Recently, we came across this extraordinary Memorial to a Marriage by artist Patricia Cronin. We don’t know when we’ve seen such a tender “real” memorial of and for a couple. It is also a memorial to our time, as the two women lie in close embrace.

It made us think about just what form our own memorial might take. We hadn’t really considered something permanent. But leaving something tangible in the world after we’re gone is a comforting idea (we LIKE saying ‘YES. We were here’ as much as we like reading it about people long-passed in country graveyards.)

old gravestone Nettie
We’ve discovered there are a lot of interesting options IF you shift your view from the usual blocky granite headstone. (Google “outrageous tombstones”though and you’ll find some pretty imaginative creations in that realm, including one engraved with a recipe and these).

Harriet Frazer was so outraged by the paucity of offerings when she wanted to honor the life of a beloved stepdaughter that she established Memorials by Artists. It exists to help people navigate commissioning an artist and to foster the art of manual letter-cutting in stone and other materials.

Charlotte Howarth
Charlotte Howarth

We kind of like the idea of a bench people could rest on, as we have often rested ourselves on plain wooden benches with little plaques honoring a stranger we’ve never met. Here’s a nice iteration:

P.Hall/Lettering Arts Trust
P.Hall/Lettering Arts Trust

Improvised Life assistant Mira Keras says she dislikes cemeteries; all that beautiful land housing the dead is not for her. She wants to be transformed into a diamond created from the carbon in cremation ashes, a lock of hair, or both. LifeGem claims to be able to so just that and fashion the gem into whatever you like. Yikes!

lifegem colorless
lifegem colorless

And of course, foundations and not-for-profits are often created to honor a person who has passed, and make their legacy live on. We’re especially fond of the Beeps Foundation, created to honor the remarkable Becca Eldemire.

The Spiritree is a rather odd looking urn for ashes that doubles as a planter. When planted, a tree eventually breaks the planter and grows into “a living monument”.

We wonder why not just go ahead and plant a tree, with or without ashes thrown into its roots….Maybe we’d end up something like this. The ancient tree carved with people’s names bears evidence of many lives:

Mitch Epstein/Courtesy of Steidl/ Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York
Mitch Epstein/Courtesy of Steidl/ Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Why think about such a thing? We’re down with the Buddhist’s who believe a little meditation on your own mortality helps us live more presently and completely…

How would you say “I was here…”

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6 replies on “After We Pass, What Kind of Memorial, or Not?

  1. I love the idea of growing into a tree and living like that for another few hundred years, giving air and shade to one and all.

  2. Our local cemetery is one of our area’s most-loved, best-used parks, where the living have an automobileless place to walk the dog and enjoy a quiet stroll while taking in a history lesson about this small city-within-a-city, Decatur, Georgia. There’s even a shaded side-path with an area dedicated to people who donated their body to science, which always touches me hard. Once every two or three years, when we get enough snow, the hill next to the reflecting pond is one of the best places in town for kids to try out their sleds! So I think of the cemetery as the opposite of wasted space.

    Supposing I leave behind enough money that it’s feasible, I’d like to endow a spot along Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail with a stone bench facing a meditation-inspiring view, and my name & dates somewhere on the stone. I’ve got fifty or so years to figure out the details, but this feels right to me.

  3. I am a potter and I make my own glazes. Bone ash can be a component of some glazes. I have often commented on how someone could make a glaze that contained some of my crematory ashes and I could become part of a piece of pottery. This glaze could also be on a crematory urn.
    Interesting to think about. And pottery sherds last a long time….

  4. There are indeed some lovely cemetaries. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I used to ride my bike for hours there, among its rolling hills and huge serene trees. Contrast that to the bleak, seemingly endless close-packed cemetaries you see driving just out of Manhatten…No doubt, that is what Mira was referring to.

    I like your idea of a bench facing a meditation-inspiring view….

  5. A lovely idea. Would you have your name carved into it at some point, from some generation far down the line…?

  6. Have given some idle thought to this, and at present my “blue-sky” scenario would allow me to purchase a crypt in a fancy mausoleum in Los Angeles. (Have always liked saying “mausoleum” “Courvosier” etc.) I’ll be cremated, but if I own a crypt, I can be interred with a whole coffin full of cool stuff I’m gonna want with me. Won’t need Le Cruset pots and pans, but even dead I’ll want espresso. Would ask for limousine-style hearse rather than sporty SUV hearses you see everywhere.

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