Ashes to Ashes…

No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. ~John Donne “Devotions XVII”

This tree stands tall and broad. It appears gnarly as it has weathered time and elements standing guard over the loved ones of this small town. Great care has been given to maintain the grass. Loved ones have carefully tended the gravestones placing flowers, angel statues, and other loving sentiments.

Some monuments were large and elaborate while others were small markers. Some contained messages that told you something about the deceased or left you thinking. One was a grave of a teenage girl and the inscription read something like this “you were much too gentle and kind to walk in such a cold world.” There was another teenage girl a few years older buried beside her. Their deaths were a few years apart. Angels and teddy bears stood upon the edges of the stone. Some had fallen. I carefully placed them back in the spaces from which they had fallen. I felt as if somehow I was intruding upon something very private, but at the same time I felt these things should be put back neatly where they “belonged”. Would you have left these items on the ground where they had fallen, most likely blown by the stormy winds? I didn’t know these people or their circumstances at all, but a part of me felt their angst.

While we don’t know when “our time” or anyone else’s will come, perhaps this is a reminder to treat those dear to us with the same tenderness, love, devotion, and respect while they are alive as we would to their memory.

Have you planned your funeral? I know many people do this. They want certain songs played, poems read, or they want a particular gravestone for others to remember them by. I admit I enjoy singing funeral hymns…. My favorites are Amazing Grace” and “How Great Thou Art”. One of those two have been played at most of the funerals I have attended. But you know me…I’ve never been a traditionalist. My favorite all-time favorite hymns are probably not suitable for a memorial but I’m going to tell them to you anyway. “Morning Has Broken” is tops. I love both “Here I am, Lord”, and “Lord of the Dance”.

Funerals and family or church cemeteries seem to be a big southern thing. My family has a private family cemetery while my hubby’s has a family plot at their church. Personally, I want to be cremated and have my remains (or is that cremains?) tossed into the wind at some of my favorite mountain and river haunts (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun there!) You know, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…tis the circle of life and death…

“Our fear of death is like our fear that summer will be short, but when we have had our swing of pleasure, our fill of fruit, and our swelter of heat, we say we have had our day.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

26 thoughts on “Ashes to Ashes…

  1. The tree so perfectly fits the Cemetary. Beautiful photo. There is a teenage boy by my stepdads grave. It is covered with things too. I always feel the same way when I look at it.
    My real dad was cremated. I’ll be honest. I hate it. My brother has his ashes until they spread them somewhere. I don’t have a place to honor him when I go home. There is something about being able to go a particular place and remember. Having that spot. I can’t do that with my dad. I think at death you won’t really care where you are. It really is about the living left behind. This is something I realized recently. :-)

    • I thought that tree was really awesome!
      I know people who want to be cremated and ashes tossed but also want a stone (over an empty plot) to be remembered by. Personally, I don’t want the stone…I’d rather just be remembered by memory any time, not a specific place to visit.
      I find cemeteries interesting, but I don’t go there to remember people. I go there more for history. There are moments in time or special places that connect me to loved ones I’ve lost.

  2. Behind the house my grandparents lived in for many years was a Catholic church, rectory, church & convent. My parents met in that school in first grade. Most of my extended family went to school there as well. We were also baptized in that church, my parents married there, some of us were confirmed there and funerals were held there. My Aunt Loretta chose to be buried in the small graveyard behind the church. The graveyard that we played in as kids. I’ve never been to my father’s grave, but I find myself taking a cup of coffee to Aunt Loretta’s grave. I’m not religious, I don’t actually go into the church, but I find that piece of property is home to me. I think Loretta chose that burial site for just that reason.

    • Sounds interesting. You have strong family connections there. I think “place” is important.
      I love the land where our family cemetery is located, but I don’t want to “rest” there when I go. I definitely don’t want to be in my hubby’s family plot…the connection is that we got married at that church. But still I’d rather be tossed at places of nature we’ve loved.Maybe my ashes could become a nesting place for new life…who knows?

    • I think it sounds fabulous! My brother loved his Budweiser so we toasted him with Bud after his funeral. And now on his birth and death dates I do the same. I think I will forever connect Budweiser with my brother.We just got his ashes from his wife (who remarried shortly after his death), but we haven’t buried them. I wanted to toss them along the rivers and quarries where he loved to fish, but my mother wants them buried. I suppose it will make her feel better to have a marker and a place to visit him while I only need memories.

  3. You always chose the best photos to depict your feelings in your posts.

    Both of these images are just beautiful!

