Floor-mats For the Dead

I hate flat gravestones. I know they are practical. I know they make it easy to drive a roaring, chopping engine reeking of gasoline and indifference right over them. But they are not monuments to the dead, eerie and sacred like they’re supposed to be.

They’re just cheesy name tags, stuck to the ground after the conference is over.

My mom and dad are buried in a modern “memorial garden.” It sprawls a few acres past the funeral home; one of the visually confused, pointy churches that overtook America in the 1970s.

Cemeteries last a long time…I wonder if they thought this design would age well.

Their shared stone is flat on a lawn lined up with 100 others, like tenement housing. Nothing to distinguish them unless you remember to look somewhere between the (only) tree and the fountain that isn’t turned on.

I hate that place. Cemeteries should be beautiful. On hills, with trees and some overgrowth, and 200 years between the section at the top of the hill and the new section toward the bottom. I don’t want to be laid to rest in a corpse bullpen for all eternity. Big crowd of loneliness.

From the website…showing the nicest area. My parents aren’t in this part.

But today I drove an hour and a half to be there, and sat in front of their bland engraved rectangle. Again overwhelmed by the knowledge that his Lincoln Continental Gray coffin and her Cadillac Blue coffin, holding their bodies, Mom and Dad’s actual bodies, were right beneath me.

LE sat in my lap and when I started to cry she hugged me and let me rock her. That amazing kid, six years old with dirty blue jeans and a pink “World’s Greatest Sister” shirt. For once her endless squeaking question marks were silent. Her instinct was to give out quiet love, and she did.

In return, I kept my crying to a very gentle weep; enough to show her that grief is an acceptable feeling, but hopefully not enough to start teaching her she has to take care of me.

I’ve got to find a better place for her to go, when it is her turn. There must be a hilltop space left around here somewhere.

2 thoughts on “Floor-mats For the Dead

  1. How important is burial to you? I ask because when my sister died we had her cremated instead, and the ashes were buried at the base of a tree in a garden my parents go to often. And she also has a plaque at their church’s memorial wall. (The garden is also on the church grounds.) I’m not one who has much to say about the rituals of death, because I find them unhelpful to me. But I understand the importance they carry for some, as well as the markers. My parents felt good about the way they choose to memorialize her. Better than a floor mat, I guess, although that’s all so subjective. Those floor mats probably bring peace to someone.

    Most importantly, how wonderful of you to teach your daughter that it is okay to grieve, and that grieving carries on. I remember going to visit my grandfather’s floor mat when I was a child, with my father. I had never met my grandfather and only knew him through stories. I remember it so clearly because it was the first time I ever saw my father cry, and it scared me very much at first, but then he made it safe, and that gave me so much comfort, although like your girl, I wanted so much to be able to comfort him and was lost in my own inability to make him feel better. Painful, but essential, life lessons.

    • I’m always at a loss on how to respond to your beautiful, well thought out comments. Thank you for writing them.

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