In 1981 the Sycamore Shadows Burying Ground Admissions Committee, after learning that the cemetery would soon be filled, resolved to “deny all burials, save those persons of extraordinary accomplishment or notoriety.” Despite the restriction, the twelve remaining plots had dwindled to four by the time of Robinson Hardy’s protested burial in 1987. By 2004 only two empty plots remained.
As a member of said committee since 2005, I do not wish to seem discriminatory, but when you have two plots left, you wait for the right person to die, or for the wrong person to die in a compelling manner. The duty of the committee is to promote the burial ground by making it as interesting as possible. If you accomplish nothing noteworthy in your life and then die in bed, expect to be buried elsewhere. The burial ground didn’t become the town’s top-rated tourist attraction by giving space to deadbeats who add nothing to the collection.
When Christina Lovell passed suddenly in early 2010, no one guessed that one of the remaining plots would soon be filled, but the committee could not forgo the opportunity of such a humorous passage on the next edition of the visitor’s brochure as “choked to death on a pickle.”
Not even death is without its darker side, however. On the night of Mrs. Lovell’s burial, while the committee members discussed the wording of the brochure in congratulatory tones, her daughter, Lisa, suffering from intense and somewhat warranted guilt, replayed the final moments of her mother’s life.
Lisa had considered eating the death pickle. She could see it still, the last pickle in the jar. But Lisa was wont to hesitate, and her mother, an impetuous grabber of food even if a reluctant masticator, took the fatal fruit.
The next morning a new Lisa emerged from her home on Creek Road. Although she would never grow cucumbers again, Lisa became an advocate for running naked through the soybean fields of life, thereby transforming the pickle from an emblem of her loss to the symbol of her triumph. And though her time was short, Lisa put more oomph into her remaining days than she had managed in all her previous years. When she died, folks celebrated her life as a shining example that people can change, and she remains an inspiration to this day. I seldom consider a pickle jar without thinking of Lisa, or eat a pickle without remembering Mrs. Lovell, usually followed by extra chewing.
The words of Lisa’s inspirational speech, given weeks before her own sudden death, still resonate. We would do well to emulate her passion.
“Because I dithered, my mother took the fatal pickle. Because I wavered, my mother is dead. Because I chose to hesitate, my heart is as empty as the jar that yet sits on yonder table, a painful reminder of my indecision. My friends, do not put your hand gently into that good jar. Plunge it in, without fear, without hesitation, and grab that pickle!”
You may visit Lisa’s grave in Castor, Pennsylvania.