By Sharon Malone
Have you ever thought when you’re “gone” how you would like to be remembered?
The reality is very few of us do other than perhaps a fleeting thought alluding to the hope that you are remembered for “all the right reasons” as the saying goes. So, given that you probably haven’t thought that much about how you’d like to be remembered, it stands to reason that you probably haven’t thought at all about how others, your loved ones, may want to remember you, have you?
As a nation, the British are not very good at talking about death and loss – we’re only just now beginning to acknowledge the importance of supporting the bereaved through a range of different offerings from counselling through to expressing our grief through artworks and memory walks.
It’s no surprise therefore that very few of us make our wishes known surrounding our death and how we want our body to be treated – if indeed we have a preference at all. The ramifications of this can be far reaching when it comes to memorialising.
When my father-in-law died, we came to the awful realisation that none of us knew whether he would have preferred to be buried or cremated, let alone what hymns he might have liked at his funeral. Even though he was not in the best of health at the end, sadly, we hadn’t had that conversation with him. He hadn’t included any instructions in his will so when the question was asked of us, we were at a loss as to what the answer should be. This was somewhat distressing – shouldn’t we know him well enough to not be in any doubt? We opted to have him cremated. This decision was to shape everything that followed.
Whilst there is a variety of ways of storing, scattering or preserving the ashes of a loved one, if a more traditional headstone is preferred options can be limited. Not a lot of people realise this until it is too late. Most Churches, for example, will only permit a small flat plaque with room for the most basic of inscriptions, in a plot surrounded by other similar plaques in the part of the Churchyard dedicated to the burial of cremated remains. Likewise, most cemeteries will limit the size and style of memorial acceptable for the commemoration of ashes.
Options for memorials on graves containing a body in a coffin or casket are more extensive but the drawback for coffin burials is that the final resting place needs to be chosen very quickly at the height of raw grief. Interestingly, however, many families who choose a full coffin burial will also have chosen and prepaid for their plot, often purchasing multiple plots either next to each other or sharing the same grave.
For these families, the memorial, and the way they are remembered, they are guaranteeing that a record of their life will endure.
In conclusion whatever your choice of final resting place it could affect what your memorial may look like, so consider carefully how you would like to be remembered and, above all else, make your feelings known.
© Sharon Malone 2021. mindfulmemorials.co.uk