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5-4-08

5-4-08

Day 632 of 365 More.

This will probably be one of those rants that I love doing that will probably piss a lot of people off, so before I get to that, I guess it would make sense if I got the other stuff out of the way.

Saw Iron Man today. Even thought about doing a shot commemorating it, but I’ve been busy with other stuff and didn’t get to it. Anyway, good movie. I enjoyed it. And I’m the kinda guy who always sits through all the credits of a movie, no matter what I go to see. I’m glad I am. So if you’re not the kinda person who reads all the credits, I suggest you do this time.

I also got episode 2 of Cosmic Hellcats up. We’re only two episodes in, so if you haven’t been following along, it’s pretty easy to catch up. How’s that for a cheap plug.

Ok, so now on to the rant.

Steph and I went for a walk through our local graveyard after we got back from the movies today. It’s kinda weird. We live closer to a graveyard (actually three) than we do to any park, so sometimes we go there to walk and jog and stuff.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m kinda non-traditional about death rituals. Like I don’t go to funerals, for instance. No matter how much I loved the person in life. They’re just not my gig. The whole concept of hanging out with the body is kinda creepy. The person isn’t in there. It’s just meat. Dead meat, to be crass. There’s absolutely no reason to be all creepy and hang out with it. It just depresses everyone. I hate being depressed. I’m depressed enough as it is. When I die, I’d rather you all go out and have a drink in my honor. Maybe go out and have hot monkey sex. Hell, watch one of my favorite movies. You know… do something I enjoyed. Nobody enjoys funerals. And if you do… ewww!

So anyway, while we were walking around, it occurred to me what a colossal waste of space and rescources graveyards are. I don’t know how long it takes a body to decompose, but I don’t think its that long really. Certainly not in the grand scheme of eternity. So why do we waste valuable land space on storing dust.

I guess I get that some people like visiting the grave site. I don’t understand it, but I get it. It seems like some people feel closer to their relatives after they’re gone and uh… stand there and look at the six feet of dirt, grass and weeds laying on top of them. Ok, yeah, that’s weird, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

But how long does that go on? I mean, I admit, I don’t really understand it because I don’t do it. I loved my grandfather more than I can possibly even begin to say, but i’ve never seen his grave. I don’t want to see it, because its, well… not him… its a bunch of dirt over where what’s left of him was buried. I’d rather remember him as a guy who drank beer and fished than a guy buried in a hole.

But even if I did care about such things, I can’t imagine that my future children will care. Because they never actually met him. So why would they want to look at the mound of dirt over him. And what about their children. And their children’s children? I’m betting they couldn’t give a damn.

So that’s the weird thing. I’m walking around and I come across tombstones for people who died in the mid-1800s. 1891, 1883, 1874, 1868! These are people who have been dead well over 100 years. Everyone who ever knew them are dead. No one is coming to visit these graves. Right? They’re just taking up space. Some of them a whole lot of space! Giant pillars! Mausoleums! Who does that?

I mean, am I wrong? Does anyone go to visit the graves of their ancestors they don’t know?

And then there’s the really sad one. John So-and-so, Loving Husband, 1821-1865. Martha So-and-so, Loving WIfe, 1842-____. You know what that means? I bet you a million dollars that Martha ain’t still walking the earth today at the tender age of 166. John was all proud that he found himself a young hot wife. Was with her for a couple years, met a tragic early end, but had prepared a family plot for them, then Martha went on to remarry and decided to have herself buried somewhere else. Leaving John to look like he’s been stood up on a date throughout eternity. Sad. So very sad.

I mean, who does that anyway? I can almost understand buying a funeral plot with your spouse while you’re still alive. A bit morbid, but ok, I get it. When someone dies, the planning and arranging is kinda hard, especially in the survivors state of mind. Best to get as much out of the way ahead of time as possible.

But who the hell writes their name on the stone while they’re still alive?!?! That’s the sickest thing I’ve ever heard. There were some stones where both people were still alve. Tom and Nancy McGullicutty. 1965-___ and 1963-____. What the fuck is wrong with you people?

Maybe I’m the weird one here. Maybe I just don’t get it. But seriously, when I go, I hope you people have the decency to turn me into Soylent and feed the starving children or something.

Enjoy the comic.

365 days

13 comments for “5-4-08

  1. avatar
    May 5, 2008 at 3:27 am

    I get it, and I sort of feel the same way. The only reason I go to funerals is because both side of my family are pretty traditional and they think it’s disrespectful if you don’t show, and I’ve got enough problems with them so I always end up going and counting to a million in my head until it’s over so I don’t have to pay attention to what’s going on. I’ve tried to explain that I don’t want that memory ruining all my good ones but they don’t get it.

    When I die, I’m donating my body to a hospital. I want them to take out every part of me they can use, eyeballs, skin, bone marrow, organs – whatever as long as it will help someone else. Then all the leftover scraps can be burned and given to whatever family I have. I think it just makes more sense that way.

    I don’t think you’re weird.

