Friday, September 21, 2007


Yesterday I wrote about digging, and I ended the article asking if I’d dig my own grave. Sure it’s a morbid topic, but is seems to me that digging a grave may be the ultimate act of love.

I’ve dug graves for pets in the past. I once dug a grave for a calf that died. I had to bury a horse two years ago. It was during a real rainy spell so I hired someone with a back hoe because water filled the hole and replaced every bit of dirt that was removed.

Digging a grave gives one the chance to reflect on the life that is now gone. Unfortunately, people no longer have the opportunity to dig graves for their loved ones.

There are no longer any family cemeteries on the family farm. There are all sorts of laws, union contracts and standards that prevent this final act of love from taking place. The closest thing one can do is purchase a plot and walk the earth where you eventually will be interned. All aspects of the death of a loved one are taken care of by strangers. Your only involvement is writing a check and attending the service.

I’ve always had the romantic notion that I could find a spot in the woods up on the hill in the back part of my property and dig my grave. I could carefully craft it and stone the walls like a well. I could cover it and maintain it. When I die I can be placed in the grave and it could be filled with the forest soil by friends and loved ones. Then it may be capped with a simple stone.

Maybe this is morbid, but to me I find that an occasional reminder of my mortality helps me appreciate my life much more.


Blogger Auntie said...

Guy - you need to find those happy lights NOW !

5:20 AM  
Blogger Hahn at Home said...

Down the hill, past the pond and the grove of old growth black walnut trees, on the hill on the other side is the pet cemetary. All the kids and grandkids came together to make stones for each animal in our life who is either buried there or remebered there. The path from house, past pond, to hill is carefully manicured. There is a bench at cemetary where my stepdad finds it pleasant to reflect. Despite being a good cop who served the public for a lot of years, he still finds animals (even dead ones) far superior company to people. He wants to be buried there--knowing my mom, she'll figure out a way to do it.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Trish said...

I don't think I would want a grave...I would like to be cremated and ashes spread to the wind. Once I am gone I want to be totally gone. If people want to have reminders of me they can hang a picture of a happy smiling younger me. Graves always seem so abandoned and lonely.

Phew...heavy topic for a Friday afternoon.

10:27 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

I think it's more of a topic of reverence. There is something about visiting an old grave yard and seeing the monuments, which are the only things left after a person is forgotten. You will see the dates of their life span and wonder what their eyes had seen. The monuments are a touchstone with the past. Some people need that sort of thing. Think of all the people who visit Jim Morrison's grave in Paris. What about Graceland? What about the Viet Nam Memorial. These monuments remind us of the things we can achieve and that we need to keep living until it's all over.

I feel somewhat cheated that my father's ashes were scattered. To me there is no touchstone even though I know where his ashes were scattered. I occasionally read his obituary when I feel the need to look back.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous pamela said...

Guy, you are bordering on your Catholic "no cremation" background


11:59 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Cremation is OK, but why not place them under or in a monument? Mix the ashes in a hand thrown pot or use them in a glaze...

12:07 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Okay, this is not so morbid. Yesterday I thought you were referring to accidently falling into (and dying in) one of those pits you dug.
I like the idea of a special place to "be" once you die - a place you chose.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous cb said...

You can be buried on your property in Oregon.
"The following information was compiled by Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board
(Board) staff in response to public inquiries concerning the burial of human remains on private
With the exception of ORS 97.040 pertaining to "private family burial grounds" Oregon
law is silent on the matter of private property burials. Based upon the absence of statutory
prohibition and the limited guidance provided by ORS 97.040, the Board takes the position that
private property burial of a human body is permissible under state law so long as burial lots are
not offered for sale.
Although it may not be unlawful, private property burial is not recommended. Cemeteries
exist for a reason. Once legally dedicated to cemetery purposes, land so dedicated remains sacred
and may not be used for any other purpose. Those contemplating private property burial should
seriously consider the extent to which the burial ground will remain sacred to future owners of the
Those contemplating private property burial should also check with local government
officials about local ordinances which may impose restrictions or conditions." I know a few people who are buuried on in private graves on their property. I was in attendance at a funeral in which family and friends dug the grave, we all took part in the farewell, and we covered the coffin. It is very, very restful. Such an act of love and, will, gently tucking them back into the earth, home.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Auntie said...

Only my BFF would have cared enough to get you that info. Love her!

6:53 PM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

Beyond that, we no longer wash and prepare our loved ones for burial. I know many have been conditioned to believe that this is a morbid act, but I have read old accounts of how loved ones prepared bodies for burial (and the Amish still do) and it's also a very reverent and loving act.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Auntie said...

Oddly enough (well it shocked me) after my stepdad died, I sat with his body for a long time. I kept thinking I needed to "do" something for him. And once the mortuary guys took him away, I thought about how natural it would have seemed to prepare his body ourselves for burial. It makes sense in that it gives some closure (at least to the dearly departed one's "earth-suit")

9:11 PM  
Anonymous gearhead said...

I'm going with trish on this one.
When I'm gone, I'm gone.
And a few generations after that; who cares?
I will be cremated.
I would like to see the math on how many years it will be until the entire globe is covered in permanent gravesites if we continue this monumental madness.
I am just me and nothing more.
Sometimes I'm great and at other times I suck.
I will do my very best for society while I am alive.
When I die, I am history.
Thats a fact.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Mike S said...

This is another state where you can be buried anywhere under somewhat similar laws. When I was young, the state still allowed for private preparation and burial, and that's the way many were interred on the old farm. When the last of the place got sold off, they moved the bodies to the towm cemetary and re-interred them.
Perhaps having experienced that so young is why the thought of death has always seemed normal to me, just another passage we all must go through. I also remember some rather long wakes with a whole lot of festive living right after the funerals to celebrate the deceased's life:)

12:37 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Well, good, you all seem to get it that I wasn't trying to be morbid. Gearhead I do see your point about eternal real estate, but hey, if Wal*Marts can take up thousands of acres every year, individuals should be able to at least take up a six by four. Even graves don't last for ever.

There was a forgotten grave yard in my home town. You'd never know it was there unless you rooted around and raked the leaves and brush away. Many of the stones were unreadable and I suspect that the stones are now nearly all returned to the earth as well.

If my nephew reads this, Robb what ever happened to the yard off Moffat Road? Has it been preserved?

6:59 AM  
Blogger Mom of Three said...

In China, population issues extend to death as well, and families rent a spot in multi-story graveyards for one year. I forgot what they do after that...

12:53 PM  
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11:41 PM  

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