Last month I bought my grave site in an ancient church yard. It is actually two places for “cremains”. After I read Mary Roach’s Stiff-The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, I walked around for two weeks looking at everyone as if they were meat halfway to the morgue. In my middle age, I started wondering why I was even bothering to go to the gym- I was already half decayed flesh. Why bother with anything? Perhaps it was time to just take it easy and plan my death.
However, it was also at this time, in the gym, that a weight lifting friend brought up his burial plans. He is about 25 years older than I am and was a big coffee trader in his prime. He tells me that in the 70s he was written up in the Wall Street Journal for cornering the coffee market the way the Hunt brothers cornered the silver market. He and I often discussed investments and I had never thought of the cemetery plots as being a financial investment. Yet here he was lamenting that he had not bought his little plot in the revolutionary war graveyard when he could have purchased it for “fifty bucks”. I raced over to the church that afternoon to get my investment sewed up before inflation could make it unaffordable to me.
The church secretary was wonderful as she took me over to the available plots. She showed me the new wheelchair access that they had installed and asked me if I would like to be by a bench. She said that many preferred to be in shade. I was so flustered that I decided I would prefer to be in the shade by the bench to cover my bets. I did ask her if they had many drunken teens at night that liked the bench. Over the next few weeks I told everyone about my new investment. It was then that I learned that there is a big ‘after market’ for plots.
One friend told me the she and her husband owned several plots in three different cemeteries. “We have six in King Solomon but that is a Jewish cemetery and they won’t take me. We have three in Brooklyn and one up state.These are all from the days when you got married, bought your house and then bought your plots. There was so much death in the early part of the 20th century.” she noted “My father is in my upstairs coat closet but I don’t know what to do with him.” She told me about several web sites that were like a Grave Plot’s Craig List for people wanting to sell.
When I announced my new investment status on Face Book, I initially wrote that I was not going to be buried in Queens with my husband. I got a panicked call from him to take it down in case his mom thought that I had a problem with Queens. For the record, I don’t have a problem with Queens – except that I have no connection to the place and can’t drive very well. It just feels like such a schlep to get there. My next status -with picture elicited lots of responses from people who were trying to sell grave sites in other places that they no longer felt connected to.
Many people just want their ashes spread in their back yards. I will make a query to see if the Rutgers’s Master Gardener program might be interested in developing guidelines. But I am set for now.
Previously published on Open Salon under Snarkychaser and as Editor’s Pick