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.


 Morris Heights, South Bronx circa 1964

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.
With 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!” 


Making 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 think about.


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?”



Rising 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 our home.


Buried 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 lake?”  


”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 place.


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. 


                                                       
Welcome to The Olde Hitching Post!

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