Fairview Cemetery, Albuquerque New Mexico © Annie Dunn
I grew up across the street from a cemetery. It was not a scary place, it was just ... always there, and nothing spooky ever came out at night as far as I could tell. With elaborate statues and trim green grass, it was pretty, and peaceful, and best of all, mostly devoid of the living.
These days I like to visit cemeteries when we travel, especially the old ones with weathered headstones and magnificent trees. At each one it becomes a personal quest for me to find the graves with the oldest dates, and the monuments with the most interesting designs. I'm especially pleased to find an epitaph with a sense of humor
It may seem contradictory then that I don't want to be buried. I'd much rather speed up the process of dispersion via cremation or even alkaline hydrolysis if it ever becomes available here. My final wish is to have someone scatter the remaining ashes in a wilderness of trees. Our past pets have also been cremated, and I want their ashes scattered right along with mine. The one caveat being, if my husband outlives me he has my permission to hold on to the ashes until he can join us.
I don't see any need for a grave because I won't have any descendants to take care of it, but even if I did, what then. Have you ever visited the graves of your grandparents? How about your great-grandparents? Or your great-great-grandparents? Do you even know where they are? No matter how extended the family, sooner or later your final resting place will be forgotten.
I recently visited several old cemeteries in New Mexico. Derelict is the most accurate word I can find to describe them. Many headstones were askew, broken, or missing entirely. The grounds were uneven and covered in prickly dried up weeds, broken glass, and what little remained of the trees was mostly dead wood. I'm not talking about a few small old-west community plots here. There were thousands of burials in this condition.
The people in these cemeteries weren't just dead, their neglected memorials screamed out loud that they had been abandoned, and yet left on display to be either pitied or ignored by passing strangers. These graves will almost certainly be reclaimed for other purposes someday, with who knows what indignities happening to the remains of their remains.
I take a really long view, so I'm not worried about being forgotten because, given enough time, we are all destined for that. There is a certain appeal though to designing a unique headstone, one that would make people stop and wonder about the person underneath, and I am genuinely sorry to miss out on that. But as much as I love visiting cemeteries, I would much rather be unnamed dust, free to swirl about the planet until it once again becomes star stuff.
About the Author
Annie Dunn is the artist behind Chaos in Color. She's kind of nutty about cats, has an odd affinity for skeletons, and likes to listen to audiobooks while working. Every once in awhile she puts things down in writing.