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Dec 30 2003
The Sanctuary of Compassion inside the Ascension Mausoleum of Cypress' Forest Lawn Cemetery--to which family, friends and countless fans have reverently come for almost twenty-one years to pay their respects to Karen Carpenter and, more recently, her parents--now contains beneath its beautiful mural of Madonna and Child an empty marble tomb. A sight so familiar and comforting to many, one that included an inscription touched by thousands of hands, is gone.
This story broke Thursday before last (Dec. 18). Since I haven't read the various lists in a while I just found out about it on Christmas. An exceptionally generous fan posted what he saw after visiting Karen and her parents' original resting place and locating their new one:
Earlier this year a poster on one of the lists said there were plans to reinter their remains somewhere closer to Richard's home in Thousand Oaks. Not too many believed anything like that could be true. So it was treated like most other rumors fans see periodically on these lists. Yet this is another instance in which a far-fetched, Carpenters-related rumor has ended up coming to pass.
I say Carpenters-related because this relocation has affected more than the Carpenter family. While no reasonable person would deny members of any family the right to select or change the burial sites of their loved ones, or question the personal reasons they have for choosing what they believe is the best site, or even think about disrespecting in any way their desire to keep those interments private, the Forest Lawn resting place of Karen and her parents also held special meaning for the hundreds if not thousands who share a history and wish of visiting it as others who likewise admire, honor and adore them have done, too. That history, as it grew, strengthened for many the sense of connection and continuation to both the extraordinary ways their lives have genuinely touched us and the ways ours touch each other. The family's decisions are none of our business. Nor, really, is the solemn manner a number of fans have settled on--such as quietly leaving flowers, cards, Disney animals, or other symbols of respect, and simply touching "A Star in Heaven" or any of the other words there--in which they have gone about personally honoring the memories of that family's loved ones. However, this particular history will grow no further. Worse, the responsibility of telling us that was left to the first shocked fan who could report first-hand that this tomb now stands empty.
In my opinion, a trusted representative of the Carpenter family should've had that responsibility. An announcement card left at Forest Lawn shortly after the fact, stating that the family wished to relocate the resting places of their loved ones to a setting more close and suitable to them, and that they wished to keep the reinterments strictly private, would've not only been appropriate and thoughtful but quelled all speculation and persistent shock before any could even begin. The fans who've traveled there to pay their respects--some from as far away as Japan, Singapore, and Australia--are mainly loyal ones, fiercely protective of Karen and her parents' public remembrances, while showing considerable regard for Richard and his family's privacy. After reading such a card, they above all would react with sensitivity and understanding, rather than out of sadness or hurt.
Announcement cards may be on their way now, or perhaps they won't be ready for placement in the Sanctuary of Compassion until after the holidays. Even if this gesture was completely overlooked in the more consequential planning and preparation of what was undoubtedly an emotionally trying ceremony for him and his family, I believe Richard Carpenter--who left a similar note there last February conveying their "deepest appreciation for your continuing sympathy and remembrance [on the twentieth anniversary] of Karen's passing"--intended no disrespect. He has been more than gracious and thoughtful in the past. In any case, I don't believe he should've had to arrange both a second funeral and that courtesy himself. It would be much more appropriate at this time for a family representative to take care of the latter on Richard's behalf.
Us well-wishing fans will adjust to the removal. Our initial shock and dismay will eventually subside as well. I'll always remember each heartwarming sight of the many expressions of love, respect, sympathy and affection that constantly adorned Karen and her parents' former resting place and made it forever special, and I pray their new one will be even more peaceful.
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