Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Headstone Before It's Time - Tombstone Tuesday

This has been a very tough year for me both physically and emotionally. Mom was hospitalized for a week and then spent several weeks in rehab. She was able to return to her home. Ended up in the hospital again, thankfully for a very short stay that time. These events were wake up calls for my siblings and I. We realized that if Mom was going to be able to stay in her home, as is her wish, that we'd need help.

We found a wonderful program and now have the support we need. The process of getting her into the program was emotionally painful. There were many, many things that we had to do get Mom's home and finances in order. Because my recovery from surgery was so long and drawn out, most of the tasks fell to my sister. I felt that I could handle preplanning Mom's funeral and purchasing her headstone. It was much harder than I thought it would be, after all Mom is still with us.

Before I could do anything else we had to choose a cemetery. We talked with Mom about what she wanted. She did not want her remains returned to the family plot in Michigan. She had always assumed that she would be interred in Valley Cemetery as my paternal grandparents are there. That was our first thought too, however none of us visit the cemetery very often because it is so far away. We asked her how she felt about Ellisburg Cemetery, which is not far from my sister's home and after thinking about it a bit she thought that was a good idea. The cemetery is two counties away from where Mom has spent the majority of her life but it is convenient for both me sister and I. I wonder if this will cause confusion for descendants 100 years from now?

The location of the cemetery helped me decide on a monument company. I looked into three different companies and made my choice. I was under the mistaken impression that all businesses were handicap accessible and that was not the case but we were able to work it out. The sales rep was a very young pleasant woman and she told me what the options were and gave me some basic pricing. The cemetery didn't have any restrictions so I narrowed out choices down to an upright or a slant. After talking to my brother and sister we decided to go with an upright. Now the sales rep was a little less helpful than I would have liked. I was shown pictures of a few monuments of the type and size we would be purchasing and also shown some pages of clip art that I could pick from. Nothing she showed me was what I was looking for but honestly, I wasn't sure what I wanted.

I tried my hand at sketching some of my ideas. While there have been many very talented artists in the family I am not one of them. Because we would be getting our stone from Rock of Ages, I starting searching the web for ideas. There were so many choices but I started a file with ones that had an element or two that I liked. I started also looking up what various symbols meant. I also wanted something uniquely Mom.

I chose Dogwood because it is pretty and represents Mom's belief in the Resurrection.

I chose song birds because Mom spends her days watching the birds that visit her feeder. However when the design came in for approval it had doves instead. My initial thought was to send it back for redesign but as I looked at it I actually liked the way it looked better than what I had come up with. So the doves represent both Mom's love of birds and peace.

The doves and more dogwood were placed in a circle representing eternity.

The last symbol is one that should puzzle anyone outside of the family as it is an inside joke. When Mom was in the Navy she worked on some secret project. While she is happy to tell us she worked on the project, what the project was is information she plans to take to her grave with her. In the family we jokingly refer to this as "the paper clip project." I wanted something to symbolize her time in the Navy but she was adamant that she did not want a military symbol. So I had to settle for having a paper clip rather than a dash between the dates.

I also wanted some type of saying included. I found one that I loved and shared it with my sister and we realized we had a major difference in theology which almost led to a major argument. It took me several days but finally I stepped back and thought how unhappy I'd be if she included something that I wasn't comfortable with. We settled on "loving memories last forever," which we both liked.

The entire process took several months. I did send the design back for minor changes so there were several trips aback and forth to see the design changes as they came in. The stone was set back in October and I drove up to have a look. I am very pleased with how it turned out. I snapped a couple of pictures but they will stay hidden on my hard drive for now because it just seems like it would be testing fate to share them now.

I have been working to document the older part of the cemetery and plan to return in the spring to work on taking new pictures but I think I will avoid the side of the cemetery where Mom's stone is because it still feels wrong for it to be there waiting.


kinfolknews said...


Really a great post! Thank you so much for sharing the trials and tribulations of finding a burial place and agreeing on a marker with us. It's awful to have to think of something appropriate and meaningful while you are grieving. With all this business completed, you can rest easy and really enjoy your Mom!


Kerry Scott said...

It sounds like you did a great job on a very difficult task. Hopefully your mom (and you and your sister too) can relax knowing that all of this is taken care of.

You've had a lot to deal with this year--hopefully 2011 will be an easier year!

Joan said...

This touched my heart -- a gift of love, and with all the planning time to make sure that it is right. Thanks so much for sharing this process with us.

Greta Koehl said...

I remember going through this process for my mother's headstone long distance (VA-TX); it was a couple of years after her death because we could not afford one when she died. Lucky for us, the people we dealt with were my high-school classmates and they were very understanding. Not an easy process, but worth taking the time for. You did the right thing - it is definitely better to do these things in advance.

Michelle Goodrum said...

I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to go through that process. I suspect in the long run you will be glad to have it behind you.

my Heritage Happens said...

Hi Apple, time has passed and I understand today is actually your Blogiversary! Happy Blogiversary to you! Have a wonderful upcoming year with your blog!

Michelle Goodrum said...

Happy Blogiversary Apple!

Mary K. said...

This had to have been a stressful task on your part. Even so, I did have to laugh about your comment: "I wonder if this will cause confusion for descendants 100 years from now?" Who but a genealogist worries about descendants being confuse.

Barbara Poole said...

Apple, I'm glad Greta highlighted this post, because I hadn't seen it. What a smart thing for you all to do for your mother, there was much thought and planning, not something done in haste. I especially liked your "loving memories last forever." Also, I hope we don't see the stone for a very long time.

Kathryn Doyle said...

The one thing you don't have to worry about is confusion 100 years from now! You have written all of these stories for your descendants – they are truly a gift. Bless you for all you do for your mother and your family. And, happy blogiversary!

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Thank you all for your supportive comments and good wishes!

GrannyPam said...

This certainly sounds like a difficult task. I am happy that you were able to compromise with your sister so everyone is conformable. It sounds like you came up with a great result to an extremely difficult task.