I don’t want to be buried, I want to be cremated. I think funerals are a big scam on the vulnerable.
But, that said, I am a little bit sad that I won’t have a gravestone. My grandmother taught me the importance of cemeteries. On the western Iowa and Missouri border, there are many cemeteries filled with my ancestors. They are physical genealogy markers.
Grandma Allen would get a bunch of relatives in a car, or two cars and we would take an all day tour of cemeteries. We would drive on dirt and gravel roads for miles and stop at small rural cemeteries that looked like no one had been buried there for years.
We would walk around and look at the markers and hear how this person and that person was related to us. We would hear where their farm was – sometimes you could see it from the cemetery. We would hear how they died or some fabled family story about them.
Then we would get in the car and drive to the next one. Sometimes we would stop at a farm of some far flung relation, who had inherited a farm that had been in the family for generations. They always greeted us with warmth and took us on a tour, gave us something to drink and sent us on our way with a suggestion or two of who or what to visit next.
My relatives weren’t rich. They were farmers. But I also love to visit the big city cemeteries where the wealthy built crypts that look like mini cathedrals, and put beautiful stone angels and Greek goddesses on their graves. Often they put a beautiful poem or quote on the marker. Its a lovely way to be remembered, even by strangers.
These days very few people are quite so extravagant with their graves. I find it kind of sad. Which conflicts heavily with my first statement, doesn’t it?
Well, in the unlikely event that there is lots of money available at my death, I will ask for a bench to built. I want it be in the shade and to be designed to last for centuries. I want it be comfortable and inviting. And on it, I will put an inspiring thought or poem. And my name and dates, of course. My ashes can be scattered somewhere pleasant that my relatives would like to go on vacation, but the bench will mark my life.
Because, in the long run, who will remember me? I have no children. I will be the unremembered maiden aunt and quite forgotten by later generations. No one will tell my stories at the dinner table, the way we tell stories of my great grandparents and grandparents and parents. And even those stories will be forgotten by the spread of time.
But the stones, they last a bit longer. Its a silly human desire to be remembered. A desire of the living for something that will mean nothing to the dead. But I still want it.