  2. avatar
    May 5, 2008 at 5:38 am

    Hi – I’m your neighbour in the 365 more pool.
    It’s the first time that I’ve come next to you, the founder; thanks so much for starting the 365 group, it’s been a real inspiration to me – and a source of amusement for my friends 🙂
    My brother in law died on Easter Sunday and the funeral was a couple of weeks ago. He intended to leave his body to the University anatomy dept. but they couldn’t use it so we had a cremation. In the UK cremation is the most common form of funeral. A grave stone in a churchyard near me says, " I was once as you are, you will be as I am now." Which reminds us of our own mortality.
    The huge military cemeteries in France remind us of the waste of war and many people visit the graves of relatives who they never knew in their lifetime. My uncle was killed in 1918, long before I was born, and I have visited his grave with my daughter.

  3. avatar
    May 5, 2008 at 8:24 am

    I’ve visited my mother’s family members in Monongahela Cemetery several times. The vast majority of them died long before I was born. I found the stories my grandmother and great-aunt would tell of them sometimes enlightening, sometimes amusing, sometimes even shocking.

    Grandma joined them all there last February. I’ve been there a few times since then, if for no other reason but to say hello to her, scrape the bird guano off the Garrett family stone, and enjoy the view from the top of the cemetery. I don’t necessarily consider it morbid.

    My grandfather has had his stone in place with his birthdate in Churchill Cemetery since his first wife died in 1964.

  4. avatar
    May 5, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Hmmm. So Martha goes to visit John’s grave and her stone is sitting there saying "jooooooooiiiiiiiinnnnnnnn uusss! muahahahah! joooooiiiiinnnn ussssss!" Yeah, no wonder she moved away and got buried somewhere else. Creepy.

    Now I’m wondering what people do with their urns full of ashes of dead people after a few years.

  5. avatar
    May 5, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Crypts and mausoleums in some places are routinely reused. Cemeteries in near sea level cities like New Orleans and Galveston were remains are enterred above ground often offer space for remains that are essentially placed over the dust of another from long ago.

  6. avatar
    May 5, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    I moved near Homewood Cemetery when I was about 12, so I have a lot of experience with recreational cemetery use. I jogged there and that’s where I learned to shift gears on my first mountain bike.

    I used to walk around and look at the stones and try to figure out how old the people were (arithmetic is not a strong point, especially when you have to switch centuries). What were their lives like?

    Some of them became like my friends, and I would go see them every time I visited. There’s a pink sparkly stone (lots of quartz) on the hill near the park that was an early favorite. It’s shaped like a boulder with just a front panel smoothed and carved, and it’s for a girl named something like Christy who died as a teenager in the 70s. "Always Smiling." There’s a couple’s headstone that tells the story of a mixed marriage between a Jew and Christian in the early 20th century. Back near Christy, there’s a modern stone for a young man who died in the 90s, and his family comes by and leaves him notes (sealed in plastic baggies) and toys. Which is a little bit creepy. There’s a picture of a motorcycle on his headstone, kind of like those cheesy iconic pictures you can get on your checks or a custom class ring. And it also makes me wonder if that’s what he was doing right before he died!

    When I was a kid my friends and I would go find all the baby graves to get sad. But I really got the creeps the first time I happened on open, inhabited grave – as I recall, I went straight home after that one.

    A few years ago when my dad was going into a serious medical situation he brought up the burial thing with my sister and me. "It doesn’t seem that either of you has much use for cemeteries," was how he phrased it. Which is true. I like them as historical reference points, but I wouldn’t go visit relatives there – especially since we have one or two relatives in about six different cemeteries all over the outskirts of Pittsburgh.

    But then what do you do with dead people? Cremation is a no-brainer, but then I think you have to scatter them. Which actually seems right. It seems more appropriate to have my father (who is still using his body for the forseeable future, mind you) dispersed in the woods near the cabin he built with his father, rather than entombed in an unfamiliar place with strangers.

    The really sad thing about modern burial is that you don’t decompose. If you’re not a serious Jew or Muslim you have to get embalmed, which means that the liquid parts of you get washed down a drain somewhere, and the solid parts get trapped in their current state for years and years and years. Even if you’re not embalmed, caskets have vapor barriers and graves are lined with cement vaults. Critters can’t get in, and even bacterial action is self-limiting. The remains dry out, but frequently that’s about all they do. If you research crime forensics you can find cases where they exhumed bodies after thirty years and could still detect perimortem skin bruising. Ick.

    Though I hear there’s a new trend toward "green burial" where you actually do get to decompose. But I’m fairly sure there are laws requiring embalming and containment almost everywhere in the U.S. (Which started out as disease control in the dark ages of bioscience, but now it’s just to ensure profits for the death industry.)

    If you’re interested in modern death, I strongly recommend Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.

    Oh, and if you ever need to write plausible murder forensics, ask me first. I have a strangely vast amount of knowledge in this area (all second-hand, of course). I’ve been detecting BS forensics in fiction ever since the X-Men shoved a dead Morlock disguised as Kitty Pryde off a tall building in the ’80s….

