A piece in the paper caught my attention a while ago, having to do with cemeteries and the sad though necessary business that is conducted there.
USA Today, a publication I usually only read in motels or hotels that provide free copies with the breakfast buffet, had a story about people putting their cemetery lots up for sale because that particular brand of property is fetching more than it did when they bought them.
The couple in the story – Clinton and Janet Lemons of Titusville, Florida – purchased their adjoining plots in 1978 for $1,500 and have set an asking price of $4.000 for the pair. Which is still, according to Baron Chu, a secondary seller of plots, well below the national average of $3,500 per single plot.
The article didn’t mention what Mr. and Mrs. Lemon have as a backup plan for when and if they sell their plots. They say their price might be negotiable. Maybe they’ll snap up a couple of cheaper places on eBay or amazon.com, which will surely add graves to its enormous inventory at some point.
I had never heard of reselling eternal resting places until I read that piece. Neither had I run across that unique job description – secondary seller of plots – before I picked up that copy of USA Today along with a Best Western bran muffin.
I don’t own a cemetery plot myself, though I suppose I should look into getting a couple for me and the Mrs. I guess I figure that putting off that little shopping trip will somehow prolong the need for them. Talk about your wishful thinking.
Actually, I had a plot at one time. Back in the early 1980’s, when I hadn’t yet located my wife Karen, I arranged for a burial plot next to my parents’ graves up in a beautiful little rural burying ground called Shiloh, just outside Alto, in Cherokee County. You didn’t actually fill out paperwork and put down money there; you staked out your place and informed the chairman of the cemetery association. Then you were expected to make a monetary contribution to the general upkeep fund.
Maybe I didn’t make enough of a contribution, or maybe our communications got crossed up. I don’t know. But I do know this: the next time I drove up there to visit my mother’s grave – my father wasn’t in his yet – there was a fresh mound of dirt, a headstone, and some withered flower arrangements on what I thought was my plot.
I felt like one of the three bears when he discovered that someone was sleeping in his bed.
So, now that I don’t have an earthly spot reserved for my eternal slumber, I’d best quit putting it off and get myself a reservation. But first off, I need to decide on burial or cremation. I have a sufficiently strong religious faith to be hopeful about the hereafter, but I also know I have a responsibility regarding this physical body I’ll be vacating.
Burial means a grave that will have to be tended and visited occasionally by family members. It also means taking up space that can be used for better things and a pretty big outlay of cash for a place that will just be sitting dormant.
If I had a shot at a really good location, I might think about being buried. But considering I only made Private (First Class!) in the army it’s a cinch that Arlington National Cemetery won’t be sending an invitation. And given the recent scandal involving the fired superintendent of that cemetery and how he and his staff managed to mismark over six thousand graves, it’s just as well. If I’m going to be under a headstone, I’d like for it to have my name on it.
Even though I’ve written a few books having to do with Texas history, I would be foolish to bet on the venerable state cemetery in Austin marking off a spot.
I might consider the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abby. But I seriously doubt my scribbling will qualify me to rest in the company of Chaucer and Dickens. Besides, they bury lots of those writers standing up in the Abby, to leave room for future generations of dead authors. If I’m going to be buried, I’d just as soon be reclining. Call me lazy.
Anyway, I’ve got some decisions to make before I leave for what Mr. Shakespeare called “the undiscovered country.”
If I go with burial, I guess I can call the Lemons, over there in Titusville. But this time I’ll require a signed deed, to keep my bed empty till I need it.