On the back of an old envelope, my mama wrote an inventory of her “good” china, which now belongs to me.
She has been gone for nearly 25 years, and I can recognize her handwriting immediately. Sometimes, I like to just trace the letters with my finger, knowing it was her writing.
A generation from now, will we even be able to recognize anyone’s handwriting? We are so computer-oriented now that we communicate by the letters on a keyboard. No one could take something I write and say, “That looks like his typing.”
The same is true for our memorials when we are gone. More and more families are choosing cremation over traditional burial. There is nothing wrong with that. However, we of the South have been a little slow to warm up (pardon the pun) to cremation.
A burial most often included a headstone of when the person was born and died. Sometimes it displays a message, like “together forever” for a couple who are buried side-by-side. I remember a man who had, “I told y’all I wasn’t feeling good,” carved on his tombstone.
A preacher friend told me about a grave at a cemetery in Kentucky. The husband died first, and the surviving wife had a rather poignant message on her side of the stone. “Happy since” the inscription read with an arrow pointing to his date of death.
Many cemeteries now offer niches where the cremated remains can be placed. There is a spot on the outer cover where the name, birth and death information can be inscribed.
In most cemeteries, the graves are laid out from east to west, with the feet pointing toward the east.
This is based on the book of First Thessalonians that speaks of Jesus’ return in the eastern sky.
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”
There are a lot of folks who believe their embalmed bodies will pop up out of the ground. They don’t see that happening with a container of ashes.
A lot of people want their ashes to be strewn at some meaningful location, such as the ocean, a lake or a mountain vista. That’s good because they will have been remembered in some way.
However, ask anyone in the funeral business, and they will tell you that there is a place where boxes upon boxes of unclaimed ashes are sitting.
An undertaker friend of mine said that’s a bit troubling. Occasionally, someone will sheepishly call up years later and say, “I just forgot about daddy.” I’m glad they didn’t forget about him at the grocery store or the airport.
Funerals, burials and the placement of ashes are a way to show you were here. You lived and contributed to your community and family.
Back to my original topic, if you have someone’s china or silverware or something that reminds you of them, hang on to it. It may become a way for you to remember them more closely.
And, as for those of you who aren’t sure what you want done with your remains, consider this: Take that computer and start writing down accounts of important events in your life. Maybe it’s a story about Christmas or your first trip to a big city. One day, there will be grandchildren or great-grandchildren who would like to know who you really were.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the weekend Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com.