And the road goes on forever...

Friday, August 21, 2009

Picking the Final Resting Place

This week Marc and I took a speed run into California to handle the task of helping my folks buy a burial plot in the pioneer cemetery which contains most of my father’s relatives. Nimshew Cemetery dates from 1861 but was deeded over to Butte County in 1961 and since that point has charged. Previously, being a pioneer cemetery, burial for family members was free. Amid the tangled brush, tall pines, acorn-dropping oaks, down a very tiny dirt road located far off the beaten path, we wound our way until we finally arrived at canyon’s edge. Although I had been here countless times as a child, it had been at least 30 years since I set foot on this hallowed barren ground. Part of the appeal of a pioneer cemetery is that it is all natural; caretaking consists of keeping the poison oak and weeds killed off and trying to stem the natural process of hillside erosion.

We, with help from the caretaker and a large paper map listing plot ownership, found a good spot in the next row directly at the foot of grandfather’s grave. All the previous family graves are regular burial but mom and dad have decided upon cremation and the advantage of a full plot (4’x10’) is that up to four cremated remains may be placed. So, in effect, it becomes a family plot so to speak.

All this led to the consideration of death coming to everyone’s doorstep, whether prepared or not, and the fact that I should be giving my own thought to final resting plans. Marc and I also know we want cremation but Marc prefers to be scattered over Yosemite, an area he visited often and fondly as a boy. I suppose scattering my ashes to the winds would suit me to a fashion—carrying the last of me traveling…as ever I also traveled in life. On the other hand, I now know I also have my prepaid spot in Nimshew Cemetery, ironically within 20 miles (as the crow flies) of my birthplace despite my traveling ways! With in-place burial there would be a plaque to tell the world who I was and how long I lived and maybe even some simple thought like “loving wife and mother”. Scattered to the wind, only the wind gets to remember my name once all my living relatives and friends have passed on; there would be absolutely no physical commemoration of my having ever lived. After all, it's not like I've ever built anything that will last awhile, as Marc has done by building houses, nor have I produced anything of note like artwork which might weather time's relentless march. Now that’s food for thought. And I thought this would be easy.