Back before I lost someone close to me, I thought it was strange when people would have picnics in the cemetery. I thought – that’s not where they are. That’s not how they should be remembered.
Then I lost my dad to lung cancer in June 2019 – coming up on the two year anniversary this week.
We went on a walk the other day when my sister was home with her kiddos. We’ve got a beautiful dam in Waucoma. Carver rode his bike, we walked the dogs. Carver asked if we could go see Papa Moo’s rock (my dad’s grave) across town.
It’s a pretty regular occasion when we go out to the cemetery. It is just on the outskirts of town – right next to a corn field and the ball park. I’m always willing to go but I don’t know what to do when I get there. Say hi? Cry? Laugh? I usually clean off the grass and bird poop if there’s some there.
Today was one of Kelli’s first(ish) visits with Georgia. She’s been talking a lot about Papa Moo lately after Kelli reads her the book we made about him. It was the twins’ first time too.
We didn’t talk to him but I’ll admit I got a little teary cleaning off the grass. Carver climbed up on top of his grave stone and I had half a thought to stop him but that’s exactly what he would do to dad if he was here.
And we took pictures. And we hung out for a bit. And we were those people I thought were weird hanging out with a rock in a cemetery. Then it occurred to me: This is all we have. If we want new memories, this is it. If we want to keep Dad a regular part of our lives, this is it. It feels like too much to stop and sit with a rock and then not enough all at the same time.
So maybe you’re one of those people who think parties and picnics in cemeteries are a little strange. Maybe it isn’t your jam but for us, other than revisiting old memories, this is all we have left.
You can read more about Dad’s final resting place on my mom’s blog here: https://www.joscountryjunction.com/final-resting-place/
My Dad’s caner was discovered through a routine CT scan. If you are 55 years or older and currently smoke or have quit smoking in the past 10 years, please ask your doctor if you qualify for an annual low dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer. The test takes less than 30 seconds and can save your life.
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I get what you are saying. I went to the cemetery today by myself for the first time since my dad’s funeral last August. I took pictures of the family gravestones to send to relatives in Sweden and I don’t know if I can go back…at least not alone. I love how Carver climbs on Papa Moo’s headstone just like he would climb on Papa Moo. My granddaughters may remember my dad a little and only the oldest will remember my mom. My grandsons are too young to remember…I should create a book like you did of my parents for them!
My grandparents were caretakers of a cemetery from post-WWII to 1977 when my grandpa died (I was born in 1970, for reference, and I am the youngest of 9 cousins – the oldest is 15 years older than me). As part of their compensation, my grandparents lived at the cemetery, in an apartment above the garage that held the big earth-moving equipment. Another aspect of compensation was a very large plot of graves for our family – 32 plots. Only half are full; my row and spot have been assigned (laugh – this is funny).
Seeing Carver on the stone makes me happy. This the what my dad did as a kid, when we did as kids and what our kids all do as well. We have to explain our apparent lack of restraint when we are there to those who marry into our family; we treat death, dying and the cemetery as part of life, and nothing to be shied away from. To know you walk there regularly makes me so happy for you; I moved away from the cemetery 14 years ago and we are going on Friday as a large group because we can. Remember, it’s not the cemetery for us – it’s Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Oh what love we have when we are all there! My own husband has found our whole approach on the topic so comforting; when there is death and dying, there is a process and a procedure and we all know what we are to do.
My paternal grandparents are there (Row 2), as well as Grandma’s sister and that family (Row 1). I’m in Row 3 in spot 6 or 7, with my DH getting the other spot. Our son, who died 35 minutes after deliver, is in the 8th spot in the row. Row 4 is empty. My dad is in Row 2; my mother refused to go there (a final act of disrespect – ugh). My sister will also go in Row 2. (Yes, there was an actual sign-up event.)
So enjoy your time at the stone. Be there and love on each other, your family and your memories. Take pictures, share stories, eat ice cream! My great-uncle left his wife’s favorite starlight mints there once – he felt Aunt Hazel needed them. Gotta love Uncle Bruno.
Long story short – you are all good in my family’s book!
I love how your family visits Kramer’s grave. I will bury my dad this week and I hope that his service is half as poignant as Kramer’s was. You are a truly remarkable family. As my brother, mom and I drove 11 hours to pick up my father’s handcrafted casket from artisans, it was part adventure and a big part of the grieving process. We passed dozens of camping sites my dad had taken the family over the years. Such great memories. I have created a garden under my dad’s favorite apple tree on our farm, I plan to drop a special rock every time I see one that reminds me of him or a place I visit. We have always been that family who visits our graves, tending to them and telling stories. I love the book idea!