This time last week I was putting another relative in the ground.
It’s a regular occasion with big families, but this one came after a long barren stretch. Family fatalities get scarce once the oldest generation thins out. We probably have a few years to go before my cousins and I all start dropping off, so these days the Simmons clan has been in a bit of a funeral lull. After a while, I can’t help but miss those Urgel Bourgie reunions when everybody gets together for the first time in ages. Well, everybody with one notable exception – whoever’s turn it is to fill the box.
Once again it was time to dress formal and make the trek up the hill to the Mount Royal Cemetery to file someone else among the endless rows of markers no one but the most dedicated headstone hunters bother to read anymore (incidentally, if you’re among these morbid enthusiasts, come and kill a couple afternoons searching for our city’s small collection of Titanic victims, or the final resting place of Anna Leonowens of The King and I fame – it’s fun for the whole family. Pack a picnic).
If you ever get a chance to go to a burial for ashes, I highly recommend the experience. Seeing the teeny-tiny grave is worth the price of admission alone. It sort of reminded me of my childhood visit to Montreal’s now-defunct midget museum where they kept all the teeny-tiny chairs and teeny-tiny cutlery and teeny-tiny toilets. It was all so cute. And, if a grave can indeed be cute, then gosh-darn-it this one was downright precious.
If you’re an environmentalist, you might want to consider cremation as the green option. Sure, you rob the worms of a decent meal, but you take up so much less space. Why, there’s now no fewer than five of my family buried under the same stone. They let you do that with ashes. It’s very cost effective, except for the expense of having a new name chiseled onto the end of the granite list. Each time someone kicks off they just turn up the soil, sprinkle them into the mix, and pat it all down again. It all looks like dirt anyway, so who knows what’s a bit of who? It also makes less work for the city developers when they inevitably bulldoze the cemetery’s prime real estate to make way for the next round of condo construction.
Yes, what was such a shocking revelation in Poltergeist is actually standard operating procedure. It happens all the time, and when they do it they can barely be bothered to remove the stones, let alone the bodies. Remember that the next time you’re strolling through Dorchester Square. You’re actually walking on the heads of those felled by Montreal’s last big cholera epidemic. Enjoy.
Me, I’ll skip the rites and rituals of a standard funeral service, thank you very much. I don’t need a little square of roped-off land, and I don’t want a marker that’s only going to get kicked over, removed, or washed clean by years of rain and wind. Just take me directly from the crematorium and sprinkle me somewhere nice. With a view.
Failing that, I should be in a convenient flushable form, so give me a burial at sea. You can even send me off by teeny-tiny toilet should one be available. Ask a midget.