31 January 2007

In the ground

My parents both want to be cremated when the time comes. The conversations don't feel particularly morbid because amidst the practical, we end up joking about what happens to the ashes: Mom's urn engraved with, "I've got my eye on you," for example, just a little something for my brother. Lord knows I'm not keeping ashes on my mantle (when and if I have a mantle of my own).

Dad doesn't want all the chemical processing, the embalming, done to his corpse. I get that. Mom, so typically, doesn't want to take up space somewhere.

My grandparents are all buried near my parents' hometown several hundred miles away. Visiting tombs of people I know just hasn't been a part of my life. I do understand it though. A place and structure set aside, a representation and remembrance, a small piece of relative permanence.

Even without much of a personal connection (or perhaps because of it), cemeteries have always appealed to me. I like sculptural tombstones, geometric rows, dates that signify history, and the peaceful quiet.

I used to want some big, cool sculpture for my grave marker, but now I consider that to be a manifestation of my unfulfilled desire to sculpt stone. I'd rather create something myself and have it sit in a park somewhere.

Having seen my share of Six Feet Under, I don't particularly want to be embalmed, but cremation doesn't quite hit me right either. A funeral pyre set afire on a boat shoved out to sea: cool; an oven, not so much. Too many logistics and legalities to hope for a flaming boat, I reckon though. If the funerals I've attended have taught me anything, it's that my own will be out of my hands.

One year ago at TTaT: Did you say something?
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  1. I am all for being cremated, and I want my ashes taken back to France and spread on the soil of the country where I was born. I hope my daughter is game for taking the trip across the Atlantic with the little urn or box containing my ashes, whenever the time comes.

    My father was a tombstone maker when I was a kid (don't ask me how he later became a chef), so I spent tons of time in the town's cemetery, which I knew inside out, as a child. When I am in Paris, I almost always go to the Cimetiere du Montparnasse to visit the tombs of Baudelaire, Sartre and Beauvoir, Samuel Beckett, and Joris-Karl Huysmans (on whom I wrote my doctoral dissertation), to name only a few. On the other hand, I seldom visit my father's tomb, or those of other relatives.

  2. My grandparents took me to "meet" their parents one summer. I still go and see them sometimes. It's a quiet little cemetary and their are these perfect little angel statues around their graves.

    I can't deal with the whole burial thing. I'm no bug buffet. Light me up and toss me out the window when it's over.

  3. Elisabeth: Interesting to be drawn to graves of fame...that they might have more meaning than the personal, but I can see how that could be so.

    Melissa: We did that with my parents on a visit years ago... to see their grandparents and various other parts of the extended family. There are photos somewhere.

  4. Viking funeral. I dig that, Claire. When I was a kid, my friends and I had a Viking funeral for an apple head doll, down at our local pond. We made a longboat of cardboard, covered in runes. We had oars made of sparklers. It was awesome. We were the weirdest sixth graders ever.

  5. Merujo: Exactly.

    And I'd say more like the awesomest 6th graders ever. Sparklers for oars, so cool!

  6. My whole family has been cremated, except my Mom's parents.

    I feel much more comforted by the idea of the ashes flying on the breeze (or floating on the water) than I do by thinking of the body in the ground.

    Ashes to me are freedom, and burial is still a prison of a sort for the body. Death should be freedom.....

  7. That's a nice way of looking at it, Karla. Besides, cremation will keep people from bringing you back as a zombie. ;)

  8. I used to say I'd have a headstone like Irish comedian Spike Milligan, saying "I told you I was ill!"

    Then I used to say I wanted "Always look on the bright side of life" played in my funeral, but my sister protested, saying she'd want to be allowed to be sad..

    (My dad being a vicar we were pretty used to funerals and stuff, so it didn't feel the least bit morbid.)

    .. But really, when I'm dead, do whatever you like to me, I won't notice..

  9. Scholiast: That's probably the best attitude to have towards it since it's definitely out of your hands at that point.