Another Part of Life

clouds
Anyone who has read Plant Whatever Brings You Joy knows I’ve not shied away from addressing the full spectrum of life in the garden, which includes the passing away and letting go that comes bound into our life contract. Flowers, beloved puppies and cats, trees, and, ultimately, our own dear bodies. Having entrusted myself with much of the writing of the final chapters of my Grandmother’s life, who lived to be 100 years old, I learned a lot! One of those lessons was the sacred duty of how to handle her final resting place, once she had departed. Fortunately, and amazingly, in her case, her father, who died a month after she was born (thus 100 years prior!) had dutifully and lovingly purchased a family plot which I had access to for her. And so she was buried a century later with her Danish father, Norwegian mother and baby sister, Rendena Helena. Lesson duly noted.

The truth is I’d been rather scouting cemeteries for years in both Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. There is a tiny one surrounded by an old fashioned iron fence that sits on a hillside that can be seen from the highway. Utterly enchanting. And utterly closed, I’d learned. I’d considered two in the town of Mendocino itself, but upon learning at Mendocino Botanical Gardens that (supposedly) 40 acres of land was swept into the ocean by a tsunami, only just north of the cemeteries, I thought, uh, no. As the family historian, this would not do. At all.

And then organically I found myself drawn to a pioneer cemetery in the heart of Mendocino County. I found this spot, which is a certified nature habitat, to be a place of comfort, solace, beauty and intrigue. And, interestingly, years later my daughter had the same response, as she would find herself going there to meditate. It has a very old feel to it, there is an extended family of deer who live among the tombstones and towering trees, and ravens and woodpeckers find easy refuge among the branches. At the far edge is a California vineyard; at another edge a school playground, and, thus the sounds of children playing is a common and unexpected sound by day. At dusk older children come and stand beneath the trees to meet and chat and have a sense of privacy.

deer

And, so, I inquired. And, yes, a very old section of the cemetery had recently opened up and so a family plot was secured. I then took it upon myself to design my own gravestone, working with a company in Seattle, choosing a certain granite, a pattern, and the script, adding a line from a song I once wrote, adapting it to my own life and choices. I was there when they laid it in the ground, which seemed at the time a precious and light hearted task, rendered by two kind men who keep the grounds. It was not a bit solemn, however. But very respectful. It lies just below a very old cedar tree, a beauteous feat of nature.

cedar
I am pleased and at peace with this choice. Nearby grows a towering redwood. A small chapel stands ready to greet those who have reason to come.

chapel

Both my daughter and I are aware that there are many stories here. We both feel the same thing. Now my own story is being woven among them.

I want to reassure my friends and readers that I am fine and well, and even more-so knowing I’ve written this chapter of my life, having made loving arrangements that will ease the lives of those who remain for their time on Earth, which at the moment includes me! I could never know how this all unfolds, in actuality, and surrender to my own destiny. But meanwhile I’ve entered into a spiritual endeavor we each will encounter, by taking conscious, creative, and loving care of myself and my family.

On Memorial Day I decided that with all the graves I might have tended all too far away, I would visit briefly my own. Why not? When I arrived I found someone had poked a fake green shamrock into the ground just above my headstone and I laughed, saying out loud, “Someone is tending my grave already and I’m not even dead yet.” That tickled me.

I cleaned the granite of cedar leaves, dug up a wayward clover (of the naughty variety), and took note of the adjacent headstones. I noted with interest that Mr. M. had been buried, and his wife’s name was also on his stone, but apparently she was still alive. I wondered if our paths would ever cross?

Finished with my visit, I decided to drive a bit about the narrow roads that crisscrossed the cemetery, taking time to exit and snap the little deer above. I grinned, as this is actually where I felt safe to get used to driving my new Jeep last year. I joked, “If anything goes wrong, I won’t have far to go!” Satisfied, I drove one more time back to my own plot, and lo and behold, Mrs. M. was tending her husband’s grave! (It was Memorial Day, afterall!) I exited the car, noting she also drives a Jeep, and extended my hand to her, “You must be Mrs. M.! I was wondering if I might ever meet you!” We chatted a bit, and I noticed then she had two dogs in her car. More synchronicities! She said, “Maybe we will see each other again.” I flashed her a big smile, “Yes! On the other side!”

Yesterday I returned to do something I’d been planning for quite some time–to introduce violets into the grounds around my headstone. Will they withstand the deer? It’s chancey, but perhaps! I’m hoping so!

