The Americans with Disabilities Act put the spotlight on a group of people in the USA. This group now has a voice; a constituency that has come of age. This community votes, works and pays taxes.This blog is based on a N.Y. newspaper column I wrote for the Rockland County Journal-News from 1990-92.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
How much is that cemetery plot overlooking the lake?
As part of our retirement planning during the past
year, my wife Maggie and I finally got to the section in the paperwork where we are asked to make decisions about “end of life,” including funeral arrangements.
This type of thinking and planning can be uncomfortable,
unsettling and just plain weird. Where I grew up in the South Bronx, in
New York City, we lived day-to-day and were considered poor or “ghetto” people.
No one I knew in the old neighborhood was taught to think
about a life span from “cradle to grave,” or as we say in business when
referring to the life cycle of a product, from “end-to-end.” Most of us in the old neighborhood were lucky
to get home safely, without being mugged or assaulted.
I’m not a morbid person, but when you have a severe
disability, such as a spinal cord injury
(SCI), you have to work at leading a relatively healthy life.
SCI, however, there is always a “voice”
in your head that reminds you, nudges you, whispering: “If you don’t take care
of yourself, you will die of something, anything.”
To me, the voice keeps repeating the warning similar to the recurring line from one of my
favorite movies, “A
Christmas Story.” In the movie, “Ralphie” wants a Red Ryder BB gun for a
present, and everyone influential in his life tells him not to ask for the toy. Each person says to him: “You’ll shoot
your eye out!”
funeral plans when you’re alive, not dead
As a couple, we have experienced death on our respective
sides of each family and helped make the funeral
arrangements. Dealing with the passing of a loved one, planned or unexpected, is never
easy. The best way to handle end of life is to plan in advance, which is also not
easy. But trust me on this, if you can plan in advance, please do so.
Our first stop in this process was to meet with a funeral
director near our home in Hanson, MA. We
met with Kyle, from Sullivan
Funeral Homes, who described the funeral process and outlined
all services and prices.
He recommended cemeteries to visit, including one in
our town, discussed grave site and cremation options, as well as where to buy burial
monuments to mark the grave. There were many decisions to make and options to
I felt like I was at a one day sale in our favorite
department store. Am I cheeky if I say “shopping for a funeral can be similar to
shopping on Black Friday, one of the biggest sales days of the retail year?”
above fear and uncertainty
The conversation was surreal as we planned our own funeral
arrangements. I was uncomfortable during the first half hour, but as we talked,
a different feeling came over me.
I began to feel comfortable and a bit confident because we
were making decisions regarding our end of life plans.
It became apparent to me
that once our funeral plans were completed and documented, we would know what
to do for each other as “survivors,” when one of us eventually died.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, our arrangements
would be conveyed to our designated family members if we died together.
We left the funeral home full of information and with more
clarity than we had before this meeting. We drove straight to the Fern
Hill Cemetery, in the town of Hanson, just five minutes from
with a lakeside view at our feet
We were in a good mood after our meeting, actually kidding
each other and laughing in the van. It was about 5 p.m., in the middle of July,
and we picked up some iced coffee and headed to the cemetery.
As we turned into the cemetery, we both noticed how
beautiful it was. The foliage was lush green, and from the car we could see the
lake. It seemed more like a picnic area
rather than a cemetery.
Fern Hill Cemetery.
We drove to a small parking area near the lake and took in
the view. We got out of the van, and walked over to a quaint little bench
overlooking the lake. The lawn was neat, and well groomed, and we
learned that some of the cemetery’s oldest gravestones date back to 1745.
Since we both love the ocean, the lakeside view appealed to
us and we drew a quiet comfort from the surroundings; we also believed those mourning for us would feel the same.
When we met with the cemetery director and groundskeeper,
Jaimison, that evening, I asked: “Do you have any available plots close to the
”Not up front close,” he said, “but close enough so you can
see the lake.” He walked over to the
spot. “See?, take a look from right here.”
Maggie and I both laughed and he smiled. “Well, we won’t be
Mags and me
able to see the lake, no matter how close we are,” I said, “but it’s good to
know we can see it from a little further back.”
I looked at Maggie and said: “I don’t want to strain my
neck, you know.”
Veronique, my service dog, looked up suspiciously. I
winked at her, and saw she was smiling too!
We then made arrangements for our eventual resting
After that, it was time to go on living, and we went out
for an early dinner and drinks at the The
Olde Hitching Post, one of our favorite restaurants.