Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Here is a rather daunting task. It is an opportunity for something about you to be remembered forever. You will be granted two rows of fourteen letters and spaces to be carved into granite along with your name to be kept by the government at their expense and put on display for all future generations.

What do you want said?

I thought about this yesterday. Today would have been my mother’s birthday (she passed some years ago) and so we went out to the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery where she is buried (I know, I know, a mother of a Catholic priest not in a Catholic cemetery, but my Dad is a vet, he wanted it, and there are some things you do to avoid an argument and besides I blessed the ground) to clean up her grave site and pray a bit.

We agonized over what wording to put on her stone. Do you say something about her? Do you let her say something to us? How about a prayer for such a devout soul? If so, what? We settled on, “Beloved Wife and Mother”. This was very true. But I wish we had a mind at the time to be more creative.

This particular visit my sister happened to look at one of the nearby stones, which read, “Beloved Son, Artist and Musician”. We thought that was pretty great. Mom would like that. What a nice neighbor to have. On the other side was an inscription that read, “A Loving Gentleman”. She would like that too. Cool.

A gentleman. If only 28 letters can be used to describe you what a wonderful way to be immortalized. A gentleman. You could a lot worse. I could live with that I think.

Now intrigued we decided to look at what others had on their stones in Mom’s section. There were, of course, many religious sayings:

Resting until Jesus comes.
In Jesus’ love rest in peace.
Thank you God for your love.
Miss me but let me go.
Healed, delivered, set free.
Safely rest. God is nigh.

Some had saying on them:

Play the hand you are dealt.
Seldom right but never wrong.

Some were odd and made us stop and think:

Eternally swanky
More today than yesterday. (Which my sister caught on was part of a song. “I love you more today than yesterday.” Hey, you only have 28 letters.)
All great men make mistakes. (Wonder what that’s all about.)
MIC6 8 you better believe it. (Can anyone decipher that one?)

These made us chuckle:

I am fantastic.
I am blessed and doing well.
Sweet Jesus I made it.
Call me when you get home.
He loved family pets and trucks
Gone fishing
Oh well

Then there are those that seemed rather wonderful ways to be remembered:

Faithful to his fellow man
A man of sound character
Asked so little gave so much
A gentleman who inspired others
A kind and gentle soul

So what would you like?

When I was in the seminary one of professors, a priest, died. There was a sign outside of the chapel that read something like, “Philosopher, Poet, Keeper of Secrets,” and a number of other things pertaining to his life. I thought that pretty cool until another priest said something along the lines of, “None of that was very important. The first and best thing was that he was a priest of God. After that nothing matters much.”

Perhaps that is what I would like. “A priest of God.” But should there be a special and there are extra spaces to fill (and people think it true), “and a gentleman”.


Anonymous said...

That'd be very fitting indeed.

uncle jim said...

How far in advance does one need to plan one of these?

Jeron said...

I saw a tombstone once that read, "I told you I was sick."

Grant said...

"MIC6 8 you better believe it."

Could it be a reference to Micah 6:8?
"You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God."

Grant said...

Wow, now that I re-read that verse, I'll bet that's what it was. It's actually quite good.. when I get around to the cheery business of writing a will, I think I'll include it.

Fr. V said...


I bet that's it!


And I am embarrased that I didn't get it.

karyn said...

i should want mine to read: "devoted mother and wife, a theologian but above all a sinner who loves the Lord."

i have yet to be a mother or wife or theologian but these embody the most complete fulfillment of myself.

Anonymous said...

Back in the late 90's my Mom and I went to Germany to visit a very good friend of mine, Klaudia, and her family (we started as 'penpals' in the early 80's).

One thing that intrigued us was their cemetery. When Klaudia & I first met, she was pregnant. However due to lung complications, the child died 3 hours after birth. The families in Germany rent the land in the cemetery for a set number of years (based on the age of the deceased and the length of time needed for full decay of the body). Once the body has been fully decayed and "returns to the earth" the family can choose to re-lease the land (in the case of Klaudia, they opted to keep re-lease the land and keep the marker of her baby) or open the land for another family. Thus, they did not have a need for huge cemeteries. (I'm probably not giving this the best description).

It reminds me of Ash Wednesday when the Priest says "Remember that you are dust, and unto to dust you shall return." I think our cemeteries are a way for us to hold on to our loved ones physically and mentally. Germany put things into perspective for me. Every since my experience in Germany, I have been keeping my loved ones alive through thoughts, prayers. But also in other everyday ways – using recipes they loved to make (my great-grandmother loved making Springles, a German dunking cookie), using items they had (I use my maternal Grandmother’s Rosary), looking at a Statue of Mary (my Paternal Grandmother’s name was Mary – of whom I am named after...as well as the Blessed Virgin). Sometimes it’s the everyday ways that keep me going and smiling, for instance last week I felt both my Grandmothers’ presence, so I held onto my Rosary during Mass – it was a way to keep them close to my heart.

For me, I'd rather be buried in a pine box, no marker, no nothing. I would hope that I would have touched the people in my life to be remembered in the everyday ways, not the cemetery.
Lillian Marie

Fr. V said...

I had a similar experience in Slovenia. I went to my family's church and went to the graveyard where a young cousin had died and wondered how they could fit another grave in the tiny graveyard of a church from the 1700s. Basically what you said above was what was said to me.

Actually, I also looked into what you said above, but I guess it is not practical here (yet) or as a priest. Still I wonder . . .

Jeron said...

I read once that a journalist visiting a French Cistercian abbey that is centuries old was curious to know how come the cemetery didn't have more grave markers than it did, considering how long it'd been around. One of the monks explained that after a deceased monk has decayed, they gather his bones & place them in a box. The next monk that dies is then lain to rest in the grave, & the box is used to rest the deceased's head on. The one brother becomes a "pillow" for his newly deceased brother. Isn't that a great thought?! And it saves space.

uncle jim said...

we have, at least in some places, now allowed stacking one on top of the other; the spouses may occupy the same grave plot.

and, of course, the multi-tiered, multi-rowed, above ground vaults, can provide maximum utility.

is there much chance that cremation will become the acceptable and approved means?

negative side is it might frustrate the archaeologists of the future.

Fr. V said...

Actually cremation is allowed in the Catholic Church - just not strewning the ashes over Lake Erie or over the garden or what have you. They need to be buried like anybody else.