Updated: Dec 17, 2018
We had a cabinet Victrola in the living room during my early years. With it came hundreds of 78 rpm records from different eras, covering a variety of musical styles. I recall turning the crank to wind it up, and setting the needle on the disk. A man's voice brought laughter as he sang, “Throw Mama from the train...” People plan creative ways to honor family when life comes to a close. Unfortunately, those purposes are often not well thought out. The humor (or tragedy, depending on your perspective), lies in the details of implementation, or the aftermath. There is an account in circulation of a widow who wanted to fulfill her late husband's wish to be scattered on Long Island Sound. She boarded the ferry and, as it transited the Sound, she made her way to the bow, opened the container that held his cremated remains... If you have ridden on a ferry, and stood on the bow to watch the approaching scenery, you can imagine the rest. The wind of passage scattered the cremains, not on the sound, but across the length and breadth of the deck, ornamenting the clothes and faces of the other passengers. Oops! Greenwood Cemetery prohibits the scattering of cremated remains on top of graves in the cemetery, whether the one being scattered is Grandma's lately departed Fido or Fluffy, or Grandma herself. This is not a hardhearted decision designed to collect added fees from our families. We use high-lift blades on our mowers, which have an efficient vacuum effect that will redistribute Grandma over adjacent graves with each pass. We use string trimmers that pick up the cremains and splatter the maintenance workers with more than bits of grass. I had a telephone call recently, asking me to mark the locations for the graves of two sets of great-grandparents buried here at Greenwood. A group of family members was visiting several cemeteries in the area. The caller said, “We plan to sprinkle part of the ashes on each grave.” Then she said, “Maybe I should not have said that!” I told the caller I would meet them at the sites.
We try to accommodate the wishes of our families as best we can. With a spade, I cut a two foot by two foot section of sod, leaving one side undisturbed. Then, with a sod lifter, I sliced the sod free from the soil beneath, and turned the flap back, like opening a book. I explained they could scatter the portion on the soil, and then turn the sod back, closing that chapter of life. For my efforts, I got tears and hugs. Voila! Ancestry honored, wishes fulfilled, regulations satisfied. The cemetery has a fee schedule to try to stay solvent. However, some things do not fit the template. Some services depend on donations from a thankful heart. Others are just done... How might we help you?