Thursday, June 01, 2006

Do You Care Where You RIP?

I recently found myself in a meeting where people were having serious and sometimes heated discussions about options for burial sites. When their focus turned to who their after-death neighbors would be, I found myself blurting out, "But you are going to be DEAD! What do you care about where you are buried and who is nearby?" Then I was embarrassed because I was actually a guest at the meeting, not invited to talk about that topic at all.

It caused me to think a lot about my seeming lack of respect for the dead. Don’t get me wrong – I believe in honoring a person’s wishes about burial practices, but I actually view the body itself much as the skin of a snake that has been shed and no longer has a function.

I admire people like my aunt in Minneapolis who tends the graves of our rather large Norwegian family, year in and year out adding new colorful plantings and keeping the weeds under control. She visits those graves often to take care of them and show her respect.

I, on the other hand, have never once set foot in the ugly little building that houses the two urns of my parents’ remains. Part of it may be my disdain for the practice of cremation. (The idea of burning even a dead snakeskin sends shivers up my spine.) But I seriously doubt I would be there often even if they had plots in a cemetery. I would probably pay my way out so as not to look disgraceful.

My husband and I own burial plots in one of the two disputed cemeteries that were the subject of my meeting. I haven’t ever visited our plots to see where we will eventually repose. In fact, I haven’t given even 5 seconds to thoughts about funerals or the Jewish traditions that surround and follow death, preferring to pretend that I am immortal and concentrate on life in the here and now.

I have a deep and abiding belief that the soul lives on when the body fails. I think that is what allows my callous attitude about death and burial. Often when I meditate I visit with my deceased parents, who bear no scars of having been cremated, but rather seem more connected in death than they ever were in life.

Can anyone out there identify with my feelings on this?


Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Well, you aren't emotionless when it comes to cremation, so actually you do have some thoughts about it. My "final resting place" is actually of interest to me, not that I've done anything about it yet. I'd like to be buried at Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, Mass, one of the most healing places I've ever been. If not there, then Congressional Cemetary here in the District would be almost as good. How long ago did you buy burial plots? And why did you buy them so early? Maybe it's not early, what do I know?

9:02 AM  
Blogger DC Cookie said...

I might just cremate and take up less space. If I'm going to leave behind something to remember, I'd rather it be something more substantial than just my bones.

It's funny, on my run yesterday morning, I jogged past a cemetery, and in my momentary gloom, I thought about all the dead people in their plots saying "Giiiirl - think about it. At least you can still jog!" At which point I giggled and realized there are just so many things which shouldn't matter...

11:56 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Reya -- We bought our "plots" several years ago when Temple Micah was having a sale. Like anything else, the price only goes up each year. But I'm not sure this is equity that counts towards anything... Sometimes I do wish I was just one of those people who likes caring for a gravesite, but I just don't get a connection to the soul of the dead by visiting the person's grave.

Cookie -- I think running past a cemetery sounds like a good thing to do. I'm much more comfortable viewing them from a distance. I hope to goodness that I am not confined to a coffin forever when I die. After mulling this over yesterday, I had this WEIRD image during meditation last night that I was slowly working my way through thick black loosely packed soil -- maybe my mind was getting my body ready to escape when the time comes...

12:16 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I like visiting cemeteries and (strangely enough) snapping shots of headstones. I just don't much care where I end up. I figure I'll be beyond it by that point, but if it makes my family happy, they can do whatever they want or need with me. It's really for them.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- My husband said exactly the same thing you said, "The concern is for those left behind." Maybe I'll feel differently about this as I get older or perhaps if I am not the first to go. For now I perfer avoidance.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barbara, I liked what you said about visiting with your parents. This is a true story: my mom used to go into mediation after my dad died and -- she claimed -- would talk with him. She'd go around telling people she had spoken to him and repeat some of the things he told her. People, understandably, thought she was wacked.

Anyway, in one conversation he told her to sell her house because there would be a flood in New Orleans (where we lived). He said no one where he was knew when it would happen, just that it would happen. This was 6 years ago I guess. Anyway she went around telling people she was selling her house and why. Again, everyone including my sister and I thought she was insane, until of course last August. The house she sold, that entire neighborhood, was completely underwater for weeks.

4:22 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anonymous -- This is an amazing story. I absolutely believe it. If I can talk to my parents, your mother can certainly talk to her deceased husband, your father. This is the part of death that I find fascinating, not the details of where my body is placed or next to whom.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Mary K said...

Barbara, I enjoy reading the stories on your blog. Reading about your recent purchase of grave plots 'on sale at Temple Micah' struck a laugh 'cord' for me, as I can hear you say this!

I say whatever motivate us to take this 'next step' in our lives we do it.. such has the land onsale for % -- off retail price.

Reading your writings and stories on this blog, lightens the day for me sometimes.
I'd like to have the same gift of writting as you. For now, I just enjoy reading these stories 'as Barbara grows..'

6:11 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Mary -- Thanks for the comment. It makes me feel good to know this therapeutic writing of mine is benefitting someone else! I'm glad our paths crossed.

8:28 PM  

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