Saturday, 14 May 2016

Random thoughts on graveyards and funerals

There are those who love walking round graveyards. I rarely take a wander in these kind of places but I can understand the lure for people. When I was at Belton House last weekend I spent some time walking around the churchyard, taking pictures and having non-maudlin, meandering thoughts about funerals. 

While I was looking at the tombstones - the majority very old and crusted with lichen - it occurred to me that I had never given any thought to what my own headstone might look like. Following that thought through on its random train I realised that was because I didn't expect to have a headstone. I'm not a religious person so a burial plot this close to a church would not be an option and also what with how few plots there are about these days I have always assumed I'll be cremated and my ashes scattered somewhere. No ornate carved marker for my remains. No coffin mouldering amongst the earth and worms, waiting to be dug up and disposed of when all my kin are gone and there is another body queuing to take my place.

I liked the idea that I will have no marker, no set place for people to leave flowers and feel they have to tend. I won't be a set of dates that a graveyard explorer will see and wonder at. Some stonemason will be spared the task of creating a monstrosity in marble of a fat ginger cat with wings playing a harp.

I find churchyards to be quiet, calming places. True, I've only roamed about them during the day so perhaps at night I'd be a tad more spooked but in the rain or in the sunlight they seem places beyond people, if that's possible. Nature weaves in and out from the overgrown, flourishing forget-me-nots to squirrels dancing about their daily lives and birds hopping from stone to stone while moss establishes more of a footing. Any people you see about are quiet, often subdued or thoughtful, so a burial area is more about the absence of living people than their presence.

Any tombstone I had would not be in keeping with the sombre air that some people feel is due. I would want a simple inscription, no name, no dates, yet something that expressed who I was.

I'm thinking:

If you can't get a nod in to Douglas Adams on a hypothetical tombstone then what's the point of life? (42?)

I gave a smidgen of thought to my funeral service, something I haven't really done before. I assume my ever-growing proximity to 40 is prompting these matter-of-fact thoughts. Here's hoping that when I get to 60 I don't start asking people who visit what they want when I die and putting sticky labels on items with the relevant names on as my Gran did. 

I don't want hymns or talk of sin and redemption. I do want random readings from books I know and poems that mean something to me. The poem below encapsulates a lot of my feeling about life and not just because I dislike housework with a passion.

Dust if you must - Rose Milligan

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better

To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

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