Conversations with Gravitas

The email came with a file attached and I was sure that it was a photo of her children, ages 6 and 9. We love my husband’s cousin, and enjoy any communication from her, whether it is about a visit, or the people in crazy colorful garb selling marionettes on the street.


It turned out that the photo was a bucolic scene: a field with some trees around..quite a lovely picnic spot. Except that it was actually a space for cemetery plots. (In New Jersey they would say, “You’ll plotz for our lots!”) Yes, my husband’s youngest cousin had scoped out some space in the cemetery in Falmouth, where her family has had a connection for years.  My brother-in-law owns a house by a Falmouth pond, and my father and mother-in-law also lived in North Falmouth for ten years. My husband’s grandmother used to come up for the summer, and we would go fishing or clamming with her. Our engagement party was on the lawn of Camp Wee Nappie.


But do we want to be buried here? I’m not sure. We don’t live near there, and we have not often visited the cemetery. My first mother-in-law died just ten months after we were married. My husband went once with our older daughter when she was 7 or 8 and wept while she put her little arm around him. She had never met her namesake.


In her email, Anne laid out prices and possibilities. Would we get a group rate? It is a two-for if both people are cremated. Her parents and sister were reserving spaces, as she was for her family. What I want to know is when they say the plot thickens, does that mean you can add a layer of cremains on top?


It surprises me that my husband and I have not talked about this. We have had a will for years and revised it once our younger daughter turned 18, but we have not discussed where we want to hang out once our bodies give way.


I have always imagined my ashes being scattered in beautiful Lake Minnewaska, in the Hudson Valley where I grew up. I loved swimming in the glacial turquoise waters, and hiking down to the bottom of the waterfall nearby. However, we haven’t been there for years, and only visited once with our daughters, so it no longer holds the same meaning. Falmouth had been a place we were all together but that is no longer the case, not since my father-in-law lost his second wife, and the family shifted.


We spent a week in Maine many summers in a row, and this is certainly a place to which we have some attachment, but is there one particular spot? My dad is buried on the property of the house they built outside of New Paltz, New York. My mom is now back in that area, but I don’t know what her wishes are around this. The house they built together has new owners who are lovely, but may not take kindly to memorials in their space.


It’s an interesting conundrum, one that will have an answer, and I want it to be intentional, not left for others to figure out. If we buy, would it be ok to sell our lots if we decide on something else? Is that poor etiquette, like reserving a house on the beach with the family and then subletting to someone else? I like the idea of being with the Stafford clan, but I’m not sure I want to be in a lot at all. I want to be returned to the earth, at least in part. A piece of the equation lies in what my kids want, and I’m not sure that they even know. Apart from my father-in-law’s second wife, they have not experienced a great deal of death during their lives. At their ages I had already lost three grandparents, plus several uncles, aunts and cousins.


Clearly the family would have an easier time getting together in the hereafter than we do in our day to day lives. But that still doesn’t answer the question of what is right for us. As far as cemeteries go, we couldn’t ask for more. It is really a question of whether that is what we want, and where we want. We will have to ponder it just a bit more. My husband’s cousin decided this week, but we are not quite ready with the answer. We will have to hope that if we do decide to be there, that we can still get space near them. If not, we’ll live…or not. But either way, as long as the people who want to commune with us have a space to do it in the way that they want to do it, we’re all good.


And dying to tell the tale.


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About Meg

Meg is a licensed independent clinical social worker with over thirty-five years clinical experience. She holds a Master’s Degree from the Boston University School of Social Work and a Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York at Binghamton.