My friends are obsessed about downsizing: Do I need this big house? Do I want to move downtown? Will anyone visit me? Do I want maintenance free living? Can I live in a smaller place? When is the right time to move?
And me? I think about these things too, of course, but for some reason, I prefer to think about my permanent home.
I love the death talk and discussions: Buried or cremated? Purchased a plot? Where will you have your ashes scattered? Have you figured out if you will be buried with the first spouse…or the second? Is it a little weird for your kids to share the ashes that will sit on the mantel? Do you visit your dead parents at their graves? Would you want your kids to visit you?
Inevitably, if I’m with a friend for a span longer than, say, 15 seconds, the topic will come up.
“Where are the two of you going to be buried?” I asked my friend a few weeks ago, about her and her husband.
“You don’t have plots yet?”
It is not easy for my friend. She and her husband live in Boston, her husband’s parents will be buried in another state, her parents in another, and her kids are in New York…and who the heck wants to be buried in New York? Yuck. (JK, all you New Yorkers.)
I can tell it’s a difficult topic, one that ends for her in, “I think I’ll just get cremated.”
Another friend told me recently that he is definitely going to be cremated, and have his ashes scattered in a lake.
“But don’t you want a place for your kids to come visit you?” I asked him, explaining how I visit my mom and my dad at their cemetery plots every so often (though for me, it’s a twofer—they are buried right next to each other). I let him know how these visits allowed me some much needed quiet time, to think about nothing but them. I explained how I took a moment “with them,” and let myself cry. I explained that it wasn’t the only time I thought about my mom and my dad, of course, but somehow it is different in front of a gravestone. Maybe it is the schlepping out to Sharon, taking the time out of my day with no apparent reward. Maybe it’s because my mother used to visit her parent’s gravestones, and she taught me that it is the “right” thing to do.
My friend was adamant: “I don’t want my kids to feel guilty about not going out to some cemetery and visiting me.It’s like giving them another thing to do after you are dead.“ Ah, the guilt factor. No doubt there is some of that in the reasons for my visits to the graveside.
“It’s not you in that grave; your body is just an empty shell when you die,” he continued. And of course, I agreed with that too. He continued. “Hopefully, your kids will think of you often, in their daily lives. They don’t need to visit you at your gravestone to think about you.”
So true, so true- all of it…and yet…visiting a dead parent at a gravesite seems like sacred time. It seems different somehow, and I can’t explain why.
For me, it is easy. I thought I wanted to get cremated, until I realized that my husband wants to be buried in the family plot area, and if I don’t use the spot, the second wife might, and she’d end up next to him for all of eternity (and beyond.) That would piss me off. Especially if my kids came out to visit.
“I hosie that plot next to yours,” I tell Mike, repeatedly, whenever he is able to tolerate the discussion (which is not often.) “That plot cannot go to the next wife.”
“OK, she’ll go on the other side of me,” Mike tells me (in jest, I think.)
“No way. Your mother has to be on the other side. You can be between me and your mother. The second wife can go at your toes… if there’s room.”
I know it’s a little sick to want to be buried just to reserve the spot so no one else can use it, but it’s as good a reason as any I have heard. And the truth is, I’ll be dead, so I’ll never know. But I’ve got to assume that my kids will be alive…and now… they’ll know….
Ah…the power of the written word…