I never rest. Not that I don’t want to, but there are so many exhilarating things to do and they outweigh the time allowed so I am always curiously learning new things, promoting charitable causes, rescuing refugees from Africa and then writing stories about it all. Selecting my “burial” site is just one more example.
G. Polly Jordan
One of my favorite relatives was my Great-Grandmother Genevieve Polly Orme who I am named after. I selected her maiden name G. Polly Jordan as my pen name. She is buried at Round Hill Cemetery at the corner of Epler Avenue and Old Meridian Street. I live within walking distance to the cemetery. My friends Mark and Robin Eckel thought this was hilarious because when it came time to be “buried” it would not matter if I had a house or that it was within walking distance of the cemetery. They might have a point, but it seems an important part of the story.
A Lasting Creative Marker
I am not even going to be buried. Dust to dust is just fine with me. But I do want something etched in stone that commemorates I was here. And since no one reads my stories, I thought I should have have some physical marker. I am not getting any younger and I cannot leave this task to my children because I don’t have any. I have lived all aspects of my life creatively from the way I dress, to the way I express myself, in my personality and in my dreams. It is all art. Seems that a lasting monument should have some artistic flare as well.
What’s In a Name?
I have had many names in my life. I was born Polly Jo Perry. I am the daughter of Jack and Sue-Ella Orme Perry. I am sister to Jill Ann Perry Clay. I was married unsuccessfully 2.5 times. There was Warrenfelt, Riddell and ‘Almost’ Tomlinson. Then there is the Storyteller Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan and just when I thought I was done making any life-altering decisions, two African men started calling me mom and gave me a significant tribal name, Mwamikazi and inducted me as the first white woman into the Bushi tribe in DR Congo. I am going to need a really big stone. But the only name I ever really needed was Jesus and of course I will need to write a story about that on the stone.
A “Non-Burial” Spot
I called the number on the sign at Crown Hill Cemetery and inquired about a burial spot for the purpose of a monument (but with no buried body) and alas, there are special spaces reserved for such a request. I asked if there were any height limitations for the stone and told Michael I was working on a piece of art. He said he would welcome my art deco ideas as he was a little tired of the ordinary grave marker! Then the rainy season set in and I waited weeks to meet with the caretaker.
The glorious day finally arrived, May 15, 2019. It was sunny and warm and perfect. I was to meet Michael at 1:00 pm. He was cutting grass when I arrived. I told him I would be in a bronze Subaru with IU emblems on my car as that was my current employer. He was thrilled as he graduated from Indiana University with a degree in marketing. He stopped the mower, removed his earplugs and shook my hand. He opened his briefcase to show me some “burial” plots.
Not so fast Michael, how is it that you became the caretaker of Crown Hill? He sat back down on the mower and with a wistful look said, “It was 1978 and Jimmy Carter was in office, we had the worst economy and jobs were scarce. I actually turned one down and my father was very upset with me. He asked a friend in the burial business to help me out with a part-time job until I could get a real job. That was 41 years ago!”
Michael reluctantly allowed me to take his picture but then informed me I could not post it anywhere on the internet. Are you kidding me Michael, that is all I do is take pictures, write stories and post them on the internet, but don’t worry, no one reads anything I write. But to honor his request, I made a rendering of the photo I took of the man who does not even have a cell phone. Surely he will not be mad.
He Buried My Great-Grandmother
We started to walk and he pointed out spots available. He knew exactly where my Great-Grandmother was buried. As I saw a family I knew from my youth who lived along Bluff Road, Michael told me stories. “The father was a fighter pilot and entered enemy lines as a spy for the US.” He knew the stories of everyone. It hit me that Michael had just started his job and would have been in his twenties when he lovingly dug the grave of my sweet Great-Grandmother Polly.
One Man Show
He is a one man operation. He sells the lots, he collects the payments, he learns your story and then he digs your grave when the time comes. He is a very likable person and he lovingly cuts the grass, straightens decorations family members bring and he honors those who have passed and he most of all honors the the remaining families and says, “Cemeteries are really for the living.”
He had shown me most all my choices and nothing much grabbed me. I changed the subject to inquire on 41 years of experiences with headstones. He laughed when we got to Pickering. The gravestone manufacturer made it face the wrong way. This is when I learned that the head of the grave is situated West and the foot is to the East. It is based on the Christian belief that Jesus’ return will be from the East and those in the grave want to be ready to see it. Hmmmm? Anyway, this beautiful stone was created backwards for the plot. Michael is a very easygoing guy. The Pickering family was too. Michael allowed the stone to be installed backwards and everyone is satisfied but most of all the manufacturer who did not have to scrap the stone and start over.
I love Indiana limestone and thought it might be a consideration, but Michael told me no. He showed me how poorly limestone weathers and the lichen grow on it. While lichen are living creatures, no one really wants a moldy like substance growing on their stone. We discussed practical matters like flower vases and how they needed to be of metal or granite and affixed properly to endure.
I admired the row of Maple trees and Michael told me the year he planted them. He pointed out a huge stump and said it was the queen tree of the cemetery and he did everything to save it. Nearly nine feet in diameter, it nearly killed him when it had to be cut down. With every grave we passed, he told me the story of the owner.
This Is The Place!
We then came to a stunning garden that edged the woods along Meridian Street – State Road 135. There were lovely plants, mulch and a bench. Michael told me the family bought a section and he hauled in some dirt so they could make the serene garden. As an afterthought, Michael said, “You could have your spot here. I could make you your own garden. No one owns any of the spots beyond this tree.” I was ecstatic. This was the place. It was so beautiful. It reminded me of the woods where I used to live just down Meridian Street. The sun was glistening, the grass was so green and the garden lining the edge of the woods was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
He left me alone to think about it. I took pictures, I called my sister, I sent pictures to my refugee sons in Africa. I am going to buy out the rest of this section. For a person who has no biological children, I am going to fill the place with family. My sister thought she might like a spot. I need a commemorative spot for my parents and I believe God will bring my African sons to America. This section is specifically for “non-burial” plots, headstone only. Perfect.
I told Michael of my quest to help my African sons find refuge in the United States. Michael was impressed and told me stories of the many Burmese people who are buried at Crown Hill (which is within walking distance to the Chin Evangelical Baptist Church.) I admired the graves of those whose language I did not know and thanked the Lord that Indiana welcomes refugees.
Michael said I could get started on planting my family garden right away. He would bring in more dirt and make an extension for my section. Little does he know I am going to buy the rest of the 10 plots! I need to be prepared for what the Lord is bestowing on me in my old age.
It just makes sense to me that my “burial” plot is within walking distance from my house! I have a garden to plant.
I am Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan. Born Polly Jo Perry, married Paul Warrenfelt, married Michael Riddell, did not quite marry Riley Tomlinson, took on a pen name since none of the other names suited and then got inducted as Mwamikazi of the Bushi tribe in DR Congo. But the only name I ever really needed was Jesus. Praise the Lord I figured out my priorities before I died! Belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior allows a person to live forever in heaven and that is why I am so excited about all this!