I did not fully understand funerals, casket viewing, or visiting grave sites until I was over 40 years old. I have only been to 4 or 5 funerals in my entire life, and never visited grave sites until recently. My maternal grandparents passed away when I was in Jr. High school, and while I remember that my mother went to Arizona to take care of the details, we as a family never discussed their deaths, if they were cremated or where they are buried. Since my family never discussed such things, I never gave them any thought.
My paternal grandparents both passed away after I moved away from California. I did not go home when notified of their deaths, because my family did not have funerals for them. I did go home to be with my Dad when my Mother passed away, but again we did not have a funeral for her as she was cremated and her ashes were scattered in Monterrey Bay.
During the past three decades, as I have research and studied my family history, I have all but ignored the information about funerals and burials. Since I never gave any real thought to my immediate family’s burial information, why should I care about those who passed away hundreds of years ago?
But all of that is changing now. The more time I spend working in the family history, the more I have the nagging feeling that I want to know where the “bodies are buried” and have started thinking about my own arrangements. I have visited quite a few of the grave sites of my ancestors: John, Mary, Annie, Ruth, Ellen, Sarah, Owen, Hannah, Watson, Oliver, Martha, Ellen, Bertha, George, and Cora. Participating in the events leading up to and including the burial of John Brown was so moving that I now find myself wanting to visit and leave flowers at my grandparents and mothers graves, but alas they do not have graves for me to visit (except the ocean).
All of this has started me thinking about future generations – if I, someone who never gave a second thought about death and eternal resting places, has a such a strong desire to visit her mother’s grave, and feels such a strong need to visit graves of her ancestors, how will her descendants react to the lack of graves in this span of generations? What Am I Going To Leave My Descendants???????
I have, until now, always wanted to be cremated and have my ashes scattered, just like my parents and grandparents. But now, after the Year of John Brown, when I have traveled across America visiting historic sites and family grave sites, I find that I have a desire to leave a place of interment for my descendants to be able to visit me and feel the closeness that I have felt when standing near my ancestors graves. Now I have questions about what to do after I die. Cremation or burial? If cremated do I want the ashes spread or placed in urn or interned? Do I want a full grave site or a small niche with a plaque? What about headstone wording? Where do I want to be remembered, in my childhood home of California or Texas, my home of the past 30 years? So many new questions.
Guess Fred and I have some long hard discussions ahead of us, as I try to figure all of this out. Keep you posted.
Written for the January 2010 edition of the Graveyard Rabbits Blog Carnival, Topic: The Final Resting Place.