This weekend I visited my  parent's graves.  It's been a bit over 2 years.  I still think of them often.


I have no illusions about them looking down on me, or up at me, or whatever. Still, I wanted to visit the cemetery in person. That took a bit of a trip - fly from Portland to St. Louis, then drive 3 hours northwest to the little town where they lived and died, and where I grew up. I don't know anyone there now.  So it was just go to the cemetery, get lunch, and leave. I pondered a while at the cemetery, walked around, pondered some more, felt like I should be there but didn't know what to do about it.

I can't see well to drive at night, so I stayed overnight in St. Louis, drove to my old town, visited the cemetery, then drove back and stayed overnight in St. Louis again.  I know this was not representative of the local cuisine - or maybe it was- but the pasta place where I ate, a "local gem", really sucked.

I had plenty of reading to do on the flight, some continuing education. The flight had wi-fi, so I was able to do the online tests. Then 2 Pimsleur Spanish modules. It was a productive trip.

Glad I don't live in that town any more.   Still I feel like a lot of my personality formed there.  I was always an outsider, and there was some bad behavior on the part of schoolmates and others.  I've gone from bitter-angry to bitter-mixed feelings.  Which seems like progress of a sort. 

I think my parents would have wanted me to visit them there.  So I did.  Probably will again.

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Comment by Steph S. on November 23, 2013 at 8:19pm

I hope the visit helped you to feel close to them in some way.

Comment by Daniel W on November 20, 2013 at 5:54pm


Randall, a visit would have been great!  But I wasn't up for driving across Illinois.  Never got more than 5 or 10 miles from the Mississippi.  A taste our of your persimmons would have been worth the drive!

Dennis that sounds like a plan for me!

Comment by Michael Penn on November 20, 2013 at 11:26am

The main reason I want to be cremated is that they can keep my ashes in a jar on the mantle. Then if I'm ever needed again they just add water. It works in some movies.

Comment by Randall Smith on November 20, 2013 at 9:49am

And here you were so close to my house! While I plan to be cremated or donate my body to science, I would like a headstone just to commemorate my existance. I visit my ancestors. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Comment by Daniel W on November 19, 2013 at 12:27pm

Terry, I think you are right.  The town seems to be flourishing.  There is more diversity than when I grew up there - back when wooly mammoths bellowed their lonely songs across the Illinois prairie.  But I can't lose some of the old emotions.  I was not able to bring myself to check on the house where I grew up.  Maybe another time.

Dennis, I don't understand why people think naturally decomposing bodies would contaminate the earth, but the pollution involved in constructing vaults and coffins, and the formaldehyde and other toxins that are pumped into the body, are not a concern.  Plus, with embalming, the blood is drained out and sent into the sewer.  Do people like that idea?  Reconnecting to the earth as a composting  body, seems much more environmentally friendly and wholesome.

K. Hughes, you are right!  Plus I am odd anyway.  This summer I cut down a dead tree.  I wanted to leave it there for birds to roost, but people complained it might fall over and thought it ugly.  I cut it into short pieces and am using the wood to heat the house, via stove insert in fireplace.  When the ashes cool, I spread them over the ground, returning the minerals to their origins and nourishing the next trees and plants to grow.  While doing that I feel virtuous and beneficial.

At the edge of the cemetery, were remnants of plants and trimmings probably discarded by caretakers.  They don't do much - there still isn't grass on my parents' graves 2 years later.   I saw a couple of wizened bearded iris rhizomes with puny attempts at leaves.  It's an old cemetery, with some patches of shrubs, trees, and flowers planted decades, even a century, ago.  So I picked up 2 rhizomes as mementos, and will see if they grow.  I would never remove the original bunches, but these were discards, so I think it's OK.  If they do grow and bloom, I will think of my parents then too.

Comment by Michael Penn on November 19, 2013 at 6:03am

I think natural burial would be nice. It used to be the norm, but today everyone is "afraid that our bodies will contaminate the earth" so we get buried much differently. WTF! I remember feeling badly when I had to get dentures. I told my mother that "I wanted my skeleton to have teeth." (Now what did that mean, and what was it about?) Today I have decided to take the easiest way out. Just burn me up and scatter the ashes, but make sure that I'm really dead first, OK.

Comment by kathy: ky on November 19, 2013 at 1:45am

Sentient, I think I love you.  Worms and cemeteries!    Maybe it's our way of connecting to mother earth and family.  I do the same as Ted.  Wander around and wonder at it all.  Those gone before,those to come after,those who were only born to die.  Maybe it's just that time of year. Maybe it's our age creeping up on us.

Comment by Daniel W on November 18, 2013 at 10:27pm

Dennis, I wondered about posting this.  For me, too, it is a form of respect.

Ted, also - I've looked into natural burial for myself as well.  There is a place near here where bodies are respectfully buried, in a shroud or wooden box, with no chemicals / embalming fluid etc.  It is a prairie over the Columbia river.  I want to buy a site for myself, there, one of these days.

Carl, I'm spending more time thinking about both past and future lately.  It is what it is.  :-)

Comment by Daniel W on November 18, 2013 at 10:22pm

Ted I do that too.  The brief stories, most minimally told, can be very moving.  It's thought provoking.  The cemetery where my parents are buried, has many stones with old German inscriptions.  Which tells me something about them, too.  Some, simply "Mother" "Father", without a name.   At the edges of the cemetery, some markers have slid down a hillside.

Comment by Ted Foureagles on November 18, 2013 at 9:48am

I sometimes visit nearby old cemeteries to walk among the stones.  I read the names, dates and inscriptions and think about who those people were, and look around at all the poignantly small uninscribed stones that indicate the burial of infants.  Some dates stretch back to colonial times, and there are clusters of immigration waves, epidemics, wars..  I almost never travel to North Carolina where the graves of all of my known ancestors lie.  I've given up on that place becoming, in my lifetime, anything other than the profound pit of ignorance and superstition that it has long been.  I know the locations of some of those family graves going back a few hundred years, and there are those at Town Creek Indian Mound that are perhaps a thousand years old.  I'll remember them, but probably not again visit them.  For myself, I've made it known to donate my more interesting parts that might be medical curiosities but certainly not useful functioning things after what I've put them through.  The rest of my carcass I'd prefer to have buried at any convenient location, unembalmed and unsealed so that it will at least pay a little back to the soil.


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