A Day for the Living

Each day is precious – and is best when appreciated, enjoyed, and shared as much as possible.

How and WHERE someone is buried is often important – to those who may want to visit their grave, tomb, monument, or wall (of honor). Most of what happens (in human society) after a person dies is for the benefit of the living who knew or had some connection to the person who is now dead. Funerals, wakes, prayers, caskets, and graves/markers are more for those who remember the “deceased” than for the body of the person who is no longer using it (who may or may not even be buried and “resting” there).

As a veteran, I “paid my respect” on Memorial Day (both to those who died and to those who came to visit them) at the local national military cemetery. A brief conversation with a Pearl Harbor survivor who was visiting his wife’s grave reminded me how sad I was when I divorced that I no longer had a wife/life partner with whom I could to be buried.

Although it costs less and offers more burial, “retention”, and transportation options, I would prefer not to be cremated (or have my remains scattered). Although my father “survived” (FIVE concentration camps), HIS father and other members of his family were “disposed of” in Nazi ovens during World War II. Because of this, I would much rather be buried than burnt.

Many veterans may not know that (if there is still space available) they (and their spouse!) are usually eligible to be buried or interred and attended to for “free” (not including the casket, cremation, or mortuary services) in national military cemeteries. There is now a need for more/new military cemeteries both because of the deaths of older veterans and as a result of our current military involvement around the world. As local cemeteries “fill up”, there is a potential “hardship” and inconvenience for families and friends to travel to wherever their beloved military service member and/or spouse can (still) be buried/interred.

I used to want to be buried on a hill and have a living tree planted on top of me, but later decided burial in a national military cemetery might be a “better” choice – both for me and my “survivors” (who could even request a brief free graveside service for me – complete with a bugle playing, ceremonial rifle shots fired, and an American flag folded and presented to my loved ones from the United States Marine Corps and know that my grave would always be well tended with flags and flowers and or wreaths placed and removed on a regular basis).

The United States Marine Corps is very good about honoring not only their own (“fallen” Marines), but also those who have served in other branches of the the U.S. Armed Forces (and will often do more than that individual’s actual branch of service is willing or able). As a Marine veteran, this makes me feel very proud of the Corps. Those families unfortunate to have their active duty Marine die in combat/service will usually find that the contact officer will be present and available as long as the family requires, that escort(s) will not leave the casket unattended, that their house will be guarded while they are (away) at the funeral, and that (m)any (who are available) who knew and served with their Marine will probably show up and/or help in some (other) way. Think how amazing it would be if ALL Americans, (private and government) organizations, and citizens of other nations were as respectful and helpful to both the dead and those who mourn them. Even better would be if they were that way (all the time) while (more) people were still alive.

The shortness of life is part of why it is important to appreciate and make the most of it – while we can. Even more important than “mere” appreciation is to consciously create and choose positive memories and stories (including about us) for ourselves and others. People “live on” in the minds (and possibly actions) of those who remember and think about them. If, when, where, and how they “visit”, “connect”, or remember, think or talk about us (or not) after we are dead/gone is much more about them than us.

That’s my perspective. What’s yours?

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© 2009 – 2012, Oren Pardes. All rights reserved.

Oren Pardes

Oren Pardes has written 73 post in this blog.

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