    I have such a fascination with cemeteries. I will sometimes walk through the various old cemeteries here in Philly and read the tombstones; trying to get an energetic sense of who these people were. I know this might sound strange, but find such peace walking through a cemetery.

    Yes, I too wish to be cremated.

    Have a great Thursday, my friend…..X

  4. I love the peace and quiet of cemeteries. My dad was cremated and his urn placed in a mausoleum with a bronze plaque — that way, I can visit him when we go south. I’m with you — I, too, would have “fixed” the mementos at those young ones’ graves, and I, too, mean to be cremated. No scattering of ashes, though, as Catholics are required to “inter” their dead. I’m not sure I want a bunch of crying — it’s certain that I won’t be weeping!!!

    • I didn’t know Catholics are required to “inter” their dead.
      I find it interesting to see the above ground burials as well. I guess they still do those in areas below sea level.

  5. That photo is worth a thousand words. How beautiful and haunting. I know what I want too. I will be buried at the Military Cemetery at Yountville, in the wine country of Northern California. I want my children and grandchildren to come and get a bottle of fine cabernet and plastic cups and come and visit me. I want them to pour a little over my grave remembering that grandma always loved fine cabs. At my memorial, I want the Rolling Stones “Paint It Black” played as well as “Wild Wild Horses.” The can pick the rest. (I’d be happy with “You can’t always get what you want” though.

    • Love it!They must remember you love fine cab!
      Great taste in music, I must say. Too funny about the “Can’t always get what you want”.
      My hubby wanted (until he found out it is probably illegal and impossible to do!) his ashes to be stuffed in shot gun shells and shot from the mountain top over the valleys of a beautiful hiking area we love….I think tossing them would be much easier!

  6. Very appropriate photo – striking. I’m with you on the cremation – I do not want people to feel obligated to visit my grave, and I want to be free to blow in the wind when I go.

  7. I for one would have done my best to place the blown over markers back into place, I actually have done this more than once.

    Cemeteries seem to freak out some folks but for me they are a place of comfort so to say, I love the Church cemeteries and think every church should have one..Southern thing I suppose.

  8. I am a traditionalist in most things, but not death and funerals. For me, I want no inconvenience.

    And, Morning Has Broken would be a great tune for any event–always fills my head with good thoughts.

    • Yes, I know what you mean…
      I claim I am not traditional, but yet I am in most ways. I guess it’s the few times I not that’s surprising and I kind of shake those at the world to see my differences…ha, a true rebel!
      Oh, how I do love “Morning Has Broken” – hymn or song.

  9. I was surprised to see how worn the old tombstones become with time, nearly illegible. The inscriptions do make one think. The words were usually chosen well.

  10. Beautiful thoughts, Suzi.

    I’m not very big on funerals or memorial services . . . people can remember me (or not) once I’m gone. It’s what we do here NOW that matters to me.

  11. I have told my husband over and over I do not want a funeral, I want a party, a celebration. I want people laughing, eating, drinking, dancing, and enjoying LIFE. Be sad I’m gone, but celebrate the life I had and the life that remains. That is all the “planning”, I have done. I have also mentioned being donated to science. Let my body serve a purpose. Hubby didn’t like that at all, but to me I would love to help people even after I’m dead.

  12. Awesome tree shot! I love your challenge treat those dear to us with the same tenderness, love, devotion, and respect while they are alive as we would to their memory. I have a file with my last wishes and am toying with the song Spirit in the Sky by Norman Greenbaum! And…no one is allowed to wear black.

  13. Great photo and post. Some great comments, too. I also like your idea of how we should treat people while they are alive, not just after they have passed on and are a memory. We had “Morning Has Broken” as a wedding song! I think “Spirit in the Sky” would be great at a memorial, too. I wish to be cremated and have my ashes sprinkled into the wind and into a local creek where we’ve enjoyed tubing, fishing, and where my husband proposed to me and near which we plan to move in the near future. Songs I would like to have at a (joyful) memorial-celebration of life include “The River” by Garth Brooks, “Life’s a Dance” by John Michael Montgomery, “Only Here for a Little While” by Billy Dean and “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas. Some hymns would be “We’ll Gather at the River”, “I was There to Hear Your Borning Cry”, and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”.

  14. My husband and I both don’t want a funeral. Just cremate us and have a party at a bar with lots of good food, family, friends and drink.

    I actually read every single obituary in my Chicago Tribune every Sunday – my husband finds it weird, but I like reading them! Hope you are well and enjoying your summer!

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