Memorial to the Living
Memorial day is kind of a strange day for me. On one hand, it's the first weekend of summer, and on the other, a time to remember the dead. I didn't grow up thinking it was a day to visit grave sites, so I thought it was a bit odd that my mother-in-law did it every year. When we lived at a different house, it had a huge snowball bush in our back yard. She would come every memorial day and harvest what was left of the large blooms to go decorate graves. I thought it was a little morbid -- but ya know.
As time has gone on, and more of my loved ones have left us, I have seen the wisdom of this practice. Yesterday we thought we'd beat the crowds and go visit my moms headstone. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera (I'm not thinking blog moment every day yet...grin) and so I can't show you how cute her headstone is. It's raised up off the ground about two feet, and has a darling carving of Winnie the Pooh on the back, chasing butterflies, with the words from my mom and dad's favorite song. Something about feeling butterflies... The joke at her funeral was how she'd raised all of us on Winne the Pooh before it became popular.
As we were gazing around at the different headstones, I realized there is quite the art to them. There are different stones, different sizes, and many varied styles. No longer is a simple headstone that sits in the grass the only option. Many people are going with larger things. There were a few benches, which is what I've told my hubby I want. He's thinking big stone thing, I'm picturing a wooden one like in the movie Nottinghill.
There are some really beautiful ones. My father-in-law has an assortment of little icon type things around the base in the back that depict all the interests he had in life. There is a carving of the Salt Lake Temple, and then the names of all their children.
On my mother's, there is a carving of the view at Fish Lake, one of their favorite vacation spots. My niece (that died when she was twenty in a car accident) is a simpler version, since my brother couldn't afford much else. It's an above ground one, almost square, and has her name carved with a rose. It's touching in it's simplicity.
I looked around the internet briefly, trying to find a good photo of a headstone to show, and I discovered that not everyone does them with lasers. These flowers are from a site that still does them by hand, and the flowers are gorgeous.
The thing that makes me think of them as art, is the carving. Someone spends a great deal of time and skill making these monuments that are simply a way for us left behind to commemorate those that have gone home. It does nothing for the departed. They do not have anything to do with life after death. But there is great beauty in the carving and the efforts that go into them.
What is kind of ironic about the idea that I like the carvings, is that most carving is related to statues. I've never been into statues, probably because most of the world renown ones are either fully or partially nude, and I would rather not...grin. My favorite statue is the one of the Christus in the visitors center on Temple Square. I could sit and gaze at that marvelous piece of work for hours.
The knowledge that someone could carve something as hard as stone into what looks as soft as cloth is simple astounding.
While no one likes to dwell on their headstones, or funerals, for that matter, it's going to happen sooner than we think. All of us have to face the idea that we are mortal and have to face the reality of leaving loved ones behind. How do we want to be remembered by them? What do we want as our legacy?
While it would be fun to outline what I want on my tombstone/headstone, and what I want said at my funeral -- I'm hoping that what I've done with my life, and the things I was able to contribute will leave a greater impact than what is placed to mark my remains.
I know that my father and mother, my foster mother and my other ancestors have left me a great legacy of integrity, faith and love. I am honored to have been their daughter and to try and pass down their ideals and loves to my own children. That is a legacy no one has to see a gravestone to remember.
Return to The Neighborhood.