Rachel and I are planning our funerals. We’re reading Here When You Need Me, by Kate Braestrup, about a woman whose husband, age 34, went out for a drive one morning and never came back. Car accident two miles from their home. Rachel and I decided we should give each other instructions, just in case.
Rachel wants to be cremated. I opt for the traditional cemetery grave-and-headstone arrangement.
That’s fine, Rachel says, if that’s what I want. But, she asks, would she have to tend the grave? I tell her no, no special decorations needed, just so they mow the grass occasionally.
“I don’t want to be any burden,” I say.
That’s not it, Rachel says. She explains that she’d feel guilty if she didn’t visit my grave regularly (birthdays? wedding anniversaries? what’s the etiquette?), but if she did visit, it would ruin her week. She’d dread the scheduled day, and cry at the cemetery.
This hadn’t occurred to me. I always thought that, if I died prematurely, my daughter, and perhaps my wife, would take some comfort in having a grave to visit. Maybe on a small knoll, next to an oak tree, with my name chiseled into a granite headstone. I’d seen this scene many times in movies and on t.v., where the bereaved stands by the headstone and has a talk with the deceased. The presence of an actual decaying body six feet down made the griever feel closer to the departed.
Then I realized that I’d only seen this scene on t.v or the movies.
Did it ever happen in real life?
So here’s my question, for those of you who have a loved one in the cemetery. Is it a comfort, or a burden?