraniums, and – I suppose if someone paid me – say a prayer or two. (Do the prayers of atheists count if they’re said for a believer?)

After all, didn’t the Irish use paid keeners to lament at wakes? Surely, looking in on the dead and gone once they’re six-feet under isn’t that far off.

Terry Marotta-Lopriore has Westchester and Putnam Counties in NY State covered, but – especially if I dragooned my cousin Babs (a natural) into the enterprise with me – I could easily mark out as our territory the Boston metro, Worcester, and The Cape.

Marotta-Lopriore doesn’t have any franchising apparatus set up as yet, but Babs and I could figure out a pretty good bill of services, including just plain visiting.

This would be a natural extension of our twice-a-year official cemetery jaunts, and our ad hoc, intermittent, walk arounds. Just recently, after dong the geranium thing for the graves or our parents and grandparents, we decided it was high time we took a look in at Worcester’s Hope Cemetery, the city’s Protestant venue, where famous members of the local WASPorium – like poet Elizabeth Bishop and rocket-scientist Robert Goddard – are buried.

But Marotta-Lopriore beat me to the concept punch, so I’ll talk a bit about her big idea. (Source: NY Times.)

Terry Marotta-Lopriore is a 57-year old paralegal who decided to augment her income by making fee-based cemetery visits. She finds her clients through advertising in local papers; and, better yet, through articles in the likes of The New York Times.  Here’s here ad:

“Continue your signs of love and respect for your loved ones who have passed. If you are unable to visit your loved ones for whatever reason, I can help. Whether you need flowers delivered, prayers said or just a status on the condition of the site, I will visit any Westchester or Putnam County cemetery on your behalf. Proof of my visit will be either e-mailed or sent to you through the mail.”

This does seem like a rather odd thing to out-source, but, if you’re buried in your work or life in general, well, why not hire someone to police the ground for you. I’ve hired someone to power-clean my parents’ gravestone. Flowers delivered, prayers said – just logical product line extensions.


… charges $25 to visit a Westchester cemetery and $35 for the longer trips to Putnam County, said, “Some people might look at visiting cemeteries as creepy or morbid, but those are people who are capable of visiting their loved ones.”

Not I! Cemeteries are a fact of life, errrr, fact of death. Or whatever. I do know that the dead, they will always be with us, and it is the one and only thing that – Baby Boomer fantasies about immortality aside – we’re all guaranteed out of life: one way or another, sooner or later, the time will come when we are all out of life.

“But what about the people who are too old or too busy to go and pay their respects?” she asked. “What about the people who have moved out of state?”

Yea, how about those out-of-staters?

Certainly, there are plenty of them with dead-skis at St. Josheph’s Cemetery in Cherry Valley, Massachusetts. That would account for the fact that so many of the gravestones are at a tilt caused by the fact that the cemetery was built on a spring-fed hill. The tipsy-turvy gravestones are the responsibility of the decedents, not the parish- as I learned when I called the rectory to report that a goodly proportion of the gravestones seemed to be slip sliding away. Fortunately, our gravestones – and that includes those of my sister Margaret, my great-grandparents, Matthew and Bridget Trainor, my parents, and grandmother  - are on (or less) solid ground. Or at least maintaining, for now, their 90 degree upright positions.

So, I’m a natural for outsourced cemetery visitor. (Bring out your dead!)

I can think of a number of other features and capabilities that help extend this sort of business. How about offering YouTubes? Or real-time virtual visits, in which you prayed with the living loved one via smart phone or telepresence. (Cisco, take heed!)From an operational point of view, you should probably try to bunch up your visits to specific cemeteries. Maybe you shouldn’t offer two-fers, but, what the heck, if you can log a couple of visits on one jaunt, more power to you.

I always wonder where people get their professional inspiration from. Was there something or someone that suggested the idea from them, or did it spring full-blown from the head of Medusa.?Mrs. Marotta-Lopriore credits her father with the idea for her new venture.

“I was visiting him last month and he told me, ‘Terry, you’re always at the cemetery; why don’t you make a little money from all of this?’ ”

Her father, Carmine Marotta, died six and a half years ago.


I have to say that, as of today, I have not received one single career suggestion from my father. And that’s over the course of 40 years. (Love ya, Dad, but thanks for nothing.) I suspect that my cousin Babs has gotten the same zilch/nothing/nada from her father since he died in 1974.

Still, they were both business men, so I think they’d be hunky-dory with the notion that their daughters were in the cemetery visitation biz.

Consider our shingle’s hung out.

Cemetery visits by Barbara and Maureen.

Just give us a holler if you want someone to look in 0n your loved one. We’re probably there, anyway.

And a doff of the shroud to Rick T, my brother-in-law and a supremely excellent source of blog fodder.

*Unfamiliar with the term ‘sorry for your troubles’? It’s what the Irish used to say at wakes. The first time I went to a wake solo – I was 11 years old – my father told me to take the widow’s hand and say ‘sorry for your troubles.’ That the widow in this instance was Italian, not Irish, appeared to matter not. Anyway, I partnered up with a classmate, Mary Agnes, to go in together and take care of business at O’Connor Brothers Funeral Parlor (where, a decade later, people would be taking my hand and saying ‘sorry for your troubles’ about my father’s death.) I’m sure that Mary Agnes’ father – another Main South Irishman – would have told her the same thing, but she wasn’t haven’t any. Mary A cowered behind me, and I got stuck both holding the widow’s hand and mumbling the bit about being sorry for her troubles.

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