Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cemetery and funeral stuff

Toby's 2nd birthday
I get a lot of questions about our cemetery visits and the headstone that we chose. I've blogged about them before, but I'll update what I can.

Toby's funeral was at Porter and Son's in Campton. Campton is the county seat of Wolfe County, where I grew up. The people there were wonderful to us. They had never done a service for a baby that wasn't a stillborn before.

he looked like a doll. The monkey was his animal totem.

We didn't have too many at the visitation or the funeral but those who mattered most were there. I was actually surprised at some of the people who came, considering how far away it was. My aunt and uncle came from Texas, for instance. My chiropractor showed up, too, which sounds odd but was fitting since he had probably seen Toby more times than anyone.

we didn't really need 4 pallbearers but we wanted friends to be a part of it
 Our family friend did the funeral service. He has known me all of my life. He also did our wedding. The former superintendent of Wolfe County schools and his wife did the music. (Also known me since I was born.) I had him sing:

"When They Ring the Golden Bells" (Natalie Merchant's version)

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/0G2cMIVaW1c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

"Green Pastures"

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/-ete22LHO7c" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

and "Silent Night."

Sam took this one of Dad at the cemetery. Pretty good for a 3 year old.

 I rode in the hearse with Toby to the cemetery. It is a long drive anyway, from Campton to the ridge, and driving at about 20 mph made it even longer. I was in such shock and so nervous, and yet kind of excited about being in a vehicle with my son again (I know, sounds weird) that I chattered the whole way. And if you're wondering, yes, I took almost all of these pictures. Sam took that one. It might sound strange to take pictures at your child's funeral, but I knew I would forget things and I wanted to document every little thing of his life that I could. On the way to the cemetery, I even took this picture of my favorite house in Hazel Green. The driver must have thought I was on crack.

It's for sale if you're interested.

Toby is buried in Meniffee County in Eastern Kentucky. It takes us around 1.5 hours to get there now. He's buried next to my Nana and there was never really any question over where he would be buried (or where I would be, for that matter). The cemetery is not a family one, per say, but I have a lot of family buried there. I foresee many of my aunts and uncles being buried there, although the only one who has passed on so far lived in Oklahoma at the time and was buried there. (I have a large family since my mom had a dozen brothers and sisters, but they also live to see old ages so that's good.)
my mom's graduating high school class made this

The cemetery itself is located on the ridge where my grandparents' farm was. It's only about a mile from that location. There isn't anything built up around it so it's completely isolated and rural. The setting itself is peaceful and beautiful.

You can decorate the plots however you want to. Some people put up benches and little seats. My uncle Lindon (uncle by marriage but after 50 years of marriage might as well be blood) died back in the summer and my cousins planted a tree on his grave. You can do that, too. We frequently decorate Toby's grave with flowers (real and artificial), statues, toys, etc. Sam usually brings some little cars and things to set on it. Then, of course, he wants to take them back. Some of our things are homemade and some are not.

this is the last time we saw him. Someone took this right before we walked outside.

There is someone who does general maintenance over the place but my dad laid down grass seed and straw last year to encourage grass to grow.  It has come in nicely now and looks good.

we make our own parking spaces (that's not THE tree, by the way)
The headstone itself cost about $600. It's a medium sized one, rather than a small one, because Toby had such a long name: Toby James William Patrick-Howard. Of course, we didn't want anything religious on it since we are not religious people (in that sense anyway) but we wanted some images. We chose child-like images. I don't know how I will feel about that in future years because as time has gone on I'm not sure I like the idea, or even believe in the idea, of his spirit remaining a child. I think spirits are ageless. But since his physical form was a baby, it seemed appropriate at the time to honor him in that way.

after he was buried, I pulled all of the cards off the flowers that were placed on his grave

We thought about a headstone that would have a picture in it but changed our minds. Over time, those can fade and that didn't seem appropriate.

After the graveside service, we stayed until the hole had been filled. I watched the dirt hit the casket for a few seconds and then I had to look away. My good friend sat beside me and sang to me so that I couldn't hear the noise. When it was over, she let me know. Family placed the flowers on top of the grave and then my cousin and I removed the cards so that we would remember who sent what.

The hole seemed awfully big for such a little casket

Toby died in August but we didn't purchase his headstone until March, due to financial reasons. To some people $600 might not sound like a lot, but it was to us. Even if we had ordered it sooner, they probably wouldn't have been able to put it on the grave until spring anyway due to frost. We saw it for the first time on Memorial Day at the end of May.

In the beginning, we visited the cemetery fairly frequently. Over time, though, it got harder. It's a long drive for the kids and we basically have to drive up there, turn around, and drive back. It takes up an entire day and it's not fun for them. We do try to stop at the Frosty Freeze in Ezel (neighboring town) or visit Broke Leg Falls as part of the trip but sometimes we're too tired and/or broke to do so.

Now, we try to go during the big holidays. I don't think there is a right way or a wrong way to visit your child's grave. Some people find comfort in going a lot, others can't stand the thought of going. Many a night I have wanted to go and lie down beside it and I might if it was closer.
Toby's grave, Nana's grave, and my baby cousin's grave

Pete and I will be buried next to Toby. We'll probably be surrounded by family. As it is, I try to say hello to my Nana, Uncle Lindon, and other family members when I'm there.

one of my favorite headstones. This person is READY.

On a funny note...

When I say that the cemetery is out in the middle of nowhere, I mean it. There is nothing nearby. As a kid, when I would go to visit Nana's grave I would inevitably have to pee as soon as I got there. On the far side of the property, there is a large tree. (Don't worry, it's in the forest-there aren't any graves anywhere near it.) I'd have to go behind it. Now, Sam almost always has to go when we get there so he uses the tree. That tree has seen pee from at least two generations. I hope that's not my legacy.


Karla said...

I honestly don't get burials. It just seems weird to me. I have Kyle's ashes at home with his teddy bear.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

Pete's mom was cremated and then her ashes were buried. That seems weird to me.

Karla said...

yeah that is a bit weird. Some have an internment and put them behind a stone but I haven't heard of burring them. Whatever people need to do though.

Wanda said...

I'm absolutely terrified to be buried. We had Lindsey cremated just based on the fact that we don't know where we will end up in the future and we didn't want her to be buried millions of miles away. It's kinda comforting in a way to know that she's always here with us. Dave and I want her to be buried with which ever of us passes last, maybe that's creepy, idk, just how we feel. I never took a picture of her at her viewing, sometimes I regret that, but I'll never forget the mental picture.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

I think the importantt hing is to do what's comfortable and best for you and your family. There isn't a right way or a wrong way and screw anyone who tries to sway you. As Toby was being buried, Pete's dad looked at me and said, "I wonder why they buried him way out here?" I don't know who he thought "they" were or that we wouldn't have total control over what happened to our child post-mortem.

Melissa said...

God bless you all! I'm so very sorry that I never met Toby. I wish I would have! Being religious, I do think that I will get to meet him, one day. And, I will thank him for the joy and love that he brought to your family during his short time on earth. Although you didn't choose to be this way - you are the strongest woman I know. And, I thank you for our friendship!