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Monday, February 27, 2012

My Name In Stone...

In the car on the way home from church yesterday the boys somehow got on the subject of burial vs. cremation. I told them I didn't really care what they do with me as long as they don't put me in a vase and set me on the mantle.  Cremate me if you want, but please don't put me in a vase because something about that is just many shades of creepy to me. 

Once upon a time I said I wanted to be cremated.  Darin and I both agreed we'd be cremated.  Of course we also thought we'd both be old, wrinkled and many, many decades into the future before anyone had to make that decision too.  

Darin was a Mason (as in Freemasonry) and had just recently become the Master Mason of his lodge not long before he died.  One night he came home from the lodge, showed me this white Masonic apron and said, "When I die you are supposed to bury me in this."

I just looked at him like he had three heads, said, "umm...okay" and went back to doing whatever it was that I was doing, probably breastfeeding Dracen which seemed to be all I accomplished in the early days of his demanding infancy.  The fact that we had talked about being cremated did enter my mind but I was just in no kind of mood to talk about something so dark and depressing.  And that was not, I thought, going to happen for at least a good fifty years down the road.

So when he died just weeks later that moment that I thought was so fleeting and insignificant came rushing to the front and center of my out of control thoughts and I never once mentioned cremation. His parents told me they had two extra plots up front beside theirs at the church cemetery that were mine if I wanted them. 

I guess I "wanted" them because that is where we buried him.  In his Masonic apron.  Though not the one he brought home that night and told me to bury him in.  His dad, also a Mason, informed me that you don't actually bury him in that one.  You put it on him for the receiving and then you take that one off to keep and replace it with a paper one before burial.  

When the time came to pick out a headstone a couple of weeks  later I sat in the funeral home (with his dad) flipping through a book of headstones, at the age of 32, trying to decide which one would best suit my 35 year old husband and whether or not I wanted a double stone with my name on one side or just a single. 

I made the decision pretty quickly though.  I chose a unique-shaped stone, had my name and birth date put on one side, our wedding date in the middle and the boys' names  in the corner...Our Sons Devin ( heart) Dracen. There's a cross on my side and a masonic emblem on his side because at some time in the recent past he had a conversation with his dad in which he told him he wanted that on his headstone.  Bizarre, huh?   

 Yes, my name is on a headstone and has been since I was 32 years old.  How's that for putting your own mortality into perspective?   

The day they came to put up the stone I drove over to the cemetery to watch.  Devin was with his popaw who had taken him over there. I walked over to him where he sat on the tailgate of popaw's truck and he said, "They're putting up my daddy's stone."  And the rock that was my heart felt like it got about five times heavier than it already was as I struggled to catch my breath.  

Standing there with my four year old and seeing that headstone, complete with my name and date of birth, was a life moment that the word surreal does not even come close to describing...
  Looking back on it now, do I regret it?  Now that it's over eight years down the road and I've been remarried for three and a half of them, do I regret the decision I made to bury him instead of cremate him?  The decision I made to choose a double stone with a place for me knowing now that I will most likely never be buried there?  

No.  No, I don't regret it.  It was right for me, for all of us, at the time and it's okay if I'm never buried there but cremated instead.  It really won't matter to me when I've left this world.  Funerals, burials and cremations, and all that they entail, are for the living, the ones left behind to pick up the pieces and struggle through their grief. 

So while I may think it creepy that someone would want my ashes in a vase on a mantle someday, I know deep down that they'd have my full consent if it brought them comfort.  

But knowing my two boys, I'll probably end up going skydiving with them and being scattered on the way down, which would be the only way you'd ever get my arse to jump out of that plane (over my dead ashes) and would also fulfill the wish I expressed to Devin yesterday when he told me he wanted to go skydiving someday and I replied with, "Just please do me a favor, and wait 'til after I'm dead."  

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  1. I cannot imagine having to make that kind of decision.

  2. Diane,
    Being faced with that decision had to have been one of the toughest ever! I can still recall all too vividly having to do that sort of thing for my mom, dad, and brother. However, the difference is that none of their headstones had MY name on them. I can only imagine how surreal that would feel. I always joke with my husband and girls that I want them to make completely sure that I've flat-lined before they bury me!

  3. Ya do the best you can with what you got and what you know at that time.

    I'm with you on the skydiving.

  4. Your comment about burial, etc. being for the living more than the dead is a point my mother has brought up to me more than once (wise woman, she is).

    Especially recently when I told her I wanted to be cremated & where I wanted my ashes scattered. She looked at me as if I had 3 heads, and reminded me that it's not for me, it's for those I leave behind.

    I still would prefer to be cremated, but - like you mentioned - whatever they decide to do w/ my body, whatever helps them grieve & brings them peace... well, that'll be just fine by me.

  5. My mom was cremated. We scattered her ashes around a huge Oak tree and while we did that a Red-tailed Hawk swooped down and grabbed a snake. Talk about dead silence. I wrote that b/c yes, funerals and all that are for the living...liked how you said that. I can't even imagine the grief you have been through. I know your faith is what is keeping you going as it has for me. So glad to be a part of your blog. Blessings and peace to you!

  6. When my dad died a few years ago, my mom bought a double plot like that. I don't think she has her name carved on it yet though.

    As for me, cremation all the way because the whole funeral business is such a racket. I refuse to allow my loved ones to pay for a casket for my pile of bones. I just can't do it.

  7. Skydiving eh? That'd be a way to go out ;)
    I can't even imagine the decisions you had to make while in so much emotional pain.
    But I'm glad that you're ok with what you did. And you're right, does it really matter? Like if someone told you what they wanted then by all means do what they ask...but like you, I don't care. I told my husband that when I go I want the cheapest box.

  8. I think your perspective is sound. You make the best decision for you in that time and place and as life changes, it's okay. When my grandfather died, it came up that my aunt's husband's mother had done the same thing... she lost her first husband very young and had a burial plot with him, but ended up remarrying and being married to her second husband far longer than her first. She was ultimately buried with him and left her original plot to her children.

  9. This post really was interesting to me. First of all, I'm so sorry for all the heartache you endured losing your husband.
    My husband was a widower when we married. And there's a "double" stone at his wife's grave, with his name on it. As you said, it was the right decision at the time.

  10. I know my parents want to be cremated when they go. I'm not sure about myself yet.

  11. My ex-husband was specific about his wishes. In the end, I gave half of the ashes to his parents and took half for the boys. His Parents KNOW what he wanted done, and I have let go of weather they chose to do it.

    As you know, the boys scattered his ashes in December, just as he wanted.

    Even remarried, ironically, I still want the same done to me. But I already have a plaque at the family site, in case the boys ever need to visit an actual "place".

    And honestly, I love the sky diving idea. :)

  12. I think you made the right decision...and you have such a beautiful outlook!

  13. Thanks for an excellent article! I appreciate your insights and agree with what you wrote. cremation chandler