Grave digger A solemn profession

first_imgGreg Melum slowly drove his backhoe down a drenched road to dig a grave in the Garden of Hope.The Evergreen Memorial Gardens grounds foreman had much to do before the 10 a.m. burial of a 40-year-old Vancouver homemaker. Holding a card with instructions, he led his small grounds crew in the hourlong process of preparing her grave during one of the stormiest mornings in recent memory.It’s difficult, but vital, work. In his 33 years tending to the 80-acre, family-run cemetery — where the dead also are buried in gardens of “Grace,” “Faith” and “Time” — 53-year-old Melum has helped usher thousands into the unknown. Whatever that may be.First, the team laid planks to frame a rectangle on the ground before cutting out squares of heavy sod. Melum shifted the Cat machine’s long levers like a puppeteer to maneuver the backhoe’s clawed bucket, digging out dirt in wheelbarrow-sized scoops. When the hole was a little more than 5-feet deep it was ready for a cement grave box, a protective tomb for the casket.The 6-feet-under adage is a misnomer. Caskets, as they come in myriad sizes, are buried at different depths. Another grave on the agenda that morning was a “double dip,” where someone is buried about 10 feet down so another coffin can rest on top when the time comes. Loved ones often prefer to be interred together, and stacking caskets is more affordable than being laid side by side.As the crew was preparing to move to their next assignment, word came from Melum’s radio that a hearse was arriving for a gravesite service. The team set up a canopy so visitors could be shielded from the downpour and put plastic chairs in a circle around the freshly dug grave.last_img read more