We weren’t close friends, but I greatly enjoyed his company during the times we did share. I knew him for about 30 years, but there was nearly a half-century of his life before that, a life I knew little about. This was made clear in the newspaper obituary that announced his death. I always found him to be an interesting person, but the details in the obituary made him even more interesting than I had imagined. I looked forward to learning more about him when friends and family would gather to celebrate his life.
Sadly, I never had that opportunity … and I feel cheated. While I totally respect his right to leave this planet in any way he chose, I wish he had chosen another path. Funerals, visitations, wakes and memorial services are as much for the grieving as they are for the departed. I almost always leave such inherently sad occasions feeling even closer to the person being honored. I regret that I never had the chance to share stories about my friend.
It is with some irony that the newspaper at which both my friend and I worked as editors recently carried an article headlined “Green to the grave is a growing trend.” This trend includes some folks who opt for natural burials, using rocks and trees instead of traditional headstones. While this practice is, indeed, more natural, I wonder how future family historians will react to finding great grandma under an oak tree instead of beneath a neatly engraved headstone.
No services, no headstones. How do you suppose either of these affects a person’s long-term legacy?
Larry Lehmer is a professional personal historian and chief legacy planner at When Words Matter, Ltd., who connects generations through their stories. To learn more, visit his web site, send him an e-mail or follow him on Twitter.
Flickr photo courtesy of di_the_huntress