A pause in planning for musings on Ceme-TREEs

There is a lot to plan this week for our major Science Week planting starting soon. But it’s that spooky time of year so by way of procrastination I am penning a few thoughts on greener moving-on. My own opinions alone and if you consider thoughts of funerals macabre, well part of being an Irish Mammy – of my generation, certainly – is having always a “Warning-of-the-day” app running as we dream up awful things that might happen.

All Saints and Souls day this week. A time to remember dear people who have died. The Irish Times had an interesting article about funerals yesterday, encouraging people to prepare for this inevitable event and my husband was at a very sad one yesterday. My late father was a clever planner; when my brothers were insisting they wanted to buy motorbikes, Joe would point to the Road Safety booklet we’d once received free in the post with the statistics on the percentage of motorcyclists who got killed on the road. He would say, “By all means buy a motorbike on this condition; you will have to also buy a coffin – the simplest kind will do – and keep it in the garage beside the bike, because I don’t want the bother of having to get you one myself.” It worked so well I gave my son the same condition when he too talked of buying a motorbike. He offered to give me the money to buy a coffin instead and I refused. So far this has worked.

Once a scout, always a scout, Be Prepared is such a great motto. My friend Aileen’s mum’s funeral was held this year and this great lady who died in her hundredth year had EVERYTHING arranged in advance, it was such a great boon to her family! She had bought a shroud on a trip to Lourdes a number of years before and left it in to the undertakers along with the list of her favourite prayers! The local church organist phoned her daughter the day she died to say she had been given her list of preferred music!

I actually bought a book in Kilkenny Design recently called “So Now You Are Dead”. I thought it would be a handy place to write down my usernames and passwords. I have a friend who cannot manage to shut down a loved one’s social media page and he has found it distressing to have e.g. birthdays pop up for this dear departed lady. It would of course be handy to have such things on paper for me at any time, not just when I am dead! Our family solicitor has a brilliant handout where you write down things like where your will is kept on a few pages, I got it twice and can’t find it though, that’s why a black book sounds clever to me. I have seen how difficult it can be when people have no will, or if it’s lost and also how much, much easier it is if they do. Now I am glad to say I feel hale and hearty, long may it last. I told my dear husband he can have half of all the pages to fill in his wishes too, the book was almost twenty euro so that will make it better value. He was not as excited about it as I am. I do enjoy planning things, not just tree-parties.

My son told me the other day he was walking through Glasnevin cemetery with his girlfriend, who lives nearby; I believe they were taking a shortcut from the Botanic Gardens; and was able to find the family grave when he spotted some trees he recognised, even though he hadn’t been there for years. I love Glasnevin, with its beautiful old trees in avenues and dotted here and there. I was at a funeral during the summer at a new graveyard and it did not have the same peaceful feeling at all; lines of headstones in a vista unrelieved by any trees. I know how much all that stonework costs from when my father got one for our family grave. In fact the whole thing is so expensive we have been dallying over getting one for my husband’s grandparents for decades and before that his parents also had it on their to-do list. Anyway that graveyard this summer was to me a sad place. A jumble of mismatched stone with a lot of plastic flowers and cracked ornaments blowing around.

I have a dear uncle Paul buried at the “Gates of Heaven” cemetery in Upstate New York. What a place! It’s a woodland. Filled with birdsong and wildlife. You could have a picnic there! I visited with his widow, Mary years ago and it was such a beautiful place, we really did feel we were at the Gates of Heaven. Mary passed away in the last year and her ashes are going to be with her husband.

Now the Irish Times article went into the environmental aspects of cremation. Not good! There is another more eco-way of cremation using water. But hey, I am fine with just being buried in the ground in the old-fashioned way around here. How nice it would be for those who came to visit that it would be a green and pleasant place. I know that cemeteries need to be located in suitable places, I would urge someone to set up such a place. I know they exist abroad. I’ll plant the trees myself. Dead easy!!! if you just want people scattering ashes of course, any bit of woodland would work there, I believe this may be against the law, I doubt if that would be too hard to change. I do hear of people scattering ashes in the sea, on the mountains etc. and I have not heard of them asking permission, having a designated place would be nice to visit I think, do you? You could stick all the plaques on a wall neatly so that people are not tripping over headstones everywhere. Or bricks. Something enduring anyway and dignified. I’ve heard of headstones being robbed – no wonder, when they are so expensive – so something very simple would solve this, as they have in Glasnevin in a wall already.

I had fun googling coffins just now. I saw a documentary about eco-coffins a few years ago. People were using plain wooden boxes as their locker at work or using the wicker ones for blankets! I could use some storage for the spades and gloves, think I will get me one of those! I don’t see why they cost so much, I bought a grand basket for five euro yesterday at a charity shop. All those brass handles and ornamentation and SO costly. Perhaps some enterprising person might like to do something of this sort. There is even a book online for a DIY coffin. How hard could it be? And what about a paper shroud? I always think all that satin lining looks a bit superfluous. Since I will be dead I think a bit of old newspaper packed around would do grand. Funerals are sad enough, usually. Nobody does a good funeral like the Irish, it is said. I would so like at least that they could be simpler and cheaper.

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