Love and summer blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: The summer issue of GreenPrints has been published and editor Pat Stone, who was longtime gardening editor of Mother Earth News has included an excerpt from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy, which he has illustrated with an original drawing! Thank you, Pat!

12 Responses to “Another Part of Life”

  1. Lovely post, mom. How empowering to have chosen where you’ll be, and you chose such a special place. Great pics, too.

    Love you,
    Antonia
    xoxo

  2. Hi, Sweetheart, Antonia, “Choose what has heart and meaning.” ~Angeles Arrien It felt right. Love you bunches, Mom xoxo

  3. We have also just purchased a family plot and an adjacent grave for our son James, who is currently buried at Greenlawn Cemetery south of Columbus and too far away to just drop in on. So more than ten years ago, when we started working on the expansion of Flint Road Cemetery, originally the Gardner Family Cemetery, begun 1831, I knew it was going to be very special and our place. We have designed it as an arboritum, as a place for passive recreation, a place for meditation, a small prairie that serves as scattering garden, a place to honor veterans on Memorial Day, with public art and great beauty. We finished the Childrens Garden area and dedicated it last fall and just pinned the area next to it this spring. We have two plots because everyone wants to be cremated so we don’t need much space. We will install a bench with a tall pillar on one side to list all the family names. It will be pink granite because tht i Ed’s favorite. We will move James to his alloted space right next to the rest of us. I am thankful tht Ed has lasted long enough for all of this to be worked out and settled. I plan to introduce violets as well, there are large areas in the old part of the cemetery that are blanketed with them as well as big patches at Walnut Grove Cemetery, the other Sharon Township – City of Worthington Union Cemetery which we also oversee. There is something very special about planting and planning for a hundred years in the future or more.

  4. Julie, This is so wonderful, what you are doing. You are such an inspiration. You are fortunate to have found a cemetery where all the above is possible. And they are lucky to have you doing all of that. Yes, it’s settling for a family to know this is taken care of when possible. Love, Kathryn xoxo

  5. Dearest Kathryn,
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. I absolutely love that you are taking such good care of yourself, Antonia and all of your loved ones, by having this in place. How beautiful (and brilliant!) to know where you will rest, and be tucked into the earth. Let’s hope the violets grow and spread their beauty around this cherished spot. Much Love and big hugs, Maloah

  6. Good morning, Maloah! Thank you so much for your kind words–so deeply appreciated! Much love, Kathryn xoxo

  7. As we all (if we are fortunate to get here) grow older, we start to think of how we can best prepare ourselves and our loved ones for the beginning of a new adventure. Notice I do not say our death, as I believe our spirit continues on to a new plane of existence.

    My husband Bruce and I have purchased our burial site in the cemetery two blocks from our home, and find comfort in knowing where we will be, and how beautiful the wooded area is, with deer flitting through the shadows of the tall pines and other wonderful trees that will be near us as well.

    We also have taken care of our funeral arrangements to the point that our family will have no decisions to make, and no financial burdens to carry out other than having our headstones finished for us.

    It sounds morbid to many when I tell them about it, but it gives me great comfort to know that we have prepared as much as we can so that those left behind will not have to carry the weight of heavy decisions in a time of grief.
    This is the last gift you can offer your friends and family.

    How wonderful that you have been given the time to make your choices as well, Kathryn!

    I’m sure that Antonia will see it as a great blessing as well, to know that you have chosen your final resting place now and can share the beauty of it with her.

  8. Well K., that dramatic sky photo is fantastic and then followed by your beautiful story of the adventure you have had in securing your final resting spot. I loved every image of your writing….and your chance meeting with Mrs. M! How perfect that was. Thank you for this touching post. Carol

  9. Hi, Lori, Thank you! And I’m glad you and your husband have followed this path, as, yes, it’s a gift to those who remain. Kathryn xoxo

  10. Hi, Carol, Thank you for your visit this morning and for expressing your appreciation. Kathryn xoxox

  11. Ah Kathryn, My husband and I joined in buying a large extended family plot many years ago and have watched it gradually be filled. Joe designed our tombstone several years ago while we were involved in cemetery restoration and it was a big comfort to have all that done, and done with him, when his time came . I know he is not there. We believe in eternal life, but it is a historical, sentimental and reflective spot in a beautiful place.

    As always you express my sentiments so well.

  12. Good morning, Alice! How lovely that you and your husband did that together. This would give so much more meaning, I would think, to that beautiful spot you’ve created together. Thank you so much for sharing. I think it will inspire others to consider. Love, Kathryn xoxo

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