It’s not morbid: Visiting the cemetery

Jun 17, 2008 at 11:08 p.m. ET

It's a sad and unfortunate reality of our life that two of my children's grandparents are no longer with us. We visit them whenever we can, however. Yes, at the cemetery.

Boy at Cemetery

Cemeteries may be where those who have gone before us have their final rest, but cemeteries are not about the dead. They are about the living. Think about it for a few moments. Who benefits from the grave site and the headstone? The living do. It's been at the cemetery that we've taught the kids some important lessons about life.

Remembering is a happy thing

When we make our annual visit to my husband's mother's grave, we come with flowers to plant and stories to tell. It's a time to clean up the markers and be together while my husband answers questions about what she was like and tells stories from his childhood. We talk about what she liked, ways she was, and how much she would have loved her grandchildren.

It's a time my husband appreciates his mother more and more, too. As the kids get older and bring us new parenting challenges, he thinks about what he probably put his own mother through as kid, and how she handled certain issues. The headstone is like a touchstone in that way.

When we visit my father's grave every couple of years (on the other side of the continent), it's similar. I tell stories, and answer questions. I think about the ways I gave him a run for his money as a teenager and look at my children, knowing they will give me a run, too, and my father will be somewhere, watching, chuckling. There is no place to plant flowers at my father's grave, so every time we joke that we should have brought a jar of mayonnaise for him. He loved mayonnaise.

We always leave the cemeteries smiling and feeling a lot of love.

It can be sad, too

I'm not saying our visits are not without some sadness. Of course they are. Of course we would rather our children have known these grandparents first-hand, have been loved and spoiled by them. In that way the visits are bittersweet – but always more sweet than bitter.

My kids are not afraid of cemeteries. They are not scary to my kids, or morbid. They understand that. It's ironic, really, that these times at the cemeteries are actually how we keep our loved ones alive in our hearts and remind ourselves to live and love one another in the moment.

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