Soon after posting “More Thoughts about the Afterlife” on June 15, I made a contribution for the upkeep of New Hope Cemetery in response to a recently-received letter asking for donations to increase the cemetery endowment fund.
The first person to be buried in New Hope Cemetery in rural Worth County was Elizabeth (Montgomery) Seat (1795-1878), my Grandpa Seat’s great-grandmother. There are six generations of Seats buried there, including my little brother who died soon after his birth the year before I was born. All the Seat family graves are marked by easy-to-read gravestones.
In talking about the size of our gift to the cemetery association, June said she thought we ought to finalize the purchase of a plot in New Hope and get our own headstone ordered and erected. And she may be right.
Actually, we are going to be cremated, and she has in mind for 1/3 of our ashes to be buried at New Hope, 1/3 in Polk County where her parents and other relatives are buried, and 1/3 in Japan. I have agreed to that tripartite arrangement. But, still, I am not in a hurry to put up a stone in any of the three places, and I am not sure that I want to.
In thinking more about the matter, it seems to me that gravestones, since they are now usually called monuments or memorial stones, should, by rights, be erected by the descendants of the deceased rather than by people putting up their own stones before they die.
An online dictionary defines monument as something “erected as a memorial,” and a memorial is defined as something “intended to celebrate or honor the memory of a person or an event.” So, I wonder, why has it become rather common for people to erect their own monuments or memorial stones?
Is the (rather recent?) practice of people erecting their own gravestones primarily because they want to save their children and grandchildren trouble, as often they live in other places? Is it the result of people being afraid their children and grandchildren won’t put up a suitable stone? Or is it the result of monument companies trying to increase their sales by getting people to buy stones sooner rather than later? Or is it all the above?
I am not sure yet what we will do about this matter, but this is part of what I have been thinking with regard to gravestones. I wonder what others around my age or older have, or haven’t, done. And for those who have already erected a “pre-need” stone, I wonder what their rationale was.