Thursday, November 7, 2013

Setting My Gravestone

I’ve been carrying my gravestone around in the bed of my pickup for a year, so it seemed like time to free-up the space. I won’t go into the reasons why it was still there, let’s just say that it wasn’t all my doing. I’m glad I got it when I did, though, as there would be no money to get it now that I’m not working. I have a small insurance policy that will cover the bare essentials, but I figure that the cost of the stone is now something that my wife, or whoever, will have for other things. Besides, I could get it when there was no rush and be sure that I got what I wanted. The color of the stone and the script matches my folk’s monument, which I wanted.

There was one empty plot between my mother’s yet unused plot and my granddad’s half-brother. Mom checked with that side of the family several years ago, and they don’t plan on using it, so they had no problems with me claiming it. My parents and grandparents have low stand-up monuments, but they’re doubles. Since my wife will be buried next to her beloved first husband in a big cemetery in town, I only need a single. I decided to go with a small flat stone. Not only was it cheaper, but it also lets the caretaker simply mow over it, rather than giving him another stone to trim around.

I told my wife to just torch me and scatter my ashes beside my folks. No visitation and no ceremony, either, unless she wanted to have a little graveside thing. To tell you the truth, I would have preferred to have a regular service, but the prices keep going up, and I get disgusted at funeral directors getting rich from people’s grief. Making a living is one thing; getting rich is another. Besides, my wife wouldn’t hear of us getting pre-paid plans back when we could have afforded them. Go figure. I sort of hoped my wife would go with me today, as it would have saved gas going back to get her when I headed for town, but she wanted no part of it.

The steep drive-way up the hill to the little church, where we went when I was a kid, was so overgrown that I had to watch not to let the brush scratch the paint on the truck. They have only a handful of elderly folks going there these days, so they can’t really do any maintenance. I backed the truck under the low-hanging limbs of hemlocks that were knee-high when I was a kid. Exiting my truck, I strapped on my pistol, since I was out-of-sight and the graveyard is on the edge of hundreds of acres of forestland. I make it a practice to never to go into “the wild” unarmed.

I couldn’t let the tonneau go clear up due to the limbs, but I got it up enough to open the tailgate. Pulling the monument to the edge, I got my fingers under it, picked it up, turned and started walking toward my future home (well, for my ashes anyway). Even a small piece of solid stone is heavy, so this blubbery old man had to stop twice and rest in the 200 foot distance. To do so, I set the stone gently atop a monument and parked my derriere on another. I managed to find members of my own family who I thought might be more forgiving of my seeming disrespect.

Once there, I placed the stone very precisely, sat down again for a longer rest, and then returned to the truck for my axe and shovel. Using the axe, I carefully cut the sod around the monument, so it would drop into a perfectly-sized hole. I then used the shovel to dig down the thickness of the stone. After smoothing up the bottom of the hole, I slid the stone into it, stepped on it a few times to settle it and PRESTO—a perfect fit! I then used the shovel to cut a line about two inches from the stone all the way around, but without removing any sod. Then I stepped on the sliver of sod all the way around to tighten the grip of the dirt on the stone. Most folks could walk by and never know that it had just been installed.

I took a few minutes to savor the autumn day and remember the days of yore when the nearly forgotten little church at the northwest end of the cemetery had hardly a seat to spare. Looking around, I found some more relatives and some neighbors long gone. I also found the grandfather of a man that I used to go to church with elsewhere. I didn’t know that he’d served in Company H of the 3rd West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry during the great Uncivil War. I do now.

Some folks get edgy around cemeteries. I suspect that has more to do with the fear of their own mortality than it does with ghosts and goblins. I’ve always found cemeteries to be peaceful, interesting places. You can learn a lot of history in a graveyard. I actually hated to leave, but I guess I’ll be there permanently soon enough. Then I’ll have eternity to visit with the other residents of the place (well, SOME of them at least). © 2013


Pumice said...

My family has memorial services instead of funerals. If you want you can get the cremation urn to put up front but all you really need is a nice picture. If you use your home church the only cost is an honorarium or two. There is no need to involve the funeral director.

I never thought of placing my own stone. I guess that is where creativity comes in.

Grace and peace.

Scooney Adrift said...

Yep, I share your wishes...Cremation, no visitation and no service. There is an old saying that "A man preaches his own funeral every day of his life."
A lot of truth in that!

Chickenmom said...

Lived right next to an old cemetery years ago - loved all my peaceful neighbors. It was never a scary place, but a spot to reflect about all the people and who they really were. Some lived very short lives and some quite long. Some served with George Washington and some were Korean War vets. We all have to leave this earth at some point, but it is nice to know where your final resting place will be. A hundred years from now, someone will pass by your stone and wonder who you were and what you were like. Kinda nice, really.

Gorges Smythe said...

Not creative, Pumice, just cantankerous and cheap! :-)

LOL Well, Scooney, I guess my sermon would be "I mind my own business, you do the same." Not to spiritual, I fear!

It will have to be strangers, Cm, since I have no blood heirs.

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

As long as you didn't pre-engrave the final date, you're good to get the stone in advance! LOL
My grandmother selected her plot, a choice between being next to her husband or an empty spot in her side of the family's portion. She almost chose to not be by my grandpa because the view was better at the other site (same cemetery, withing site of each choice) Too Funny. She finally chose to be by her husband, my grandpa.

So that leaves two plots in Bethany MO that I can have. I'd love to make everyone in the funeral procession drive 300 miles at 35 mph)

Gorges Smythe said...

Actually, Kathy, I thought about putting some future date on it just to flip people out, but it would have been too hard to change. 300 miles, huh? :-)