cemeteries, grave sites, and other death-related stuff

Posted: October 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

My favorite running blogger posted today about running in a cemetery – she was asking whether or not people find it an appropriate thing to do.  While there was one person who thought not, and several who were unsure, most of the community of commenting runners felt it is okay, as long as one is respectful to the grounds and gives any visiting family members or funerals in process a lot of space. 
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Over lunch, I overheard some folks discussing the location of their future grave sites.  They had recently discovered that the plots they’d been paying on for years were unsatisfactorily located – too far off the beaten path – and were in the process of upgrading to something more acceptable to them.
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A friend used to get very upset about a family who had lost a child years before.  They didn’t regularly decorate the grave.  “That poor little girl!” my friend would say, her eyes filled with distress. 
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My ex-mother-in-law, a truly wonderful person I will always treasure, charged me with one assignment, back before the “ex” part came in to play:  I was to make sure she was not buried with shoes on.  She was so serious about this that all I could do is take it seriously too – it’s something I keep in mind always, and will make sure my kids remember to pass along, if she goes before I do.
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I am definitely kind of a different duck, when it comes to grave sites and the conversation around the body after death.  If it helps YOU to decorate a grave and/or make regular visits to it, please do so, and bless you and the more power to you.  If you care who is running on the cemetery roads or walking across the grass, know that for the life of me, I would not knowingly disrespect your feelings about that. 

As for ME, though, I feel very clear that none of the parts that matter at all of any person are left in the cemetery.  In my view, they are not there anymore; they’ve gone on.  They are where they are, and I cannot imagine that they are keeping score, being encouraged or hurt by how many flowers or trinkets are or are not appearing at the location where their physical bodies now reside.  So, FOR ME, and only for me (not as a “others should be like me” but only for me) the decorating and frequent visiting of a grave site would be mostly just an exercise in trying to seem good or trying to be seen doing the “right thing”…and if you’ve been around long, perhaps you understand that I know I’m not all that good, and that being seen seeming to be so will not redeem me.  It’s all Jesus Christ or never mind, for me. 

I understand (you understand?) that for many, this is a very important thing.  I don’t mean to dishonor, judge, or in any way discourage others in that.  Just:  unless I have some major new revelation in the future (always a possibility, given how frequently I discover I was wrong), I don’t foresee me ever spending much time visiting lost loved ones in the cemetery or decorating grave stones.  My meaningful activities about a lost loved one happen in conversation with others and with God, or maybe in writing in some quiet place somewhere.  THAT would be a meaningful way for ME to honor someone who has gone on. 

When I was younger, I had a big speech that I gave my kids on the topic all about how I am not my body, and won’t be needing my body anymore when I am gone.  Don’t spend a lot of money on a casket or vault, I would tell them.  Heck, wrap me in a blanket and bury me.  I don’t need this anymore on the other side – I’m getting a glorified body in heaven!  I don’t waste my time imagining HOW it will be glorified; like heaven, though I don’t understand it, God says it is good, and that’s answer enough for me. 

At other times, I have wanted to insist that I be cremated.  Heck, that’s still the way I’d go, if it were only about ME.  Save the money.  Save the valuable land space and heavy equipment.  Cremate me and spread my ashes somewhere out in nature.

But in the end, TO ME, all this business is not really about the deceased at all – it is about the survivors.  I’ll be in glory.  It won’t matter to me.  So my final instruction to my loved ones would be:  do with my body whatever you need to do, to be at peace.  Watch out for and give great grace toward whoever is the most broken and needy about losing me –  honor THEIR wishes, which ever one of you it is.  Bury me with a big headstone, a small one, or none at all.  Visit it and decorate it, or walk away and be at peace knowing my journey here is done anyway – either is fine.  Cremate me and keep me on a shelf or spread my ashes.  I just don’t care at all, for myself.  Whatever you do, PLEASE don’t feel aggrieved on my behalf about how someone else does or doesn’t handle memorializing me afterward.  PLEASE. 

What I care about in the end is how my loved ones cope afterward, and whatever answer helps them the most is the one I would choose. 

For ME – end of story.  Blessings and peace to you, whatever your feelings, beliefs and convictions on this sensitive subject!

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Comments
  1. laurie says:

    The cemetery in the shared hometown is the most peaceful and beautiful place to run. I loved the hills, the variety of hills, flats, shade, sunny spots – always love that place to waddle in.

    There is a beautiful cemetery with the same running appeal in the new hometown. An attitude of respect is first and you look ahead, around and aware of your environment and avoid. No intrusion to the always present in life – personal and intimate grief.

    This was just really one of the best reads – Very thought provoking, wonderful.

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