Eternal Rest


Graveyard_8_by_MatrixStock

For most of my life, I assumed that my final resting place would be a graveyard.

Everyone I ever knew followed that typical American path; you die, you are embalmed, you have a wake where everyone kneels in front of you, praying and thinking “Jeez, she looks awful…..”

In my experience, the end of life was marked by church, uncomfortable black clothes, a wake, a funeral and a big lunch afterwards.

I assumed that one day I, too, would lie there like a sunken, waxy version of my worst self, surrounded by dozens of cloyingly aromatic flower arrangements.  I assumed that I would then be lowered into the ground in my gleaming wooden coffin and that a big headstone would be placed there to mark my location.

It didn’t seem so bad to me when I was younger! I have always loved to wander through old graveyards, reading the stones and trying to imagine the people below me and the lives that they had left behind. It seemed sort of romantic in a strange way, you know?

But now I am older.  I’m a bit closer to that final rest than I used to be.  And I am experiencing more wakes, more funerals, more loss.   I have friends who are battling life threatening illnesses.

So I’ve been rethinking my original plans.

First off, I am not so sure that I want to be pumped full of chemicals and placed in a sealed casket.  I mean, I eat organic, locally grown veggies.  I clean with vinegar and baking soda.   Why would I want to spend eternity with chemicals in my veins?  And why the super sealed casket, lead lined and “water safe”?   Once I die, I realize, I will not be coming back.  No need to stay dry.

And holy crow! Why would I want my family to spend that much money on something that will only be seen for four hours?  I’d rather have them use the same funds to take a nice trip to Italy and drink to my memory.

So…..I have been thinking about a “green burial”.  Put me in a simple pine box, let me decompose and become fertile ground for a nice lilac.

But I had an experience yesterday that made me rethink even that idea.

I was attending the funeral of my wonderful, funny, fun loving, lively Uncle Lennie.  We had been to the church, and were now approaching the graveyard where he would be laid to rest.  It is a beautiful, green place in a lovely little New England town.  Trees, flowers, beautiful thick grass, carefully maintained headstones.

But there was a sign at the gate that caught my eye.  It read, “No bicycles. No dog walking.  No playing.”

No playing?  No playing?

What does that even mean?

My Uncle was a professional baseball player.  If we played catch one day by his graveside, could we be arrested?

What if we brought a chess set, and decided to enjoy a calm fall day by playing chess and remembering our Uncle?  Would that be against the law?

Could we play a violin or a guitar in his honor?

No playing?

I don’t understand.

I do realize one thing, though, as I think about my own “eternal rest”.   I would hate like hell to be left in a place where dogs were not welcomed.  I would never, ever rest easy in a spot where children were forbidden to romp and frolic and laugh and play.

The only thing that would be sure to make me haunt this world would be to force me into a joyless, child free, dogless place.

I am thinking a lot about cremation and the “scattering of the ashes”.  I would love a chance to spend eternity in the Atlantic Ocean. Where I would most certainly play with the dolphins!

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16 thoughts on “Eternal Rest

  1. Of course, the danger in getting cremated is that you sit in a jar under the basement stairs until everyone agrees where to distribute you. I know this vignette isn’t a direct parallel, but I was thinking of a favorite family dog who spent several years in the basement awaiting the perfect spot. He was a ball dog, so the debate centered around which ball graveyard would be his final resting place.

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  2. I’m with you on the ocean. I think it’s a lovely idea.

    Of course, there’s a but.

    7 years ago, my husband and I bought a dream cottage on the coast of Maine. We have a lovely little bit of ocean front, pink rocks and tidal frontage. We pull our kayaks in and out of our little cove. It is the cove pictured in the header for my blog.

    The problem? Well the house was built by the father of the man who inherited the cottage and sold it to us. In between our offer and our closing, he affixed a bronze plaque to one of the lovely pink granite rocks on what is now OUR beach commemorating the sprinkling of his parents ashes in that spot. I would not have been happy had I seen it before we bought it, but I am still angry about it 7 years later that he did it in the intervening time.

    So ashes, yes. Plaques? Hell no!

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    • I am so envious of your beach house! Truly, any beach house, on any ocean beach, would delight me more than I can say. I understand your feelings about the plaque, but on the other hand: how cool that your beach is where two happy spirits now reside!

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  3. Interesting how customs vary. Being a foreigner, I’ve never understood (let alone witnessed) the concept of an open casket and a viewing. I can’t imagine (and don’t want to) being obliged to look at the waxy versions of my nearest and dearest, however well presented. The funeral itself is the first event, here, (casket closed) and once the departed has departed, the living have a ‘wake’ – the nature of which varies according to circumstance!
    I’ve never been to a burial, either. Cremation is far more usual. I can’t say I fancy facing eternity from six feet under!

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  4. I say cremate me and put my remains in one of those art deco hotel ashtray stands — you know, the big ones full of sand? Then I can stay on duty at the Carp & Grouse and keep an eye on things…
    😛

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  5. Cremation is the way to go…truly.
    I remember visiting dearly departed relatives’ graves and putting floral arrangements on them when I was a child. Those arrangements were big, ugly gladioli in special cemetery baskets that we pulled from the rafters of my elderly aunt’s moldy, dusty garage. To this day, I still can’t stand gladioli just because I remember that smelly garage and those baskets and sad trips to the cemetery. My parents and grandparents are all buried in a cemetery in New Jersey, a place I no longer get to since no one else in the family is there. My in-laws, on the other hand, both went int to the Atlantic Ocean, off of Cape May, N.J. But even when I gaze out at the ocean off the coast of Maine, I think of them there, since they may have drifted north on the tides. It’s a much more appealing place to spend eternity to me than being sealed up and six feet under in a place where no one will visit and kids and dogs can’t play.

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  6. I was JUST saying to my husband yesterday I finally know what I want for my burial. I want my ashes scattered off Land’s End in Bailey Island. We had spent the day there yesterday with the kids watching the waves crash and smelling the sweet salt mist roses. I can’t think of a more fitting place for my ashes. The ocean has always been the one place I feel home.

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