I’ve had several conversations with friends recently about funeral preferences – must be one of those Zeitgeist things. DunbarJane’s mother died in June, and was buried in the family plot, and
Jane’s now ordering a new inscription on the headstone.
When I was looking into my ancestry a couple of years ago I spent many happy hours – and they were happy – going round the graveyards of Buchan, looking for the Will and Mutch families, and of course I found them. Strichen, Foveran, the Newburgh, Ellon, Longside, Lonmay, Crimond and more had the names staring out at me, carved into sound pink granite. And thanks to my 2nd cousin, augmented by Genes Reunited, I could place the names into the family tree.
Prior to that, I’d always thought cremation would be the way I’d prefer to be disposed of. There is no afterlife in my universe, and although I’m a Buddhist, I can’t accept reincarnation either, except as a kind of molecular recycling (which is OK by me). Then I realised that my descendants won’t be able to have the life-changing experience I had, of finding where the bones of my ancestors lie. So thoughts of alternatives started to creep in, with burial being first. The new cemetery in Dunbar is in a beautiful setting, with a fine view down the slope to the sea, but I thought, “Who would see the view?” I certainly wouldn’t, and I don’t expect people to visit my grave. I’m no Robert Fergusson, after all, (someone whose grave in Canongate Kirkyard I often visit). Woodland burial appeals to the environmentalist in me, but the only local site I know about is on Corstorphine Hill, and although I was born in Edinburgh, I haven’t felt any connection to the place since I left it at 15. Incidentally, the grave sites aren’t marked with headstones etc, just GPS co-ordinates. That, as one of my friends said, might form the subject of a poem. If I stick to cremation, would I want my ashes scattered? Scattering my father’s ashes was a bizarre experience.
So I’m still undecided. And yet I know I should specify funeral instructions so that my family will know what I want, when I eventually make my mind up.
The form of funeral is another decision to be made. I’d like it to be poetry and music. I don’t fancy a eulogy – it would have me spinning in my grave or forming an ashy whirlwind – a dust devil if you like. What poetry? What music? Actually the music is something I have thought about: Aarvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten, Britten’s Passacaglia from Peter Grimes, Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from his 9th Symphony.
I heard all about sky burial and water burial when I was in Tibet last year. I can’t see either catching on here – not enough vultures for one thing, and strong anti-pollution regulations on rivers. The poem is now away for revision.