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."