Content here represents the voice of SIGNATURE SUNSETS, an informational initiative designed to broaden and brighten horizons in the funerary domain.

The material is an outgrowth of a pre-planning reference book, Pondering Leaves: Composing and Conveying Your Life Story's Epilogue, written by the author of this blog.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015


JOURNEY JOURNAL... Hendersonville, Tennessee

WRAPPING IT UP:  The Role of a “Wrapper”

Ambling through the Hendersonville Memorial Gardens, located on Johnny Cash Parkway, led to more than the sighting of the Johnny Cash grave site.  

Quite serendipitously, a congenial vault setter from an eminent vault company appeared on the scene and voluntarily gushed relevant details about celebrity burials there. 
Beyond that topic, though, this worker readily provided a wellspring of details about the role of a vault setter – a job he absolutely loves – and conveyed stories about some of his experiences. 

He had been around, as the saying goes, driving from one regional cemetery to another, from one day to the next, covering many miles of territory each week.  A training program of several months had preceded his full-time absorption in the work several years ago.  On this day he had already prepared a site for an imminent burial.  

The tasks that an individual performs as a graveside operator entail contacts with funeral directors and their staffs, cemetery personnel, and the general public.  So a personable countenance such as this man exhibited is an asset.  The job of setting up a site is physically demanding, requiring a capacity to lift seventy-five or more pounds in order to transport equipment from a truck to the grave and install the vault. 

It isn’t just a matter of positioning the vault so it is ready to receive the casket that will be placed inside it.  

The job description for someone executing this maneuver includes preparation of the overall site, whereby he lays the artificial grass rug, erects a sheltering tent above it, and sets up rows of chairs where guests can repose during the committal service.  He may also pitch in to help funeral directors carry flowers or perform other supplemental duties.  

Naturally, this person is responsible for lowering the casket within its outer burial receptacle into the ground, which is apt to be done once people have left the premises or at least upon conclusion of the service.  

But rather than waiting in the wings for a service to end, detached and disengaged, he remains available throughout the event as an adjunct helper to assure proceedings progress smoothly.  In this capacity, then, he attends to details and functions as part of a team of providers.  

Direct involvement, however, can sometimes pose risks.  An altercation among siblings at a service a couple of years ago attests to that reality.  Emotions are in high gear at funerary events, possibly causing behaviors to be especially erratic.  In this case, sibling sisters were embroiled in battle, with one dragging the other by the hair.  When the vault installer attempted to intervene and separate the women, the victim’s husband swooped in from behind, admonished him for touching his wife, and kicked him in the leg – causing the bone to break. 

Besides behavioral flares, the influences of gang infiltrations as well as the societal drug scourge have incited threats to personal safety at an ever-increasing rate.  Nowadays, separate security training programs are conducted for employees coupled with recognition of a potential need to carry a gun as part of the job.  

On this particular day of sadness, due to the death of a twenty-two-year-old woman whose body would occupy the innermost sanctum within the vault lying in wait, the routine would be automatic for the affable installer.  Prompted by protocol, but also by the heat-induced saturation of his clothing bedecked in dirt, he would change into funeral-appropriate attire before guests arrived.  But unbeknownst to them, underneath the outer coverings, he would be wearing a holster and bearing a weapon… just in case of need.

Before his audience of attentive learners left the scene, he wanted to make sure the grave of another country singer, personally beloved by him, would be visited and admired.  As he spoke of the deceased musician, he cried.  It was obvious from the initial contact to the departing “goodbyes” about half an hour later that this enthusiastic vault employee not only wore his heart on his sleeve, but also invested energy wholeheartedly in his work.  In the future, because of dialogue with this dedicated individual, open graves with vaults in readiness for committal services will serve as a reminder of all that had already gone into them.  _______________________________________________________________________

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