When the end is unknown sometimes it's good to have a talk about the ritual of end.
My sisters death brought up a lot of emotions and thoughts. The journey home to IL was filled with the inevitable "cemetery tour" of all the loved ones that I (and my father) live far away from.
The first stop was to my grandmother and my great grandmother. Dad and I were particularly close to gram, so it's a very very sad place in more than just the obvious reason. We both said hello and hugged her grave. My grandfather's name is next to hers waiting for his end date. It's hard to look at. Dad said that my grandparents nearly bought the house across from that cemetery... which makes sense considering my grandmother always loved scary movies and mysteries and... well she probably would have loved it. Gram also said that she was going to move back to that little town she grew up before she died. I'm pretty relieved in hindsight that they couldn't buy that house across the street. I could picture my grandmother sick with cancer looking out her window just waiting and hoping... and I'd rather not think anything like that.
Driving from cemetery to cemetery brought up great memories too. We talked about my cousin Mickey who had served in the military and was buried in a veterans cemetery. Mickey's life was cut short from illness. His son is close to my dad and was also close to my sister. Mickey was also apparently named Mickey on his birth certificate and not Michael which lead to an unusual problem later in his life.
Mickey served one term in the military. Apparently my cousin Adrian took his place for the second. Mickey wanted to serve his country but nearly didn't anyway... as his name that he thought was his wasn't actually his birth name. He ended up changing it subsequently and served his time happily. He is now honored in that massive cemetery.
As we printed out the map and looked for his placement, my dad actually found others that we knew. Another relative had also served and was buried there. Yet another was a neighbor or friend of his that had passed. Time goes and we forget. I'm dreading the moment anyone forgetting about my loved ones.
Next was my great aunt Louise and very great grandfather Munch on my mother's side. We drove out to a cemetery near my mother's old house across from my dentist office as a kid and made our way to see them both. Grandpa's marker can be seen as you drive up. It's a giant brown cross weathered by time and weather. Dad said that it was one of, if not the oldest in there. It's under a tree. However, the quirks with my other side of the family do not seem to stop.
Arriving to Aunt Louise's grave you would find no headstone. I asked why. My dad said that some of her kids were given the money to buy it but didn't end up doing that. My dear tiny sweet Hispanic Aunt Louise was found nearly always in her kitchen cooking amazing tamales (that she laughed at us later when we found out that there was lard in them) and swearing like a truck driver. As I saw the headstone missing, I apologized to dad as I swore and said
"What the fuck Aunt Louise?" I could imagine her laughing as we all did in that moment.
Dad started talking about how he would have his headstone. He said he wants an eagle on there.. or wants a headstone like an eagle. As we drove we saw what looked like a light coming from a different stone. We joked that it might be a bat signal as my dad still collects comic books.
"Do you want a bat signal too dad?"
"Good idea!" he said as we all laughed.
We then went to see Jess. Dad said that he intends to put an angel on her stone as that is how he views her to be. I hope my dad also puts her picture on there. I told him that when I go to my cousin Danielle's stone it's nice seeing her picture there.
Dad asked me how I would want my headstone or if I would want to be cremated. My mother said that is how she wants to be and that her new husband will do it. My brother couldn't answer this question even though I asked him if he might want to be a record or a diamond. I told dad that I want a big red headstone for me and that I want them to take some of my hair and put it in a taxidermy crow so that someday I can haunt my kids every once in awhile and say "Evermore" or something.. you know before I end up at a yard sale and am just forced to haunt random strangers.
It was good to laugh.
It was good to remember.
How would you want to be remembered on your headstone if you had the option? Would you want a headstone or would you choose something else? Do tell your final thoughts.