  7. avatar
    May 5, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Totally agree. Ever see George Carlin’s bit about cemeteries and golf? He says we should make the cemeteries into golf courses. Both are a waste of space. 😉

    Seriously, though. I plan on cremation. I love walking in cemeteries and taking photos in them, but that’s just cause they are pretty. And sometimes creepy. But yeah, total waste of space in my mind.

    I tell my family to cremate me and if anyone feels a need to ‘visit’ me, they can plant some of my ashes with a tree sapling, then visit the tree. 🙂

  8. avatar
    May 5, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    I limit myself to three funerals per year for the most part. It is usually a social event for me because its people I grew up with/around and I get to see how badly OTHER people have aged. I seldom view bodies, I give my respect to the family. I like the wandering in cemetaries because it is so historical and for those that have interest in family lines and ties, it can be your only record at some point. There are several really old cemetaries here and the headstones, gardens, and mausoleums are beautiful. The going back after the funeral is something I will not do. I see no purpose in standing over someone, lamenting, pineing and crying and ruining the rest of my day. I was taught early, when you bury someone at the cemetary, LEAVE THEM THERE!
    Now cremation is another whole issue. I agree with those who say it is cleaner, better for the earth, and selfish to take up greenspace for a body. But, if the burn me, I will haunt all involved. Bury my ass!
    And hell no, so-in-so don’t look natural, especially with glasses on and their eyes closed!

  9. avatar
    May 5, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    In most places in the U.S., embalming is not required except for cases of contagious disease, distant transporting of the body, or a delayed funeral. Since most folks nowadays have family all around the country, many funerals take place three, four, five days or even more after death.

    My two cents? I have signed my donor cards and registered with my state’s donor program. Heck, I will be dead,…I can’t use the parts. Might as well give to someone who can. They can cremate whatever is left and put me in the common barrel with the ashes of 200 other people for burial when it is full.

    Whatever my personal wishes, I do understand some people’s need for a physical monument. It gives them a place to remember, memorialize, and grieve. And I do enjoy stolling quiet cemeteries just to see all the unique monuments and epitaphs, including those of my own ancestors.

  10. avatar
    May 7, 2008 at 4:06 am

    I like cemeteries. They’re peaceful. And usually well-kept. Pere Lachaise is one of my favorite places in Paris. I seriously LOVE it. So much that I want to do a book about it. I love cemetery art and statuary. It’s freaking cool. And there’s a certain reverence to be found in the fact that someone was loved enough for people to want them to be remembered for all time. That being said, I myself would prefer to have a green funeral and be buried in a green cemetery. Some states are once again allowing the practice of burying the dead without having to first embalm them, and green cemeteries allow them to decompose and join the cycle of life, the way god and nature intended us to. So that’s where I’ll hopefully end up when my time comes. If not, I just want to be created and my ashes dumped wherever.

    Just my two cents’.

    edited to add: and also, when i go to cemeteries, i do take a moment to consider the dead, especially if i take a picture of their space. i thank them for it and tell them i mean no disrespect to them. i’m thinking it’s not impossible some spirits still hang around the place where their body lies. there are more things in heaven and on earth…

  11. avatar
    May 7, 2008 at 11:58 am

    @like_shipwrecks: thanks, hun. Glad someone thinks I’m not weird. :- ) I don’t want to donate my body anywhere. I don’t want to leave specific plans. I figure when I go, I’m leaving my body to my loved ones, and it should be their decision what to do with me. Donate me, cremate me, bury me, stuff me and hang me over the mantle. Really, whatever makes them happiest.

    @GeorgieR: yeah, I certainly understand the need for remembrance of the person who passed on. It just seems that something so permanent is a waste and kind of…. well… unscalable.

    @drquuxum: interesting. So I guess some people do. Just seems weird to me is all.

    @marmal8: yeah. That was essentially my thought on the whole name on the tombstone while you’re alive, thing.

    @DeHoll: that’s fine. I’m more talking about permanent memorials though.

    @erink: yeah. That seems like even more of a waste. This person is dead. Let us preserve him as best as possible. *sigh*

    @sadandbeautiful (Sarah): yep. That’s a fair way to do it. But like I said, I don’t really care what people do with my body after I’m gone. My one wish is that if they insist on having a funeral, my body not be present. I didn’t like funerals in life, don’t see why I should like them in death. The rest of you go. Someone just prop me up at the bar. I’ll be fine.

    @musik48190: I limit myself to 0 funerals a year. Works better for me.

    @BetsyGH: really, if you need a memorial to me, it doesn’t have to be with my body. Do something useful, like dedicate a stone on a bridge or a building or something.

    @scribblegurl: eh… I honestly don’t really think about it from a personal standpoint. Just utilitarian. If there’s such a thing as a spirit, and Ms. Fisher’s spirit has been hanging around said stone in this picture since 1874. She’s seen worse things than me come and go.

  12. avatar
    May 7, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    lol! i don’t think they *all* hang around. just some of them. 🙂

  13. avatar
    May 9, 2008 at 10:07 am

    @scribblegurl: well, Hopefully those that do are used to people by now.

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