Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Perpetual Care

Late last week, I was driving over Moose Hill, slowly, with the windows down and the radio off on a beautiful clear October morning. There are times when just driving through can put me in a reflective mood. The bright sun was slanting through the trees as I passed the white pine plantation I visited earlier this summer and pondered where I might want to be buried (See “Stolen Moments,” June 13, 2006.). Now, I’m not a morbid person, prone to frequently contemplating my own death, even though a few of my posts have touched on this. Maybe it was that call from the doctor telling me to make an appointment to discuss some test results. Anyway, the crisp light through the deep green boughs striking the soft brown bed of needles reminded me about my earlier thoughts about a final resting place. I’ve written about my fantasies of finding a new place to spend the rest of my days (See “Could I Live Here?,” August 21, 2006.). I also sometimes think about where I might want to spend eternity.

A short while later, on the return trip I decided to take a road that passes a couple of cemeteries. I could logically wind up in one of them. There has always been something about this place that made me vaguely uneasy, but not for the obvious reasons, and I am beginning to understand why. The road takes me past the maintenance garage. I go by there once a week or so, and I see the maintenance crews coming and going, buzzing back and forth in their trucks and gasoline-powered golf carts. I see them with their stand-up power mowers, their two-cycle weed whackers and their big yellow backhoes. All headstones are flush with the ground, not to show that we are all equal in death, but to facilitate mowing. Irrigation, fertilizers and herbicides no doubt keep the grass green. Even death is powered by internal combustion.

For the record, I’m a guy. I like power tools. Some of my best friends are power tools. I recently bought a new chain saw that I love to wield in a studly way. That doesn’t mean I don’t consider the ramifications of ubiquitous machinery use. I’ve pondered the way so much of our daily routine is dependent on gas-powered equipment (See “Hornets from Hell,” May 13, 2006.). We plant lawns so large we must hire landscape crews to mow them. We pave driveways so long we must hire snowplows to clear them. Do we need to be burning fossil fuel to mow our graves? Forever?

I don’t know what happens when we’re gone. Maybe the closest we get to heaven is that we’ve done some good in this life, we didn’t hurt too many people too badly and that we are remembered with fondness and love. I’m old fashioned in that I like the idea of being buried in a special place and that someone may visit someday. Perhaps they will leave a small stone to mark their visit. I hope it will be in a place where they can sit and think about life, think about the world, and not be disturbed by the sound and smell of roaring engines.


At 9:25 AM, Blogger Lynne said...

Speaking as someone who is fond of cemeteries and visits them whenever I have the chance, I think the lawn care and maintenance is for the visitors. In big city and small country cemeteries alike, I've seen people (mostly women) pulling weeds, clipping grass and tending flowers for their loved ones. It's as close as they can get to a touch or caress for the ones they've loved. At least in small country cemeteries the mowers are smaller.

At 6:36 PM, Blogger LauraHinNJ said...

Taking care of the relatives' graves is very important in my husband's family. My MIL plants flowers and weeds and decorates like Lynne mentions. At christmas my husband and I visit upwards of 20 of his relatives graves to take care of the obligation his mother won't do in the cold weather.

In my family, it's just the opposite - I think I'm the only one who ever visits the gravesites of my mom and dad, and I do that infrequently. I don't know what to *do* there, and it feels strange to me to spend time thinking of someone in a place like that.

As a society I think we have some odd rituals about death, and having hired maintenance crews taking *care* of our deceased relatives is just part of the oddity.

At 11:54 PM, Blogger Lockjaw Hawkins said...

Why would you call yourself MOJO MAN?? There was a Rock dJ that worked in the east and all over the SOUTH that called himself THEMOJOMAN. At first I thought you were him as I was a big fan thru the 60's 70's and early 80's. I finally found his web page,THEMOJOMAN.COM. After emailing him I understand he still does "WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO" GIGS ,AND OLDIES THINGS at his old stations. Lockjaw Hawkins

At 1:01 AM, Blogger lené said...

Great question--I hadn't considered the impact of mowing our cemeteries, but I often do think about how strange it seems to preserve our bodies with poison and prevent them from re-entering the system. (Wishing you a positive visit with the doc too, Mojoman.)

At 11:12 AM, Blogger robin andrea said...

I prefer cremation so that my ashes can be scattered to the wind. I want my body to be as free as the rest of me, after death. We scattered my father's ashes in the Pacific Ocean. Every year after, I tossed a dozen roses into the bay for him. Now that I'm not directly on the ocean, I take solace in knowing that all rivers and creeks flow to him, and I can cast my wishes and words anywhere.

At 1:59 PM, Blogger I_Wonder said...

Interesting thoughts. I like them.

I'm not really concerned about what happens to my body as long as it's after I'm finished with it. (That spurs all sorts of philosophical questions. Who is the I in this body.) I've considered requesting it be donated for some good purpose. Taking up ground doesn't appeal to me unless my body is not preserved and not put in a container. I'd prefer to let nature do as it will and save the land for future generations.

At 9:26 PM, Blogger MojoMan said...

To Lynne, Laura, Lene, Robin Andrea and Paul: Thanks for your thought-provoking comments. I can't explain it, but while I'm absolutely convinced I won't need my body when I'm gone, I'm quite sure I don't want to be cremated. Certainly, no embalming and a plain pine box sounds good. No concrete vault, either. I really should sign up for organ donation. I'm definitely going to look into natural cemeteries where graves are located in forests and meadows and not in rigid rows of maniucured lawns. As we reach 300 million Americans, I don't think many of us will wind up in little country cemeteries or family plots anymore.

Lene: Thanks for your concern. It's a guy thing. I'm inclined to think a particular test number has more to do with sitting on a bicycle seat for 2000 miles a year than with any real problem. The doc is slow to get his head around that.

Lockjaw: Your interest in my post is touching. If your DJ ever starts blogging, have his people contact my people about aquiring the rights to the name.

At 1:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is to living a long and healthy life, which is what I wish for you. I think it is important to occasionally reflect on the end of life, what our wishes are, what our living is about, and how we make the world (hopefully) a better place. Thanks for yet another great post.


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