Friday, June 26, 2009

You want to be buried where???

By Lonnie Cruse

Well, you all know me. Have camera, will travel, will blog about it. The above pictures are of the old Lindsey Cemetery near Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Most modern cemeteries are placed on fairly level land, but this old one is on a hillside. An extremely STEEP hillside. Think nosebleed section in a HUGE gymnasium.

Unfortunately you really can't see from the pictures just how steep it is because I'm parked inside the area at the first level, but imagine trying to place flowers for your loved ones on the highest points. You'd be risking life and limb. Both pictures were taken with the zoom lens as far out as it would zoom. In the center of the top picture, yes, those ARE ancient headstones. Can you imagine trying to dig those graves with nothing but a shovel back then, before the advent of backhoes, and trying to keep yourself from rolling downhill at the same time?

So, where do you want to be buried? Have you given that any thought? Too touchy a subject to consider? Too morbid? You must be young. The older you get, the less that matters, and the more you want to make those decisions so your family won't have to.

I confess, I love old cemeteries, and we sometimes stop to explore an interesting looking one. You can read the history of a family there, mostly the heartache. Five tiny graves lined up in a neat row in an ancient graveyard in The Land Between The Lakes area of Western Kentucky are there most likely because the mother was pregnant year after year in a day when modern medical advances that save many infants didn't yet exist. Often husbands and wives are buried side by side, the dates showing how long one lived on without the other. And, as our minister recently pointed out, the little dash between the birth and death dates on a headstone represent a person's entire life. What happened to that person during that little dash between birth and death? Was that life good or bad? Was he or she successful or a failure? Loved or hated? Busy or bored? The list goes on and on.

You can usually spot an old, out of use cemetery, or at least the oldest part of a newer one where lots are still sold, by the tall monuments, most of which are no longer even allowed. To facilitate mowing, most cemeteries now only allow flat markers that are lower than the surrounding grass, and don't even get me started on flowers and how fast they wind up in the ditch after a loving family member placed them at the headstone.

Speaking of headstones, the oldest we've ever come across marks the grave of a Kentucky man who, as a young boy, served as drummer for his regiment in the Revolutionary War. He later married, had a family, lived out his life, and now rests deep in the woods, again on top of a high hill, and what is it with these hills? Were they used as cemeteries because that part of the land couldn't be plowed or planted? Where was I?

Nobody wants to think about their own death. Yet mystery writers think about it, research it in depth, play with it in our minds, and write about it over and over. And sometimes we get ideas and/or character names from our research, be it the obits or wandering through a cemetery. For their part, mystery readers read about death, book after book, and don't turn a hair. Is it because we all tell ourselves it's only fiction? Are we blind to our own mortality? I don't know.

I do know that hubby and I have made our own plans and written our decisions out for our grown sons, hopefully making a difficult time easier for each other and/or for them. As to being buried on a steep hill that only a mountain goat could visit? No thanks. For me, cremation and scattering on the beautiful lake where we spent so many happy hours with our boys when they were small. And if you want me to have flowers, please send 'em now. When I can still enjoy them. Thanks.


Auntie Knickers said...

In Whitefield, ME, I visited ancestral graves in a hillside cemetery perhaps not quite as steep - but with a beautiful view of a lake. My grandparents and all the deceased aunts and uncles but one are in another cemetery with a view of Merrymeeting Bay. I'm thinking of cremation and our church's Memorial Garden, which is in part of the church's original cemetery (1717 or thereabouts) where one of my paternal ancestors is buried, although his stone crumbled to dust close to 100 years ago. We genealogists think about this a lot, almost as much as mystery writers!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Apparently, I have family plots in AL, SC, VA, and GA just waiting for my demise! :) I guess I'll be buried wherever I'm closest to when I drop dead.

That's a hilly cemetery!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lonnie Cruse said...

Morning Ladies,

Sorry for the poor formatting when you read the post. I think it's fixed now, but there were no breaks in the paragraphs before. Sigh, adding pictures does wierd things to posts. Thanks for stopping by!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

My parents, both lawyers, brought me up to have a will and a plot. I think somewhere on PDD is a post and poem about the plot my husband and I have at the Fort Hill Cemetery in Montauk, on high ground overlooking the Atlantic, Fort Pond, and Lake Montauk--the only real estate with ocean view I'll ever own. Now, if only the tip of Long Island doesn't crumble and fall into the ocean in the next 30 or 40 years....

Julia Buckley said...

I also think old cemeteries are beautiful, and I especially like the solitary ones in the middle of nowhere. Where I live the cemeteries are crowded and jammed into city and suburban streets, and they're not at all graceful looking. Makes me lean toward cremation, so they can sprinkle me wherever I choose . . .

Clea Simon said...

I adore old cemetaries, too, and am lucky to have the beautiful arboretum-like Mt Auburn Cemetary nearby. But for me, too, cremation and scattering.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Ahhh, I'm so glad I'm not the only person who likes old cemeteries! Thanks, everyone!

Sandra Parshall said...

I love old cemeteries too, especially those with statuary. Highgate in London is marvelous. Rock Creek Cemetery in DC has a world-famous statue called "Grief" over one grave. Arlington National Cemetery is both a sad and stirring place to visit, with its row after row after row of markers bearing the names of dead soldiers, some of whom were mere children when they died.

But the beauty of cemeteries aside, I don't want to end up buried in the ground. I'm claustrophobic.

Marilynne said...

I love cemetaries too. When I lived with my parents, our home was often near the church cemetary for the simple reason that my father was pastor of the church.

However, I'm with you Lonnie. I'd rather be on a steep hillside than buried in a hard to find memory plate. I find those cemetaries so impersonal.

I'm also with you in that we've opted for cremation. Some day the world's going to need the land where cemetaries lie.

Sheila Connolly said...

I'm addicted to cemeteries and will wander through any older one, whether or not I have any connections there.

I don't believe that it's necessary to preserve my body for eternity (and I'm troubled by the American industry that foists expensive coffins and concrete cases for said coffins on grieving relatives)--I'm happy to be cremated, after donating whatever parts are still usable.

But I do want a tombstone--I want a marker that people will walk by and read, now and then, and think of me.

When one of my great-great-great-grandmothers died in 1893, her family bought a plot in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, and that's where I want to be--it's right down the hill from Authors Ridge, with Emerson, Thoreau, the Alcotts and Nathaniel Hawthorne (and I'm distantly related to two of the four families). That way I'll be guaranteed a few visitors, even if they're cursing because they can't find the stones they really want to see (if you're ever in the neighborhood, check it out--RWE has a pink quartz boulder for a stone, and people leave little offerings to HDT).

Katharine A. Russell said...

I adore old cemeteries. My mother's family is buried in Louden Park in Baltimore, a hilly affair with lots of wonderful monuments and stories of eccentricity. The roads in and out are difficult to keep track of and, on one visit, we almost got locked in at closing time because we couldn't find the way back to the main gate.I wrote the pet cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco into my first mystery, and a small Southern cemetery quite similar to the one where all my father's people are resting found its way into my new manuscript.