Eternally Yours

Feb 21, 2011 | 3 comments

On Davis Hill

     Yesterday I spent the better part of an hour up in the cemetery with one of my neighbors.  He is planning to buy two plots – one for himself and one for his partner and, as secretary/treasurer of the Oysterville Cemetery Association, I know which real estate is available – with the help of the cemetery map, I should say.
    Over the thirty-plus years that I’ve been selling burial plots, I have learned a lot about people’s attitudes and beliefs concerning their eternal resting place.  First of all, the cemetery, itself, has some requirements.  Traditionally, full body burials are made east-to-west with the head at the west so the deceased faces the sunrise.  Hmmm.
     And, in our cemetery, we require a headstone to be placed within a year, preferably not a flat stone.  These days, many cemeteries actually require a flat stone for ease of grounds maintenance.  In Oysterville, we prefer taller stones to help retain the old-fashioned feeling of the cemetery.  Though such stones are more costly, most buyers honor that suggestion.
     Another cemetery tradition is that married couples be laid side-by-side with the woman on the man’s left.  I’m not sure why, although someone told me that the custom stems from ladies always being on the gentleman’s left so that his sword arm is free in case he needs to defend her honor.  Again, hmmm.
     Yesterday, we walked around for awhile, looking at available spots and considering who has been or plans to be buried in nearby plots.  Many people choose their final resting place based upon who their neighbors will be, especially folks those who have no other family members buried here.
     In some cases, (mine, for instance), there is already a family area and choices can be limited by ‘space available’ concerns.  Perhaps being buried near your least favorite family relative is preferable to spending eternity near an unrelated stranger – as in blood is thicker than water?  Some folks solve that problem by being cremated and having their cremains tucked in with a loved one already ‘at eternal rest.’
     My neighbor’s ultimate choice yesterday was one-of-a-kind, as far as I know.  The plots are located end-to-end and the plan is to have the tombstone situated between the plots so that the information for each person can be on separate sides of the stone.  Great idea!  And it’s totally in keeping with some of the oldest markers, especially those that are obelisk-shaped.  In many cases those attractive old stones display the information of several spouses or, perhaps, of a child or two – same stone, different surfaces.
     As always when visiting our old cemetery, I was struck by the sense of community I feel when up there.  So many relatives and neighbors and friends – people who knew one another and, increasingly, people I have known.  It’s always a pleasure to help a friend choose a spot to spend eternity – especially, like yesterday, when the need seems far in the future and many earthly friendships will be formed in the interim.

3 Comments

  1. karla

    Love this blog entry!!!!!
    Karla

    Reply
  2. Pat Thomas

    Yes, lovely entry. Almost makes me want to be buried. A questionable bit of cemetery protocol I ran into a few years ago (while visiting our mutual friends Don & Laura) was in a cemetery with the main road of town running down the middle. On the right side were the baptized, the “heathens” on the left. Always wondered if that had anything to do with “sitting on the right hand of God.” So as not to force any decisions about my lack of church-going, I will ride with the fishes out to sea!

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  3. Stephanie Frieze

    A very interesting blog, Sydney. I wonder if the “woman on the left” is the same as at weddings where the bride and her family are on the left. Maybe it dates back to ancient times. Personally, I’d want to face the sunset, especially in our part of the world!

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