Avoiding a Grave Situation
Among the gravestones of my past family members, that of my parents is the only one I ever make an effort to visit, but an interest in genealogy led me to find the markers of my paternal grandparents last year. I even researched an uncle previously unknown to me, one who died before my father was born. He was buried with his grandparents, his name absent from the granite memorial that bears their names. I imagine that as a matter of economy in a time when hardship was a way of life.
On a return visit to Buffalo last week, I rediscovered those of my maternal grandparents, their location last known to me thirty years ago. I cleared away the grass and dirt encroaching on those markers, then I went in search of the headstone of my aunt.
I found it in a much soggier section of the cemetery. It has a lovely image of an angel on it. Nearly ninety years ago, five years before my mother was born, she was struck and killed by a bus while crossing the street. She was just seven years old. Other than my siblings and children, there are no other family members living in the area, so, in all likelihood, her grave has not had any visitors since my son made a rubbing of her stone for a grade school history project, thirty years ago. All but a small portion of her name was covered with sod, so I carefully cut that away, watching as ground water seeped in to obscure the lettering. It was like time having its way, all over again.
Visiting cemeteries in the past year has me thinking about graves and their markers. Those monuments exist for the living, of course, but once the living who have any connection to those dead are gone, they might as well be nameless stones. Sure, some of those stones are significant, as reminders of historical figures lying beneath them, but the remainder are only reminders of the obscurity that awaits us.
Watching the water cover my aunt’s stone has led me to think about my own marker. For years, I have assumed I would not have one. My children understand that I wish to have my ashes placed in the Niagara River. It’s a place I always have enjoyed, especially during my hundreds of scuba dives there.
But now I imagine my children on a boat anchored on the river, slowly lowering a one hundred thirty pound piece of granite over the side, the water washing over and obscuring my name and the numbers of my lifespan, knowing that, even without a barrel, it would be my “turn to go over the falls.” The river will be their reminder of me, without any need to wander among granite markers wondering which one is mine.
each pebble in place
strong in face of rising waves
holding up mountain